2018-19 Recap: South Dakota Men’s Basketball
Even with a new head coach going into the 2018-19 season, South Dakota fans had plenty to be enthusiastic about.
The Coyotes were coming off of back-to-back 20-plus win seasons, they had won the Summit League regular season title just two years earlier, had two all-league players returning, and were picked to finish second in the conference behind South Dakota State.
But then a series of unfortunate events derailed those high hopes.
Shortly after coach Craig Smith announced he was leaving Vermillion to take the job at Utah State, USD's leading scorer Matt Mooney announced he was departing for Texas Tech.
Now without the team's leading scorer, new head coach Todd Lee turned to the seniors he had returning to carry the load heading into the new season.
But then another big blow to the Coyotes.
Just prior to the hitting the floor for the first time in 2018-19, senior all-conference forward Tyler Hagedorn was lost for the season with an injury.
Without Mooney and Hagedorn, USD was down their top two scorers and their biggest inside presence.
After a 6-7 non-conference schedule, the shorthanded Coyotes began Summit League play by squandering a nine-point halftime lead at North Dakota State and then getting a last-second win at Denver.
But then another senior went down.
This time it was Trey Burch-Manning missing the next four games with an injury. Without him, USD went 1-3, although that one victory was a big one - a 14-point home win over a Fort Wayne team that has come in unbeaten in league play.
Burch-Manning returned to help the Coyotes win at North Dakota, but South Dakota didn't win another game for more than three weeks - losing four straight.
The second half of the league schedule produced some positives for USD, who won four-of-five heading into the Summit League Tournament. The only loss during that stretch was at South Dakota State; a game which saw the Coyotes build a 16-point first half lead.
The final Summit League tally showed seven wins in 16 games for South Dakota, but with five conference losses coming by two possessions or less that win total could have easily been double digits.
As it was, USD finished tied for fifth overall and took the sixth-seed into the Summit League Tournament, where they were promptly dispatched by a red hot shooting Fort Wayne team.
The Coyotes (13-17) lose Burch-Manning, and reserves Dan Jech and Logan Power to graduation, but do return first team all-conference forward and leading scorer Stanley Umude who will be back for his junior season after getting extra playing time this season because of all of the injuries.
Also returning are Australian Matt Johns, who got ten starts in his freshman year, Wyoming transfer Cody Kelley who started 25 games, and 14-point per game scorer Triston Simpson who was the only Coyote to start and play in all 30 games this season.
All indications are that Hagedorn will also return from injury for one final season.
Additional size is on the way as well with 6'9 Serbian Simeon Jovic seeing action after redshirting this season.
I talked with Coyotes head coach Todd Lee about his first season in Vermillion and what his expectations are for the 2019-20 season: