Thursday morning I will leave for a wedding in Mexico, the wedding happens to be on my birthday, so it will probably be the coolest place that I have ever spent my birthday. I am a big sports fan, but I am also not such a crazed sports fan to where I will have my phone out the entire time checking college basketball scores. Mostly because of signal on my cell, but also out of respect for the people getting married… I just hope to come back to find out that the UNO Mavericks have picked up a win. I am sure the room I am in will have wireless and I can check the score there, but who knows.
I do not ever want to be negative with any of this, but it is hard to find many positives for a team that is on a five game losing streak and just lost to the preseason last place team with UNO having a historic scoring performance from their senior captain. So here are some positives…
Denver is also struggling. A team picked second in the preseason rankings (see how preseason rankings are worthless) finds themselves at 6th in the conference at 2-3 with losses to South Dakota State, also IUPUI, and they are responsible for IPFW’s only win. IPFW was the voted as the preseason champion.
Another positive, CJ Carter and Marcus Tyus are playing awesome right now. CJ Carter scored 45 points on only 25 field goal attempts in his last game. How many NBA players have you seen that needed to take 39 shots in order to get to 45? Tyus, also went 7 of 10 in the Mavs last game. He is also rebounding and passing the ball better this season, he really has become a more consistent player this season. UNO did shoot 50% plus in their two losses, so naturally you want to blame defense, rebounding, turnovers, all the good stuff. Before Oral Roberts and IUPUI, UNO was 6-0 when shooting above 44% and 0-9 when shooting under 44%, not counting Iowa Wesleyan. #themoreuno
UNO has no games this work week. Denver plays Oral Roberts on Wednesday night, so UNO has more time to prepare for this game. That can not be a negative. Okay, now I do not know where to go from here.
If you were listening to the broadcast on the radio, Gary Sharp mentioned that teams are playing the Mavs to get better, it seems like some players are having out of body experiences and shooting much better against Omaha. Ouch, considering Denver already shoots 49% on the year as a team and leads the Summit, so are you telling me they are going to be better than that?
Denver runs a Princeton offense, similar to Air Force, ehhhh, and is led by their two senior wings Brett Olson (shoots 51%) and Cam Griffin (shoots 54%). Let me throw something at you. Brett Olson stands at 6’5″ and Cam Griffin is 6’3″. Denver is not really that big of a team, they do not have a talented big guy like Air Force did with Marek Olesinksi. Marcus Byrd is probably their most talented guy that is 6’7″ or taller who averages 9 and 4 and shoots 52% from the field and 49% on threes. So three of their top players shoot higher than 50%, well this already sounds fun.
Why mention this? The perimeter defense that I have spoken of as being a big issue for UNO. In 2012-2013, I thought the Mavs biggest weakness was in the post, and then it got better in 2013-2014 with the addition to Mike Rostampour to the lineup, but now it is a strength of the team with Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman also in the post. Now the Mavs are having trouble guarding wing players. Opposing teams’ starters that are 6’7″ or taller are shooting 46% from the field against the Mavs, guards that are 6’2″ or shorter are also shooting 46% from the field against the Mavs, and players that are 6’3″ to 6’6″ (and I will throw in Nebraska’s Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields into this category, just because) are shooting 50% from the field.
Maybe that does not sound like a significant thing, but when you are in a league filled with 6’3″ to 6’6″ wing players that can shoot the ball, it is a problem. There are not a lot of great talented big guys in the league. Hell, UNO is in last place and after IPFW’s Steve Forbes and South Dakota State’s Cody Larson, UNO probably has the next best 3 big men in the league of Mike Rostampour, Jake White, and Tre’Shawn Thurman. Korey Billbury and Obi Emegano combined for 20-32 from the field against the Mavs, and statistically they are not quite as good as shooters as Cam Griffin and Brett Olson. I do not even want to get into IUPUI.
I am pretty interested to see what Mike Rostampour will do in this game against Denver. In no way do I think 5 rebounds in two games is okay with Mike Rostampour. The last time he only had 3 rebounds in one game, he came back the next game with 11 points and 11 rebounds against Marquette. The only time he had less rebounds over a two game stretch, he had 4 combined rebounds in 2 games against South Carolina State and Drake last season, he came back with a performance of 19 points, 9 rebounds, on 7-11 shooting with 2 threes at South Carolina State. I would be incredibly surprised if Rostampour has three bad rebounding games in a row.
I love Carter and Tyus, but at 6’1″, I wish one of them could play the point guard position for the stretches of the game that Devin Patterson is on the bench. You are never quite sure what is going to happen when the Mavs go to the bench. It is like you are putting in a new Weezer CD, you know there will be part of a song that is pretty good, but the rest of the CD, you are not entirely sure what you are getting yourself into. I thought of this, I used to be a big Weezer fan, but I have not given that band one dollar since that Maladroit album.
When Matt Hagerbaumer, Alex Phillips, and Caleb Steffensmeier came off the bench last season, you knew exactly what you were getting. Defense and rebounding from Hagerbaumer, and some sweet dunks when he got the opportunity. Defense and shooting from Alex Phillips, maybe one poor decision from time to time, but nothing too extreme. Defense, ball control, and if you needed a comeback or a dagger three from Steffensmeier, he would give it to you. All three of those guys would get you high percentage shots.
We know we are going to get a boat load of offensive rebounds from Jake White, but offensively he has been hard to figure out so far. You are not really sure what you are going to get out of the bench on a consistent basis from anyone else on the bench. He is only shooting 37% from the field, but that is with some nagging injuries. Maybe Randy Reed can get us 10 and 7 this game, but then 2 and 1 the other game. Tim Smallwood and Rylan Murry can get us a couple threes this game, but then both seem to be too shy from deep the next game. This is why I wish Carter or Tyus could play the point, I think they are both capable of it, it just does not seem to happen often. With one of them at the point, the Mavs could have 3 starters on the court with 2 bench players at any given time as opposed to 1 starter with 4 bench players, which seems to be leading to problems lately.
A general perception that I have right now is that the team loses a lot of defensive intensity when Mike Rostampour is on the bench. Which it would probably be impossible to have the intensity go up with him on the bench, but it is quite noticeable how much the team is affected when Rostampour is on the bench resting or is in foul trouble. Might I recommend a little more Daniel Meyer when Rostampour is in foul trouble? Tre’Shawn Thurman is awesome, but he is not the definition down low banger like Rostampour, Jake White is also not exactly in that category either, but Meyer is really the only player that would fall into that category after Rostampour. I do not see what is wrong with a Meyer-White-Thurman front court for a small stretch. Maybe it is not the ideal lineup against Denver, but against a slightly bigger South Dakota State or IPFW, it seems pretty reasonable.
I do think we need to stop looking at this season as We Beat Marquette and we need to start look at it as We Lost to Seattle, UMKC, Chicago State, and IUPUI.