The Mavericks are finally back to the Baxter, but what about Drake?

Nearly 3 weeks into the season, the Mavericks are finally getting their first game this year in Baxter Arena.

Tuesday, Derrin Hansen said that the Mavericks had to create their own energy on the road, so it should be beneficial to his basketball team to finally receive some energy from a home crowd.  Not sure how much energy the Mavericks are needing or expecting, but it may be difficult to come by on a Wednesday night.

The Mavericks are coming back to Baxter Arena after losing 7 straight games on the road.  A road trip that saw one of their best scorers, Mitch Hahn, go down with a shoulder injury.  The team was still able to make hustle plays and keep a few games close, and feel as if they could be 3-4 right now if just a few things had gone their way.

Still, things did not go their way on their road trip, so the Mavericks are 0-7.  Seriously, with Hahn out, the Mavericks were playing stretches of the game against Jackson State with Alex Allbery or JT Gibson at the 4.

Fans bringing energy on a Wednesday night may be difficult to harness.  That guy who sits about 8 rows behind the team bench and talks shit to the referees the whole game will bring it, but it wont be the home opener energy we experienced in 2015 when Baxter Arena opened.

Whenever the Drake Bulldogs visit Omaha in anything, Drake fans do show up.  They may be the quietest fan base ever and sport a median age of 70, but they’ll show up enough for the Drake players to see the blue shirts in attendance.

The Bulldogs have shown that they love playing small ball with a bulk of their minutes going to their guards, so maybe a few minutes of JT Gibson at the 4 won’t be that big of a problem.

One of the reasons the Mavericks are 0-7 and not 3-4 right now is because of the number of mistakes in clutch moments.  The Mavericks had several opportunities to beat Jackson State, but turned the ball over multiple times late in the game to give the Tigers more chances to eventually give themselves an opportunity for a last second shot.

In the Mavericks’ defense, Daniel Meyer played with the type of energy against Jackson State that the Mavericks need from him every game.  Though, toward the end of the game, he had an offensive rebound and was fouled going back up to make the basket, but the referees called off the basket.  That bad call was a large difference maker, and ruined the Mavericks chances of winning in regulation.

This is also a depleted Mav team that has been playing without two players that were expected to be big time contributors in Mitch Hahn and Renard Suggs.  The Mavericks are still trying to figure out their rotations in competition, and not having those two in the lineup is making that even more difficult.  I’m sure the Mavericks will welcome them back when they’re healthy again, but they’ll have to hit the reset button on figuring all of that out.  The injuries to those two guys have given others the opportunities to step up.

KJ Robinson started the season off poorly, but has filled out his application to be the third member of the Big 3 for the Mavericks.  In the first three games, Robinson averaged 6 points, 2.3 assists, 5 turnovers, and shot 26% from the field.  In the last four games, he has averaged 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 turnovers, and shot 51% from the field.  Robinson even knocked down 7 three point field goals against Tennessee Tech.  He did a great job against Jackson State at finding the open man and had a nice pick-and-roll going with Daniel Meyer.

But what about Drake?

Niko Medved took over a Drake Bulldog team that is made up of mostly juniors and seniors.  They have a great deal of chemistry, which he makes a point of making stronger and stranger, and the Bulldogs average 11 turnovers a game as compared to the Mavericks who average 18 turnovers, so far.

Also, Medved was an assistant under Tim Miles at Colorado State.  He was previously head coach at Furman for 4 years where he coached the team to increase their win total each season he was there.  Hold on a second, I have to troll Nebrasketball fans for a moment.


MEDVED AND CRAIG SMITH WERE THE REAL BRAINS BEHIND THE OPERATION AT COLORADO STATE


Drake already beat Wake Forest, who had also lost to Georgia State and Liberty, but beating a big conference team can bring a large amount of confidence to a mid-major basketball team.

The Bulldogs average over 85 points a game, and are also 12th in the nation in three point field goal percentage.  The Mavericks will get to play the face paced offense they enjoy, but they’re going to have to cut down on the unguarded turnovers and defend the three.  Two things that the Mavericks have struggled with the last few years.

 

 

 

 

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Mavericks versus Montana State preview

I keep forgetting the college basketball season starts this week, but it does.  In my mind, it starts when Omaha tips off in Great Falls against Montana State.  Since the Mavericks have their first 5 games on the road, it might actually be better if I didn’t let it start in my mind until late November.

This is the third year in a row that the Mavericks will meet the Bobcats, and the first of two meetings of this match up this season.  Omaha won each of the meetings between the two teams in the last two seasons.

The Bobcats return much of their roster from last season after tying for 5th in the final 2017 Big Sky standings, the fans have high expectations for this veteran basketball squad.  The team was ranked 4th in the preseason rankings for the Big Sky conference.

Wait…someone make a screeching halt noise.  Or the Wilhelm Scream.  The Wilhelm Scream works too.

The Bobcats narrowly defeated NAIA Montana State University-Northern by 5 points in an exhibition game on November 1st.  The Bobcats didn’t even gain a lead over MSU-Northern until 17 seconds left in the first half.  Maybe, as an out of state person, I shouldn’t read too much into this game.  If Nebraska-Kearney played Omaha, I’m sure Kearney would give the Mavericks everything they could and put a scare into the team.

However, there is this.

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I gotta say: that’s pretty harsh.

That is going to do one of two things.  That can really motivate the players to pull it all together by the time they start the regular season, or it can have the reverse and completely bring the confidence of the team even lower.

Maybe they can turn it around, but a team that doesn’t listen to the coach or buy into a system can have some nasty consequences in any sport.  With that said, the Mavericks have to really hope that the Bobcats don’t have it figured out to start the season, especially considering how much the Mavericks still need to figure out about themselves as a team.

I’m sure the Bobcats will figure a way to turn it around.  Even if it doesn’t look pretty, it was still an exhibition game.  Teams don’t normally return a bulk of their entire roster and just drop off the face of the earth with a load of chemistry issues.  Well, except for that year after Nebraska made the NCAA Tournament with Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway and turned out to have an incredibly follow up season.  As Maverick fans, we just hope the Bobcats don’t have it figured out by November 10th.

On paper, the Bobcats can be threatening.  They are led by Tyler Hall, a 6’4″ junior, who averaged 23 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3 assists as a sophomore.  Hall is on the Preseason Watch List for Lute Olson National Player of the Year Award.  The Mavericks were able to hold him to 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting in Omaha last season.  Running the point for the Bobcats is Norwegian point guard Harald Frey, who averaged 12.7 points and 3.4 assists as a freshman last season.

You can expect a shootout between Omaha and Montana State as both teams like to get up and score the ball.  The Bobcats, however, are not a very big team with the biggest player in their rotation at 6’7″.  Maybe Omaha will look to take the ball inside with native Montanan Daniel Meyer on the team.  They could also have freshman Matt Pile come in off the bench and set screens for Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson to find space for open shots.

Trying to come up with things that look better than Mitch Hahn’s shot going up against smaller competition, and I cannot thing of many things.

Montana State has won their last 3 home openers.

According to ESPN, Montana State is a 9 point favorite, and has a 71% chance of winning.

 

My trivial preseason Summit League rankings

I find preseason rankings pointless.  So here are some preseason rankings.  After the conference schedule has been released in the last two seasons, I have ran through each team’s schedules and done different predictions through different scenarios.

The first time I would go through and predict wins and losses based on different factors, such as: who is coming off a tougher game, who has a better bench, who is just a better overall team, who do I hate less, who is a better defensive team, and so on and so on.  I add up all the wins and losses and then that’s how I come to rankings.

Like last season, there doesn’t really seem to be much separation in the Summit League from 2 to 7.  There are not many automatic wins.  The 4 seed won in the conference championship last season, so anyone has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament this season.  Don’t come at me if you don’t like the rankings.

1) South Dakota State – projected conference wins: 9 to 12

As the 4 seed in the Summit League tournament in 2017, the Jackrabbits were able to ride Mike Daum all the way to the NCAA Tournament.  They have Mike Daum back, and they even return 75% of their scoring, so it’s pretty easy to envision them as the best team in the conference.

The Jackrabbits graduated their starting point guard Michael Orris, who was 4th in the Summit League in assists per game.  On paper, they have what it seems to make up for that production after signing junior college transfer Brandon Key, who averaged 7.2 assists per game as a sophomore and was 5th in NJCAA in assists.  They were also able to sign Dallas Polk-Hilliard from junior college, who averaged 19.3 points and 8.4 rebounds as a sophomore.  Polk-Hilliard once had an offer from the Mavericks.

The Jackrabbits are going to be able to play small, play big, shoot threes, defend, and they have a pretty deep bench to go along with a solid starting 5.  Summit League teams are going to have to rely on the Jackrabbits making mistakes and beating themselves in order to pick up a win against South Dakota State.

2) Denver – projected conference wins: 8 to 9

The Pioneers were supposed to have a difficult time transitioning to Rodney Billups’ offense, but they had no problem last season.  They only lost CJ Bobbitt from their rotation, who transferred to New Mexico State.  The team is also bound to not run out of steam as they are able to go 9 or 10 players deep.

If the Pioneers can get to a situation where they South Dakota State in the conference championship, can Daniel Amigo show up to play?  Amigo scored in double figures in all but three conference games last season, including the conference tournament.  All three of those games were against South Dakota State.

3) South Dakota – projected conference wins: 8 to 9

The Coyotes still have Matt Mooney, who is a top 5 player in the league.  They are still going to play great defense, and hustle, and do the things that they do to help themselves win basketball games.  They do have more question marks than you would think.

Their top post player graduated, and their starting point guard transferred to Georgetown, so there is a little ground to make up there.  Junior forwards Dan Jech and Tyler Hagedorn have yet to show consistency in their careers, and no one is even really sure what Nebraska transfer Nick Fuller can be.  Without a back up point guard, sophomore Triston Simpson is going to have to play some big minutes at the point.  Matt Mooney will likely have to play stretches at the point guard spot.

4) Fort Wayne – projected conference wins: 7 to 9

John Konchar could win 5 conference games completely on his own, so they really just need a few more guys to step up to be in the top half of the conference.  The ‘Dons are still going to come out and hit threes and play at a fast pace.

They will have a solid starting 5, but out of all the teams competing for the Summit League championship, Fort Wayne has the most questionable bench.  If they find themselves in foul trouble in big games, other teams should be able to outplay them.  Again, like in 2015-2016, the Mastodons don’t have a deep enough team to last three nights in a row in the Summit League tournament, so it’s going to be very important for them to land in the top 2 seeds.

5) North Dakota State Bison- projected conference wins: 7 to 9

The Bison are actually the youngest team in the Summit League this season.  You know what happened the last time they were the youngest team in the Summit League?  Lawrence Alexander led them to the conference championship, but the Summit League wasn’t as deep as it is now back then.  Paul Miller and AJ Jacobson are the only two seniors on the team, and Jacobson is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.

The Bison pride themselves on guys stepping up when someone goes down, and I’m sure a star will rise this season, but can Paul Miller carry the Bison like Lawrence Alexander once did?  Can this young team mentally get through the last 4 of 5 conference games on the road heading into the conference tournament?

6) Omaha – projected conference wins: 5 to 8

The Mavericks seem to have too much to make up after losing Tra-Deon Hollins, Marcus Tyus, and Tre’Shawn Thurman.  Omaha is actually the oldest team in the Summit League after adding transfers Renard Suggs and Lamar Wofford-Humphrey to the lineup, but there still appears to be a lot to figure out for the Mavericks.  They may even have a difficult time figuring out rotations against a non-conference schedule against Oklahoma, Washington, Louisville, TCU, and Kansas.

Losing 4 steals per game from Tra-Deon Hollins will be difficult in the sense that they may not be able to play as much transition offense as they did the last two seasons, which was Omaha’s comfort zone.  There will have be more half court sets and ball movement this season, which hasn’t been a huge strength of theirs in recent memory.  They do have the pieces around Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson to be competitive in the Summit League and play in half court sets, but there cannot be as many mistakes as there has been in the last season.

Figuring out how to divide up 40 minutes between Daniel Meyer, Lamar Wofford-Humphrey, and Matt Pile sounds like it could be a challenge for Derrin Hansen.  After seeing Matt Pile play against Creighton and show off his rebounding ability, and how good he is at setting screens, he may find himself beating out two seniors for minutes this season.

7) Oral Roberts – projected conference wins: 2 to 5

Paul Mills is known as being able to coach up an intense defense, and the Golden Eagles are going to need that in his first season.

Oral Roberts has the least amount of offense returning from last season, after graduating three starters and Kris Martin transferring to Colorado State.  The team has a serious three headed monster in the post with Albert Owens, Emmanuel Nzekwesi, and Javan White, but is that really a threat in a run-and-gun league?  They are capable of pulling off an upset against anyone, but consistency looks to be an issue for this team.

8) Western Illinois- projected wins: 1 to 4

I could not say with any confidence that any starter on their basketball team could start for any other Summit League team.  The Leathernecks could be classically bad.

Brandon Gilbeck averaged 3 blocks a game last season.  That’s cool, I guess.  Maybe he could have a break out season after the Leathernecks graduated their two leading scorers, and have few offensive weapons on the team.

 

8 things to know about the South Dakota State Jackrabbits

  1. Picked to win the Summit League this season.  They’re normally automatically always picked in the top 3 no matter what, but it looks pretty serious this season, and other Summit League teams might even just mail in their season.
  2. The Jackrabbits will face two preseason top 10 teams: #4 Kansas and #7 Wichita State
  3. The Jackrabbits are ranked 14th in the Preseason Mid Major Top 25
  4. Freshman guard David Jenkins Jr. was listed as a 3 star recruit on ESPN.  Jenkins held offers from Montana, Boise State, and St. Mary’s.  Jenkins scored 16 points in an exhibition game against South Dakota School of Mines.
  5. Name an Award.  Odds are Mike Daum is on the preseason watch list for the award.
  6. Out of all Summit League fan bases, their fans get the most offended if you make fun of them or the state of South Dakota.
  7. Mike Daum is the nation’s returning leading scorer.  So that is why no one cares at all about the other 7 basketball teams in the Summit League this season.
  8. Assistant Coach Ben Walker played basketball at Creighton, and is in the Creighton Athletic Hall of Fame.  So, you know, just one more reason for Maverick fans to dislike the Jackrabbits.

8 things to know about the South Dakota Coyotes

  1. Craig Smith was rumored at one point to have been hired by Drake for the Head Coach position, but he turned it down to remain at South Dakota. Further proving that the Summit League is better than Drake.
  2. South Dakota was able to pick up Nebraska transfer Nick Fuller.  Fuller averaged 2 points and 1 rebound a game as a junior for the Huskers.  Several Nebraska and Omaha fans I’ve talked to over the last few years questioned if Fuller would have even started at Omaha, but agree that he would at least have been in their main rotation.  Fuller actually came off the bench in the Coyotes’ exhibition game against Sioux Falls.  We’ll see what 2 points and 1 rebound at Nebraska equates to in the Summit League.  My guess is: 7 points and 5 rebounds.
  3. In the Coyotes’ exhibition game, they beat D2 Sioux Falls by 9.  They also, oddly, did not play any of their freshmen…at all.
  4. Gave up the fewest points per game on defense in the Summit League last season.
  5. The Coyotes made the most free throws in the Summit League last season AND had the worst free throw percentage as a team.
  6. The Coyotes were 8th in the Summit League in three point field goals made last season AND three point field goal percentage as a team.
  7. With 8 eligible upperclassmen on scholarship, they are the oldest team in the Summit League this season.
  8. Vermillion has the smallest population for any city in the Summit League.  If you want to call it a city.

8 things to know about the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles

  1. Oral Roberts is returning 43% of their scoring.  That is tied for the lowest in the Summit League with Omaha.
  2. Fired head coach Scott Sutton.  Scott Sutton’s nephew Spencer Sutton is on this year’s roster.  Well, this is awkward.
  3. Will have a deep and threatening front court with Albert Owens (Summit League Honorable Mention in 2016-2017, Emmanuel Nzekwesi (Freshman of the Year), and Javan White (redshirted sophomore year in 2016-2017)  all returning to the team.
  4. Newcomer James Conley played at Hutchinson Community College, where his team won the National Championship his sophomore season.
  5. They are the easiest program to forget that plays in the Summit League.
  6. The Golden Eagles are the only Summit League team with a new head coach this season.  They hired Paul Mills, who was an assistant at Baylor for 14 years.  He had kind of a weird quote in his introduction referring to the his basketball team that I’m still trying to figure out: “…Men are going to see this good product and we are going to praise our father who is in heaven.”  Are Oral Roberts Men’s Basketball games No Girls Allowed events?
  7. Their opening game is their Homecoming, apparently.
  8. Albert Owens made the second most field goals in the Summit League last year behind South Dakota State’s Mike Daum.  That’s kind of fun, kind of boring, but whatever.  It’s safe to assume that “Kind of fun, kind of boring, but whatever” is the slogan for Tulsa, Oklahoma.

8 things to know about the Omaha Mavericks

  1. The Mavericks are only returning 43% of their scoring from last season.  That is tied with Oral Roberts for the lowest in the Summit League.  They should have the most to replace after Tre’Shawn Thurman transferring to Nevada, Marcus Tyus playing professional basketball in Europe, and Tra-Deon Hollins playing in the NBA G League.
  2. The Mavericks are one of two teams in the Summit League to feature a game on ESPN2 this season.
  3. For three weeks in a row, they will play a conference game at home on a Saturday night at 7pm.  January 6th versus South Dakota State, January 13th versus Fort Wayne, and January 20th versus South Dakota.  Creighton men’s basketball is away on all of those dates.  Just so you know.
  4. Mitch Hahn, who will be a starter this season, led Summit League bench players in three point field goals made last season.
  5. Their student section is nicknamed “The Bullpen” which really makes no sense for sports other than baseball and softball.
  6. Derrin Hansen is the longest tenured coach in the Summit League.
  7. They are ranked 1st in the Summit League in Most Bitter About Not Playing In-State D-1 Teams.
  8. THEY GET TO WITNESS MORE CURLING THAN YOU THIS SEASON