It’s finally here. The chance to play the Rice Owls in Baxter Arena! You have been thinking about this since Day 1 of Omaha Mavericks basketball transition to division one. Hosting a Conference USA team in a regular season basketball game, and you spent 5 years wondering if it would ever happen… I actually did spend 5 years wondering if and when the Mavericks would host a team like Rice.
Don’t know anything about Rice University Men’s Basketball? That’s fine, no one does.
Here are some things to throw out at you:
2015-2016 Record: 12-20
2015-2016 Final RPI: 279
Conference USA had a final RPI ranking of 22.
2015-2016 Attendance Average: 2,204
Omaha was better than Rice in all of these things last year. So take that, Rice! The Owls did beat Doc Sadler’s Southern Mississippi team twice last season, so they do have that on Omaha. They do have a player named Egor, so they win the cool names competition. I’m so hungry for a rice bowl from Pepperjax now.
I Googled “best rice bowl in Omaha” and the top three places on Foursquare were Pepperjax locations. That doesn’t seem right. Amigos/King Classic came in 7th. We’re better than that, Omaha. We need to get to the bottom of this. Have you ever had the Tuna Tower or Sake Tower at Blue Sushi Sake Grill? I get that it’s not an official rice bowl, but once you knock down the tower it becomes rice and a few different ingredients in a bowl and it’s one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. You can take your fork and cut it down and eat it as stacked ingredients, like a freak.
I’m not even going to look up the name of the Owls’ basketball arena. If it’s not the Rice Bowl, I’d rather go one not knowing.
Rice is coached by former VCU Assistant, Mike Rhoades, who wants to play an uptempo style like Omaha, and as VCU did under Shaka Smart, but Rhoades has not had much of a chance to play this way with little depth on his team.
Rhoades and Rice may actually be able to have some of that depth this season, so they are not a team that the Mavericks should take likely, especially given that they will be playing the style that they actually want to play when they come to Omaha.
Being such a young team last season, Rice had 7 guys in their main rotation last year, and 6 of those players will be returning for 2016-2017. This includes 6’2″ sophomore Marcus Evans who was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year and 1st team All Conference after averaging 21.4 points per game. In addition to this, the Owls had a freshman named Chad Lott sitting out with an injury, who apparently could be better than Evans… Lott picked Rice over Creighton, now watch this kid. Warning: the first minute is one of the worst produced highlight reels you’ll ever see.
Similarly to Omaha, Rice had a guard sitting out who was expected to be one of their main scorers and leaders. 6’3″ guard, Marcus Jackson sat out his entire junior season after averaging 14.5 points per game and shooting 40% on threes in his sophomore season. Without Jackson, Rice did not have much of an perimeter game on offense and struggled on threes, shooting 32% on the year. So they’re just going to allow Jackson and Marcus Tyus to defend each other with both players wrapped in bubble wrap, right? So many dudes named Marcus to keep track of in this game.
Rice will be adding 5 new scholarship freshman to their lineup as well, and they’re likely to redshirt a few of those guys. Even though the Owls appear young on paper, there is a fair amount of division one experience on their basketball team, especially at the wing positions. In the post, they are are quite young, with only one post player being a senior and the others being true freshman or a sophomore. If the Mavericks get some opportunities to post up, Tre’Shawn Thurman could really have his way with the Rice post players.
With both teams wanting to score at a Millennium Falcon or Barry Allen the Flash type pace, there should be little opportunities for a post up move from either team. This game is going to be a high scoring affair, and if Nebraska football was not playing Maryland this day, the attendance could actually get pretty large as the season home opener.
It’s easy to look at the 12-20 record and the bad RPI and think this could be an easy win for the Mavericks. Considering, the two key injuries the Owls had last season, and their youth to a coaching staff in their second year, it is understandable for a team to produce such poor results. With their style of play, this could be a game of whoever gets to 100 first wins.