Omaha Mavs and SDSU Jacks reading materials

I know there is a chunk of UNO students that will be making their way to the South Dakota town known for holding Daktronics, and having a pretty decent Applebee’s; and that is pretty great but I wanted to throw some reading material out there…even though I am sure no students ever actually ready this.


Here are a few things you should know if you are just a casual fan and you do not follow much into this, or if you are just trying to impress some dude or…whatever.

These are supposed to be points that make you feel good…kind of like you are watching a Andy Dwyer greatest hits compilation…or like the happiness you will receive after your buddy introduces you to Kung Fury…a half hour film based on a police officer who became a Kung Fu master after being bitten by a cobra and being struck by lightning at the same time.

Kung-Fury-Poster-01
Everything you will ever need in a film is in this poster.
  • Ideally, I guess, a teams goal is to at least split their road games; and Omaha is already 4-0 on the road this season in league play…so they could lose the rest of their road games and still have split on the road.
  • 2 of the 4 road wins were against teams Omaha had never beaten since transitioning to division one: North Dakota State and Oral Roberts
  • The road win against Denver was the first time the Mavericks had beaten the Pioneers in Denver.  The Mavericks beat Denver by 14, which is the 2nd highest margin Denver has been defeated by at home this season.
  • Omaha currently has the 2nd leading scorer in the Summit League, Devin Patterson…and the 2nd best rebounder, Tre’Shawn Thurman…and the assist leader, Tra-Deon Hollins…and 2nd leading shot blocker, Tre’Shawn Thurman, and the nation’s leader in steals, Tra-Deon Hollins…Devin Patterson is also 2nd in the conference in steals…Hollins is also second in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio
  • In league play, Omaha leads the Summit League in points per game, actually they are tied with Fort Wayne…they commit the least amount of fouls…they have the most steals in the conference…the Mavericks lead the conference in free throws attempted and are 2nd behind Denver in free throw percentage…they also lead the conference in field goal percentage…the Mavericks are also 2nd in the league so far in defensive three point field goal percentage, which is great because they gave up the most three point field goals in the conference last season

The Mavericks have been tested on the road so far this season and had some close wins, and close losses, against good teams.  This game could be the biggest test that Omaha has faced so far…ever since joining the Summit League.  Matt Zimmer, of Argus Leader, said that Omaha may in first, but they are the team with more to prove here.  He is absolutely correct.

Yes, the Mavericks were able to beat North Dakota State at home this season with the Bison on a 31 game home winning streak, but they came up close against the Bison in each of their two meetings last season, losing by 3 and 7.  The Mavs beat Oral Roberts, who is known historically for being one of the best teams in the Summit League, but the Golden Eagles are in a down year…even with the conference’s leading scorer.  This is South Dakota State, who has built themselves up to be the team to beat in the Summit over the last few years.  One of the teams the Mavericks have been trying to build themselves up to be ever since transition, and the Mavericks have lost a few recruiting battles to the Jacks since the transition.  Mike Daum and Reed Tellinghuisen both had offers from the Mavericks, and I believe Skyler Flatten and Ian Theisen both had “interest” from Omaha.

I am not sure if it is time for either of these teams to look ahead into the seedings of the Summit League tournament, but first place in the conference standings is on the line here.  There is still a lot to play out, but South Dakota should finish somewhere between 6th and 8th in the final standings in the conference; and neither Omaha or South Dakota State want to be matched up against the Coyotes in the first round of the Summit League tournament in Sioux Falls.

The Mavericks were able to pick up a win in Brookings in 2014, the same weekend North Dakota State beat the Jackrabbits in Brookings, and I am pretty sure that is the last time South Dakota State lost at home.  Since that game the Mavericks have lost to the Jackrabbits three straight times by an average of 19 points per game.  Since that weekend, the Jackrabbits have won all of their conference home games by an average of 19 points, and the closest a team as come was Denver by 9 in February of 2014.  There were actually some narrow margins of victory of North Dakota State in their home winning streak.

The Jackrabbits are 16-5 this season, but they have been beat up with injuries.  Wisconsin transfer, Preseason Summit League First Teamer, and 2014-2015 2nd Team All Summit League player, George Marshall, missed 6 games this season and the Jackrabbits with 4-2 in his absence.  Preseason Summit League First Teamer and 2014-2015 Summit League Honorable Mention player, Jake Bittle, missed 8 games and the Jackrabbits went 4-4 without him on the court.  Bittle also missed 9 games in his sophomore season and the Jackrabbits went 4-5 without him in the lineup.  Other than these guys being out, 6’6″ sophomore, Skyler Flatten, has been out all year so far, but is expected to come back at some point.  Flatten averaged 3.2 points per game in his freshman season, but he saw his minutes go down once George Marshall became eligible.

The Jackrabbits have only played 7 games (not including non-division one opponents) with their big three of Bittle, Marshall, and Parks all playing together in the same game.  Their only loss with all three of them was on the road to UMKC.  Their big three are known for being good three point shooters, and the Jackrabbits do have guys around them that can knock down threes, but the Jackrabbits are currently 6th in the Summit League in three point field goal percentage at 35.7% overall.  When Bittle, Marshall, and Parks are all in the lineup the Jackrabbits shoot around 40% from three, which would be 2nd in the conference.  Omaha is 1-2 this season when their opponent shoots above 40% from three.

Omaha may be the worst three point shooting team in the league, but Hollins has improved as the year has gone along, going 6-of-11 in the last four games…at one point he was shooting 15% on threes.  The Mavericks, however, play more so to penetrate and get to the basket and force the other team to foul.  They are currently 10th in division one in free throw attempts per game, and on top of that are 24th in free throw percentage.  On the reverse of that, South Dakota State commit the most fouls in the league.

George Marshall was back in time to start off conference play, but Bittle just back last week and the Jackrabbits went 2-0 on the road, at Oral Roberts and South Dakota, with him back in the lineup.  This was combined with head coach, Scott Nagy, calling out his team for not having any toughness; so there was probably some added motivation by the team to pick up 2 road wins to show their coach wrong.

The Mavericks biggest deficiency last season was defending three point shooting, and mostly just being able to guard wing players.  The team fixed this by signing Tra-Deon Hollins.  Seriously, if there was a All Summit League Tough as Nails Team, Hollins would be first team.  No other team has one defender on their roster that intimidates their guards and wing players nearly as much…on top of that his back court teammate, Patterson, is 2nd in the league in steals.

Going into the season, the Jackrabbits were mostly worried about who they were going to play at the center position.  Freshman Mike Daum has filled the role quite nicely averaging 13.4 points and 6 rebounds per game in 19 minutes per game…he has had 20 or more minutes in the last 6 games.  Has he had to face a post player combo like Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman yet?  Probably not.

I know that Omaha has more to prove in this game, but this game has to be more important to South Dakota State.  Their coach recently called them out for faking toughness, and their team was one shot away from the NCAA tournament a season ago.  No team in the league will lose as much as the Jackrabbits going into next season.  Their seniors combine for 48 points per game, and there could always be someone who transfers out.  Omaha will lose Patterson (and White, Reed, Smallwood, and Erickson), but they will get Marcus Tyus back to play alongside Tra-Deon Hollins in the back court next season…and they get to add Mitchell Hahn after sitting out from transferring.

If the Jackrabbits win this game, there could potentially be a 4 way tie for first…but if they lose they could potentially be 4th or 5th in the standings in the conference…

 

 

 

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Summit League Predictions: Jan 28-31

I went 6-2 at this last week, losing on a dumb gamble with Western Illinois over North Dakota State and a IUPUI 2 point win over their instate rival IPFW.

By the way, IPFW versus IUPUI had a crowd of 1500.  Both are decent basketball teams, and it is an instate rivalry.  Imagine that UNK was division one (heaven forbid) and they played in the Summit League and played at Omaha as two of the better teams in the league.  The attendance in Omaha would get up around 4,000 people…just as the South Dakota State at South Dakota game was.

January 28

Omaha (6-1) @ South Dakota State (5-2) on ESPN3

More on this later…

IPFW (5-2) @ Oral Roberts (3-5) on ESPN3

Max Landis, who is a great shooter and great player, is averaging 39 minutes per game since Mo Evans was declared ineligible to play.  He only really went to the bench against Omaha when he was in foul trouble.  Can he play (and more importantly shoot) at a high level every game playing that many minutes?  He shot 30% from the field in the last two games, and both were in Fort Wayne…granted it was North Dakota State and IUPUI who are both sound defensive teams, but the point still remains.  Oral Roberts is a deeper team than IPFW and can give him and John Konchar a few different looks.

I tried to look up the last time Oral Roberts dropped 3 in a row at home, and it took too long so I gave up.  Oral Roberts does have the 2nd worst defensive field goal percentage in the league in front of Denver…and boring note: Oral Roberts is the only team to play every team in the league at least once so far.  They also average more turnovers than any other team in the league…okay I may have just sold myself out of Oral Roberts in this game.

South Dakota (2-5) @ Denver (2-5)

How did Root Sports not pick up this game?

Fun fact:  Both of these teams got their wins are against Western Illinois and Oral Roberts, and both teams beat Oral Roberts when Obi Emegano was out.

South Dakota did a really good job guarding Nate Engesser last season, but can an incredibly inconsistent team go to Denver and pick up a win?  Actually, they probably can.  You have to shoot efficiently against Denver in order to keep up with their Princeton Offense, and South Dakota is 7th in league games so far in field goal percentage.

A scary thing about Denver actually, they are 7th in turnovers in the Summit with 13 turnovers per game…which given how slow they play, is a lot like averaging 20 turnovers a game for most teams.  Crap, I may have just sold myself out of Denver in this game.

January 29

Western Illinois (0-7) @ IUPUI (5-2)

IUPUI did win at Western Illinois a few weeks ago.  Garret Covington shot 6-of-16 from the field and 2-of-9 from three against the Jaguars while Jabari Sandifer was 1-of-8 from the floor.  The Western Illinois offense comes down the court and appears to have no plan, and they have to go up against one of the best defenses in the league…so that should be gross.

There is just not a lot of confidence to put on the Leathernecks right now.

January 30

South Dakota State (5-2) @ Denver (2-5)

The Jackrabbits did lose in Denver last season, but the most experienced team against the least experienced team this year?

South Dakota (2-5) @ Omaha (6-1)

This might be the least comfortable I have ever been as a Mavs fan.  South Dakota is one of three teams that have averaged more assists than turnovers in Summit League play, they have to be the biggest wild card in the league, and their ability to keep teams on the outside scares me as a fan of team that is last in the Summit in three point field goal percentage.  South Dakota also held the Mavericks to just 4 fast break points in Vermillion, which is actually really impressive.

Omaha also has not played as well at home as they have on the road, and they needed a 21 point comeback to beat the Coyotes.  There always seems to be a few Coyote fans that come to their games in Omaha; I am not sure if it is because it is an easy travel; or South Dakota has a decent amount of alums in the Omaha area; or because living in Vermillion must be awful and you need any excuse to get out.  Probably all of the above.

In conference play, the Coyotes have averaged the most fouls per game in the league, and Omaha shot 35 free throws against them in Vermillion a few weeks ago…which is mostly why I am not selling myself out of Omaha in this game.

The Coyotes can be trouble if Tyler Flack is back and healthy finally.

January 31

North Dakota State (4-3) @ IUPUI (5-2) on ESPN3

IUPUI is really trying to go all out to advertise fans to come out to their games this weekend…so maybe the Jaguars will have a home court advantage for once.

Let me tell you something interesting!  I was really going for Jim Carrey’s Fire Marshall Bill character screaming “Let me show you something!” but I probably failed to really capture it with just an exclamation point…IUPUI is 2nd in conference games so far in field goal percentage, and North Dakota State is 1st in defensive field goal percentage…on the reverse of that, North Dakota State is 6th in field goal percentage and IUPUI is 3rd in defensive field goal percentage…

IUPUI is 2nd in league play in steals per game, which being behind Omaha in that category is not too bad; and these teams are about even in turnovers.  So two of the best defensive teams can make for a low scoring frustrating game.  The Jaguars appear to have better defenders equipped to go against the Bison’s best players…Marcellus Barksdale, or Nick Osborne, or Mason Archie against AJ Jacobson (who has been struggling lately), Paul Miller, or Kory Brown.  NDSU’s true freshman Khy Kabellis is going to have to be matched up against Darrell Combs who averages 16 points per game, or Jordan Pickett who has averaged 11.6 points per game over the last 6 games.  Kabellis has shot 29% from the field when playing outside the state of North Dakota.

Western Illinois (0-7) @ IPFW (5-2)

Western Illinois had the best three point field goal percentage as a team in non-conference play, partially because they played just the dumbest non-conference schedule ever.  In league play, the Leathernecks are 8th in the conference in three point field goal percentage, and they are 8th in points per game in front of Denver…and IPFW is tied in first with Omaha in scoring.  The Leathernecks are also 8th in field goal percentage and IPFW leads the league in rebounding.  IPFW might be able to renovate their arena with all the bricks they’ll be able to pick up.

My trivial Summit League rankings – Jan 25

1. Omaha, 6-1

Last week: 2nd

Before the beginning of the season, the Mavericks had never won in Denver, Fargo, or Tulsa; and now they have won at all three.  They also have not won at Western Illinois since transitioning to D1…so help me God…  The Mavericks have also only had conference season sweeps over UMKC and IUPUI in the past.  According to the ESPN3 commentators during the South Dakota State-IUPUI game a few weeks ago: you want to go undefeated at home and split your road games.  That math puts you at 12-4 to (most likely) win the conference.  The Mavs lost at home, so I guess they’ll just go undefeated on the road.

Jake White is currently the only player that is in the top 5 in the Summit League in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage.  His three point field goal percentage is high enough to be in 3rd in the conference, but he does not attempt enough threes to qualify for that category.  He is also 8th in the conference in free throw percentage, which puts at the highest free throw percentage for any player 6’6″ or taller in the league.

Tra-Deon Hollins is getting better and better offensively, which should just scare the hell out of other teams.  He’s knocking down threes finally…and they are clutch threes, which Omaha desperately needed as the worst three point shooting team in the Summit.  JT Gibson should be soon to add to the team’s three point shooting, right?

2. South Dakota State, 5-2

Last week: 3rd

The Jackrabbits got Jake Bittle back in time to beat Oral Roberts and South Dakota.  Mike Daum continues to get better and better.  Things could get real on Thursday…

The Jackrabbits still hold an RPI in the top 50.

3. IPFW, 5-2

Last week: 1st

Since the loss of Mo Evans, Max Landis has averaged 39.3 minutes per game.  He only sat out a few minutes against Omaha because he got into foul trouble.  Can he continue the hot shooting and carrying the team playing that many minutes?  He’s shot 30% in the last two games at home, so maybe he is losing his powers.

4. North Dakota State, 4-3

Last week: 4th

In the last 5 games, AJ Jacobson is shooting 33% from the field and 28% on threes.  It’s possible that Jacobson wont be on the Summit League 1st Team like it was predicted, I can think of a couple guys who can take his place… Curious if this team inserts Chris Kading back into the starting lineup when the team gets closer to the conference tournament.

5. IUPUI, 5-2

Last week: 6th

The Jags were able to knock off IPFW in Fort Wayne, so Mav fans should take a minute to thank IUPUI for this.  The Jaguars have become a better team overall this season with the added offense from their transfers and newcomers.  By the way, they only had 5 turnovers as a team against IPFW.  Amazingly, for not being known as an offensive show, the Jaguars are 2nd in the conference in Summit League in field goal percentage behind Omaha.

6. Oral Roberts, 3-5

Last week: 5th

The Golden Eagles started the conference schedule with a on the road for a game, then home, then back on the road for one game, then back home for a game, then going on the road for two games, to come back home for South Dakota State and Omaha at home.  They probably cannot wait for their three game home stretch against IUPUI, Denver, and Western Illinois.

I didn’t get to watch the Omaha-Oral Roberts game.  I planned on watching it on ESPN3 on Sunday, and I got the first 10 minutes of the game, but then ESPN3 just decided that enough for me.  I saw that AJ Owens did not play, I do not know why, but I watched the Golden Eagles’ game against South Dakota State and I wrote down “AJ Owens has a really quick release on his jump shot, but why?  Why does a 6’9″ 260 pound guy need a quick release on his jump shot?  Seriously?”

7. South Dakota, 2-5

Last week: 8th

The Coyotes were right there to defeat their instate rival, but couldn’t pull it off.  They have two games on the road this week at Denver and Omaha.  This is still a difficult team to figure out, and will be a tough out in the conference tournament for the 1st or 2nd seed.  Tyler Flack appeared to be healthy again against South Dakota State.  He had 10 points and 6 rebounds with a monstrous dunk at one point.  If they can get him at 100%, the Coyotes are going to be annoying.

8. Denver, 2-5

Last week: 7th

The Pioneers only had one game last week which was a 14 point loss to Omaha.  They get two games at home this week against the South Dakota schools, a split this week would be pretty reasonable.

9. Western Illinois

Last week: 9th

The Leathernecks are 0-7 and their next 5 out of their 6 games are on the road, and the one home game is against Omaha.  The end of their loss to North Dakota State was phenomenal to watch.  JC Fuller missed two easy shots, Jabari Sandifer missed a couple easy shots and refused to pass to a wide open Garret Covington, and it looked as if the team were not even paying attention to the coaching staff.

The Denver Pioneers need to grow up

Dear 5BWest,

I read all 475 words of your post “Summit League basketball needs to grow up.”  I read it 3 times, and skimmed through it a couple more times all while my brain drew a picture of a typical Denver Pioneer fan.  I admit the image did not come out positively, but I would like to point out a few things to you.

The University of Denver (10-9, 2-4 Summit), a young team sitting at one game above .500, has exceeded early season expectations.

I would like to point out that you that the Denver Pioneers have not exceeded any expectations.  Your team was selected 8th in the Summit League preseason poll, and through 6 games your team is currently tied for 7th.  I feel sorry for anyone who thinks that this is exceeding expectations.  One of the two Pioneers’ wins are at home against an Oral Roberts team who did not have the league’s leading scorer, Obi Emegano, who was out with concussion symptoms.  The team’s other win was against Western Illinois.  These two wins do not mean you have exceeded expectations.

Regardless of how the Pios  perform against UNO tomorrow night, it really doesn’t matter.

Way to diminish every game your team plays, I am sure the coaching staff and players working their asses off really appreciate your support.  Go tell your teams’ players that what they are doing is worthless.  By the way, if Denver beats UNO tonight and Pioneer fans brag up the win, it is your responsibility to tell them that they are idiots.

South Dakota State, an early league favorite, is 14-5 but a lackluster 3-2 in league play and it really doesn’t matter.

I love the “it doesn’t matter” tone you are putting down here.  You sound like the kid in high school who cannot find a girlfriend, so he justifies it with “high school is stupid and all these relationships end some day.”  I can say that with a full amount of confidence because I was that kid.  If it really did not matter, your precious Denver Pioneers would not run a respectable offense based on finding the absolute best shot on each and every single play, instead we would just see Nate Engesser throwing up half court heaves a minute into the game.  It’s about developing skills and decision making for these kids later in life.  As a guy who is married to a former division one athlete, who never got to experience a post season tournament, I can tell you that it does matter.  See, now the picture I have painted of a typical Denver Pioneer fan is a 6’2″, 120 pound kid with black nail polish and black eyeliner trying to prove a point.  Look at what you have done.

The Summit League, like most conferences, should be playing on a neutral court in either Des Moines, Iowa or Kansas City, Missouri. Both locations are convenient travel destinations for league members, provide lower cost travel, offer more attractive  amenities for visitors, provide more hospitable weather, and are ‘neutral’.

I can half agree with you here, but later you went here…

Today, a flight to Sioux Falls from Denver costs $400-600 per seat and hotel options and entertainment options are, at best, limited.

Have you been to Des Moines?  I have never heard a person come back from a late winter/early spring trip to Des Moines and talk about the amazing time they had.  The Iowa State fair has fried butter as a meal…seriously.

DU is not the only school that faces this unfair, unattractive disadvantage. BYU, IUPUI, and Western Illinois have to travel to Sioux Falls, too. How many of their fans will be there to support their teams? The answer to that question is easy.

Is BYU joining the Summit?  I would love that!  You should watch an IUPUI and/or a Western Illinois game on ESPN3 sometime.  Just being them is a disadvantage.  I am not sure they have fans.  IUPUI has put together a pretty decent basketball team this year, and they are barely getting 1,000 fans to each game.  Western Illinois fans…well…all 12 of them don’t have to worry about traveling to Sioux Falls right now.

Recruiting players to 1-bid conferences is difficult enough. Try to tell a recruit  they will be playing for the only conference bid on a hostile court with no fan support.

Whether you refuse to accept it or not, Jason Mims is doing a pretty good job for UNO soccer.  When going to a recruit’s home to try and talk them into Omaha during the transition, he said he simply just didn’t even talk about the transition.  If it came up, he would talk about how he would develop a player into a responsible adult.  Try that.  Try to talk about developing young people into responsible human beings…not “hey we play our conference tournament in Las Vegas so our fans can get so drunk they pee themselves inside a casino and people will call them daredevils…all while you’re in a hotel room not being able to enjoy Vegas because you’re 19 years old.”

Your basketball team is built on guys who were undervalued out of high school, and are playing for Denver because they have skills that are great to their system.  I have to say, it’s actually amazing to watch, and I sit here asking: “Was Joe Rosga not on Omaha’s radar?”  That is actually how to recruit to a 1-bid conference…and technically, every conference is a 1-bid conference.  The Missouri Valley is supposed to be a “Only 1 Team Conference” but they regularly get in 2 teams, and in 2006 they were able to get 4 teams into the NCAA tournament.  It might be because the conference tournament is in St. Louis, but that’s probably not the only reason…probably.  I need to see your highly analytical presentation to the Summit League to make a conclusion.

The conference tournament should be an ‘event’ – not an inconvenient, unfair obstacle for fans and players .

Let’s face it, our athletic programs we follow are 3rd or 4th rate programs in terms of local fan bases.  Denver has Colorado and Colorado State to compete with.  Omaha has Nebraska and Creighton to go up against for fans.  IUPUI and IPFW have Indiana, Notre Dame, Indiana State, Evansville, and others.  Oral Roberts has Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to deal with.  North Dakota State, South Dakota, and South Dakota State just have themselves, though, I think some of their fans double up as Minnesota fans.  I have family that live in Denver and I go a few times a year, rarely have I seen Denver Pioneers memorabilia in an establishment to show pride. So are people from Denver going to travel to Las Vegas and in the same month to your hypothetical Des Moines/Kansas City scenario?

The Summit League boasts that their current RPI puts them in the top 10 basketball conferences in the country. If the Summit League truly wants to improve their national profile, they need to offer a neutral court tournament in a more attractive location. The Summit League needs to grow up, or Denver needs to get out.

A neutral court in a more attractive location is not the one and only solution to grow the conference.  I do see your point that it is somewhat a disadvantage to host the conference tournament in Sioux Falls each and every single year, but is Des Moines or Kansas City the only destinations to throw out there?  Denver fans still have to travel a long distance, and hotels should be slightly more expensive than Sioux Falls.  In Sioux Falls, you have 4 teams that have easy short drives.  Kansas City really only provides an easy commute for Omaha and maybe the South Dakota schools…there is not really a city where everyone wins the easy commute.

Basketball teams in the conference built tough non-conference schedules to build up their own reputations, and other reasons, but it helped grow the conference.  The brand got out there with South Dakota State and South Dakota both winning at Minnesota, and other big non-conference games.  The brand didn’t get out there with Denver’s weak non-conference schedule built on Utah Valley, Idaho State, South Alabama, Air Force, Wyoming, Weber State, and San Diego.

If you want the Summit League to grow up, then Denver needs to grow up too.  Yeah, go back to the WAC purely on the basis that their conference tournament is in Las Vegas.  That is the grown up thing to do.  That is a grown up conference everyone is fighting to get into.

 

 

 

 

Summit League Predictions: Jan 20-23

I went 4-3 last week…technically 5-2…I did say South Dakota State would win on the status of Jake Bittle playing…he did not play…neither did Mo Evans for IPFW…I would have picked South Dakota State had I known Mo Evans was not going to play…hell we’ll call it like I did originally…I lost that game…now you can proceed onto breaking my thumbs.

January 20

Western Illinois @ South Dakota

Western Illinois has not won a conference road game since January 2014 when they beat IUPUI.  IUPUI was 6-26 overall that season.  Does Western Illinois really look like they have a squad that can end this conference road losing streak in Vermillon?  Actually, maybe…they lost on the road to Omaha by 2 and to South Dakota State by 4.  Simple math would tell you that Western Illinois will lose this game by 6 or 8, but math is hard…

Maybe this is a battle for the 8th seed in the Summit League tournament?  Western Illinois was in a Battle For 8th game last week and was down 18 at half time to Denver in Macomb.  But hey, Western Illinois is 1-0 when they don’t have any votes in the Mid Major Top 25 poll.

January 21

North Dakota State @ IPFW

Something that slipped by everyone is that junior point guard Carlin Dupree left the Bison last week after a dispute in playing time.  Dupree was averaging 4 minutes less per game in his junior season than he was last year in his sophomore season and was moved to come off the bench recently.  David Richman said that Dupree was totally fine with this, but clearly Dupree pulled a fast one on Richman.  The Bison are 2-0 without Dupree with wins over both South Dakota schools.  He was a quality defender, but was not known for his shooting ability, shooting less than 40% from the field over the last year and a half and around 20% on threes.  The Bison will now be counting on true freshman Khy Kabellis to run the team.  Losing Dupree really cuts down on NDSU’s depth and Kabellis will have to play over 30 minutes per game due to this.  Kabellis has shot 28% from the field in games out of the great state of North Dakota…it’s fine, I forgot my lunch and just wanted to lose my appetite by saying “great state of North Dakota.”

South Dakota State @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

Weird stat:  The only games that Oral Roberts has ever lost at home with Obi Emegano in the line up were to both South Dakota schools.

Other than Obi Emegano, the Golden Eagles appear to be outmatched at every single position.  Emegano is going to need a monster performance for Oral Roberts to have a shot at beating the Jackrabbits…but maybe we see a case where Jake Bittle finally gets back into the line up and he has a bad flow getting back into things and it leads to a number of other problems.  We’ll see.

The Jackrabbits are 0-2 on the road so far in the Summit League, and Scott Nagy has called out his team for not having any toughness on the road.  They know they are going to a tough place to play, and they have something to prove to themselves in this game.

Omaha @ Denver

A contrast in styles: Omaha wants to run the ball and take quick shots and Denver wants to move as slow as the DMV to work for the absolute best shot possible.  Which I am convinced that the DMV is doing the same thing: just sitting back there googling the best ways possible to ruin your day.  Omaha was 0-5 since transitioning to division one playing in the Mountain Time Zone against a D-1 team…this season they are 2-2 (or 3-2 if you count Phoenix in the Mountain Time zone), so the Mavs may not have the issues of adapting to the altitude as they have already played in it a few times this season.

Denver may have a problem making as many passes as they are used to against an Omaha team that loves to play the passing lanes, and Tra-Deon Hollins having jedi mind tricks to get teams to pass in his general direction for him to take the ball.

Two road teams pick up wins on a Thursday?  I think last year, the road team only won about 33% of the conference games played Monday to Thursday.  I could be making that up, but I know it was not a great percentage and North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Oral Roberts had most of the weeknight road wins.

January 23

North Dakota State @ Western Illinois on ESPN3

Okay.  Alright.  Um.  What?  All common sense says to take North Dakota State in this game.  They have been one of the two best teams in the Summit for the past 3 seasons and Western Illinois has been one of the two worst teams in the Summit the last 3 seasons.  Don’t look at any stats or anything here, just look at the narrative.  I feel that last sentence made me sound like your Tea Party uncle that keeps telling you to read between the lines when analyzing the Obama administration.

North Dakota State plays on the road this week against IPFW and Western Illinois, currently the best team and the worst team in the Summit.  North Dakota State versus IPFW is going to be a greatly contested game, and the Bison may not have enough pieces on their roster to play a competitive fast paced IPFW team on the road AND a Western Illinois team in Macomb.   North Dakota State also only beat Western Illinois by 2 last year in Macomb.

I’m sure that North Dakota State will win by 35 now that I have thrown this out there.

South Dakota State @ South Dakota on ESPN3

Normally I would like to take the home team in a instate rivalry like this, but I think I would just be saying that to trick Creighton into scheduling UNO.  South Dakota is a tough team to figure out.  They lose at home, they play tough on the road, and they are a group of people that decided to at least temporarily reside in Vermillion, South Dakota.  Every time I say a game is a great match up for Tre Burnette, he ends up having a bad game.  He will have to go against either 6’9″ Ian Theisen, 6’9″ Mike Daum, or 6’6″ Reed Tellinghuisen (who has been struggling lately).  Perhaps if Burnette is not doing well the Coyotes can go with their 2 big true freshman against Daum and Theisen… who have gone missing in league play.

Did you know that South Dakota picks up the most fouls in the Summit League?  So they are going to send the Jackrabbits to the line, who shoot 72% on free throws.  South Dakota is also 2nd to last in the Summit in rebounds, in front of Denver, but Denver is an outlier in all statistical categories; so it’s just best to not count Denver most of the time.  Consider Denver to be the middle child of the league.

IUPUI @ IPFW

The Acronym Bowl!  The road team won each game in this series last season.  I should like IUPUI’s chances with no other game this week, and IPFW has North Dakota State at home on Thursday.  After watching Max Landis hit every possible shot with a hand in his face in Omaha, IUPUI’s scrappy defense does not appear to become a factor in this game.  Seriously, my basketball passport profile ranked Landis’ performance against UNO on Saturday as the best college basketball performance that I have witnessed in person.  Konchar’s performance that game ranked number 2, and Hollins’ ranked number 3… it’s also not like I’ve only ever gone to 3 college basketball games in my life.  Okay, I admit, Landis and Konchar have rattled my brain.  Brent Calhoun scoring 6 points in overtime with left handed hook shots over a surprised Jake White has also been making my stomach hurt.  Calhoun hadn’t had a game of scoring in double figures all season and he already has 3 double digit scoring performances in Summit League play.  How did Jon Coffman trick us like this?  He’s using cheat codes or a game genie, I swear.

Omaha @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

At first, I thought Oral Roberts is too good at home.  Then I remember hearing Tra-Deon Hollins say that one of his favorite things to do is to go on the road and give the home team a scare and take away a game, and Omaha’s performances on the road should support this.  Oral Roberts also averages more turnovers than any other team in conference play so far…which is great because Omaha forces more turnovers than any other team.

These two teams also get to the line more than any other team in the league.  This could be a problem for Omaha as Oral Roberts appears to be a (slightly) deeper team in terms of having more capable dudes to go if fouls become an issue.  Also Jalen Bradley’s cross over to his left into a baseline mid-range jumper should give you a mini stroke.

I won’t be able to watch this game live, unless the random bar I saddle up at has a way to stream ESPN3.  Sunday is my birthday, and my wife forces me to celebrate my birthday…so I’m going to have to watch the replay on my actual birthday.  By the way, UNO beat Denver last season on my birthday.

This is the toughest stretch of Omaha’s conference schedule of @ Denver, @ Oral Roberts, @ South Dakota State.  They need to win at least one of these games…or all of them…that sounds better.

 

My trivial Summit League rankings: Jan 18

1. IPFW, 4-1

Last Week: 3rd

Fort Wayne had a tough weekend on the road against South Dakota State and IPFW.  They were able to split the weekend and needed Max Landis, John Konchar, and Brent Calhoun to combine for 29-of-41 in order to pull off a win.  With the loss of Mo Evans, who was potentially a first team all Summit League player, the ‘Dons may need shooting like that from those three players in every single game.  Can they keep that up?  Regardless, if the team starts to take a step back because of missing Mo Evans, they were still going to be an extremely tough out in the Summit League tournament.

2. Omaha, 4-1

Last week: 1st

Omaha hit 10 threes against IPFW…Tra-Deon Hollins has hit 5 threes in the last two games after only hitting 7 all year.  Omaha will be even more dangerous of a team if they can get the three point shooting going.

By the way, Hollins has already broken the single season record for steals at Omaha.  Assuming Omaha plays at least one Summit League tournament game, Hollins is on pace to have the 4th highest amount of steals in one season ever in division one.

3. South Dakota State, 3-2

Last week: 2nd

This team needs Jake Bittle back in the lineup.  The Jackrabbits are 10-2 with Bittle in the lineup and 4-4 without Bittle.  It is not easy to lose a guard that shoots 55% from the field, and who forces his teammates to move on offense.  Imagine taking Tra-Deon Hollins off of Omaha for 8 games…or Obi Emegano off of Oral Roberts…or Mo Evans off of IPFW…oh wait.

The Jackrabbits have a tough week playing at Oral Roberts and at their instate rival South Dakota.

4. North Dakota State, 3-2

Last week: 5th

It has been interesting to see how this team has done since losing Lawrence Alexander.  They are not the same threatening team that they were the last few years, but they did just hold a tough South Dakota State team to 29% from the field.

5. Oral Roberts, 3-3

Last week: 6th

After losing 7 straight games, the Golden Eagles are on a three game winning streak with getting a healthy Obi Emegano back in the lineup.  Their next 4 games are at home against South Dakota State, Omaha, IPFW, and on the road against North Dakota State…whom they previously beat by 1 at home.

6. IUPUI, 4-2

Last week: 5th

Oral Roberts really showed who was the more athletic team between IUPUI and Oral Roberts last week.  IUPUI’s defense was really able to contain and frustrate the leading player of the year candidate, but they could not defend Oral Roberts’ three point shooting who was at one point 10-of-12 from deep.

The Jaguars rebounded nicely against Denver at home beating the Pioneers by 15.

7. Denver, 2-4

Last week: 8th

Denver’s style of play can always frustrate teams and their home court advantage gives them a leg up…by the way, I don’t know what the expression “leg up” means.

Denver is made up of almost all newcomers and the returning guys are career role players…which is actually somewhat fitting for a Princeton offense.  Teams of newcomers are typically inconsistent, unless you are Western Illinois, then you have career inconsistent dudes.  IUPUI just shot nearly 70% on the game against the Pioneers on Saturday…70!  And IUPUI is not necessarily known for being a juggernaut of an offensive team.

8. South Dakota, 1-4

Last week: 7th

The Coyotes almost had a comeback win at North Dakota State, but could not pull it off.  A few of their role players and freshmen have become non factors in league play.

South Dakota’s one win was against Oral Roberts, who was playing without Obi Emegano.

9. Western Illinois, 0-5

Last week: 9th

0-5…

I hate that the players on this team are so inconsistent that they are one lifetime performance away from getting a win over some pretty good team and someone saying “maybe they are good again.”  I also hate it that the once in a lifetime performance always seems to come against your team.

Omaha and IPFW might not be so different

I made some precarious preseason rankings for the Summit League in October, and I placed IPFW at 7th in the league with a range of 5 to 7 conference wins.  I am beginning to feel pretty dumb about this.

The Mastadons are currently 14-5 and are being regarded as one of the teams to currently beat in the conference.  I somehow held just an incredible amount of bias and unjustified hatred for the ‘Dons.   I am not even sure where it came from.  I would like to throw this out in there air though.  The ‘Dons are beating the teams that they need to beat, but they have yet to really have a win to brag about or even a We Were So Close to an Upset loss.

The ‘Dons have lost by 14 at Valparaiso; by 22 versus Navy; by 17 at Utah; and by 25 at Indiana.  Denver is the only team with a winning record (over Division One opponents) that IPFW has beaten at this point.  Preseason, I predicted that IPFW would start off 3-0 in the Summit League and drop the next three against South Dakota State, Omaha, and North Dakota State.  I sit here and point out the negatives of their non-conference schedule, but their strength of schedule RPI is 227 to Omaha’s 232…so I should shut my mouth on that.  Regardless of their schedule, they are still winning these games.

I gave some flack to Jon Coffman, but he sounds like a super excited man when he discusses IPFW and the Summit League, and he loves his job.  Almost as excited as Tommy Callahan Jr got when he discussed really cool brake pads.  He and his staff pride themselves on recruiting to their system and getting players who play their brand of unselfish basketball.

I was mainly giving flack to Coffman on how excited he was for his newcomers and the improvement of some of his returning players.  He was pretty ecstatic about freshman John Konchar, and that appears to be validated.  Coffman and the ‘Dons were touting the improvement of forward Brent Calhoun for losing almost 60 pounds since last season.  The first stretch of the season, Calhoun was constantly in foul trouble and could not keep up with team’s fast pace and looked as if he would be a practice player at more than half of the Summit League schools.  Calhoun did have a stretch of three games to start off 2016 with 12.7 ppg and 4.3 rpg and shot 17-of-18 from the floor.  Those three games were against Purdue-University North Central, South Dakota, and Denver.  I have no idea who that Purdue school is, but South Dakota and Denver are not quick teams like South Dakota State and Omaha.  Calhoun had 4 points and 3 rebounds in 16 minutes against the Jackrabbits last night, and is not expected to be a huge factor against Omaha.

A core of newcomers the ‘Dons were salivating over were Andrew Poulter, Racine Talla, and DeAngelo Stewart.  Poulter is a 6’11” junior who came to IPFW via junior college and started his career at Arkansas-Little Rock.  I don’t want to go back and look up Poulter’s numbers in junior college, but I remember laughing at his field goal and free throw percentages.    Poulter has played in 9 games in garbage time and shot 44% from the field.  Talla is a 6’9″ and 195 pound post player who transferred from USC Upstate, but also was at a junior college when being deemed ineligible to play there.  Talla has shot 25% from the field so far on the year, which maybe is not bad for a guy who did not play competitive basketball for 2 years.  Stewart is a 6’6″ wing player who also came from a junior college, but started his career at Alabama State.  There were several people that thought Stewart was going to be the Newcomer of the Year in the Summit League.  Stewart, like many junior college transfers, has had an inconsistent year averaging 5.6 ppg and shooting 38% from the field, but the ‘Dons are 5-0 when Stewart scores in double figures.


 

The match ups between Omaha for their crunch time line ups really sound comparable on paper…

Joe Reed, 6’8″, Sr – 10.6 ppg/4.4 rpg/1.3 apg/53 fg%/53 ft%/27 3pt%

John Konchar, 6’5″, Fr – 11.9 /7.9 /2.3   /57/72/42

Michael Calder, 6’2″, Sr – 7.1/3.4/2.0/   36/57/34

Max Landis, 6’2″, Sr – 15.4/2.6/3.1   45/78/47

Mo Evans, 6’0″, Jr – 16.9/3.7/5.1   48/85/43*

vs

Jake White, 6’8″ Sr – 16.0/6.2/0.4   57/82/42

Tre’Shawn Thurman, 6’7″, So – 14.4/7.4/1.3   52/68/22

Tim Smallwood, 6’2″, Sr – 5.7/2.4/0.6   39/64/32

Tra-Deon Hollins, 6’2″ Jr – 10.7/4.1/5.6   43/73/21

Devin Patterson, 5’11, Sr – 17.7/2.4/2.8   46/78/35

*I typed all of this, and found out that Evans will be out for the year due to an academic issue.


 

As even as these teams appear to be, the match up could really come down to what “other guys” can step up in the game on Saturday.  As mentioned, IPFW is 5-0 when Stewart scores in double figures.  Omaha, though, is 5-1 when Tim Smallwood scores in double figures, and that one loss is to Colorado.  Omaha is also 2-0 when Zach Jackson scores in double figures.

As even as these teams appear, they differ noticeably in two areas.  IPFW is 14th in the country in three point field goal percentage with 40.3% from three, and 16th in the country in three point field goals made per game with 10 per game.  Almost half of the team’s points comes from three point field goals.  Omaha is last in the Summit League in three point field goal percentage with 30.1% and they have made the least three point field goals in the league…which makes sense.  Omaha is 4th in the league overall in defensive three point field goal percentage, which is great because last year they were in 8th in that category.

Omaha is currently 39th in the country in free throw percentage at 73.7%, and the Mavericks have made the 4th most in the country per game with a touch over 20 per game.  IPFW is last in the Summit in free throw percentage, and they finished 9th in the Summit in 2014-2015.  The ‘Dons do however only pick up 16 fouls per game, which is 2nd in the Summit League behind North Dakota State, who had 23 fouls against Omaha.

This game should be a really fun game to watch, but it would be extremely difficult to come back from 15 down on the ‘Dons with their 3 point shooting and as many weapons that they have (in comparison to Western Illinois and South Dakota).  As I type this, I see that Mo Evans is out for the year, which is clearly a blow to the ‘Dons.  Evans was on pace to be a 1st Team All Summit League player, and possibly the Summit League Preseason Player of the Year in 2016-2017.  I hate it when it when your favorite teams pick up wins when the best player of the opposing team is out (not that this guarantees Omaha the win).  It is difficult to drop 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists a game and make that up quickly.  IPFW lost by 16 in a game to South Dakota State last night without Evans.  The ‘Dons still have Joe Reed, John Konchar, and Max Landis as a Big 3, which is better than some other teams’ Big 3 in the Summit.  Landis has made the 7th most three point field goals in D-1.