South Dakota State versus Denver preview

So who is officially the 4 seed in this game?  Who is officially the 5 seed?  Does any of that matter?  This isn’t really a David versus Goliath match up.  It’s more of a David versus Glenn match up.

Pssh, freaking Glenn.

Does it just feel weirdly obvious who is going to win this game?  I hope that is not just me.  If anything, being over confident in the outcome of basketball games has not steered me in the right direction this season.

Clearly, anything can happen after the official throws that ball up for the opening tip, but one of these teams appears to already have the edge and it’s only Wednesday.

South Dakota State is playing in a game that they might as well be playing at home.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of that blue in the arena during the Summit League tournament is from Jackrabbit fans and not from Mastodon fans.  The Jackrabbits are also coming into this game with on a 3 game winning streak, while Denver will be arriving in Sioux Falls while they are suffering through a 3 game losing streak.  The Pioneers also only one 1 of their last 5, with the one win against the 8th seeded Leathernecks.

These two also just faced each other last weekend in what was supposed to be an evenly contested game, and the two centers Daniel Amigo and Mike Daum were going to battle it out all night like Arnold Swarzenegger battling the world for a Turboman doll.  Daum had 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting in that game.  Amigo had 8 points on 2-of-8 shooting.

If you’re looking for a breakdown on Daum’s stats on the year, or his stats heading into the conference tournament, they can simply be summed up with: they’re better than yours.

The Jackrabbits also have their second leading scorer AJ Hess back in the lineup, as well as competent backup center Ian Theisen.  South Dakota State is actually healthy, something I don’t feel used to saying.  These teams may have similar characteristics, but the Jackrabbits are a man or two deeper than the Pioneers.

Theisen in my opinion seems like the biggest x-factor for the Jackrabbits, or really just how much TJ Otzelberger decides to play him.  Theisen in the lineup with Daum, allows Daum to play out of the post and play as a stretch 4, where he appears most comfortable.  The backup center can also make surprise shots from the perimeter, give Amigo another big man to go up against.  He also as a significant size advantage over Denver’s backup center Christian Mackey.

Still, weird things happen in college athletics.  It’s still two first year head coaches heading into the opening round of a conference tournament.  One that had his team fall well below expectations, and the other that had his team rise up above the expectations.  Neither of these coaches created the expectations, they just dealt with them.

Who would have thought that a 4 versus 5 would have been so evenly matched?  Both of these teams are fast paced offenses that have had their troubles on the defensive end.  Aside from the crowd advantage, someone may think South Dakota State has the edge as their roster hosts more experience.  Another person might think Denver’s roster is a better unit as a bulk of their players have played with each other longer.

The Pioneers are also coming in with a major sense of revenge factor.  They were just demolished by 22 points a week ago in Brookings on a Senior Day that was for two Jackrabbits that have only been in the program for 30 games each.  Denver was also two free throws away from playing North Dakota State for the conference championship and a NCAA Tournament birth last season before falling to the Jackrabbits in 2016.

Mind games are a heavy thing in college sports.  If the first year coaches are not preparing for this game the right way, they could get the early out Sunday night.  The South Dakota State players could be playing with big egos because of the home court advantage and before of the lopsided win last week.  Denver could be extremely focused to overcome such a disastrous week.  Sometimes, losing can be the best thing for you.

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North Dakota State versus IUPUI preview

It may not be so likely for Western Illinois to score a Saturday upset in the Summit League tournament, but it may be possible for IUPUI to live some March Madness glory.

Ever since the Jaguars became serious, every game between IUPUI and North Dakota State has come down to wire except for their meeting in the conference tournament last season, a game that IUPUI’s leading scorer over the last two years Darell Combs did not play in.

Seven teams in this conference have a legitimate argument for winning this tournament, and you got to like IUPUI’s chances in this one…just a little.  This is like watching two of your friends going after the affection of the same girl, but one of your friends has a good job and his life pretty much together, while the other cannot hold down a job, barely showers, and is one bad financial decision away from moving back in with his parents.  This pal doesn’t really do anything great, but he just kind of exists and keeps chugging along in life. While you’re watching this play out, you like the second friend’s chances and you really don’t have that great of a reason.

The Bison have a systematic offense designed to find the best shot.  Their coaches preach quality decision making.  They showed last year that they live for moments like the Summit League Tournament.  North Dakota State is your friend that shows up to the party in a dress shirt and a pair of khakis.

The Jaguars play more chaotic.  Players are taking ill-advised shots.  A majority of the players appear lost on defense at times.  IUPUI is your pal that shows up to the party in a shirt that says Slacker across the chest and jeans with holes they have owned since they were in high school.  It’s possible they were hand me downs.

Your unorganized pal appears to have something up his sleeve.  Sure, he isn’t going to win the affection of the girl talking about how he just wreaked havoc on 200 zombies in some video game with a Mature rating earlier that day, but he is going to win on his personality and heart.  As much of his life appears to be in disarray, this pal is still the life of the party. That’s not to say your organized friend doesn’t have any heart, but your unorganized pal is willing to lay everything on the table for a shot at this.

The Jaguars lost to the Bison last year in the first round of the tournament without their leading scorer Darell Combs.  They struggled to find any offense in that game, and ended up only scoring 45 points.  It was one of the toughest Summit League games to watch all of last year.  Now, as far as we can tell, Combs will be in the lineup and he will be with his back court teammate Kellon Thomas, who averaged over 11 points per game in the Summit League this year.  The Jaguars have to have a sour taste in their mouth over their early exit from the tournament last season, so it must be a nice feeling to have the same team that ousted them last season.

IUPUI is not going to shoot 29 percent again in the tournament this season.  They have a senior point guard, they have a senior shooting guard, they have a senior post player that can stretch the defense, and they have high energy guys off the bench.  The Jaguars were playing like a team that needed to build chemistry all year, and it was coming together more and more all season.

I’m not saying that IUPUI is a lock in this game, just pointing out that they actually have a chance.  There is not separation from the 2 seed to the 7 seed in this conference.  The 7-9 record for the Jaguars is the best winning percentage for a 7 seed in the Summit League since 2011.  The Jaguars match up well with the Bison, and it shows as biggest point differential in their regular season meetings was a 5 point overtime win for IUPUI earlier this season.

Even with Combs in the lineup, he has struggled against the Bison in his 2 years at IUPUI.  Combs has averaged 15 points per game against the Bison, which isn’t too far off his career average at IUPUI, but he has shot 36 percent from the field versus North Dakota State against his 42 percent career average.  He has averaged 3.5 turnovers against the Bison in 2 years, but had 10 turnovers in 2 games this season against NDSU.

On the other end, North Dakota State is the best in the conference at taking care of the basketball.  They only averaged 10 turnovers a game against the Summit League, and only turned the ball over 18 times total in two games against IUPUI.

A key match up could be the two benches for the teams.  There was a total of 50 fouls called in their first meeting with each other this season, which is going to happen when the game is so close and someone is trying to put the other on the foul line to get back into the game late.

Evan Hall and Dexter Werner is a great match up off the bench.  Werner has made his career of being the best post player to come off the bench and create instant energy for his team.  Hall can muscle Werner out of the post and bother him just enough to counter that energy.  In addition to Hall, the Jaguars have Ron Patterson to come off the bench and make big plays on offense, and the Bison do not really have a guard to match off the bench, but Paul Miller will be fine if he can stay out of foul trouble.

The Bison are going to have to play their well disciplined style of basketball, and not let IUPUI’s chaos take over the game.  Otherwise the pal with holes in his jeans is going to get the girl’s gamer tag and be killing zombies online.

South Dakota versus Western Illinois preview

I have heard commentators say that if there was any year for a 7 or 8 seed to upset one of the top two seeds in the Summit League conference tournament that this would be the year.  Not sure if anyone is feeling that great about it being Western Illinois coming in for the upset in the first round, but we will see.

It is not impossible for the Leathernecks to come take away South Dakota’s NCAA Tournament possibilities, but the Coyotes are riding a 6 game winning streak into the conference tournament which is a 1 hour drive away from their campus.

South Dakota probably has the deepest bench in the entire league, and Western Illinois has the least.  You could make an argument that the one team not playing in the tournament, Oral Roberts, has more talent and depth than the Leathernecks.  With Garret Covington and Mike Miklusak it’s like watching a movie with two up-and-coming stars while the rest of the cast is made up of personalities that made their debuts to entertainment in Tosh.0’s Web Redemption segment.  The movie also has you wondering, sure the up-and-coming stars were good, but would they really be able to have an impact on a likable movie?  Everything about this should remind you that someone once made a Smokey and the Bandit 3.

The Coyotes are the opposite of that.  There is a plan, and every player on the team understands their role.  South Dakota is more like a really good ensemble film that have you leaving the theater realizing that the whole thing worked because of the great ensemble.  That is the usual typecasting that creates the Summit League favorite.

To pull off the upset, the Leathernecks are going to need their offense to show up.  The Leathernecks are a decent defensive team, but much of the team seems instructed to not take a shot on offense unless you have to.  They did struggle to score the ball for most of January and February, but they did end the season averaging 88 points over the last three games.  Two of those last three games did go to overtime.

In their two match ups, Garret Covington combined for 10-of-30 from the field.  I’m lucky enough to know enough math to not need a calculator to figure out that is 33 percent from the field.  Mike Miklusak shot 9-of-24 in the two games against the Coyotes.  So the two leading scorers for the Leathernecks both struggled against the top defense in the Summit League.  They’re going to be going up against South Dakota in what is basically a home game for the Coyotes, so I can sum that up in three words: It’s not good.

While the Leathernecks are filled with inconsistent and players that not appear to have a load of confidence on offense, the Coyotes have players that appear confident and always ready to take a big shot.  Trey Burch-Manning can match up well with Miklusak and battle him on the low block and defend him on the perimeter, and he is the perfect type of player to make every single hustle play a contender needs.  Matt Mooney can also match up well against Covington, and watching Mooney as an opposing fan is incredibly difficult.  He averages 18 points per game and it seems like he averages 12 points per game when the games are on the line.  Mooney also comes off as a smug jerk, but that’s a conversation for another day.  It’s the bands on both wrists.  It’s a typical smug jerk look.

In conference play, Mooney was 3rd in the Summit League in scoring and Covington was 4th.

If there is one fault to South Dakota’s team, it is their free throw shooting.  They finished the season 8th in the conference in free throw percentage, and the Leathernecks were not that much better at 7th.  Still, there were several moments that Craig Smith had Trey Burch-Manning on the court in the final minutes and teams knew to foul the guy who shoots around 60 percent from the line, and it definitely got scary for the Coyotes.

Again, it’s not impossible for the Leathernecks to pull off an upset, but it will take a lot.  They will need guys who have rarely shown up to rise to the occasion to make big shots on offense and big stops on defense.  We have witnessed that the teams in this conference are incredibly close in competition.

Percentage wise, they are not an above average three point shooting team either.  The Coyotes finished 8th in three point shooting in conference games, but players like Mooney, Tyler Flack, and Trey Dickerson can make the big threes when they matter the most.

The Leathernecks are essentially walking into the casino, going straight to the roulette table, and putting all their chips on double-zero green and closing their eyes.

 

A Senior Day Double-Header, oh my

Saturday, the Mavericks will have two separate senior days for men’s and women’s basketball.  Both games we get to say goodbye to some truly great players.  Whether it is on or off the court, these six seniors are going to go on to do tremendous things.

Kyler Erickson

Not going to get too much into Erickson as we went through this last season.

Before being sidelined with an injury, he was expected to see a loss in playing time due to the returns of JT Gibson and Marcus Tyus, and the addition of Daniel Norl.  The Mavericks really could have used Erickson’s energy in a few games where they seemed completely flat, as well as his scrappy defense.  Mavs also missed his ability to take changes and get up and turn that momentum into nuclear energy.

Tra-Deon Hollins

Possibly, the most all-around basketball player that the Mavericks have ever had.  His court awareness on defense and his ability to steal the ball in passing lanes, and on double teams changed the way offenses played against Omaha.  It only took Hollins a year and a half to break the school record for career steals.  He ranks in the top-10 in all time career assists and has the most career assists since the transition.

Hollins’ game against South Dakota State in Baxter Arena his junior year will go down as one of the greatest single game performances in Maverick history.  The Jackrabbits were the top team in the Summit League at the time, and Hollins scored 28 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished 8 assists, recorded 4 steals, and had a huge block in the final seconds to help secure a 96-92 Maverick win.

He led the NCAA in steals in his junior year, and is currently 3nd in the NCAA in steals per game his senior year.  His 93 steals on the season is tied for the most total on the year so far.  Hollins is also currently tied in 3rd in Division 1 in assists per game, and is tied in 4th in total assists.

Hollins has potential to play basketball in Europe or the NBDL, but it is unclear if either of those possibilities truly interest him.  Either way, Hollins is going to find himself in a fantastic situation and be very successful.

Marcus Tyus

One of the most efficient and explosive players the Mavericks have ever had.  When you first see Tyus, it is probably easy to think he is just a one dimensional player that hangs out behind the 3 point line and waits for guys to pass to him.  He is far more than that.  Tyus is great at finding space and blowing by his defender to get to the basket for points in the paint, and he has a deadly mid-range game as well.

All the time in athletics, we see players get injured and end up seeing the unexpected teammate come in and fill the shoes to be a catalyst for the team’s confidence in that time of need.  Tyus’ coming out party, may have been in his sophomore season when senior Justin Simmons sat down with an injury just one minute into the game against South Carolina State.  Tyus was only averaging 7 points per game on the season at that point, but he came in when the Mavericks needed him most and scored 24 points off the bench on 8-of-13 shooting.

There is no doubt that the Mavericks missed Tyus in 2015-2016.  Without his shooting, the Mavericks were one of the worst three point shooting teams in the Summit League last year, but are 1st in three point field goal percentage in conference play in 2016-2017.  The Mavericks struggled to score the ball at times with him on the bench as a senior.  There was no player more important to their offense in 2016-2017…maybe his back court senior teammate Hollins.  They probably tie actually.

Over time, Tyus has improved as a defender, and part of that came with having a bigger players on the court so he wasn’t always forced to defend guys that were 4+ inches taller than him.

He’s proven to be one of the best scoring guards in the history of the Mavericks.  With at least 2 games to go in his senior season, Tyus is 2 three point field goals away from tying the 5th most threes in a season by a Maverick, this is the most threes made by a Maverick in a season since transition.  He’s also 38 points away from being in the top 10 all time for Mavericks in scoring.


Michaela Dapprich

Your first thoughts when you heard Michaela Dapprich was transferring to UNO from Wichita State were most likely positive.  Probably the same excitement you get every time Christopher Nolan released a trailer for a new Batman film.

A Missouri Valley Conference Honorable Mention Player wants to come play basketball at UNO?  Sweet.

It was like over night there was hope that Mikaela Shaw and Remy Davenport would have a consistent third threat on offense.  In 2013-2014, the Mavericks had Paige Frauendorfer, Jamie Nash, and Carolyn Blair-Mobley as a dangerous Big 3.  Now, Maverick fans had a feeling that we could have that same type of threat in 2016-2017.

It seemed to take Dapprich a bit to find her stride with the Mavericks.  She struggled as the Mavericks struggled with their difficult non-conference schedule, but came around to find consistency on offense when the team got to conference play, in a competitive year for the Summit League.

In conference play, Dapprich is currently 6th in points per game, 5th in 3 point field goals made and 3 point field goal percentage, and 5th in overall field goal percentage.

You would never expect her teammate Mikaela Shaw to take a possession off, but you could feel comfortable as a Maverick fan that if Shaw was struggling, that Dapprich could take over.  Dapprich is also not afraid of the big shot and looks to score in clutch moments when the Mavericks need the ball the most.

The only thing you regret about Michaela Dapprich joining the Mavericks is that it makes you really wish we had more time with her.

Abi Lujan

Lujan is one of those special players that does not need stats to make a difference in a basketball game.  Her will and hustle is enough to swing possessions in the Mavericks favor.  When the Mavericks needed a spark off the bench in her senior season, Lujan was not shy to provide such a spark.  She was one of the best Mavericks in her junior and senior years with the team at boxing out and taking away rebounds when needed.

Mikaela Shaw

Plain and simple, the Mavericks will never have a player like Shaw ever again.  As a true all around talent, she will leave a legacy at UNO as arguably the greatest women’s basketball the university has ever seen.

Shaw came to Omaha during a difficult time for the Mavericks.  They were already in transition and moving through a coaching change in her freshman season with an entirely new roster.  She has seen a revolving door of teammates on her rosters and she remained with the program.

Her freshman season was filled with moments that had you thinking she was going to be an all time great.

A rare talent on offense, Shaw has probably spent some time at every single position for the Mavericks.  She’s one of the best players you’ve probably ever seen at picking her spots and playing with or without the ball.  Watching her on offense is similar to watching Batman in The Dark Knight secretly tying up all of the SWAT team members so he can push them over the ledge to go get a one-on-one with the Joker.  She systematically runs through every member of the defense to find her spots for open shots.

Shaw will leave UNO as the greatest.


A nerdy thing I like to do is keep track of the career and class rankings for the era after transitioning.  Though a young history, here are where these seniors rank respectively.

Points

2nd Marcus Tyus                1272

7th Tra-Deon Hollins       753

20th Kyler Erickson           198

Rebounds

7th Marcus Tyus                  313

9th Tra-Deon Hollins        283

20th Kyler Erickson              97

Assists

1st Tra-Deon Hollins         385

6th Marcus Tyus                  158

14th Kyler Erickson              43

Steals

1st Tra-Deon Hollins         220

4th Marcus Tyus                  117

18th Kyler Erickson             24

Blocks

9th Tra-Deon Hollins          20

15th Marcus Tyus                   12

21st Kyler Erickson                 5

3 Point Field Goals

1st Marcus Tyus                     161

8th Tra-Deon Hollins            54

15th Kyler Erickson                27

 


Points

1st Mikaela Shaw                   1731

7th Michaela Dapprich          376

22nd Abi Lujan                         182

Rebounds

1st Mikaela Shaw                    880

4th Abi Lujan                           290

17th Michaela Dapprich        119

Assists

2nd Mikaela Shaw                   303

10th Abi Lujan                            59

13th Michaela Dapprich          49

Steals

2nd Mikaela Shaw                   136

9th Abi Lujan                              42

12th Michaela Dapprich          37

Blocks

4th Mikaela Shaw                      49

9th Abi Lujan                               14

12th Michaela Dapprich           11

3 Point Field Goals

7th Michaela Dapprich             49

9th Mikaela Shaw                       42

17th Abi Lujan                              19

 

Summit League Predictions: Feb 22-25

A little better last week, but damn it this league is hard.

February 22

North Dakota State @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

The Bison really had no answer for Albert Owens in Fargo as he went off for 28 points and 9 rebounds for the losing Golden Eagles.  The Bison have lost their last 2 road games, and this will be Oral Roberts’ Mega Bowl as they are only playing for a good show and to send their seniors out the right way on their last game.

Omaha @ Denver

Denver shot 64 percent the last time these two teams played, and still lost.  The Mavericks were able to pick up a win in Denver last season, but with 29 points from Jake White as the rest of the team struggled a bit.

Okay, I might be trying to reverse jinx the Mavericks here.

It costs $9.95 to view this game on the Pioneers’ website.  I really don’t want to give them my money, but I might.

February 23

Fort Wayne @ IUPUI on ESPN3

Fort Wayne defeated the Jaguars by 30 a month ago.  IUPUI had 20 turnovers in that game, and it’s probably a bad idea to give the fast paced team like Fort Wayne the ball 20 times at home.

The Jaguars will not turn the ball over that much at home, but their offense is not good enough, even against a sub par defense like Fort Wayne’s, to put up enough points to make up the difference against the Mastodons.  I say that, and remember at one time Western Illinois once outscored Fort Wayne.

South Dakota @ Western Illinois on ESPN3

Western Illinois’ defense is capable of frustrating South Dakota, but South Dakota’s defense is also capable of frustrating the non-existent offense of Western Illinois.

South Dakota was without Tyler Flack and were able to beat Western Illinois in Vermillion.  The Leathernecks’ post players are not very well built to stop a player like Flack.

February 25

Denver @ South Dakota State on ESPN3

After a 51 point and 15 rebound performance against a fast paced offensive Fort Wayne, Mike Daum gets a week of rest to play a fast paced offensive Denver.

Maybe this is Mike Daum’s last game in Brookings?  Maybe not.  Either way, good luck Denver.

South Dakota @ IUPUI on ESPN3

The Jaguars are completely unpredictable, who knows what they’ll do.  They lost in Vermillion when the Coyotes were playing without Tyler Flack.  The Jaguars will need to knock down threes against the South Dakota defense, but the match up of the day could come down to Tyler Flack versus Matt O’Leary.

North Dakota State @ Omaha

The Mavericks have shown that they are a tough team to beat when they come out with a high energy level, and they should definitely be playing with some energy on senior night for Marcus Tyus and Tra-Deon Hollins…and Kyler Erickson.

Are the Mavericks going to get a medical hardship for Erickson and make him a 7 year senior next season?

The game between these two last season in Omaha was one of the better games Maverick fans have seen at Baxter Arena or Ralston Arena.  The energy for both teams was high.  The Bison had to figure out how to play without AJ Jacobson, who was in foul trouble.  Jake White had to sit a little bit with some foul trouble, but came back into the game and made huge shot after huge shot.  The Bison were also without Paul Miller in that game, and he is capable of hitting big shots against the Mavericks defense.  Hollins, Tyus, Zach Jackson, and Daniel Norl will need to play big defensive minutes and slow him down.

The Bison are also not the greatest team on the road.  They have lost their last 3 of 4 on the road with the one win at Western Illinois.

Fort Wayne @ Western Illinois on ESPN3

Okay, so my take on their previous match up couldn’t have been more wrong as I just wrote:

HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA

Western Illinois somehow won that game.

Western Illinois was in a zone in that stretch of the season where they were hitting threes with consistency and putting up points.  Other than a 91 point performance in a double overtime game last week, the Leathernecks have struggled to score over the last month and a half.

Garret Covington and Mike Miklusak could go off against the poor defense of Fort Wayne.  That could be enough to top the Mastodons, maybe.

This could potentially be Billy Wright’s last game with Western Illinois.  Maybe the Leathernecks will want to see what he can do next season with a core of Brandon Gilbeck, Dalan Ancrum, and CJ Duff.  I don’t really know though, Western Illinois appears to care the least about athletics in the league.  He’s only been at Western Illinois for 3 seasons, but the Leathernecks have still yet to earn 20 wins over D1 teams.

The most trivial Summit League rankings: Feb 21

There is no way to even pretend ranking the Summit League one to nine would even be accurate at this point.  So this week, we’re going to rank them by tiers.

Tier 1: The all around and consistent

North Dakota State & South Dakota

North Dakota State

Remaining Schedule: Wednesday @ Oral Roberts, Saturday @ Omaha

South Dakota

Remaining Schedule: Thursday @ Western Illinois, Saturday @ IUPUI

Let’s just put this out there right now:  Neither of these teams are a lock to win both of their remaining games, but they are both guaranteed the top two spots in the Summit League tournament.  The two top seeds have a day off in the bracket, assuming they win their first game.

South Dakota is playing two of the possible teams to end up as the 7th or 8th seed, so that’s nice.

Tier 2: The fun, but also frustrating to watch

Denver, Fort Wayne, Omaha, South Dakota State

Going into the final week of the regular season, all four teams could finish as high as 3rd in the Summit League or as low as 7th.  Such a weird year.  Amazingly, all four teams have fast paced offenses and struggle to find consistency on defense.  These are most likely to be the 3 to 6 seeds in the Summit League tournament, and really all of their match ups will just come down to dumb fouls being called and watch coach doesn’t lose their mind in the middle of a first round tournament game.

Might be helpful if either of them can come up with some defensive stops in the tournament.  That would be like asking Hugh Grant to actually be interesting in a movie.

I assume neither Denver, Fort Wayne, or Omaha want to play South Dakota State in Sioux Falls for the first round, and then possibly play South Dakota in the second round.

Denver

Remaining Schedule: Wednesday vs. Omaha, Saturday @ South Dakota State

Fort Wayne

Remaining Schedule: Thursday @ IUPUI, Saturday @ Western Illinois

Omaha

Remaining Schedule:  Wednesday @ Denver, Saturday vs. North Dakota State

South Dakota State

Remaining Schedule: Saturday vs. Denver

Tier 3: The IUPUI

IUPUI

The one thing keeping IUPUI out of Tier 2 is that they have so much inconsistency, you really have no idea what you’re getting when you see them play.  They pick up wins against North Dakota State and Omaha one week, and then the next week drop games to Oral Roberts and South Dakota State.  Still, they can finish as high as 3rd in the conference and as low as 8th.

Remaining Schedule: Thursday vs. Fort Wayne, Saturday vs. South Dakota

Tier 4: The Ouch

Oral Roberts and Western Illinois

Oral Roberts

Remaining Schedule: Wednesday vs. North Dakota State

I actually do not think a win Wednesday night will matter for the Golden Eagles.  Even if they beat North Dakota State, Western Illinois swept Oral Roberts.

Albert Owens had a decent year.

Western Illinois

Remaining Schedule:  Thursday vs. South Dakota, Saturday vs. Fort Wayne

Good for the Leathernecks having their final two games at home, but the team that struggles to score is going to have to figure out a way to outscore two of the better offenses in the league in three days.

Tyus versus Bradley: A match up we never expected

Thursday night will mark, probably, the last time that Marcus Tyus and Jalen Bradley face off against each other, a match up Maverick fans never expected to see.

Seeing Marcus Bradley and Jalen Bradley in Omaha gear for the first time gave me a mix of emotions.

The first time I saw Tyus in person, he was coming off the bench to play a Western Illinois squad in the Ralston Arena.  He came into the game, and it appeared as if someone replaced the muscle in his arms with paper mache.  He didn’t scored any points and had only had 1 rebound, and I just found myself wondering why the hell the Mavericks were not redshirting this kid for his own benefit, and for the benefit of the program having him another year when they officially had a chance at making the post season.  The Mavs decision to not redshirt Tyus was apparently made the day before the 2012-2013 season started.

I questioned what this skinny guy from Minnesota could do.  I remember searching the ends of the internet to find any information I could on this freshman, and there was nothing.  This was a time, where it was easy to question why a kid would want to come play basketball at a school transitioning to division one.  There was nothing out there, almost as if he never existed.

That same season, we saw another freshman of that recruiting class, Jalen Bradley, sitting at the end of the bench who was redshirting.  As a fellow Nebraskan, it was easy to know where to go to get the details on Bradley.  It was known that he was a great shooter, and probably needed to work on his defense and point guard skills.  The fans that showed up to games in 2012-2013 could watch Bradley come out before the beginning of warm ups, and watch him drain half court shots as easy as free throws.

Omaha was the only school to give Bradley a division one offer at the time, and I’m not sure how much stock you want to put in Omaha’s division one status at the time.  As far as I can tell, Omaha was also the only division one offer for Marcus Tyus.

The question I had back then was: why are the Mavericks redshirting this one kid who appears to have the exact same positives and negatives of this other kid?

This may sound as if I was resentful toward Tyus over Bradley as a freshman.  I was not.  Both players were part of maybe UNO’s best recruiting class, but perhaps the 2015 recruiting class will prove to be a bigger asset to the program.  With the Mavericks coming closer to post season eligibility with each passing season, it was understandable that the recruiting would improve year-after-year.

With the recruiting continuing to improve, I never imagined either Tyus or Bradley to become starters for the Mavericks.  I was always under the impression that they would have been the high energy and highly efficient guys first off the bench when the transition period was over.

The first impression of Tyus wasn’t great, but after time you could see there was a spark to his game.  At first, he may have seemed as just a shooter.  There was an efficiency to his game, something that many Mavericks at the division one level had not had.

He handles the ball with ease, and moves around screens into open shots or open lanes to get wherever he wants on the basketball court.  Tyus even rarely makes a pass that has you wondering what he could have possibly been thinking in that scenario, unlike many other stars that have come through the Maverick program.

In Tyus’ sophomore season, he saw a slight increase of minutes in the line up due to injuries to senior Justin Simmons.  At the time, it became maybe questionable as to why Tyus was getting the start over senior Alex Phillips.  Tyus’ efficiency on the offensive end could have been the deciding factor as to why he got the starting job.

From his freshman to his sophomore season, Tyus’ points per game average increased by 3.4 points per game, and his minutes only increased by 1.5 minutes per game.

While Tyus was seeing success, Jalen Bradley was struggling to see the court as a Maverick. Bradley only played 9 minutes per game as a freshman, which were mostly garbage time minutes, and his lone season as a Maverick was cut short due to an injury.  Still, when Bradley saw the court, he was never timid to score.  He averaged nearly 5 points per game in his limited time, shot 50 percent from the field, and 40 percent on threes.

With the addition of Devin Patterson, I’m sure Bradley felt he may never see the court with the Mavericks, and that maybe there was no role for him in Omaha.

Bradley’s transfer for more playing time was understandable, but when Tyus went down with an injury toward the end of 2014-2015, Bradley’s presence on the basketball court would have been much appreciated.

With the loss of Tyus, and having no Bradley, the Mavericks were left without an efficient guard who could knock down threes with ease.  Can you imagine Omaha with Jalen Bradley on the court in 2015-2016 without Marcus Tyus?  The Mavericks would have had a knock down shooter.  He would of had the bigger role he was seeking.

Even without an injury to Tyus, Bradley would’ve eventually found a role with the Mavericks by his junior season.  Both the Omaha and Oral Roberts coaching staffs have given him a high amount of praise for how hard of a worker he is in the gym and in the weight room.  He may have had even the same role at Omaha as he currently does at Oral Roberts, but obviously the cast of Omaha could be different at this point had he stayed.

But Bradley did leave, he averaged over 17 points per game in junior college, and picked up interest that led him to being a Golden Eagle, so we’ll never know what could have been.

I am not sure if there are any ill feelings from Bradley toward Tyus for being part of the reason he didn’t get a lot of playing time in Omaha, but in their first meeting as opponents, Bradley helped the Golden Eagles cruise to a victory and had 24 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and only had 1 turnover while Tyus dealt with foul problems and only had 10 points.

According to the commentators, Bradley had his parents in attendance in Tulsa…and also according to them, you always play better in front of your family.  Bradley will surely have his Nebraskan family seeing him in Omaha Thursday night, and they will definitely show up to see the senior play in Vermillion, where his sister also plays basketball.

Back in 2012, we never envisioned a day that we would see Bradley and Tyus going up against each other.  As Mav fans, this might be awkward for us.  Rooting on Tyus to defend Bradley well, but still kind of okay with Bradley having a good game.