Scouting South Dakota State

Dylan Burkhardt

We plan to go a little more in depth in scouting South Dakota State beyond a simple preview because it’s the NCAA tournament and we have a couple days to spare. Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of of the Jackrabbit rotation as well as a closer look at their defense. All data fueled by Ken Pomeroy, Hoop-Math and Synergy Sports.

Individual Scouting

Nate Wolters
6-foot-4, 193 lbs, senior. 38.0 mins, 22.7 pts, 5.6. rebs, 5.8 asts, 55.8% eFG%
Favorite Offense: 
High ball screen and isolation
Underrated: Pick pocket

Wolters the complete package offensively. He scores, rebounds and hands out assists for the Jackrabbits and does everything with ruthless efficiency. While Wolters isn’t overly quick, he’s more than able at getting to the rim. One recent clip that stood out featured a nasty inside out dribble that left a defender frozen to enable a runner in the lane. For all intents and purposes, Wolters is the Trey Burke of the Summit League – or mid-major basketball. Obviously putting up Trey Burke numbers against the 16th best schedule in the country is different than putting up Trey Burke numbers against the 241st hardest schedule in the country. But the NCAA tournament teaches us year in and year out that talent rises to the top and Wolters is the type of star capable of stealing the show in March. Wolters isn’t a dominant defender but, again similar to Trey Burke, he has the knack for picking up timely steals and turning them into easy baskets.

Jordan Dykstra
6-foot-8, 235 lbs, junior. 32.3 min, 12.5 pts, 7.9 rebs, 1.4 asts, 53% eFG%
Favorite OffenseSpot up threes and post-up
Underrated: Defensive rebounder
Weakness: Shot blocking, defense

The majority of the Jackrabbits’ second leading scorer’s production comes from post up plays (21%) or spot up jumpers (29%). His 43% three point shooting makes him more effective in the spot up game, 1 point per spot up possession, than posting up, .78 points per possession. But watching film it’s clear that he’s comfortable enough with either to exploit slower or smaller defenders depending on the situation. Michigan doesn’t have a great answer here and the best answer might lie in exploiting Dykstra on the other end of the floor.

The Synergy numbers paint Dykstra as South Dakota State’s worst defender, especially when defending spot up shooters and ISOs. Given his larger frame at the four position, Michigan is likely to look to get Glenn Robinson III some opportunities and force Dykstra to guard in space. If the Wolverines struggle with Dykstra defensively they may have to surrender any offensive advantage and go with Morgan at the four, McGary at the five.

Tony Fiegen
6-foot-7, 220 lbs, senior. 31.7 min, 10.1 pts, 5.5 rebs, 1.5 asts, 54.9% eFG%
Favorite OffensePick and pop, post-up
Underrated: Long two point jumpshooter
Weakness: Defensive rebounding

Fiegen is the primary South Dakota State pick-and-roll man but he’s just as comfortable popping and knocking down 17-footers as he is rolling to the basket and finishing at the rim. Per Synergy Sports, on 50 pick-and-roll possessions Fiegen has popped 30 times, scoring 30 points and rolled or slipped the pick 20 times, scoring 33 points. Fiegen will force Michigan’s post defenders to show good discipline when defending the high ball screen – which SDSU utilizes on 16.3% of its half court possessions. Against Wisconsin, Michigan ran into trouble with Frank Kaminsky late as he started popping off of the high ball screen rather than rolling to the bucket. Despite his frame, Fiegen isn’t a great rebounder, he actually grabs a lower percentage of defensive rebounds than Wolters, and isn’t much of a shot blocking threat.

Chad White
6-foot-6, 213 lbs, junior. 31.7 mins, 10.2 pts, 3.9 rebs, 1.2 asts, 61.5% eFG%
Favorite OffenseHalf court threes; spot-up and off screens
Underrated: Zone buster
Weakness: Creating offense, perimeter defense

White is extremely efficient because he’s predominantly a jumpshooter. 41% of his offenisve possessions are spot up jumpers, 14% come in transition and 10.6% come off of screens. He’s actually more effective spotting up (1.17 PPP) and coming off of screens (1.52 PPP) in the halfcourt than shooting in transition (1.00 PPP). Per Hoop-Math, 69% of his field goal attempts are threes and 95% of his three point makes are assisted. Given that he shoots 43% on long range efforts, the best bet is not helping off of him as often as possible. If Wolters gets in the lane, you can bet that White will be perched behind the three point line waiting for a pass. Synergy’s metrics also tab White as the weakest link in the SDSU backcourt defensively but the difference is fairly minimal. Nik Stauskas has done a better job chasing shooters of late defensively and this strikes me as his natural match-up.

Brayden Carlson:
6-foot-4, 210 lbs, junior. 34.4 min, 8.7 pts, 3.7 rebs, 2.4 asts, 49.7 eFG%
Favorite OffenseTransition
Underrated: Athlete and perimeter defender
Weakness: Halfcourt offense

If White is the player that you can’t lose in the half court, Carlson is the player to keep tabs on in transition.  Carlson has a 70.3 eFG% in transition and just a 45.8 eFG% in the halfcourt. Carlson also shoots more threes than twos but he shows above average finishing ability in transition and cutting to the basket and isn’t afraid to go up through contact and go to the free throw line. Other than Wolters, Carlson is the next best perimeter defender on the Jackrabbit roster and seems like he would be likely to draw the Tim Hardaway Jr. match-up on that end of the floor.

Marcus Heemstra
6-foot-9, 215 lbs, junior. 11.8 mins, 4.2 pts, 2.7 rebs, 55.8% eFG%
Favorite OffensePost ups, cuts and putbacks
Underrated: Rim protector
Weakness: Jump shot

Heemstra backs up the post and doesn’t play a major part of the Jackrabbit offense; he’s the only Jackrabbit reserve that has played in every game this season. When he does get involved offensively, he’s most effective posting up, cutting or rolling to the basket. Unlike Dykstra and Fiegen, he’s not a significant jump shooting threat. with just a 33% eFG% on jumpshots. He’s most effective around the basket (1.38 PPP) and in the post (.96 PPP).  Heemstra is also the best offensive rebounder and shot blocker for South Dakota State, but that’s not saying a lot as SDSU ranks 262nd in offensive rebounding and 307th in blocked shots.


The fact that South Dakota State isn’t a great defensive team is no secret but it’s worth pointing out that the Jackrabbits defended decently in the Summit League play. South Dakota State ranked 3rd defensive in the conference, allowing .99 points per possession. But running the Synergy Sports defensive data shows some critical sore spots in the Jackrabbit defense.

Frequency, Efficiency, Rank of South Dakota State Defensive Play Types

Spot up Isolation Transition P&R Ball Handler P&R Roll Man Post-Up Cut Off Screens
%Time 23.7% 11.9% 11.5% 10.3% 4.3% 9.6% 7.1% 6.8%
PPP 0.912 0.78 1.21 0.845 0.923 0.834 1.259 0.783
%tile 52% 33% 13% 15% 52% 42% 15% 79%

Data: Synergy Sports

The notable takeaways from this chart are that South Dakota State struggles to defend ball screen scorers, cutters to the basket and transition offense. Those weaknesses play right into the hand of a Michigan offense that has one of the most dynamic transition attacks and best ball screen scorers in the country.

South Dakota State players and coaches have told anyone that will listen that the Jackrabbits want to run with the Wolverines. Given that the South Dakota State offense and defense rank more favorably in half court situations than transition opportunities this seems like a move that plays directly into Michigan’s hands.

Not only is South Dakota State more effective in the half court, the Rabbits don’t have depth to spare and lean heavily on their five starters. Nate Wolters has sat for 2 minutes total over the last seven games, including a 50 minute night in a double overtime loss. Across the board South Dakota State does a good job of avoiding foul trouble but early fouls could cause coach Scott Nagy to dip further into his bench than he’s comfortable with early on.

Michigan’s defense is obviously a major question mark against South Dakota State but the Wolverines should be able to score the ball better than they have against Big Ten foes. Of course that puts a lot of pressure on an offense that hasn’t been nearly as consistent and proficient as it was earlier this season.

  • kenpompants

    People make a big note of Michigan’s last 12 games and how they’ve struggled offensively, but they are averaging 1.2 PPP against the non-elite defenses over that stretch (0.98 PPP against elite defenses).

    That comes out to 78 points in a 65 possession game vs the Jackrabbits (worse than any defense they’ve faced in the last twelve games), and I like Michigan’s chances with that score.

    • Tom_McC

      Agree 100%. UM’s offense has struggled but I think that has more to do with playing teams like MSU, Indiana, OSU, Wisconsin…many of those on the road. Maybe UM’s O isn’t clicking like it was Nov-Jan, but overall I think the offense has proven that is it one of the best in the country…I mean, #2 in offensive efficiency after 33 games is pretty darn good when you consider UM achieved those numbers against some stifling D’s in some of the most difficult environments to play in.

  • Mattski

    Was the competition stiffer in league play? Guess we can’t assume that.

    • UM Hoops Fan

      The Summit was 21st out of 32 in ESPN’s conference rankings, right around the Ohio Valley, Patriot, Ivy, and America-East conferences. So the competition very well could’ve been better in the nonconference, although there’s the familiarity issue, which can work both ways.

      The Summit does have awesome nicknames — Jackrabbits, Leathernecks, Bison, Kangaroos, Mastadons, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Coyotes, and Jaguars. That’s a heckuva group.

      • toblav

        :), The nicknames.

  • Jeff

    The more I hear about SDSU, the more it sounds like that although they are a dangerous team, we match up really well with them. The kind of teams that kill us are big, slow-it-down defensive teams. We do well against face-paced offensive-minded teams that aren’t great defensively. He even mentioned they struggle with transition defense which is our forte. They also appear to have tall guards and wings, but other than Burke so de we. I guess my biggest fear with them is that our defense totally collapses and they have a hot shooting day, but I don’t think we’ll have any trouble scoring against them.

    • gobluemd16

      I agree. I was really scared at first, and while I do think we will be scratching our heads as we will give up a lot of points, I don’t think they will be able to stop us at all. I expect a high scoring game, but if we make open looks and finish around the basket, we should win.

  • blackie6

    We gotta be aggressive to the cup and hit our open shots…. It’s the tourney, gotta play well, make shots to advance! But again, rather then settle for contested shots that we can get anytime down the court, we must see Trey, Tim, Nik, Glenn, etc. aggressive to the tin and kick, finish, go to the FT line, etc…… gotta get Tim and NIk’s jumper going too!

  • trey

    which of those guys would mcgary/morgan check?

    • Good question. I like Morgan on Dykstra when we go two big. I suspect GR3 will start the game on Dykstra though.

    • robpollard

      Unfortunately, the guy who has kept Jordan Morgan in check these past few games lives in the head of Jordan Morgan.

      Here’s to hoping he takes this opportunity against a small-ish opponent to put together a good all-around game.

  • Don

    Why would SDSU want to tell everybody their game plan? Could it be a bit of misdirection that they play to get out and run?

    • UM Hoops Fan

      I do think it’s somewhat bluster. According to Hoops Math, the Jackrabbits shoot the ball within 10 seconds 37% of the time after getting a rebound and 71% of the time after a steal. Michgan’s comparable numbers are 48% and 80%. I’m sure the Jackrabbits will run at times, but I don’t think they want a track meet. I believe we’ll see an emphasis from them on transition defense.

    • Maybe… I think everyone loves to say they will play fast in general as well. That’s all coaches say all off season and then they still play the same way they played the year before.

      Watching film, Wolters does a really good job of getting the ball up the court quickly and making a go/no go decision and either attacking or reseting the offense.

  • andrew walsh

    Michigan should be salivating ahead of this match-up: SDSU is a small-ish team that doesn’t play slow and isn’t particularly strong on defense. If I were a Michigan coach or player I’d be getting really excited for tip-off, and excited about the opportunity to send the rest of the South bracket a message.

  • French Go Bleu

    Any ideas on how I can watch from overseas. I usually use Big Ten To Go international (and in the past have used ESPN player), but it seems like big ten to go doesn’t have it and CBS won’t let me watch it…

  • gobluemd16

    In addition to my comment below, just want to say thanks guys for all this content since the bracket has been released. I feel like I really know our opponent now and these previews have been super helpful.

  • MikeInOhio

    Dylan, who do you see guarding Wolters? The main problem with Michigan’s D is they lack good individual defenders. Last year we’d count on Stu playing the other team’s best guard and Zach battling the opposing 4-man. GRIII struggled vs Evans in the B1G tourney. If he guards Dykstra, SDST might look to go inside more. On the other hand, that might take them out of their normal drive and kick offense. I say put Burke on Wolters to open with and key moments in the game. Mix-in some Levert and maybe even Tim can take a crack at it

    Some not so obvious keys to the game:

    1) Dominate rebounding battle – in the non-conference games, UM dominated the def. boards and got out in transition. All 3 centers had key putbacks on the offensive end too. Let’s see if UM can get back to that and be the bullies instead of getting bullied.

    2) 3 pt FG % – of course, to rebound, you got to get stops. Run their guys off the line and make them finish on the move. And from the offensive end, it sounds obvious, but guys got to make shots

    3) Bench scoring – neither team relies on their bench. Who can come in for Michigan and put up more than their average? Hopefully Mitch, Spike hit some huge shots this year, and Caris hasn’t done much since the State game. Add in Horford’s size, and at least we have some options.

    • I think Burke will guard him for stretches naturally but Michigan will switch quite a bit on the perimeter. LeVert, Hardaway, should all get stints. But because Michigan plays essentially four guards I bet we switch everything on the perimeter – 1 through 4.

      SDSU won’t crash the offensive glass so defensive rebounding might get a reprieve. I’m curious if UM can get any extra opps against a pretty good defensive rebounding team.