Back from a trip to see the in-laws in Portland just in time to see some Summit League basketball.
Random Note: I was wearing an Omaha Mavericks shirt out in Portland and ran into a guy with a Nebraska Cornhuskers who started a rant at me that the Mavericks “suck.” I am still unsure what to make of the whole situation. I tried to talk to my father-in-law about it, but he is a North Dakota fan, so that was worthless.
Anyway, it is 2016, and the Mavericks are still a full fledged member of division one. The Western Illinois Leathernecks will be the first opponent for the Mavericks to try and build their record to get in good standing for their first trip to the Summit League tournament. There is a good chance (or a bad chance depending how you look at it) that the Baxter Arena crowd may not be a large crowd in the conference opener. College bowl season is going on today, students are back home (even though most UNO students hail from Omaha), and many people are still struggling to find dignity at 1pm on New Year’s Day. The Mavericks started each season in the Summit League on the road, but this season they get a great chance to start out with a decent record with 2 games at home against Western Illinois and IUPUI.
What is there to know about the Western Illinois Leathernecks?
- Record: 7-4
- They beat Wisconsin at the beginning of the year, you may have heard of it. You probably have not heard many positive things for the Badgers since that either, but hey let the Leathernecks brag about it to cover up their loss to Chicago State. Oh wait, this sounds familiar.
- They only played out out of the state of Illinois in 3 games in their non-conference schedule. This is their second game in the state of Nebraska after losing to Creighton 97-67 in November. Does this make you want the Mavericks to beat the Leathernecks even harder to hurt Creighton’s RPI? I am not even sure if that would hurt Creighton’s RPI, but it wouldn’t help it.
- Leathernecks beat Eastern Illinois twice, Omaha beat EIU once.
- Garret Covington is pretty good at this basketball thing. At 6’5″ and 180lbs, Covington is currently 3rd in the Summit in scoring with 17.4 points per game. I don’t want to talk smack about Covington, but he does not really rank that well in any other statistical category…He is 10th in the Summit in free throw percentage.
- JC Fuller appears to be the X-factor for the Leathernecks. In wins, he is averaging 17.7 points per game and shooting 52% from the field. In losses, Fuller is averaging 9.5 points per game and shooting 29% from the field. Do the Mavs have a really good defensive guard to help slow Fuller down? Yes…
- Jabari Sandifer gave the Mavericks problems last season. He is 2nd in the conference in assists behind Tra-Deon Hollins, and Sandifer is 2nd in the conference in Assists to Turnover ratio, so the match up between Sandifer and Fuller against Hollins and Devin Patterson appears to be a big factor in this game.
- The Leathernecks were really excited for 6’11” freshman Brandon Gilbeck before the start of the season. The frosh is averaging 3.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and has only made one free throw all season, so I am not sure if they are still super jacked about him or not. The front line for the Leathernecks is deep with 4 guys that are 6’8″ or taller to play in the post, but none of them are half has good as Jake White or Tre’Shawn Thurman.
Since only one conference game has been played so far, and the non-conference schedule had completely different levels of competition for each Summit League team, I feel it is dumb to discuss team statistics at this point…and Western Illinois only played 11 games in their non-conference schedule when everyone else had 13 or 14 games…and 3 of their 11 games were against non-D1 teams…and they played Eastern Illinois twice…my teeth hurt right now. But hey, the Summit League is currently 10th in RPI as a conference!
The Summit League RPI rankings as of December 31st…
37. South Dakota State
77. Oral Roberts
120. South Dakota
153. North Dakota State
212. Western Illinois
But hey, if you like Kenpom more…
57. South Dakota State
160. North Dakota State
181. Oral Roberts
193. Western Illinois
201. South Dakota