Vanderbilt vs Northern State Preview

The Northern State Wolves of Aberdeen SC are a Division II NCAA team coached by Don Meyer, previously long-time coach at David Lipscomb. Meyer was sidelined last season by heart surgery and team record was just 14-13. But the Wolves are second on the Division II list for all-time total victories, and have amassed a composite record of 1189-676

This is the first year in which Division I teams can play an exhibition game with a Division II team. Division II teams with good tradition, such as Northern State, should not be taken lightly. Remember the Birmingham Southern game with Vanderbilt last December? The Panthers were just emerging from Division II and nearly upset the Commodores.

Four of the starters from last year are back for the Northern State Wolves. They are: Roland Williams, 5'11" (9.4 ppg, 2.8 assists); Drew Graves, 6'5" (11.1 ppg, 3.2 assists, 3.4 rpg); Brad Hansen, 6'8" (11.9 ppg, 6 rpg); and Sundance Wicks, 6'5" (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg). Hansen weighs 245 lbs and he weighs less than three of the other Wolves. Houston Reed, 6'7", weighs 265 lbs, and last year scored 7.6 ppg and grabbed 3.9 rpg. Andy Foster, 6'8", averaged 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds. Freshman center Eric Strandberg is 6'10" and packs 270 lbs. One wonders if the team speed of Northern State may be a weakness for them.

Another player who should see considerable action is Nick Schroeder, 6'4", who averaged 10.1 ppg and hit 44% of his three-point efforts. Look for him to be in the starting lineup, alongside Williams, Graves, Hansen, and Wicks. Steve Smiley, 6'1", also saw significant action last year, and there are six freshmen on the team roster, including Strandberg, 6'0" Danny Prue, and 5'10" Jarod Obering, the last two of whom were South Dakota all-state high school performers in their senior year.

On Sunday, the first exhibition game produced a 75-72 win for the Commodores over Global Sports All-Stars. 12 players saw action, including walk-on Matt Carter. Martin Schnedlitz warmed up but did not play and his situation is not clear. For some reason, his name was not mentioned a single time during the broadcast of the Global game, or in the pre-game and post-game. Senior guard Chuck Moore was out with a damaged knee and probably will not play against Northern State, although he hopes to get into the game.

What tentative conclusions can be drawn from the Global game? (1) The Commodores will shoot a lot of three-pointers, and shold hit a significantly better percentage than last year. (2) Rebounding is likely to be a problem against the better opponents. (3) According to Coaches Stallings and Jankovich, in their pre-game remarks, team chemistry is much better than last year. It would be risky to draw too many conclusions about the future contributions of individual players from one game, one in which the coach was trying to see everyone in game play. To illustrate, in last seasons's first exhibition (a 97-72 win over the California All-Stars), Billy Richmond made 8 out of 9 shots, yet during the regular season his shooting was shaky.

Also in the California All-Star game last year, eleven players saw 13 or more minutes of action and five of them scored 10 or more points. Against Global, ten players played 13 or more minutes, but only two (Matt Freije and Sam Howard) were in double figures. However, seven players did score from four to eight points.

Incidentally, last year's second exhibition game, with Upstate New York, was a 96-83 loss and Sam Lekwauwa was the leading scorer, hitting all eight of his shots from the field! Soon after that game he left the team.

All of this is by way of caution about making too much out of the exhibition games. However, Northern State is a real team, undoubtedly well-coached, and should provide a test similar to lesser opponents in regular season non-conference games. The Commodores should win, of course, but Coach Stallings will again be looking at everyone and using different combinations, and it could be another close game.

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