Setting the Scene
Date: Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Location: Minneapolis, Minn.
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m.
Stadium: Williams Arena
Stadium Capacity: 14,625
Local Radio: WMIS 92.1 The River
Play-by-play: Brian Schultz
Internet Audio: www.wmisfm.com/ and www.beaverradionetwork.com
Local Television: none
Web cast: Gopher All-Access/btn.com ($9)
Play-by-Play: Matt Nelson
Analyst: Quincy Lewis
Live Stats: www.gophersports.com/sports/m-baskbl/sched/minn-m-baskbl-sched.html
The Bemidji State University men’s basketball team (0-0; 0-0 NSIC) travels to Minneapolis, Minn. Nov. 1 for a 7 p.m. exhibition contest at University of Minnesota at Williams Arena. The contest marks the first official competition for BSU this season and will serve as the lone exhibition game. The Beavers are the first of two exhibition games for the Gophers against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference teams as they host Augustana College Nov. 7.
The Beavers and Gophers have met once all-time. BSU traveled to Minnesota Nov. 3, 2006 for a exhibition game where it lost 88-32.
Bemidji State: Since taking his post as head men’s basketball coach at Bemidji State in 2006, Matt Bowen has led the Beaver program to improvements both on and off the court. Becoming the 19th head men’s basketball coach at BSU June 30, 2006, Bowen now enters his sixth season at the helm after spending 15 years as an assistant coach at the Division I level. He owns a 42-93 over 30-68 NSIC record. His five seasons at Bemidji State puts him fourth on the all-time coach’s list for seasons coached. More Bowen on page 3.
Minnesota: On March 23, 2007 Tubby Smith was announced as the 16th head basketball coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers Men’s Basketball program. Since then, Smith has amassed 80 victories on the Gopher sideline, the most in a coach’s first four years in the history of Minnesota basketball. In those four years, Smith has led the Gophers to three post-season berths, a title in the ESPN Puerto Rico Tip-Off and to five victories over teams ranked in the top 10 or higher. Prior to Smith’s arrival, Minnesota hadn’t defeated a top 10 team in almost three seasons.
Bemidji State’s all-time record is 907-1,042 (.465) dating back to 1921. The Beavers have six years in postseason play, five at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) level (1940, 1941, 1942, 1984, 1985) and one at the NCAA level (2004). BSU has claimed nine conference titles with eight in the Northern Intercollegiate Conference (NIC) (1940, 1941, 1942, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1957, 1967) and one in the NSIC (2004).
For the first time under sixth-year head coach Matt Bowen the Bemidji State University men’s basketball team has a large, core group of upperclassmen. The Beavers boast three seniors and four juniors (two transfers) on this season’s squad with hopes of making the top eight in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference at the end of the season and make their first appearance in the conference playoffs since the 2006-07 season.
“We are looking forward to a very exciting season,” Bowen said. “We have a strong group of seniors that have gone through a lot of adversity and have been very close for a lot of games, but haven’t been able to get over that proverbial hump and we’re are hoping this season is when we make big strides.”
Last season the Beavers finished 11-15 overall and 8-14 in conference play to close the season in a three-way tie for 10th place. Despite finishing 10th, BSU was just a game out of eighth, making the 3-7 record in games decided by five points a crucial stat the current Beaver squad hopes to reverse this season.
“One of the things we have discussed with the team and is something I truly believe in, is we had a good basketball team last year, but it wasn’t all the time,” Bowen said. “I believe Willie Mays said, ‘It isn’t hard to be good from time to time in sports. What is tough, is being good every day.’ I think our team fit in that category. We were good sometimes, and other times we weren’t good enough to play in the upper half of the league. Our challenge with this team, that has significant experience, is to be good all the time. We were just too much Jekyll and Hyde. We have to have 10 good nights then one bad night and if we are able to do so and learn from that experience last year, then we will be a pretty good basketball team.”
The Beavers welcome back 10 returning student-athletes to the 2011-12 squad, including four players who started at least 12 games last season. The lone four-year senior is BSU’s all-time assist leader Bryce Tesdahl (G, 6-3, Crosby, Minn.). Tesdahl led the NSIC in assists last season (6.0 apg) and finished No. 9 in the nation in the category. Tesdahl’s ability to distribute helped senior James Ellisor (F, 6-5, Glendale, Ariz.) to receive Second-Team All-NSIC honors in his first season in the green and white. Ellisor averaged 17.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and shot 57.9 percent from the field. He led the NSIC in field goal percentage, while ranking in the top 10 in steals (4th, 1.6 spg), blocks (T6th, 0.9 bpg), scoring (7th) and rebounding (9th). The combo with the help of two true freshmen, experienced sophomores (five, two returning redshirts), four juniors and fellow senior Ryan Kinnell (C, 6-10, Yuma, Ariz.) will look to prove it’s No. 7 ranking in the NSIC Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
The point guard position starts with Tesdahl after he posted 9.5 points, 6.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game, playing in 33.6 minutes per game (7th NSIC in minpg). Tesdahl has proved his worth in the green and white, but playing more than 30 minutes, night in-and night-out can wear on anybody. To alleviate some of his work load, Bowen brought in junior college transfer Jason Edwards (Jr., 5-9, Phoenix College).
“Bryce has been the backbone of our program,” Bowen said. “With his leadership and his ability to run our offense, it could be something to push us over the top. To ask Bryce to play 30-plus minutes week after week is really too much. It was a burden he had to carry last year. It hurt us in stretches where he just ran out of gas, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Jason will allow us to give him a break and add depth at guard.”
Jake Schalow (6-4, Kaukauna, Wis.) returns at shooting guard for his sophomore season after going 23-for-50 (.460) from beyond the arc to lead the team. He got a confidence boost to take into this season in the final game of 2010-11 when he started and posted a season-best 21 points on 5-of-6 (83.3%) shooting from 3-point land and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. Schalow finished the season with 4.3 points per game in 12.6 minutes per contest.
“Jake came in and really took advantage of his opportunities,” Bowen said. “He was really proficient in shooting the ball from outside and for a freshman he took care of the ball which really helped us out at the guard position.”
Junior Lance Rongstad (6-3, Eleva, Wis.) has played all five positions on the court at some point in his two seasons. Once he gets to the basketball team from starting at quarterback on the BSU football team, Rongstad will be expected to continue his success on the hardcourt. He has been one of the top scorers the past two seasons and posted 11.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 28 minutes per game last season to finish second on the team in points and rebounds.
“Lance will bring a certain physicality that carries over from football,” Bowen said. “He plays a very physical brand of basketball, very strong at the guard spot. He can score from the post and can shoot from the outside.”
The Beavers also welcome another junior college transfer to the guard position in Dermaine Crockrell (6-1, Mesa, Ariz.). He was a junior college All-America selection last season for Scottsdale Community College, averaging 18.7 points per game. He brings quickness and a proven scoring ability to the Beavers who averaged 75.1 points per game last season to rank fifth in the NSIC.
“Dermaine is a left handed kid who is very proficient at scoring,” Bowen said. “He is a very quick player. We are looking for Dermaine to score on individual plays and be able to create scoring opportunities based on his quickness.”
Also in the mix will be freshman Brock Tesdahl (6-0, Crosby, Minn.), the younger brother of Bryce Tesdahl. Brock had a successful high school career, earning All-State Tournament team honors for Crosby-Ironton High School his senior season as the team made a run to the state tournament finals.
“Brock originally went to a school to run track and realized he missed basketball so joined our team,” Bowen said. “He will provide us with some depth at the guard position. It will take Brock a little bit of time to get back into the swing of things, but in true Tesdahl fashion, with their basketball lineage, I’m sure he will adapt quickly.”
Ellisor picked up the scoring role lost by Seth Haake last year and earned all-conference laurels in the process. Ellisor may have surprised some teams last season, being the new guy in the league, so he will have to work harder this season to match his productivity.
“It’s going to be a little more difficult for James this year,” Bowen said. “He caught a lot of teams by surprise last season. He is a very prolific scorer, shoots well with both hands and is certainly athletic. James isn’t going to sneak up on anybody, I’m sure people will game plan for him and find ways to stop him. It will be very interesting to see how James adapts to that and if he can continue the pace he set last year. We certainly hope he can.”
Junior Mason Walters (6-7, Milton, Wis.) emerged as a regular starter for the Beavers last season. He averaged 9.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game. Walters scored more than 10 points in 13 games, but had some issues with consistency, something Bowen expects Walters to get better at this season after working hard over the summer.
“Mason is one of our premiere scoring threats from the power forward position,” Bowen said. “He has come back in much better physical shape, his conditioning has been outstanding and he stronger. We expect big things from Mason in scoring, rebounding and defending.”
Last season’s lone senior Pat Cassidy had a career season and left a hole at the forward position after posting 10.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 53.6 percent from the field in 27.7 minutes per game. To fill the void will be by committee for the Beavers this season. Finding success late last season were freshmen Maxie Rosenbloom (6-5, St. Paul, Minn.) and Zach Noreen (6-6, Avon, Minn.). Rosenbloom scored four points, pulled down five rebounds, had two steals and played a season-high 20 minutes in the season finale at Winona State. In the final eight games Noreen averaged 5.5 points and 2.1 rebounds in 15.3 minutes per game. Returning from redshirt seasons will be Jon Krebs (6-5, Mahtomedi, Minn.) and David Berthene (6-9, Lakeville, Minn.).
“Both (Maxie and Zach) played significant minutes late in the season last year and are your power forward/small forward combo type position players. Both can play inside and outside, are strong rebounders and fit into our offensive system very well.
“I think that redshirt season has benefited (Jon and David) very well,” Bowen said. “They will be third year sophomores. Both are highly experienced, significantly stronger and a lot more confident than what they would have been heading into their sophomore years.”
Senior Ryan Kinnell (Yuma, Ariz.) will take the main center responsibilities this season. Last season Kinnell got sick early in the season and never found a rhythm in the green and white. Bowen expects more from him this season.
“Ryan was in and out of the lineup last year, but I thought he finished strong. He is a hybrid center for us, can play the true post spot, but much like the big guys I’ve had with this program, he can step out and shoot, he is a good passer and has good hands. He will bring a different dimension to our offense than what he have had in previous years with playing small forwards and guards. We are looking forward to getting him involved in our offense and he can only help us on the defense end. We really had some games last year where we wished he wasn’t sick because he could have provided some depth and rebounding that we could have used in January and February.”
True freshman Dillon Floyd (Palm Springs, Calif.) is a 6-8 power forward/post that joins the team from Palm Springs High School where he averaged 13 points and 8.5 rebounds per game during his senior season, guiding the Indians to their first appearance in the state tournament.
“Dillon is very strong, has a very solid base, and a tremendous skill set that we want to continue to develop and get him confidence,” Bowen said. “As Ryan moves on as a senior we will expect him to step into that position.”
The Beavers know the rigors of the NSIC schedule, but will use the nonconference slate to prepare for the season. BSU will take-on regional opponents via a trip to Colorado, home games and a hosting a Thanksgiving tournament, while also traveling to Minneapolis for an exhibition game against University of Minnesota.
“We’ve been fortunate to play several Big 10 teams in my tenure here and it’s been a great experience for the kids,” Bowen said. “We have a nice home schedule that is two or three more games than we’ve previously been able to do, which includes a Thanksgiving Classic at home and University of Sioux Falls at the BSU Gymnasium.”