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*
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.