FARGO — For the last four years, Sioux Falls Argus Leader sportswriter Matt Zimmer has sat courtside at Frost Arena and watched opposing teams try to contain South Dakota State center Mike Daum. If Zimmer didn’t see it all in the game of basketball before that, he has now.
You name it, Summit League teams have tried. It appears every option to guard the 6-foot-9 Daum has come and gone and for the most part everybody has failed. They’ve tried bigger bodies on him. They’ve put smaller players on him. They’ve tried zone defenses, a combination of zone and man-to-man and double teams.
“For one thing, he’s just bigger than everybody else,” Zimmer said. “Not many teams have a big man his size let alone his ability. It’s a mismatch no matter what.”
North Dakota State is up next with the mismatch. The senior Daum will make his last appearance in Fargo on Saturday afternoon in a 4 p.m. tip at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
He’s just not the all-time scoring leader in school and Summit League history, Daum is closing in on all-time college basketball notoriety. He’s on pace to become just the ninth player in NCAA history to score at least 3,000 points.
If he does, he would supplant Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson, currently ninth, on that scoring list.
Passing the “Big O” is impressive historical company.
“Outside of his shooting and the dunks, honestly his personality is part of it, too,” Zimmer said. “He’s a celebrity, a rock star around here. He embraces that, the fans love him and he’s a really, really good dude; he genuinely is. That side of it has made him the most famous, or whatever you want to call it, basketball player we’ve ever had in South Dakota.”
NDSU has been a part of the history. Daum has averaged 24.4 points and 11.0 rebounds in nine games against the Bison. In the last four games alone, he’s averaged 29.3 points and 14.0 rebounds.
Bison head coach Dave Richman called finding a way to guard him “a guess.”
“I think the biggest thing you can do is mix it up against him,” he said. “He’s a fifth-year kid. He’s seen so many different looks from teams switching, team trapping, teams doubling to not doubling. You give Mike Daum so much credit because every year, as good as he is, he finds different ways to get better and he’s proven that this year.”
Daum is fifth in the country in points per game averaging 25.. He had 30 points and 17 rebounds in SDSU’s win in January in Brookings. NDSU’s best defensive matchup, 6-10, 245-pound sophomore Rocky Kreuser, said Daum has the ability to get a defensive player undisciplined.
Saturday will provide yet another challenge.
“He’s one of the all-time leading scorers in NCAA history,” Kreuser said. “Not many people get the chance to play against such a good talent in all of NCAA, so it’s an opportunity to go at the big dog and take it to him a little bit.”
That, Zimmer said, is probably what opposing teams have tried to do the most: take it to him and make Daum play defense.
“He’s just not very good at it,” Zimmer said. “Even if he was, he’s so important to them offensively that he will try to avoid contact because he doesn’t want foul trouble. That can be effective. Teams can get him in foul trouble or have success scoring on him because he doesn’t want to be terribly aggressive on defense.”
Problem with putting too much emphasis on Daum is the Jackrabbits’ balance. Guard David Jenkins tied a school single-game record with 10 3-pointers in a one-point loss at Omaha on Thursday night. Senior guard Skyler Flatten is averaging 15.6 points.
“That’s just it, I’ve said this countless times over the last couple of weeks, mid-major basketball is built on retention and development,” Richman said. “They have a sixth-year in Flatten. A fourth-year in (Tevin) King. David Jenkins Jr. is a tremendous talent. You go back, how do you guard Mike Daum? It would be easy to tee off on him if they didn’t have special parts around him. That’s why collectively they’re really good.”