The Jaguars could run the Summit in 2017

It’s hard to believe that the Jaguars finished in the top half of the Summit League this season, especially if you can remember that this program won a total of 12 basketball games over the course of two seasons when the Mavericks were just joining the Summit League.  They continue to get better season after season, and 2016-2017 should be much of the same.  If you watched their Summit League tournament game against North Dakota State, and that was all you saw of them, you would think they were back to being the worst team in the league.

The Jaguars only lose two seniors going into 2016-2017, though those players were both significant contributors, but the team should be even better in next season, on paper.  Jason Gardner’s teams won 6 Summit League games in 2015 and 9 in 2016, it is not inconceivable to imagine that they can win 12 conference games in 2017.  This is assuming the whole team doesn’t just quit or something.

This season was somewhat of a transition season for the Jaguars as they introduced introduced 7 new players to the basketball court.  They tried to introduce all of these new players to their system by only playing two non-conference home games.  This just sounds like an uphill battle.  You could tell by the end of their non-conference season that the team had run out of steam.  The Jaguars lost their final 5 non-conference road games by an average of 25 points.  One of those losses was a 35 point loss to Creighton.  Good for you Creighton.  I’m glad you could find those games in your schedule that can benefit you.

What was most impressive to me about the Jaguars was how mature their players were on the basketball court.  They got the luxury of having almost every freaking game on ESPN3, so they actually had one of the biggest spotlights on their players so it was a little more visible to see their maturity as opposed to a team like Denver, who was hardly on anything for Mav fans to watch.  Their players hardly ever argued with the officials, they just played.  Their players didn’t try and do things they were incapable of doing, you hardly saw them taking 30 footers or driving into the lane with three dudes on them.  Their players handled post game interviews well, and you could tell how important basketball was to them.  Everyone on their team also appeared as if they were 30 years old.

The Jaguars are going to have the most coming back to their roster in 2016.  They lose Marcellus Barksdale, so their defense may not be as scrappy next season, but their offense shouldn’t miss much of a beat.  Their offense may actually be better adding Syracuse transfer Ron Patterson to the lineup.  Patterson was seldom used at Syracuse, and he shot a rather low percentage of 31% from the field in 14 minutes a game in his sophomore season at Syracuse.  But believe me, if the Mavericks had a Syracuse transfer, you would be pumped…no matter how terrible his stats were at Syracuse.

This season the Jaguars had 4 players that were transfers that finally got to play.  Darell Combs was a transfer from Eastern Michigan, he averaged 7.4 points per game in his sophomore season at EMU and then 16.3 points for the Jaguars in his junior season – which was 6th in the Summit League and will be the 2nd highest for any players returning to the league next season.  The team also introduced three players from Loyola, where Gardner used to be an assistant coach.

Matt O’Leary became one of the most consistent post players in the league, he averaged 10.3 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists a game in the Summit – after averaging 4.2 points and 2 rebounds his sophomore season at Loyola.  Nick Osborne added 8 points and 6 rebounds per game after averaging 5 and 4 in his sophomore season at Loyola.  Osborne and O’Leary really have the potential to be the best forward combo down low in the league next year. Sophomore Jordan Pickett was hardly ever used at Loyola in his freshman season because of injuries, but he was able to score 9.4 points per game primarily off the bench for the Jaguars this season.

With a bulk of their lineup coming back, the Jaguars have the most they can throw at teams.  They seem to already have 8 guys that build up a solid rotation.  In addition to this, they have three freshman that are committed, yet they all seem like they are redshirt candidates at this point.  Having your starting lineup established in April is never a bad thing for a team.  Unless you’re the Huskers apparently…

Their roster is set, as long as no one transfers, so there is no room for a wave of incoming transfers going into next season.  Aside from the mentioned players, the Jaguars have a good core of young guys to fill in the rest of their team.  Sophomore Aaron Brennan was used as a smaller power forward, and really was the last post player that they used, but he filled in well for injured players this season.  He had 10 points and 6 rebounds in the Jaguars’ win against the Mavericks.  Freshman Evan Hall showed some promise, but missed 9 games this season with injuries.  Hall was able to pull off four double digit scoring performances in his first season with the Jaguars.  TJ Henderson was another freshman who showed some promise with 5 double digit scoring performances, he scored 16 points against the Mavericks in the absence of Jordan Pickett.  DJ McCall did not get to play this season, but he averaged nearly 5 points per game in his freshman season with the Jaguars.  He will be back next season, and at 6’5″ he may be able to make up for the loss of Barksdale.

This team will have chemistry, versatility, speed, and they will be able to throw several different combinations of lineups at teams next season.  They did have to deal with a number of injuries this season, so that can be an issue for them.  The Jaguars may have to face another difficult non-conference season next year, but they should be the Summit League favorite in 2016-2017; even though I am sure IPFW will be the team that everyone just pencils in as the preseason number one.  The Jaguars swept the Mastodons in 2016.

 

 

 

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The Mastodons shouldn’t bury themselves

Let me start out by admitting how wrong I was on the IPFW Mastodons this season.  I thought they would finish 5th to 7th in the Summit League standings and they finished in 1st.  So go them.

From what I saw and read about John Konchar, I thought he was going to be a great player for IPFW, but I didn’t think he was going to get close to averaging a double-double as a freshman.  I also did not think that Max Landis would be deadly enough to get on the All Summit League 1st or 2nd teams, let alone become the conference Player of the Year.  The ‘Dons really tricked me.  They tricked everyone after losing Mo Evans for the second half of the year.  Though, maybe with Evans they would have had the depth to get through the Summit League tournament.  Also maybe with Evans, Landis and Konchar and some others would not have scored as many points as they did and looked as good as they did.  Either way, they found a way to win 12 Summit League games with what they had.

Anyway, the ‘Dons are going to have Mo Evans back next season, so people think they are going to automatically be great again.  Players being forced off a team due to academics and then eventually coming back does not always pan out…especially when the team is needing that guy to be in a leaderships role.  Like dude, we already figured out a way to win without you, do we know you?  You’re not Han Solo here to save the rebellion after already backing out… Is that an applicable reference?  I am not big into Star Wars.

IPFW is going to lose three players that averaged more than 10 points per game.  Landis was one of the best three point shooters in the nation: he made the 2nd most threes in all of division one, and he was in the top 30 for three point field goal percentage.  Losing someone like that is hard to just make up quickly.  Senior guard Michael Calder averaged 10 points per game, and probably did not receive enough credit for taking over for some of the scoring lost in the absence of Mo Evans.  Calder averaged 4.7 points per game in his junior season, after the loss of Evans he was able to averaged 14.4 points per game in 2016.  He also had three separate 20 point scoring performances in league play.  Joe Reed also averaged 10.5 points and nearly 5 rebounds.  Reed wasn’t the most flashy player, nor did he make shot after shot after shot, but he seemed to always hit a big shot when it was needed most.  He really seemed like one of the more consistent players in the Summit League over the last few years.  You knew what you were going to get with Reed, he was the C-3PO of the team.  Seriously, I think Star Wars is dumb.

Losing three key guys from a regular season champion can be hard to make up, and the ‘Dons have some likely candidates to leave the team as well.  The team will have Xzavier Taylor, a 6’9″ post player who transferred from Bradley, to help make up for the loss of Joe Reed.  Taylor will be a junior, and was not known for being a jump shooter at Bradley, like Reed was.  The ‘Dons loved their small ball style in 2015-2016, and with Taylor they might not be able to play that way in 2016-2017.  Them loving their small ball style is from reading or listening to anything Jon Coffman says, the man is an open book, he is probably comparable to some Star Wars character that talks a lot that no one likes, but damn it, he gets the job done.  The ‘Dons will also get Bryson Scott, 6’1″ transfer from Purdue, who should also help reload this roster a bit.  Scott was also not known for being a three point specialist at Purdue…so the look of this team is going to be different.  Like, maybe they will look like Omaha this season and be more of a team that tries to get to the free throw line more than being dependent on hitting threes.  It’s hard to tell how good of a player Scott could be for IPFW, but I know I would be banging a drum and screaming “WE’RE GOING TO BE SOLID, WE GOT A DUDE FROM PURDUE” if Scott ended up with the Mavericks.  I need to buy a drum. How much is a drum?

Losing Landis is huge, as well as losing Reed and Calder, but the team still has Evans and Konchar and with the addition of two transfers; the team will have talent.  This is redundant to anything I said here, just like the Force Awakens.  Another player that came out of his shell after Mo Evans was no longer playing was junior DeAngelo Stewart – who averaged 12 points per game in the last 14 games of the season.  The ‘Dons can still finish in the top of the league in 2016-2017, but will they again not have the depth to play in a tournament format at the end of the season?

The ‘Dons have one more roster spot that they can fill, and possible one or two guys that can still transfer out.  There are also plenty of guys originally from the state of Indiana that are transferring away from their teams right now.

Chandler White is a 6’2″ guard that would be a sophomore in 2016-2017 who is transferring from Toledo, and he is originally from Fort Wayne.  He was hardly used at Toledo, only playing in 8 games, but maybe the IPFW coaching staff could really work with him in a redshirt year.  This is just one guy that announced his transfer this week, there are plenty of guys from bigger universities that are still announcing their transfers.  The ‘Dons will also have a 6’10 freshman from the state of Michigan to add to their roster that had offers from Detroit, Marist, and Kennesaw State.  There will also be an addition of a point guard, who is also from the state of Michigan, that held an offer from IUPUI.

Like most teams, the ‘Dons are going to have a slightly new look to their team, I think they’re actually going to have one of the most experienced teams in the Summit League next season…as most teams will be filled with juniors and sophomore, the ‘Dons will have the most seniors with 4 on their roster.  That is if no 2016-2017 seniors transfers out, or if anyone gets a 5th year transfer.

 

 

The Pioneers will have to migrate on

The Denver Pioneers were a missed free throw away from playing North Dakota State in the Summit League Championship, and Joe Scott was also maybe that close to not being let go by the Pioneers.

The Joe Scott firing was a little shocking, but it kind of makes sense.  With Denver Lacrosse, Hockey, and Soccer all being very extremely competitive programs; it makes sense that the expectations for the private university would be higher on the men’s basketball team.  It’s sort of like how I had incredibly low expectations for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because it was directed by the guy who made 300 and written by the guy that wrote all three Blade films…I guess it’s the same…  I know a few people that have migrated to Denver, and I’ve asked them if they ever go to Pioneer basketball games and usually the reason they don’t go is because the Pioneers were pretty boring to watch.

Rodney Billups, who you will always refer to as “Chauncey Billups’ brother” is offering a more up-tempo style of basketball in comparison to the Princeton offense that Joe Scott ran.  One has to wonder how long it will take for this to turn out to be successful for the Pioneers.

Billups has a great young core of players who appear like they could work out well for an up-tempo style of play.  By the way, it will be okay for Mav fans to accuse the Pioneers for being trendy in picking an up-tempo style.  It’s fine.  Freshman guard Joe Rosga finished the season averaging 12.7 points per game; freshman forward CJ Bobbitt finished with 8.4 points per game; and freshman guard Thomas Neff finished 6.0 points per game.  All three freshmen shot above 43% from the field.

The Princeton offense is all about taking the best shot available, so their players usually shoot high percentages.  The best shot isn’t always the most important thing in an up-tempo style of play, so soon the Pioneers as a whole may actually not lead the conference in field goal percentage for once.

The Pioneers are going to have a couple roster changes for Billups to move forward with this new brand of basketball.  They are losing two guys, Nate Engesser and Marcus Byrd, who averaged double digit scoring, but we’ve routinely seen this to not be a problem for Denver.  Both players were efficient scorers, and seemed to find themselves open quite a bit while playing in the Baxter Arena… I thought Byrd was one of the more underrated players in the Summit in 2016, he averaged 16.7 points over the last 8 games of the season.  He was probably the biggest reason the Pioneers did not finish 8th in the conference.

Denver will also lose their point guard, Bryant Rucker.  It is weird to call someone a point guard when they average 1.5 assists per game, but the Princeton offense is not an offense for point guards to rack up assists.  No one seems to know what is going on with the sophomore center Daniel Amigo who only played in 13 games this season for Denver, but he showed some promise in his freshman season.  It’s okay, the Pioneers have 6’6″ sophomore center Christian Mackey to haunt our dreams.  I swear that kid was allowed 15 fouls in the first round of the Summit League tournament.

The Pioneers have two high school seniors that have signed letters of intent: a 6’0″ and 145lb point guard from Arvada, Colorado…and a 6’6″ wing player from the state of Texas.  These players could change their minds and go elsewhere with Denver going a new route in coaching, but as of right now the Pioneers only have room for one more player to sign for next season.

Their roster is filled with wing players, so one would think they would love a junior college post player or point guard; or a 5th year transfer at either position.  Denver is not really known for landing transfers, but maybe the new style will call for it.

Drake’s Kale Abrahamson is leaving the Bulldogs and will be eligible immediately.  Abrahamson is originally from Des Moines, so it is not like he would be transferring back home.  He started his college career at Northwestern, so he clearly likes academics…Denver just seems like the perfect place for the 6’8″ player that could help Chauncey’s brother jump start his culture change in year one.  He shot a pretty low percentage from the field (39.1) in his one year at Drake, but Drake basketball seems like a cluster of poor choices right now.  I say this like it’s a mean thing, but I am all about the Summit League going all in on trying to steal Drake away from the Missouri Valley.  Just think about it…

It is hard for most coaches to see a high level of success in year one, especially when changing everything; but the Pioneers have the pieces to move forward.  They are most likely not going to end up winning the regular season, but by could have things figured out as a team by the time they start the conference tournament, again.  They will probably finish the regular season standings in 2016-2017 somewhere between 4th and 8th in the Summit League.  Now if only they would actually play someone in their non-conference schedule.

The Mavericks were 3-1 against the teams in the Summit League Championship

So the Mavericks are 3-1 against the two teams currently in the Summit League Championship, and I am not bitter about it at all.

We all knew from the start of the year that these were the two teams to beat in the conference.  Even though IPFW tied for the best record, they were never a guaranteed lock to win over North Dakota State.  We also knew that this conference tournament would be incredibly tough to come out on top and every game had potential to be great and filled with drama…and both of these teams are entering the championship game after roller coaster and emotional wins.  Every game in this tournament has been extremely difficult to win, well IPFW over South Dakota was pretty easy it seemed, and North Dakota State didn’t really pull away until late in their 15 point win over IUPUI.

I’ve liked South Dakota State to win the league the whole year, but it hasn’t been as dreamy as people have thought it would be.  At half time last night, Scott Nagy said his team was playing pretty well defensively, but they were playing poorly on offense.  It didn’t get any better in the second half.  The only player for the Jackrabbits that has played well offensively in the first two games of the conference tournament has been Mike Daum.  Could Daum be the tournament MVP if the Jackrabbits win this game?  A freshman taking home 1st Team All Conference and other awards, on top of Tournament MVP?  We’re going to have 3 more years of this?  I mean that’s great and all, but with all the other solid freshmen in the league, could this be the groundwork to make this a multi-bid conference in the future?

The Jackrabbits’ other 1st Team All Conference player, George Marshall, has looked like the opposite of an All Conference Player.  Marshall is 2-of-16 from the floor in the first two games of the conference tournament, and it kind of looks like he keeps looking at the bench wondering when someone will replace him on the court.  North Dakota State could have their two top players on the bench in foul trouble and still beat the Jackrabbits if Marshall is shooting that poorly in the championship game.  We could bring in Western Illinois to play and they could beat the Jackrabbits if Marshall continues to play like this, or Eastern Illinois.

You would think that South Dakota State could win this game on (basically) a home court advantage and the extra day of rest over North Dakota State.  I have to say, though, there has been a lot of green and yellow in the seats there in Sioux Falls.  I guess it could be Oregon Duck fans, but I will go with my instinct on this one.  The Bison are in the heads of the Jackrabbits, having an advantage over them in the last few seasons.  After the Jacks easily handled IPFW in January, the Bison beat the Jackrabbits by 11 in Fargo and held the Jackrabbits to 29% shooting.  Deondre Parks went 1-of-10 from three in that game.

The Bison also appear to just have more weapons on offense to throw at the Jackrabbits.  SDSU has 5 games that can shoot from anywhere and go off on any given night, but as pointed out, 4 of those 5 guys have not played well lately.  AJ Jacobson, Paul Miller, and Kory Brown all average double figures in scoring for the Bison.  Freshman Khy Kabellis has had his fair share of big scoring games and is coming off a 19 point performance against IPFW.  Dexter Werner is that off the bench high energy post player every team wishes they had, and he just had 18 points and 11 rebounds against IUPUI in the first round.  Carlin Dupree scored 22 points last night against the ‘Dons and made clutch play after clutch play.  The Bison also have senior center Chris Kading who can come in and affect the game with his defense.

Scott Nagy has built a strong reputation as a coach around the Summit League, but for some reason he has not fully connected with Marshall and Parks.   David Richman is the best coach in the league at getting his players to believe in themselves and play to his style.  The Bison lost almost everything from 2013-2014, and he got everyone to buy into him in his first season in 2014-2015.  This season, they lost the Player of the Year from 2014-2015, and he was able to convince them all that they could pick up the missing scoring and not have much of a drop off.  If it had not been for some poor free throw shooting and key injuries, the Bison could have finished with 1 to 2 more wins and been 3rd or 4th in the conference…maybe even 2nd depending on who they beat.  South Dakota State also had some injuries along the way to affect their season.  Nagy has questioned his team’s toughness for the last 3 months, and they are going up against a team that proved their toughness in a huge comeback win over the number 1 seed in the tournament.  You could rate the Jackrabbits’ toughness up there with the toughness of the lemurs in “Madagascar.”

With all of this, I generally feel like South Dakota State should win this game, but there is obviously no way to count out North Dakota State.  Like, there is not even that much confidence riding on the Jackrabbits in this.  I feel like the biggest challenge almost is that weave offense that the Bison run.  Facing the weave, after facing Denver’s Princeton offense, is 2 straight nights of constantly having to move, switch, and rotate on defense.  Both of those offenses are designed to mentally and physically tire out their opponent, among other things.  The lack of movement on offense by South Dakota State on offense really showed just how mentally exhausting it had become last night, and if they continue to play that way, they are going to lose this game.  At least the lemurs can move it move it. .

This game has all the makings of going down to the wire and being won or lost on a last possession just like the last year when these two teams played in the championship game.  So that means one of these teams will probably route the other and win by 20.

 

 

The laziest of Summit League semi final previews

I’m just, eh, I just want to, ugh… Okay, I am bitter right now.  I guess the Summit League tournament will still go on?


IPFW and North Dakota State

The last time IPFW and North Dakota State met, the Bison held the ‘Dons to a season low 46 points and 28% from the field.  The Bison were also without their leading scorer, Paul Miller.

The Mastodons may have the advantage of an extra day of rest, but the Bison are not a great match up for IPFW.  For the best IPFW offensive players, North Dakota State has a great defender to counter that player.  Joe Reed will be defended by Chris Kading or Dexter Werner for a bulk of the time, both players come off the bench, so Reed may need to take advantage of his time with them on the bench.  John Konchar will have to deal with AJ Jacobson and also Dexter Werner at any given moment.  Konchar did not play that great offensively against the Bison in their two meetings.  In Fargo, he shot 1-of-5 from the floor and in Fort Wayne he shot 2-of-6 from the floor but he had 19 freaking rebounds.  Max Landis will also be guarded by Kory Brown, who is one of the better wing defenders in the Summit League.  Landis shot 2-0f-10 in the loss in Fargo and 5-of-15 from the floor in the ‘Dons win in Fort Wayne.

The ‘Dons do have the extra day of rest, but the Bison have a slightly deeper team to throw at IPFW.  Seriously, only 6 players on IPFW actually get any real minutes.  The Bison also played one of the slowest games in the last decade last night against IUPUI.  A game so ugly it can only be described as the any given parody Andy Dick character of basketball games.  The Bison defense held the Jaguars to shoot under 30% from the field last night.  They also held South Dakota State under 30% from the floor earlier in the year.  So I guess that probably means they have a good defense or something.  Numbers are hard.  Once the blog gets Rylan Murry to be the Blog Math Guy, that’s when this can really get rolling.

Anyway, this game should be a great watch and should really go down to the wire.  If it does get down to the wire, North Dakota State is not a good free throw shooting team.  They shoot 68% from the free throw line, which is last in the Summit League.


 

South Dakota State and Denver

South Dakota State playing Denver is actually pretty scary.  Scott Nagy has called out his team a few times this season for not showing any toughness, and the only player on the entire team that showed any toughness Saturday night against Oral Roberts was Mike Daum.  The three senior leaders of the Jackrabbits combined for 5-of-20 from the floor against Oral Roberts and each had difficulty guarding freshmen guards of Oral Roberts.

The Jackrabbits have to go from a fast paced team to a team like Denver…and while South Dakota State swept Denver this season, they struggled in each game against the Pioneers this season.  Deondre Parks and George Marshall both struggled in each game against Denver, and the Pioneers had the game close in down the stretch in each meeting.  They both struggled Saturday against Oral Roberts, and they can really win this tournament with both players cold.

“The other guys” for South Dakota State need to step up for the Jackrabbits to avoid an upset against the Piooners.  Denver doesn’t have the length to guard Mike Daum from…anywhere, nor any length to bother Ian Theisen in the post.  South Dakota State has the defense to disrupt the Princeton offense, but if Denver is still on fire after their game against Omaha, the Pioneers are an extremely tough out for anyone.  Denver has also shot 50% or better in their last 3 games…one of those games was against the tough defense of before mentioned North Dakota State.

Denver’s freshmen have gotten better and better as the season has gone on, and they have really exceeded expectations as a team.  This is actually exactly what Joe Scott said would happen with this team.  The Pioneers also played in a weekend classic to open up the season playing 3 games in 3 days, where they beat Santa Clara and Lipscomb on days 2 and 3; so they are capable to continue playing their game day-after-day.

With an RPI hovering around 200, and probably little chance at a post season tourney, there is almost no pressure on the Pioneers.  If they win, they get to keep going, and yay.  If they lose, they had a season much better than expected and have a lot to build on for next season.  The Jackrabbits have a lot of pressure to win this game.  It is basically a home game, they need to prove their toughness to their coach, and they are losing a lot off their team heading into next season.  The expectation for this team was to win the Summit League regular season, and the conference tournament, anything less than that is a failure for them this season.


Just something quick on the Omaha women against South Dakota State

It’s obviously going to be tough for the Omaha women playing against South Dakota State in the semi final.  The Mavericks played them tough and impressed some people with their play against the Jackrabbits the first time the two teams met.

Talk about a team that exceeded expectations.  Some people just started looking ahead to 2016-2017 after the Mavericks lost an exhibition game at home, but now in March they have a winning record and are playing in the conference semi final after upsetting the 3 seed in the tournament.

They never backed down against IUPUI in what was a close game almost the entire time.  There was a moment when Mikaela Shaw hit a three to put the Mavericks at 57 points and ahead by 9 points, which was finally the defining moment to put the Mavericks ahead for sure, and the smile on Shaw’s face really was an accumulation of all the moments of where this team envisioned themselves to finally be after the entire transition period. With a win in the damn post season.

This team could seriously be in the top 3 in the conference next season.  I ignorantly say this as I am not sure what other teams have coming in; but they only graduate one player and have a former Missouri Valley Conference Honorable Mention player to add, along with some other fine pieces.  The team they are playing today, only graduates two players and returns 4 players that score in double figures…so this game this afternoon could be a trailer for what could become the conference championship next season.

 

#MarchMavericks versus Denver Pioneers Summit Tourney preview

I almost forgot this game was happening.  It’s not that I am not used to the Mavericks playing in March, or that I am weirded out at a 8:30 pm college basketball game in the state of South Dakota on a Sunday night.  I just almost forgot the Omaha Mavericks, or the Summit League, was a thing because I made the mistake of listening to John Bishop and Josh Peterson on Unsportsmanlike Conduct all week try the 215th way to rephrase the questions: Is Mike Riley a good football coach; and is Tommy Armstrong Jr a good quarterback?

Oh, but it’s happening…it’s finally here, the Mavericks are playing in the Summit League tournament as a 3 seed.  I don’t really know where to start with this as I am too excited.  So um, okay, how about this…

Denver, huh?

I like the idea of Omaha fans traveling to Denver this weekend for hockey, all while other Omaha fans are traveling to Sioux Falls to see Omaha and Denver play in men’s basketball.  The fans going to Denver get to start little trivial arguments of who is better, drink some beer, go to a hockey game, bond over why they both hate North Dakota, and grow a rivalry.  Oh, and not to mention, UNO softball is in Colorado this weekend to play Colorado State and Idaho State.  I know it doesn’t have much to do with the Pioneers, but hey, hopefully some Mav fans can get to Fort Collins for some Mav softball.

Omaha and Denver basketball have two contrasting styles.  Omaha loves to get out and run and find quick baskets, and Denver likes slug up the court and pass the ball 5 times before even thinking about shooting, and then pass 3 more times, and then get a backdoor cut for a player to get a wide open shot.  These two contrasting styles makes this game the hardest to guess on to win and get out of the first round of the tournament.

Denver, though, while last in the Summit League in scoring, can actually really play at a fast pace and keep up with higher scoring teams.  Playing in Omaha, the Pioneers were able to get 5 guys in double figures and were able to outscore the Mavs with 75 points.  Weeks later, playing at IPFW, Denver scored 84 points before losing by 4 to the Mastodons.  Denver had three different guys score more than 20 points in that game, and they were able to hit 20 three point field goals as a team.  20!  Amazingly, Denver shot absolutely no free throws in that game.  IPFW had to shoot 62% from the field in that game and shoot 12-of-18 on threes to outscore Denver in that game.

Statistically, it’s not easy to talk about Denver because of their Princeton offense.  They are last in scoring in the Summit League, last in rebounding, last in blocks; but they are first in field goal percentage and free throw percentage…the things Denver cares about.  Interestingly, Denver finished 4th in the conference in steals, which is good for them because they love playing possession to possession.  So maybe, we should look more at some intangibles in this game.

I’m just going to assume that Denver is going to be the least represented fan base in Sioux Falls, based on what LetsGoDU whined about last month, well they may have more fans than Western Illinois there.  Zing.  Omaha has a bus of students heading to Sioux Falls, and people that have the ability to not work on Monday morning could be headed up…and people that do not care about sleep.  Seriously, 8:30 pm on a Sunday, and maybe an even later start time if the earlier games don’t go according to plan.

The Mavericks may have some Oh Shit, We’re Actually Here jitters, but Derrin Hansen made a point that the quickest way to get over that is to get out play fast and make it a basketball game.  Denver’s staff has been here before, but Denver’s players may actually have those jitters as well since the team is mostly newcomers.  Denver does have some seniors that have been here before that can help ease the nerves of the Pioneers.  Oh here is a stats thing: Denver’s senior forward, Marcus Byrd averaged 17.8 points per game over the last 6 games of the season, he also shot 59% from the field, and 60% on threes.  That is pretty scary.

It’s good for the Pioneers that the Mavericks don’t have anyone that has been in a conference tournament before.  Oh wait, there is Jake White!  In 2013, White played in each of Wichita’s State’s games in the Missouri Valley tournament.  He had a 9 point, 8 rebound, and 3 assist performance in the first round against Missouri State.  That team also went to the Final 4 that year.

I’m sure Jake White is happy being named to the All Summit League 2nd Team, but maybe he feels a little disrespected and is incredibly hungry to win and keep playing.  Not that the guys on the 1st Team weren’t great, and I am sure it was incredibly hard to decide between John Konchar, Mike Daum, and Jake White to get onto the 1st Team…but 2 freshmen beating out a senior has to piss someone off.  The same goes for Devin Patterson.  How about the snub to Tre’Shawn Thurman?  Garret Covington was selected to the 2nd Team,  for scoring a lot of points on a team that was limited on scoring options that finished last?  Thurman averaged more points, more rebounds, more blocks, and shot a higher field goal percentage than AJ Jacobson who was named Honorable Mention…and Thurman averaged less minutes.  I know the stats may not be a big part of it because guys are going to get stats for Omaha at their pace, but still…Thurman has to be happy for his teammates, but not happy about the snub.

Tra-Deon Hollins was the first Mav men’s basketball player to be named to the 1st Team for the Summit League, by the way.

I don’t think there is just one guy that is most important for the Mavericks to get a win in the first round.  All of the Mavs needs to play efficiently, and make few mistakes…especially after the load of mistakes the Mavericks made against the Pioneers in Omaha with the missed layups, missed dunks, and terribly timed turnovers.  That’s the other thing, is there a game that Omaha would like to have back more than any other as that Denver at Omaha game?  Actually, maybe that whole week.  Omaha seems to have more of a revenge factor, and be playing for more recognition in this first round than Denver.  That was also a game that Omaha played without Randy Reed, who just had two of the best basketball performances of his life in the last two games.

Derrin Hansen also said it pretty well on the radio this morning when he said his team appears to play better when going into their tougher games.  I didn’t get all of it, because I had that moment at work where the guy that takes 15 minutes to ask me a question that a normal person only takes 1 minute to ask had to come up and ask me a question…and give me the whole story has to why he has come to ask me the question…you know, so I could understand the point of view of all the characters involved.

By the way, could Hansen feel slightly snubbed for not being named Coach of the Year?  Hansen actually probably doesn’t care all that much, but his players might be a little angry about it and that may add to their hunger for some conference wins.  Not to take anything away from Jon Coffman.  He did a great job, even after losing a player due to academics.  Hansen lost his returning leading scorer, lost a freshman who was expected to help replace the shooting lost in Marcus Tyus, and finished 3rd in the conference after being expected to finish 7th in the Summit League.

For all 7 of the people that have paid attention, I basically selected no upsets in the first round of the Summit League tournament…which is kind of lame.  If someone had a gun to my head and said I had to pick who was the most likely to get upset in the first round of the conference tournament, I would have to answer because I really question the mind of the person who would hold a gun to my head for something that like, but I would shockingly pick South Dakota State… I like South Dakota State, but their game with Oral Roberts just looks like a trap.  The Jackrabbits swept Oral Roberts, but just played them last week, and Oral Roberts has a great coach and the leading scorer in the conference, and a load of dudes that can just randomly turn it on in a game.

 

 

 

 

 

South Dakota State-Oral Roberts Summit Tourney preview

South Dakota State and Oral Roberts are playing in the first round of the Summit League tournament.  No one predicted this happening.  Seriously, Oral Roberts was picked to finish third in the conference by basically everyone, even though the evidence was stacked up against them finishing 3rd.  Preseason predictions are based mostly on what teams are returning versus what they lost, and a combination of just assuming the standings should finish about the same as last season.

Amazingly, Oral Roberts lost the 2nd most off their roster from last season in the conference and South Dakota lost the most; and now they are playing in the Summit League tournament as the 7 and 8 seeds.  Western Illinois actually returned most of their team, and they finished in 9th, and now have to watch the tournament in Macomb…which sounds like the worst possible fate.

Oral Roberts got here by the loss of key players, off season injuries to their two seniors, Obi Emegano and Brandon Conley, no team chemistry, and mistake after mistake by their freshmen players.  The Golden Eagles lost to South Dakota State over last weekend and there was a point where one of the freshmen on the team was passing the ball to a teammate and the ball flew over the player’s head and into the 15th row of fans.  Scott Sutton just put his head down in disbelief and disgust for about an entire minute.  It was the same look I got when I learned that there are white chocolate Reese’s peanut butter cups on the second day of my diet.  Or the same look when my brother saw my parents giving my niece a microphone that provided her with the opportunity to listen and sing along to the same 15 seconds of that Let it Go song from “Frozen” over and over again.  Sutton even sounded depressed at the conference media day, opposite of how IPFW’s Jon Coffman sounded.

This was the first season that Scott Sutton and Oral Roberts finished below .500 in conference play since 2001, and now he gets to start the Summit League tournament against South Dakota State in Sioux Falls.  The Jackrabbits swept Oral Roberts by 12 points in Tulsa and then by 8 points in Brookings, so maybe they will only win this one by 4.  I think that is how math works.

I really do not think that any coaches in the Summit League will be leaving their jobs, but if I had to pick two guys that would most likely leave their jobs, it would have to be the two coaches of this game.  Scott Sutton is about to die of stress on the sideline, so why not try and go die on the sideline of a team at a bigger program for a few years.  Scott Nagy is going to lose the bulk of his team’s offense, and might not even be favored to finish in the top half of the Summit League next season.  Seriously; IPFW, IUPUI, Omaha, and South Dakota all look to be better on paper at this point.  Anyway, Nagy seems like a career South Dakota State guy, but would he not at least want to show some interest if the TCU, LSU, or Minnesota became open jobs?

Anyway, this game…

I would like to say that maybe Oral Roberts can come out with a revenge factor, or thinking this game could be their big moment.  This team was swept by the top three teams in the league: IPFW, South Dakota State, and Omaha…but hey at least they swept Western Illinois.  Actually, they swept IUPUI too and it was weird.  This game really seems like it comes down to maturity versus immaturity.  South Dakota State rarely makes mistakes and Oral Roberts makes mistakes every other play.

Last week when they played, Oral Roberts need 22 points out of Obi Emegano and 15 out of Brandon Conley to just keep the game somewhat close.  Jake Bittle of South Dakota State went 0-of-4 from the floor, Deondre Parks got into a little bit of foul trouble, and the Jackrabbits were able to still find other guys to step up to shoot over 50% from the floor as a team.

In their first meeting, Emegano scored 20 points and the Golden Eagles got a combined 33 points from their two freshman Javan White and Kris Martin.  The Jackrabbits will also able to shoot over 50% from the floor in that game.  That’s the thing though: you know Obi Emegano can get 20 points, but you have no idea where the rest of the scoring is coming from game after game by his teammates.  Emegano has scored in double figures in 34 straight games.  The last time he didn’t reach double figures was when Oral Roberts lost by 29 at South Dakota State last season.

It’s rare that any of his teammates can string along double digit scoring performances game to game.  Conley did it once this season where he scored in double figures two games in a row; point guard Aaron Young and freshman Javan White each also once had 2 games in a row of double figure scoring.  Jalen Bradley had 4 games earlier in the season with 10+, and then another 2 games in a row later in the season.  Freshman Kris Martin did it three separate times of 2 games in a row, and sophomore center Albert Owens had 5 different streaks of scoring double digits.  Owens actually had a decent month of February averaging 13.2 points per game, but ended with 2 points against South Dakota State.  He also only scored 5 points against the Jackrabbits back in January, and it was almost impressive how bad he played.  It looked like when your friends play a pick up game of basketball and you only have 9 guys, but you find the one random guy in the gym who just got down working out, and he come out onto the court and stands at the top of the key and decides to shoot terrible looking jump shots with the ball feeling as small as a dog toy because he just got so swole from his work out.  The point is, this team struggles with consistency…which pretty much shows when they have a 7 game losing streak and a 5 game losing streak on the season.

South Dakota State does not struggle with consistency.  They have yet to lose in the state of South Dakota this season.  They have barely ever lost when they’ve had their three seniors Jake Bittle, George Marshall, and Deondre Parks in the line up at the same time.  The only core player on the team that struggled with consistency was sophomore Reed Tellinghuisen who was up and down this season with his shooting.  He finished the last 4 of 6 games in double figures and the two games he did not score at least 10, he combined for 0-of-6 from the field against South Dakota and Western Illinois for a total of 5 free throws.  He was one of the guys to step up when he was needed last week scoring 15 points on 4-of-6 from the floor and also grabbed 6 rebounds.  The point there is if any of Bittle, Marshall, or Parks struggle; the Jackrabbits have Tellinghuisen (9.2 ppg), Mike Daum (14.8 ppg), and Ian Theisen (6.1 ppg) to step up.  If Emegano and Conley struggle, Oral Roberts is putting 50 dollars down on a random number in Roulette.

South Dakota State should come out on top in this game, and they are probably favored to win the conference tournament, which should be a slap in the face to IPFW.  I have no idea how ESPN says a team has a certain percentage to win a game, so I will just randomly say South Dakota State has a 97% chance of winning this game.  97% sounds good.


 

The Men’s basketball awards should be coming out today or tomorrow.  If I had to throw out a guess on who gets picked…

Player of the Year: Max Landis, IPFW

Newcomer of the Year:  John Konchar, but is it possible to get a three way tie with him, Mike Daum, and Tra-Deon Hollins?

Defensive Player of the Year: Tra-Deon Hollins, Omaha

Sixth Man of the Year: Mike Daum, South Dakota State

Coach of the Year: Derrin Hansen, Omaha

All Summit League Team

FIRST TEAM

Obi Emegano, Oral Roberts, Sr

Max Landis, IPFW, Sr

George Marshall, South Dakota State, Sr

Devin Patterson, Omaha, Sr

Deondre Parks, South Dakota State, Sr

Jake White, Omaha, Sr

SECOND TEAM

Darell Combs, IUPUI, Jr

Garret Covington*, Western Illinois, Jr

Mike Daum, South Dakota State, Fr

Tra-Deon Hollins, Omaha, Jr

John Konchar, IPFW, Fr

*I think Covington gets on the 2nd team, but I don’t think he deserves it.

HONORABLE MENTION

Kory Brown, North Dakota State, Sr

Nate Engesser, Denver, Sr

AJ Jacobson, North Dakota State, So

Paul Miller, North Dakota State, So

Tre’Shawn Thurman, Omaha, So

NEWCOMER

Darell Combs, IUPUI, Jr

Mike Daum, South Dakota State, Fr

Tra-Deon Hollins, Omaha, Jr

John Konchar, IPFW, Fr

Joe Rosga, Denver, Fr