Currently sitting tied at third in the Summit League, the Mavericks have the most important week that they have had since transitioning to division one.
It feels like crowds at both games should be bigger than normal this week. A big crowd on a Wednesday might seem unlikely, but there are a decent number of South Dakota State alums that live in the Omaha area, and they all act like the Jackrabbits are the Spurs. The Jackrabbit fans did declare Omaha as the “most dangerous” Summit League team, so we have that to hold onto. Omaha’s attendance has been up this season, for a number of reasons, but they have already surpassed the amount of fans that they had all of last season. The Mavericks are currently averaging about 2050 fans per game, and they averaged nearly 1350 last season at the Ralston Arena. The Mavericks averaged an attendance of 1970 in the three games that the Jackrabbits played at the Ralston Arena, so perhaps with more on the line this week, the Mavericks can have one of the biggest attendance weeks they’ve ever had in basketball…or at least since transition. There is no Creighton game on Wednesday, and Nebraska is at Wisconsin, so there really could be more Omahans playing attention to this game than normal.
Not many teams have done well when facing the Jackrabbits and Bison in the same week over the past few seasons, and now the Mavericks unfortunately have to face that schedule after dropping two winnable games last week. There is obviously some pressure for the Mavs to do well here. Losing two straight games made this week a must win week. Omaha dropped 30 spots in RPI after dropping those two games last week. Starting off at 7-1 in the conference, and then dropping 3-of-4 games is certainly like watching the first half of a season of The Walking Dead, getting super jacked, and then sitting through 4 episodes where 75% of each episode is awful and you just want to get to the good stuff.
If the Mavs win (especially) Wednesday and Saturday , they still hold a chance to win the regular season title, and if they lose…well then. The Mavericks have not done well against South Dakota State since transitioning to division one, only winning 1 game. In fact, in the 6 losses to the Jackrabbits, SDSU has shot 51% from the field and Omaha has shot 38% from the field. Omaha has also lost those 6 games by an average of 17 points. The last time South Dakota State came to Omaha, the Mavericks shot 27% from the floor in the game. I remember feeling confident about the Mavericks going into that game, but a few minutes into the second half made me want to take up a stress relieving hobby. Like brewing my own craft beers, or just drinking craft beers…okay the drinking craft beers was in my wheelhouse all along.
The good news for Omaha is that road teams do not do very well in conference games on Wednesdays in the Summit League. This season so far, road teams are 0-5 on Wednesday in conference games, and last year they were 3-9…but South Dakota State did have one of those wins; a 2 point win at Western Illinois last season. Summit League players must just be upset that they have to wait for 2 Broke Girls, or Arrow. Jurassic Park 3 is on TV this Wednesday night. Okay, maybe the crowd wont be that big with that kind of competition.
The Mavericks are going to need senior guard Devin Patterson to step up on Wednesday. Do you have a garbage can nearby? Patterson in his last three games against South Dakota State has shot 24% from the field and 0-of-8 on threes. The Jacks were able to, not stop but, contain the Mavericks penetration and ability to get to the line on the 28th. Patterson might be the fastest player in the Summit League, although De’Angelo Bruster of Western Illinois is pretty damn fast, but he has had trouble with George Marshall and Deondre Parks, and he needs to penetrate and get to the line on Wednesday night. Anything to force one of South Dakota State’s Big 3 to the line.
I mention these shooting woes in hopes of maybe reversing a jinx. Patterson in his career against North Dakota State was pretty poor before the start of this season. I mentioned weeks ago that in order for the Mavericks to beat the Bison in Fargo, that they would need Patterson to play better. In 4 career games, he shot 22% from the field 21% on threes against the Bison, but he one of the better games of his career a few weeks ago going 11-of-14 from the field with 32 points; and the Mavericks were able to pick up their first win in Fargo. The Mavericks need that Patterson on Wednesday night.
Patterson needs help though. Tra-Deon Hollins has to step up a notch defensively with Patterson to help contain Marshall and Parks. He only had 2 steals against South Dakota State. It is good and sad that I said “he only had 2 steals.” Marshall and Parks combined for 50 points and 19-of-25 from the floor in Brookings on the 28th. It’s not like Jake Bittle should be ignored either. In Omaha last year, Bittle went 7-of-7 from the floor with 21 points and 7 rebounds. Oh, and the Jacks are 15-2 with Bittle in the lineup, and 4-3 without him in the lineup…so yes, he is important.
The Jacks are not quite as good as normal on the road, but the Mavericks are also probably slightly better on the road themselves than they are at home. The Jacks lost at IUPUI and at North Dakota State, both games were without Bittle, but the Bison just absolutely embarrassed the Jackrabbits in Fargo.
The Mavericks have to play smart as a whole to pickup a win against South Dakota State. They cannot have the missed dunks and layups, and the bad fouls, and the dumb turnovers against the Jacks; like they did against Denver. The Jacks best lineup of Mike Daum, Reed Tellinghuisen, Bittle, and Parks really makes smart passes on the floor together, and every single one can knock down threes. Tellinghuisen has struggled a bit this season, and he did well against the Mavericks last season, but he should be matched up mostly with Tre’Shawn Thurman on Wednesday night. Thurman needs to attack Tellinghuisen, who appears to be the least confident looking player on the Jacks.
Then there is North Dakota State. The Mavericks’ win in Fargo a few weeks ago is probably the best win that they have had since transitioning to division one, and the Bison struggle on the road with a 1-3 road record in Summit League games. But the Mavericks just dropped two games to Western Illinois and Denver, and North Dakota State is not a team that should be taken lightly.
AJ Jacobson, last week, finally looked like the All Conference player he was predicted to be at the start of the season. Jacobson averaged 21 points and 5.5 rebounds, going 15-of-23 from the floor and 9-of-15 on threes, in two games last week against Oral Roberts and IPFW, both at home. Before that, he had really been struggling and it was questionable if he would even be named to the Honorable Mention Team in the Summit…well it’s still in question, but you get the idea.
North Dakota State’s defense was known for being very stingy last season, but they could only force the Mavericks to 8 turnovers on the 28th, and they had no answer for Devin Patterson. The Mavericks also hold an advantage down low against the Bison. Jake White had 17 points and 7 rebounds against the Bison and Thurman had 16 points and 9 rebounds against the front line of North Dakota State…which is banged up and undersized.
Still, whatever officials the Summit League puts in Omaha appear to be out to get White and Thurman. Every home game I feel like the Mav fans are going to have to put in money for a bailout fund to collectively put together money to bail an entire arena out of the slammer for an altercation with referees. s
Randy Reed did not play last week with concussion symptoms, and Tim Smallwood appeared to be playing through some pain. The Bison played without their leading scorer this season, Paul Miller, who sat out with a knee injury, and it is undetermined when he will be back at this point.
This week could really affect how the Mavericks finish. They could end up in the top half of the seedings, and potentially even in the lower half of the seedings after this week. So, no pressure at all.
Looking at the schedule this week and the standings…
- South Dakota State plays @ 7-4 Omaha and in Brookings against 3-8 South Dakota
- IPFW plays in Fort Wayne against 5-6 Denver
- Omaha plays in Omaha against 8-2 South Dakota State and 6-4 North Dakota State
- IUPUI plays @ 3-8 Oral Roberts
- North Dakota State plays @ 3-8 South Dakota and @ 7-4 Omaha
- Denver plays at home against 1-9 Western Illinois and @ 8-3 IPFW