Sometimes I find preseason predictions pointless, other than starting a conversation about the upcoming season or letting people know what could potentially be the biggest games of the year, there is not really much of a point to it.
I mainly find them useless because of the methodology in ranking teams. Many seem to just copy and past the standings of last year, and then make a small edit if a team had a high amount of turnover from last season’s roster. But I came up with a plan to do this for the Summit League. I was reading some preseason predictions for the Big 10 football season which was done by a bunch of ESPN writers. Some made good points but they all had to come up with a record for each team, and the math did not always make sense. One clown had Ohio State going 12-0 with a 8-0 Big Ten record and Michigan State going 11-1, and also with a 8-0 Big Ten record. Seriously, how drunk and lazy and/or bad at math was that guy? Or some guys would have two teams going 8-0 in conference, a couple going 0-8, and everyone else going 5-3. The math didn’t add up and they were telling you that these teams would win these amount of games because they are Skeletor and they said so.
So I came up with a plan. I would go through the Summit League conference schedule and assign wins and losses over the course of a number of weeks. At first it was just: South Dakota State is a better team than Denver, so win goes to the Jackrabbits. Then later, I would look at the difficulty of each team’s conference schedule. Obviously, everyone plays each other twice, but there are some things that stick out; like how Denver is the only team with the highway to the danger zone in playing at North Dakota State and South Dakota State in back to back games. Or how South Dakota and Oral Roberts are the only two Summit League teams without three straight games on the road in conference play. Then things like Omaha playing on the road against someone on a Thursday, as road games on Thursdays appear to be difficult for most teams. Actually road games are pretty difficult for anyone. Then I would go through the schedule again and consider some teams’ strengths versus their opponents weaknesses. Like how teams better be good at three point shooting against South Dakota as they forced teams to take the most threes with their defense…and other things.
But I assigned wins and losses to each game, and did it several times considering different factors. Then I plain and simple would add up each team’s wins and losses to see who had the most after going through it about 15 times. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than just saying South Dakota State will go 15-1 in conference because of Jesus? Probably.
Really, after going through all of this; I really do not see much separation between many of the teams. South Dakota State seems like a clear cut favorite. Then North Dakota State seems like they are 2nd best, but they really should not be as comfortable as one would think. Then Oral Roberts-Omaha-IPFW-IUPUI-South Dakota appear to be in a fight for spots 3 to 7 with Denver and Western Illinois sitting at 8 and 9; but Denver is a difficult place to play; and Western Illinois, while not great last year, they do return basically everything.
So much of the 3 to 9 in the Summit League appears to come down to:
- Who can stay healthy?
- Who can win on the road?
- Who can pick up a win against South Dakota State and North Dakota State?
But for the sake of length, I am going to just post about Omaha to get started and why they should win more games than their 5-11 record last season. Then I will come out with the rest of the Summit League later.
Range of wins: 7 to 11 wins
Boldest Predictions: Will pick up win against North Dakota State at home, will sweep South Dakota
Clearly, I am biased in how well I think the Mavs could do this season. The Mavericks finished 5-11, but they had 4 conference losses decided by one or two possessions. I know it does not work this way, but the Mavericks could have finished 8-8 or 9-7 in the Summit League had just a couple more things gone their way. There is also more to play for with the Mavericks this season, and they should have a slightly stronger home court advantage with their new arena being right on campus. The attendance for the Mavericks has risen each season since transition, and people in town are starting to take them more serious. 2012-2013 was probably the most fun season to watch, but Omahans did not seem to even notice. UNO Men’s Basketball was that new television show that had some good looking commercials that got you interested; but it was pitted in the same time slot as Breaking Bad in it’s prime and Sunday Night Football. Justin Simmons had some of the most exciting dunks you could possibly witness; but Doug McDermott was in the middle of one of the greatest careers in Creighton and NCAA history; and Tim Miles was bringing a personality to the Huskers. Omahans were in the mode of thinking they’d like to go to a Mavs game, but never fully pulled the trigger. A few years later: Creighton is down and Nebraska is too young for locals to know what is happening. UNO has a brand new arena, in a fun part of town, some local guys on the roster that can make some noise, and six seniors to help start the new era of the program.
The Mavericks also have a pretty good way to start conference play with Western Illinois and IUPUI at home. 2013-2014 started @ Western Illinois, @ North Dakota State, @ South Dakota State; and 2012-2013 was @ North Dakota State, @ South Dakota State, and then a month conference break before they had South Dakota and Kansas City at home before going back on the road against very good IPFW and Oakland teams. Last year the Mavs started on the road @ South Dakota and Western Illinois, and then came back home for North Dakota State and South Dakota State, before going back on the road against Oral Roberts. The Mavs are finally not being welcomed to the Summit League with the middle finger jammed in front of their face, so hopefully they can start league play with some momentum. The most difficult part of the conference schedule is going to be three straight road games at Denver, and the Mavericks yet to have a good game in the state of Colorado; then at Oral Roberts which is one of the toughest places to play in the Summit League; and then at South Dakota State who is the preseason favorite in the league and swept the Mavs last season by margins of 19 and 22 points.
As far as what is returning to the Mavericks: they lost Mike Rostampour and CJ Carter, but they are returning 61% of their scoring; which is the 4th highest in the league. Marcus Tyus and Devin Patterson as a returning back court is arguably one of the top 3 back courts in the league. Jake White is hopefully healthy enough to give significant minutes when the conference season turns around, he is tied with his fellow teammate Tre’Shawn Thurman as the 2nd leading returning rebounder in the league. Randy Reed and Tim Smallwood should hopefully finally have roles edged out to really help this team improve. Lack of depth was an issue for this team last season, but newcomers Zach Pirog, JT Gibson, and Tra-Deon Hollins sound as if they can really help the Mavericks improve on some of the weaknesses the Mavs had in 2014-2015, and add some needed depth to this team. This team can go big, it can go small, it has adaptable lineups that can go up against anyone in the Summit.
From what I could tell, the preseason predictions biggest concerns with the Mavericks are that they cannot make up for the loss of Mike Rostampour and CJ Carter. Okay, everyone loses someone in college athletics, but should we really be concerned about losing two guys that were not recruited to ever play in a Summit League conference tournament? So really, why are people so hard on them for losing Rostampour and Carter, but no one is hard on IPFW for losing Steve Forbes and Joe Edwards; or South Dakota for losing Tyler Larson and Brandon Bos; or Oral Roberts for losing half of their team? Please don’t take this as a Rostampour and Carter Were Not Unimportant thought… The Mavs would not be the same without them. The point is, it does not seem like the Mavericks are asking as much out of their newcomers and returning players as much as other teams. They are asking Jake White to be healthy enough to score 2-4 more points and grab a couple more rebounds, which I realize is easier said than done; Tre’Shawn Thurman to continue to improve; Tyus and Patterson to be more consistent; and Reed and Smallwood work more on their roles that they established toward the end of last season. Other than North Dakota State and South Dakota State, everyone else appears to be asking guys to come in and be stars or huge impacts right away. One thing that does scare me about Omaha finishing in the top half of the conference is the injury to Marcus Tyus. He’s coming off ACL surgery that he injured in February. Being ready in full form throughout November, December, and January just seems like a lot to look for at this point.