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TOM MILLER: It’s early, but big games are here

After losing all four Big Sky Conference games last week, the UND hoops programs may look back at the weekend in March with regret. UND basketball was 0-4 last week, highlighted by the women's team's surprising defeats on the West Coast. With the...

After losing all four Big Sky Conference games last week, the UND hoops programs may look back at the weekend in March with regret.

UND basketball was 0-4 last week, highlighted by the women’s team’s surprising defeats on the West Coast.

With the men’s team, it’s pretty clear that rebounding is the biggest issue. I’ll add outside shooting to the list of woes.

The men’s team really misses Cole Stefan’s presence from the perimeter. Lenny Antwi has done his best to fill the need, but UND still needs more from the 3-point line.

The rebounding issue is complex. There aren’t any easy solutions. As much as some people would like to say rebounding all comes down to technique and effort, it’s really more about body types and athleticism.

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You can work on rebounding all week in practice, but it’s really going to come down to personnel. UND doesn’t have great rebounding personnel.

UND, however, can probably get a little better performance on the boards out of freshman 7-footer Carson Shanks, as well as from the injured Bryce Cashman.

Honestly, though, there are no easy solutions for this team’s rebounding woes. If Josiah Coleman can improve and add offense, he would likely boost your rebounding numbers. Although that eats minutes from Estan Tyler or Terrel de Rouen - two guys you might need for scoring.

UND’s matchup with Northern Colorado on Saturday will be big. UND needs to win that one. The Bears are likely the type of team UND will be fighting against late in the season to earn a Big Sky postseason tournament berth.

On the women’s side, the Sacramento State loss might not be troubling and just a blip on the radar.

But losing to Portland State has to suggest bigger issues.

UND still is considerably outrebounding teams. UND, however, is just getting outshot.

UND lacks a consistent outside shooting presence. That responsibility seems to come and go from players such as Makailah Dyer, Megan Lauck, Leah Szabla and Bailey Strand.

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In the end, the women’s team will probably be just fine. However, it might not have enough to host the league tournament this season.

Just as the case with the men’s team, Saturday’s matchup with Northern Colorado on Saturday is important for the women’s team to get back on track.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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