What a difference a year makes in Vermillion.

Last season, Craig Smith was taking over as men's basketball coach at the University of South Dakota, instituting a new system with players that had been with the program previously and a host of new faces.

There were growing pains at first, as USD started the year with eight losses in eleven games, but managed to go 14-8 the rest of the way, including a 6-2 finish to the regular season, good for a fourth place tie in the Summit League standings.

Year two for Coach Smith begins Friday against Wright State in a game in DeKalb, Illinois, and like last season there are a host of new faces - seven in all - on this Coyote roster.

Talented freshman Tyler Borchers, Tyler Hagedorn, and Dan Jech - all 6'6 or taller - could make an impact right away, along with transfers Zach Dickerson (Eastern Illinois) and Shy McClelland (Mesa Community College).

The Coyotes return one double-digit scorer from last season's team - senior guard Casey Kasperbauer, one of the best shooters in the Summit League. Also back are Tre Burnette, who started every game last season, and Trey Norris, who led the USD bench in minutes last season.

Coach Smith is looking for more production in the post from Eric Robertson and Austin Sparks this season.

The non-conference schedule is tough with games at Kansas State, Minnesota, Illinois, and UNLV, and a game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls against Florida Gulf Coast.

The Coyotes are picked fifth in the Summit League pre-season poll.

I talked with Coach Smith about the season: