The Mavs will finally be fully eligible for the post season next year…duh. From what I have heard, the 2015-2016 schedule for the UNO Mavericks men’s basketball team includes trips to Minnesota, Missouri, Wyoming, and “a trip to Vegas.” I am not sure how complete the schedule is at this point, but from what I have heard creating a schedule can be pretty difficult. It was pretty difficult in EA Sports’ March Madness 2007. That was the worst video game I have ever played. Well that is dead anyway, but here are some trips and games that I thought could be potentially good match ups and/or fun trips for the Mavericks and their fans should they choose to go. A few of these are suggested home-and-home series, and the others are just UNO going there once.
Virginia – 7 (Final RPI Ranking) or Virginia Tech – 221
The first UNO game I could watch on ESPN3 was UNO @ Michigan State. I remember the commentators saying Derrin Hansen was trying to sell recruits at the time on the opportunity to go play against the bigger teams in their home area. With Jake White and Marcus Tyus getting a run at Minnesota, Randy Reed getting the chance to go up against Missouri, and Tim Smallwood getting conference foe Oral Roberts, that leaves out Devin Patterson for the senior non-Omaha guys.
I would think you would be more comfortable with the Mavs going up against Virginia Tech just based on the RPI rankings, but if you are one of the people that want them to play the best to become the best, then obviously Virginia would be the more appropriate choice for that route. Tech had a pretty similar roster this season as far as experience with 2 seniors, 4 juniors, 1 sophomore, and 5 freshman but they were a substantially larger team. I never watched a Virginia Tech game this season, because I mean, why would I have? Based on the just really lazy investigating, they appear to be a pretty slow team which could draw to the Mavs’ advantage.
Drake – 259
I thought I heard that Drake had a return game to Omaha from the Mavs playing them in Des Moines in 2013, but I have yet to see it or hear anyone mention it ever since. I may have made it up in my own mind now that I think about it. If the Mavs had to go to Drake again, the Bulldogs are a little over two hours away, so obviously not a bad trip for Mav fans. Des Moines also has a lot of fun stuff to do like…turn around and drive back to Omaha.
As a former conference foe to the Creighton Bluejays, the JaySkers may draw some interest in this game and show up for a game in Omaha. The Bulldogs have been going after some of the same recruits as UNO, so that could add some animosity and create a new I-80 rivalry with the Bulldogs. Both programs could live off of the “screw Creighton” policy.
Drake did not have the greatest season in 2014-2015, but it is not like they had the greatest of expectations. The Bullsdogs did have a bright spot with freshman Reed Timmer leading the team in scoring at 11.5 ppg, so the future does not look awful. In addition to Timmer, Drake will have two Big 10 players that will be eligible for the 2015-2016 season, Kale Abrahamson from Northwestern and Graham Woodward from Penn State.
So most of this trip is based on wife’s alumni status to Belmont, and it is not like anyone would ever actually attempt to schedule all 6 of these schools, but my wife has stated that if someone needed 2 or 3 quick road games that they should check out the Nashville area. I have never been to Nashville, but as she described it, Vanderbilt, Belmont, and Lipscomb are all right on the same block.
Nashville is an 11 hour drive through Kansas City and St. Louis, so it is not like it would be the most boring drive in the world for the Mavs and/or their fans. Mav fans that like country music would have the time of lives in Nashville as it is the center of country music with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. My wife says to not go out and do karaoke unless you are a serious singer. The karaoke scene is much different there as it is composed of people trying to make it in the industry and get noticed for a record deal, not people getting really drunk and singing songs in an Eric Cartman voice. I would not know, I think karaoke is dumb either way.
- Vanderbilt – 88
- The only SEC school that appears to actually care about academics of the student athletes finished the season making it to the 3rd round of the NIT. Vanderbilt was made up of mostly underclassmen, so you have to think they have a bright future as they are not really a program that is built around one and done stars. They would be kind of the centerpiece of the Nashville trip, but with a SEC team already on the schedule, this could be a tough sell to the UNO program. As a fan if you went to the game or watched it on television, you could just find yourself upset that the team benches are located on the baseline. It is one of those things that bugs me and I cannot figure out what it is about it that is so upsetting. It is like not liking someone, but you cannot exactly put your finger on it as to what makes you want to punch them in the face every time you see them.
- Belmont – 100
- Rick Byrd has been with Belmont since they were in the NAIA so he knows what is like to take a program into division one and how long it can take to become a successful program at the D1 level. Hopefully because of this, he can have some sympathy for Derrin Hansen and the UNO Mavericks.
- The two schools have played a home-and-home series in men’s soccer, so the two athletic programs have had some sort of communication. Playing Belmont would be no easy task, their size and athleticism is pretty similar to UNO, but they rarely make mistakes and are one of the best at hitting the three. Last year the Bruins ranked 4th in the nation with 10 threes made per game, and as you probably know, the Mavericks were not the best at perimeter defense. Belmont has a winning record of 101-36 since UNO made the transition in 2011-2012. The team should be returning their top three scorers as well. Hey, did you also know that, per Rivals, South Dakota State’s Reed Tellinghuisen’s final three choices were SDSU, UNO and Belmont?
- Belmont also hosts the Country Music Awards, so there is that. My wife also claims you can just randomly see celebrities just about anywhere. She once saw Tim McGraw in Walmart and Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban at a tiny little diner. The university was also the shooting location for a number of Hannah Montana episodes, might I suggest a Socker Boppers tournament at random places around campus to get your rage issues out of the way when you think of Miley Cyrus?
- Lipscomb – 275
- I do not know much about Lipscomb other than that they are one of Belmont’s biggest rivals and that they are on the same block as Belmont, and hey they are pretty close to UNO in RPI. I bet a good ole Summit League versus Atlantic Sun battle really gives you that special feeling that makes you feel like your heart is going to explode out of excitement.
- Tennessee Tech – 288
- An hour and a half from Nashville, but per Verbal Commits, their basketball program has been going at the same level of recruits as UNO. They made offers to Zach Pirog and Ben Kozitske. Also pretty close to UNO in RPI.
- Austin Peay – 316
- A hour drive from Nashville, and hey what the hell, while we are there I guess. Austin Peay is one of those programs that you have seen the name on the ESPN bottom line score center and it always sticks out, but you literally do not know anything about them. The basketball program also has Lincoln’s Parkview Christian School’s Domas Budrys (by way of Lithuania) on the roster and they also gave former UNO player Jalen Bradley an offer this year, so where do they get off?
- Middle Tennessee State -152
- I am not going to pretend that I know anything about Middle Tennessee State, I seriously had no idea that they were in Conference USA until right now. Mufreesboro is also a hour drive from Nashville.
Weber State – 260
Okay, I know I am biased since I worked at Weber State for a year, but the schools actually have some pretty decent similarities that could make for a fun match up. Both schools are at that “lower major” status and battling for name recognition with the bigger names in their own state with UNO dealing with Nebraska and Creighton and Weber State dealing with Utah and BYU. Like UNO, Weber State is also a commuter campus and they have had difficulties trying to find that community support that UNO was struggling with for quite some time. Weber State men’s basketball though is pretty similar to Creighton in the Dana Altman era in regards to that it is difficult for them to get teams to come to them. They are a decent basketball program, and they really want to do the home-and-home series with the bigger programs, but the bigger programs end up laughing at them. They really do not want to do the Go Play a Big 10 Team and Get Crushed games. Weber State did play Oral Roberts in Ogden this year and won by one point, so it is possible that they will have a game in Tulsa in 2015-2016, not sure how many Summit League teams the Wildcats want to play.
Weber State was picked to win the Big Sky conference, based on basically nothing, but they ended up tying for 7th (out of 12) in the conference with Idaho and a 13-17 overall record and finished with an RPI of 260. The Wildcats are coached by Iowa native Randy Rahe who has tried to get into the Nebraska area of recruiting in the recent years. Last year he had former Omaha Skutt center James Hajek as a senior, and he has also had some players from Nebraska junior colleges join his program in the past. Rahe was also rumored for the Drake job when it was last available. He has taken the Wildcats to two NCAA tournaments.
Even though the Wildcats did under perform this last season, they have some great pieces returning that could help prepare the Mavericks for the Summit League. They will be returning 2nd Team All Big Sky forward Joel Bolomboy, who will be a senior, that averaged a double double with 13 ppg and 10 rpg as well as 6’2″ guard Jeremy Senglin, who will be a junior, that averaged 16 ppg, 3 rpg, and 3+ apg. Aside from that, the only player that they are graduating is Hajek.
If Mav fans were willing to make the trip, Ogden and northern Utah have a lot to offer. Anywhere you are in northern Utah, you are a guaranteed 15-20 minute drive away from a beautiful hike. Get some beautiful pictures at Antelope Island 20 minutes away from Ogden, see the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, and you can also go take a look at all the sights and gorgeous landscape that hosted the 2002 Olympics. Oh, there is also an In N Out Burger in between the Salt Lake City airport and Ogden… The trip is about a 13 1/2 hour drive from Omaha, but can be risky with the state of Wyoming basically giving up when it comes to taking care of I-80 during the winter. The flights are usually not too bad though, you will typically have to connect through Denver and end up on two separate 90 minute flights. There is a large Salt Lake City group that loves the Huskers that hosts watch parties for Husker games, but if you were to go you would actually find a decent number of UNO alumni in the group
If you are a beer drinker though and want to make the trip to Utah, you will more than likely not have a great time, especially if you are not into outdoors stuff. The Salt Lake City Husker bar is really fun though, they have a party room dedicated to the Huskers (and the Utes). I also have some Weber State friends that I have been talking a little smack to telling them that UNO is superior in basketball (and another number of sports), so there may be a few Ogdenians that will get a little too into the game and causing a ruckass. Weber State did have a decent club hockey team while I was there, and Ogden has the Mustangs, a Junior A team in the WSHL, so there is always the potential to catch some hockey while there.
Omaha and Weber State have already played in softball (UNO won) and women’s soccer (WSU won) so again, there has been some form of communication between the two athletic departments. Also, while I was working at Weber State the volleyball team played at a tournament in Lincoln against Nebraska and Creighton and I offered to give their (now former) head coach information on restaurants and things to go do and see…he was actually surprisingly a really big jerk about the entire thing.
- Oregon -27
Okay, so the schedule is already pretty tough as it is with two power 5 schools on the schedule already, and there may not be room for one more, but you have to admit you have some interest with the Mavs going up against former UNO coach Kevin McKenna. Derrin Hansen could definitely soften up Dana Altman and McKenna by bringing them some Runzas and Dinker’s. That may be the only way to sell it to Altman and McKenna. When Altman played against Creighton in the CBI Championship, it was definitely awkward already with how recent it was since Altman had just left Creighton, but also Altman claimed that he did not like playing against his friends. I am not sure if him and Hansen have a relationship, but I am sure they have ran into each other, and it could be difficult for Altman having to face a jersey with the word Omaha on it.
- Portland State -166
- Portland – 221
Okay there is not much that I actually know about Portland and Portland State, but to get to Eugene, Oregon to play the Ducks, it would probably be best to fly through Portland. I know that Portland State is a commuter campus just like UNO, they are in the Big Sky, which the Mavericks and other Summit League teams like to go up against, and I know that the city of Portland is awesome.
The city has literally everything you could ever ask for. Great scenic views, awesome hikes within driving distance, the Columbia Gorge is just about one of the most beautiful things that you will ever see, tons of breweries and unique restaurants, mountains to look at and drive to, the ocean is about an hour and a half away, and the state also has no sales tax. There is also Voodoo Doughnut, their line gets really long, I was there on a Sunday night at 10 pm and the line was longer than a Christopher Nolan film. Portland is also a huge hipster community, possibly the biggest I have ever seen, so it may be difficult for Rylan Murry to ever come back to Omaha after a trip out there. You can also walk around and mock everything that you have seen in “Portlandia”. Who else wants to have an adult hide and go seek league? Per the UNO Alumni Association, there are 400+ living in the state of Oregon that are UNO alumni, but Portland is right on the border of Washington state which has 700+ UNO alumni so there is a chance of getting a decent turnout to see the Mavs in the area.
Portland State has been trying to recruit a little from the Nebraska area, but I really do not know why, none of their coaches have any ties to the Midwest, and their basketball program has yet to land anyone from the area. The Vikings will lose seven seniors from their 2014-2015 roster that opened up the season by winning at USC, which really is not all that big of a deal. They also will not have much height on the roster with only only player 6’7″ or taller, as of right now anyway. The Vikings do have a Arizona State guard sitting out in the 2014-2015 season, Calaen Robinson, who the team is expecting to play a huge role in the 2015-2016 season.
The Portland Pilots beat Drake and Murray State this season, two teams that the Mavs lost to in 2013-2014. They also lost a narrow game at UNLV by two points. Okay, this seems a little more interesting now. The Pilots, like the city of Portland, is a really diverse team. Their roster this season consisted of guys from Canada, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and obviously the Pacific Northwest. If sitting around in a giant hipster city, drinking craft beer, eating delicious sushi, and making fun of tall people’s funny last names is fun to you, then maybe you are wishing this trip would have happened this season. The Pilots also has a will be sophomore named Jason Todd, so if you are a comic book nerd and understand what that means, you are pretty much looking for airplane tickets to Portland right now.
Montana State -323
Speaking of Dana Altman, Montana State is coached by his former assistant Brian Fish who is trying to grow some respect for his program. Fish was rumored for the Western Illinois job a while back, and he has been recruiting in Omaha’s backyard. Again, Montana State is a Big Sky team. I have never been to the state of Montana, so…that is all I have to say about that. The average high temperature of Bozeman in November is 42 degrees and in December it is 33 degrees, so it is not like it is completely awful.
In 2014-2015, the Bobcats had…ahh hell I am not even going to try.
Southern Miss – 283
Hey Doc Sadler, remember when you said there was no way you would schedule UNO? Southern Miss was one of the worst scoring and worst rebounding teams in division one this past season, that actually sounds really familiar to Nebraska fans. I am still pretty baffled that they beat North Dakota State, who they did schedule a home-and-home series with. Doc’s team had no player taller than 6’7″ and only graduated one player from this season, oh and their non conference schedule only had two power five schools on it, so yes that sounds exactly like a Doc Sadler team.
I am just saying, based on everything that I can perceive about Sadler, if the Mavs called him and pretended to be the University of New Orleans I am sure they could convince Doc to schedule “the Privateers” and Doc’s staff would just sign the contract without looking at it actually saying University of Nebraska at Omaha instead of University of New Orleans. Then Doc would actually look at his schedule at some point and drop his signature phrase of “I am not a smart man.”
I think UNO fans and people in Nebraska would like the match up. Doc was never really an enemy to anyone around here. He was never Santa Claus but he was never Martin Short as Jack Frost. People around here genuinely liked Doc as a person and would welcome back to Omaha for a night or two.
The transitioning schools
As a school that is just finishing up the transitioning period, we know how painful of a four year process it can be, so maybe we can help out the following programs. Also as a Mav fan, I am keen to go play and beat these teams as four of the five had better RPI rankings than the Mavs last season.
- Abilene Christian – 326
- 10-21 record in 2014-2015, 3 wins were against non-D1 opponents
- scored 27 points in their final game of the season, ouch
- Grand Canyon – 279
- They have Thunder Dan as their head coach, that is enough for me
- Incarnate Word – 173
- They beat Nebraska last year, which may have led to the destruction of the Huskers’ confidence all season
- Massachusetts Lowell – 262
- Finished 12-17 overall including 1 win over a non-D1 opponent
- As of right now, their 2015-2016 roster will be composed of one senior and the rest of the team will be freshmen and sophomores
- Ranked 346th out of 351 in the nation in rebounding as a team
- Northern Kentucky -263
- Will be coached by John Brannen, former Alabama assistant
- They got to play in their conference tournament. Why? What the shit?
Southern Illinois – 274
Another team coming to terms with the “screw Creighton” policy. I am not sure if Creighton and Southern Illinois ever actually had a bitter rivalry program to program or if it was really just Creighton not liking SIU taking their attention away for a few years. I remember Southern Illinois fans being incredibly furious whenever Creighton played in Carbondale. I searched and searched online to find the “I h8 Cr8n” shirts that their fans made but had no luck.
Southern Illinois has also had and won some recruiting battles with the Mavs, so this just irritates me more than it should. With the transition over, this should be less and less of a problem so that is refreshing. Also I feel like Creighton fans would come out to the game in disguise just to yell at Barry Hinson. Seriously, Hinson seems like he was molded out of puddy by Rita Repulsa to create the ultimate douche to destroy the Power Rangers, but probably more likely to destroy Southern Illinois. Granted, it is not like he took over the best program there in Carbondale.
UMKC – 293
Is anyone else incredibly bored with this match up? I do love a trip to Kansas City, but the Kangaroos have more players than they do fans, so it feels like you are going back and watching an old Division 2 game. The game I attended in Kansas City in 2013 there were more Mavs fan than Kangaroo fans. Most of the UMKC fans there were parents of the youth cheerleaders that put on a routine at halftime and then they all left at halftime.
The loss to UMKC this last season should have left an disgusting taste in your mouth. It was the first loss of the season that the whole team was available for, and a team that most thought the Mavs should not have lost to. The Mavs had 26 turnovers in this game. 26! So yes, I would love to see the Mavs get the chance again to not have 26 turnovers. Every time the Mavs play UMKC in anything I get more wrapped up in “why the hell are they in the WAC” instead of the actual game itself. They have to fly to every single one of their conference games, so you know they are looking to make up for it in the non conference schedule. Oh we can drive there? Just send them a contract and hope they sign it.
They will be returning Martez Harrison who was an All American Honorable Mention player. He averaged 17.5 ppg and 4 apg, and he had 25 points and 6 assists against the Mavs in the one game they played this season. A guard like Harrison could prepare the Mav back court for what they are going to have to go up against in the Summit League next season. The Summit League is going to be filled with a lot of great guards this upcoming season.
I am not expecting Mav fans to make the trips for the in season games, but how refreshing was it as a Mav fan to see how many students and fans made it out to the Frozen Four? With things beginning to “matter” more, fans are going to be willing to make the fun trips.