Maybe Arkansas State is just the right team to play right now

Sure, it might be a little difficult to get excited about a game between a 3-6 Arkansas State team coming to Baxter Arena to play a 1-10 Maverick team.  But hey, at least we get to see former Omaha Assistant Coach James Miller back in town.

Oh wait, no, James Miller left after last year’s Arkansas State team reached 20 wins and head coach Grant McCasland bolted for North Texas and took Miller with him.

Now, Arkansas State is coached by Mike Balado, who was last an assistant coach at Louisville from 2013 to 2017.  I don’t think anything bad went down there in that time frame.

Well, never mind.

There doesn’t seem to be any interesting Omaha to Arkansas State connections here.  Well, Arkansas State football almost beat Nebraska football in September, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with this.  Nothing at all, actually.

Either way, the Red Wolves are coming to Baxter Arena as a 3-6 team that still has yet to win a road game, and the Mavericks will be looking to defend home court as a team that has only played one home game, that they won.

After a grueling non-conference schedule, Omaha only has 5 non-conference games left.  In addition to tonight, they have two against non-division one opponents, another chance with Montana State, and a game we all assume they will lose at Kansas.  Though, maybe Nebraska can wear down Kansas this weekend.

Omaha will enter tonight’s game as a 3 point favorite against an Arkansas State team that just had a senior leave the roster.  The Mavericks might be able to finally play senior Renard Suggs tonight against Arkansas State.  Suggs could make an impact against a Red Wolves roster that has 8 upperclassmen.  Half of their upperclassmen are returners from last seasons’s 20-12 team.

The Red Wolves may have a better record than the Mavericks, but the Red Wolves currently rank 343rd in RPI, and their strength of schedule is ranked 333.  In addition to that, they are letting bad teams shoot nearly 50% against them.

Arkansas State’s leading scorer is 6’4″ senior Deven Simms, who is averaging 17 points a game and will likely be guarded by Zach Jackson.  The team’s second leading scorer is 5’11” junior Ty Cockfield averaging 14 points a game.

Even if Simms and Cockfield are working down a tiring Jackson and possibly David Norl or KJ Robinson, the Red Wolves lack a big man that could really defend Omaha big men Lamar Wofford-Humphrey or Matt Pile…and Wofford-Humphrey and Pile love to score down low and flex.  Daniel Meyer also had a pretty active game against a Jackson State team that was similar to Arkansas State in size.

The Red Wolves had held their opponents to shoot less than 30% from behind the arch, and Omaha has generally been a bad team at penetrating at getting to the basket and free throw line.

Not sure how much the Mavericks actually need a win over this Arkansas team, it’s not like they are trying to impress the NCAA Tournament committee with their resume at this point, but they will need a win for momentum heading into the Summit League schedule.  Also, they need to prove to their fans and themselves that because of their difficult schedule and injuries, that they are better than your typical 1-10 sports team.

 

 

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My trivial Summit League rankings – December 11th

1. South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits had a lead with 7 minutes to go playing at # 6 Wichita State.  The key to shutting down the Jackrabbits might be slowing down Mike Daum, but no one in the Summit League has really proven that they can do that.

2. South Dakota

The Coyotes are currently leading the Summit League in fewest turnovers, and they also rank 3rd in defensive field goal percentage.  It’s tough to beat a team that can defend, as well as take care of the ball on offense.

3. Denver

The Pioneers are currently 3rd in the Summit League in field goal percentage, 2nd in three point field goal percentage, and they’re also leading the conference in rebounding – as one of the smallest teams in the league.

While South Dakota State has defeated two Power 5 teams, Denver’s win over Wyoming is probably the best non-conference win for any Summit League team so far.  The Jackrabbits did lose to Wyoming.

4. Western Illinois

I just threw up in my mouth.  Okay, I actually just threw up all over my hands.

They are leading the Summit League in defensive field goal percentage, but they have played the against the easiest schedule in the league.  It will be interesting to see what happens when they get to conference play, and see how they might play against teams who went the opposite direction as them in creating an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule.

Jeremiah Usiosefe did almost pick up a triple-double against Milwaukee on Saturday.  He finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists.

5. North Dakota State

I’m sure the Bison will be fine in March, but they’re actually not looking too impressive right now.  AJ Jacobson appears slowed down, after having foot issues over the summer, and the post players are all incredibly inconsistent.

6. Fort Wayne

The Mastodons are leading the conference in steals, and probably have the fastest pace of play in the Summit League right now, and they’re going to need that as they are currently one of the worst shooting teams in the conference.  John Konchar actually seems a little more human so far this season.

7. Oral Roberts

Over the last couple of weeks, Missouri State managed to make South Dakota State and North Dakota State look like the worst version of themselves.  Yesterday, the Golden Eagles were able to pick up their third win of the season over the Bears.

This team has been playing with injury issues, inconsistency with the newcomers on the team, and even a suspension to one of their best players.

8. Omaha

This is turning out to be a nightmare season.  The expectations weren’t incredibly high before the beginning of the year, but now with the loss of Mitch Hahn, the Mavericks will have to fight harder for wins.

The Mavericks only had one steal as a team against Drake on Saturday.  Has that ever happened?

Maybe things will start to improve when this team gets to add Renard Suggs to the roster, but right now the team needs depth at the forward position.  Can we bring back Rylan Murry?  Is he still in school?

This season might turn into mix tape for seeing what the future can be with Matt Pile and Ayo Akinwole.  They’re both incredibly smart players, and watching them develop and show what they can do has some excitement to it.

At least the Baxter Arena has caramel filled pretzels?

I don’t even know what to really say right now.  My brain is just in random places.

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings – Dec 4

1. South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits have beaten two big conference teams, so it would be difficult to put them any lower than first right now.  They did play a horrendous game on Saturday against Missouri State.  Mike Daum was 3-of-14 from the floor, and it was one of the worst team performances I’ve ever seen out of the Jackrabbits.  At one point, I was wondering if the entire team was hungover.

2. South Dakota

The Coyotes really are a complete team.  They can play big, they can play small, they can defend, they can shoot.  Tyler Hagedorn has played extremely well to start the season averaging 13.5 points and 5 rebounds.  He’s outplayed Nebraska transfer Nick Fuller, which should show Nebraska fans how good they are at recruiting.  I’m being mean to Fuller, and I don’t like it.  I’ve always liked Fuller, he’s a smart player and does have some moves.  40 minutes of Hagedorn and Fuller won’t be fun for Summit League teams.  Hagedorn did have an embarrassing missed dunk against Duke, but oh well.

If I were a Coyote fan, I would just be worried how the team plays on offense when their point guard Triston Simpson goes to the bench.

3. North Dakota State

The Bison are 3-4, but their strength of schedule in RPI is ranked 42, at this point.  AJ Jacobson has been playing through injuries, but sophomore Tyson Ward and freshman Cameron Hunter have stepped up to make up the ground – which is just kind of North Dakota State’s thing.

The Bison really don’t have a point guard on the team, so they have been playing with Paul Miller at the point guard spot.  This could turn out really swell, or it could be a bad thing.  Miller may not be as comfortable in that spot as the Bison need him to be.  He is shooting 37% from the field, which is down from last season when he shot 45% from the floor.

4. Fort Wayne

The ‘Dons are beating the teams they’re supposed to beat, and keeping close against teams that are considered toss up games.  They arguably have the best back court in the league as Bryson Scott is efficiently scoring 23 points per game and John Konchar is still proving that he’s the best all around player in the Summit League.

Their front court, though.  I mean, they’re their.  Actually, maybe that’s why John Konchar averages 10 rebounds per game.

5. Denver

The Pioneers schedule hasn’t been overly difficult in comparison to other Summit League teams, but they did earn an impressive win over Wyoming.

Not much has changed in the Pioneers from last season.  They’ll play just a little bit smaller than last year, but not by much.  Their non-conference season has mostly been a Look At What Daniel Amigo Can Do theme.  Daniel Amigo has had 4 double-doubles in 8 games so far.

6. Western Illinois

Sure, the Leathernecks are 5-2, but they’ve played two non-D1 opponents, and they’ve only left the state of Illinois once so far.  They did shoot 60% against former Summit League team IUPUI, so that’s kind of cool.

While this team has had a few players really step up their games, it is hard to really gauge how good (or bad) this team is at this point.  The Leathernecks have a serious lack of depth with 5 players averaging more than 28 minutes per game.  Billy Wright played senior Dalan Ancrum every single minute of their double overtime loss to Miami (Oh), and he even played Ancrum in every single minute of a 70-45 loss to Iowa State.

Freshman Kobe Webster is fun to watch and can handle the basketball tremendously.

There, I said something nice about the Leathernecks.  I think this is the first time in 3 years.

7. Omaha

The non-conference season for the Mavericks could be summed up with one of these: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Mavericks have played in incredibly difficult schedule mostly on the road while trying to mold together so many new faces, as well as deal with injuries to Mitch Hahn and Renard Suggs, who has yet to play a game this season.

With no players receiving any preseason awards, Zach Jackson is putting together a case to make an All Conference team in the post season, and Lamar Wofford-Humphrey could be a candidate for Newcomer of the Year.  Is there a Most Improved Player Award?  I’m not sure and I’m not ambitious enough to look it up, but if there is one, KJ Robinson could be handed that award.

8. Oral Roberts

The Golden Eagles earned their first win of the season over a division one opponent on Saturday when they defeated 2-6 Arkansas-Little Rock on the road in double overtime.  The Golden Eagles have faced injuries and inconsistent play from newcomers while trying to figure out their newly assembled roster.

They have started playing with a bigger lineup with a starting front line of 6’9″ Albert Owens, 6’10” Javan White, and 6’8″ Emmanuel Nzekwesi.  In the win over Arkansas-Little Rock, White had 18 points and 20 rebounds.