A new era of South Dakota basketball is almost here.
The University of South Dakota is on the verge of being a strong mid-major program due to two factors — a new coach and new arena.
Let’s start with the coach.
Craig Smith is a big-time coach, as he has spent much of his career as an assistant to one of the best young coaches in the game, University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Tim Miles.
Under the leadership of Miles, and with the assistance of Smith, Nebraska went to their first NCAA tournament in 16 years. Smith even gained some head coaching experience in the NCAA tournament when Miles was ejected.
Alongside Smith, a new sports arena coming in 2016 is already underway.
Recruiting will be easier with a state-of-the-art basketball venue to showcase. The new arena should create a better home-court advantage for the Coyotes.
With fans closer to the court, fans will have more opportunities to yell nothing but encouragement to the home team.
Also, the opening of the new arena should see an event attendance spike, which is vital as players want to have fans to admire their game. According to NCAA documents, USD only draws roughly half the crowd of their rivals to the north.
The challenge for Smith and his staff will be translating this new atmosphere into success. Can he recruit top-notch players? Can he put the correct personnel on the floor? Can he play the winning style?
Those are not questions that can be answered in the short term. It may take over four years to see if Smith is the right man for USD Men’s basketball.
A good program takes time to build, as success in college basketball is largely about recruiting.
Success as a mid-major team usually lies on the shoulders of upperclassmen. North Dakota State rode seniors Ryan Braun, Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright to the NCAA Tournament round of 32 last year. South Dakota State depended on upperclassmen like Nate Wolters, Brayden Carlson and Tony Fiegen in their two trips to the NCAA tournament.
The Coyotes will have to follow the lead of upperclassmen like senior Brandon Bos and junior Tyler Flack.
There is no doubt the two are talented. Bos made the Preseason All-Summit second-team and Flack is an explosive big-man that can hit perimeter shots.
Both have the potential to be among the best in the Summit League, but the team’s real success is waiting further down the road, when Smith’s hand-picked recruits can establish a precedent of success for the program.
And that’s an exciting prospect for fans, looking at the Coyotes for the next five years, not just this season.
These recruits will inherit a new coach and new arena, and we will look to them to lay the foundation for a successful program.