Summit League Championship preview

We’re all so juiced right now, right?!

All season I have been hoping to see Omaha rise up to what they are capable of being and blow someone out.  It was part of my desire to not wanting to be stressed out for two hours of watching sports.

The best part about last night night is that the Mavericks were able to defend the passing lanes and create havoc just as they did last season.  The entire team was playing with a huge amount of energy, and there is really no reason why they wont bring the energy tonight.  Even with the team only shooting 24 percent on threes, the Mavericks were able to play their brand of basketball and showcase an incredible performance.

It’s unfortunate that the Mavericks have to play in the championship game which is pretty much on the road, but this is still one of the greatest opportunities Omaha has ever had.

Yes, most of the arena will be wearing blue, but there will be some black and crimson.  This is the Mavericks moment, though.  The players and coaches have said they love playing in the big away games, and taking the home crowd out of it with big plays.  Since the Mavericks beat the Jackrabbits in Brookings this season, the only game the Jackrabbits have lost to in the state of South Dakota was to South Dakota in Vermillion.

We’ve been talking about the mind game for the Mavericks, but tonight they’re going up against a team that also has something in their own heads.  The Jackrabbits have under performed this season, and even though they were able to pick up a win against the Mavericks in Omaha, they let Omaha shoot all over them in Brookings.  Both teams almost gave up big leads to escape with wins on the road in the regular season against each other.  Neither team is just going to lay down and let the other one take this win.

Mike Daum is clearly going to demand an incredible amount of attention from the Mavericks.  He is like their Super Shredder.  Watching him play basketball at times is like watching the opening scene in X Men 2 when Nightcrawler dominates the Secret Service into submission.  Hopefully, like that scene, the Mavericks can stop Daum before he does anything catastrophic.

A big factor in the game is if Tre’Shawn Thurman can stay out of foul trouble and challenge Daum enough to throw him off of his game.  If Thurman get into foul trouble, Zach Pirog, Daniel Meyer, and Mitch Hahn will need to be ready.  Meyer is not the type of player that can really defend Daum, but Pirog can.  In Omaha, Pirog’s length really bothered Daum on possessions; and the Mavericks were +11 with him on the court.  Derrin Hansen doesn’t give Pirog a lot of minutes, but if things with Daum get a little dicey he may want to take a chance on Pirog.

It’s easy to look at this as OH MY GOD, NOT MIKE DAUM, but there are other guys that Omaha needs to worry about.  With all the attention on Daum, backup center Ian Theisen is able to find wide open looks against the Mavericks and knock down big shots.  He had 15 points off the bench on 6-of-8 shooting in Brookings against the Mavs.  Theisen did suffer an injury after the Jackrabbits trip to Omaha and missed 6 games and has struggled to find a role in the last three games for the Jackrabbits.  Omaha is healthier and has some more depth than South Dakota State, but that doesn’t mean the guys who can step up wont step up.

Michael Orris is also a good point guard that can really control the offense for the Jackrabbits, so hopefully the Mavericks can continue this great team defense to disrupt what he can do.  Reed Tellinghuisen is another guy that the Mavericks cannot underestimate.  Tellinghuisen has struggled this season, and has even gone 1-of-10 on threes against the Mavericks this season.  He shot lights out against Omaha as a freshman and sophomore, and the Jackrabbits appear to be more successful when Tellinghuisen gets hot so forcing him to a struggle bus is key.

How about who the Jackrabbits need to go up against?

The Jackrabbits have struggled defensively for much of the season, just like the Mavericks, but they have shown signs that they are capable of being a quality defensive team. With Ian Theisen and other senior AJ Hess both slowed down with injuries, who is going to defend Mitch Hahn who is playing incredible basketball right now and seems more focused than any other play we have ever seen?  He could literally hit a shot from anywhere on the court.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit a trailer 3 from the half court line.  Hahn had a three in the first half where he was about 5 feet behind the three point line and he just looked at the IUPUI defender, who was giving him the space, like: Seriously, do you not know who I am?

The Mavericks got their huge emotional game out of the way on Sunday night when they topped the team that scared them the most, and the Jackrabbits got their huge emotional game out of the way last night against their in-state rival.  The Mavericks are playing with a high level of confidence, and they’re playing smart basketball right now.  They have to continue that if they want the biggest win in program history.

When the Mavericks entered the Summit League, South Dakota State was the program they were striving to be, and now they have the chance to show that they have come a long way to be where they want to be.

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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.

My trivial Summit League rankings: Feb 14th

We’re getting closer to the end of the season, and we still have no idea what the Summit League bracket will look like.  Might as well just do something like this, I guess.

1. South Dakota

Somehow, the team of mostly newcomers is the best defensive team and the most efficient offensive team in the Summit League.  Their roster also only has one senior on the team.

The Coyotes are also more dimensional than they appear.  Unlike most the other teams in the conference, they can survive stretches without their stars on the court.  Bench players are starting to come around and find their roles, and the entire team is filled with confidence at the right time of the season.

This team reminds me of old NBA and NCAA video games, actually NBA games may still have this, I wouldn’t know because I don’t play a lot of video games… but, where you can just hit a button and put in your best defensive 5, your three point shooting 5, you big lineup, your small lineup, and whatever.

I think it was generally agreed upon that the most difficult stretch of the conference season for the Coyotes was going to be their three game home stretch at Omaha, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne and they would really prove themselves if they could get through that tough stretch.  They went 2-1 on that stretch.  We were taking the Coyotes seriously before, now it’s time to take them even more seriously.

2. North Dakota State

Right there with the Coyotes, just not quite as consistent as South Dakota, but still more consistent than the rest of the Summit League.

3. Fort Wayne

Top 3 team in the Summit League in offensive efficiency, bottom 3 in defense.

If the ‘Dons are in the first round against Denver or Omaha, they probably have the greatest chance to make it to the 2nd round.  Getting to the Summit League championship game though, seems like a challenge…but it’s going to be a challenge for everyone.

4. Denver

You take the young players of an efficient system from the old Pioneers and combine it with the fast run-and-gun type of offense like Fort Wayne, and it turns out to be pretty solid.

Like South Dakota, their roster only has one senior.  Denver’s lone senior has played 5 minutes this entire season.

I think I figured out the two teams that will be at the top of the 2017-2018 preseason rankings.

5. Omaha

I have never left or turned off a UNO basketball game before the end of regulation.  I came close and debated it when the Mavs played IUPUI in the Baxter Arena.

The Jaguars embarrassed the Mavericks, and IUPUI wasn’t doing anything special except for not being completely dysfunctional as they have been for a majority of the season.

The mindset of this team is questionable right now.  They have confidence with the base that you need to win the conference tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament, so it’s not like it’s a big deal if they don’t win all the conference games.  It’s going to be difficult to win three games in three days if your team is averaging 15 turnovers, and 12 of those turnovers are completely unforced.

6. IUPUI

It’s February and transfers Ron Patterson and Kellon Thomas seem to be finally gelling in a back court with Darell Combs

Without a doubt, the Jaguars appear to be the biggest I Wonder Which Team of Theirs Will Actually Show Up Tonight team.

7. South Dakota State

Through injuries, lack of talent, and a transfer, the Jackrabbits have a serious depth problem.  A struggling Reed Tellinghuisen was finally able to break out of a slump on Saturday with 28 points on 8-of-13 threes but while playing 38 minutes against a tough South Dakota defense, Tellinghuisen became noticeably tired and couldn’t hit clutch shots.

If Tellinghuisen can be consistently good, and Ian Theisen and AJ Hess can come back healthy and ready to go, the Jackrabbits can be a tough out in Sioux Falls…but could that be asking for a lot?

8. Western Illinois

Out of all the teams that should make the Summit League tournament, you would be the absolute most shocked if it was Western Illinois who got on a hot streak and won the tournament, right?  I think we all understand that it’s not impossible, but in the last 6 games the Leathernecks have not even reached 70 points in a game.  They’re going to need some offense to surprise anyone in the Summit League tournament, especially North Dakota State or South Dakota.

9. Oral Roberts

The Golden Eagles are not out of it yet, but they are currently sitting in 9th and their remaining games are: @ Omaha, @ South Dakota, and versus North Dakota State.

IUPUI’s remaining schedule: @ South Dakota State, @ Denver, vs. Fort Wayne, vs. South Dakota

South Dakota State’s remaining schedule: vs. IUPUI, @ Fort Wayne, vs. Denver

Western Illinois’ remaining schedule: @ North Dakota State, vs. South Dakota, vs. Fort Wayne.

After putting that out there, I actually don’t feel great for IUPUI.  Don’t feel great for anyone, actually.  Not even super confident about Omaha.

My trivial Summit League rankings – Nov 23

1. Fort Wayne

Duh, a win over the # 3 team in the country is going to get you stuck at number one in the Summit League until someone else knocks you off.  The ‘Dons are a complete package.  They can play big, play small, shoot, and defend.  Two of their guards had double-doubles in points and rebounds against Indiana.

2. South Dakota

The Coyotes have had an easy schedule so far, but they are still 5-1.  Three of their wins have been considered upsets, and they compete until the very end.  Craig Smith has a competitive roster this season. The Coyotes may lack some size, but most of the Summit League lacks size this season.

3. North Dakota State

The Bison are also 5-1 and have had a relatively easy schedule.  They still have the best Kenpom ranking in the Summit League.  The Bison did beat Arkansas State, who beat Georgetown, so take that for what it is worth.

Last night, the Bison beat Waldorf, which is nothing big, but they were playing without one of their key players, AJ Jacobson.  Jacobson has had problems with his thumb, which he had surgery on over the summer.  If this is something that bothers Jacobson and his shooting all season, the Bison may end up having issues over the course of the conference season.

4. Omaha

With the hardest schedule in the Summit League so far, the Mavericks are sitting at 2-3 and still have tougher non-conference games ahead.

Attendance wise, the Mavericks have also had a rough start to the season.  They were competing with the tail end of the Nebraska-Maryland game when Rice came to Baxter Arena, and played Buena Vista while the Omaha women were playing at Nebraska.

5. IUPUI

I was about to say that the Jaguars’ win against Eastern Michigan was the best win in the Summit League this season, but now it’s not even the best win in their own state.

The Jaguars have their next five games on the road, and are probably not considered favorite in any of those games.

6. South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits have also played a difficult schedule.  They have still yet to beat a division one team, and the one team they did beat was Wayne State, and the Jackrabbits only won by 8.

Mike Daum is good, but can he be good enough to carry the entire team through the Summit League tournament?  Reed Tellinhuisen, Tevin King, and AJ Hess are going to need to show some consistency for this team to remain one of the top teams in the conference.

7. Denver

HOW HAS THIS TEAM ONLY PLAYED 2 GAMES?

8. Western Illinois

The Leathernecks have also yet to beat a division one team, and they may not do that until the month of December.  Junior forward Dalan Ancrum has been a nice surprise going from 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game last season to 10 points and 4.7 rebounds so far this season.

9. Oral Roberts

The Golden Eagles have also had a tough schedule, and have also yet to beat a division one basketball team.  They were able to take Ole Miss to overtime with the team shooting 47 percent from the field.  Oral Roberts has the makings to be a very extremely inconsistent.  They could look really good one game, and really terrible the next game.

The Mavericks: Reloaded

2016-2017 is going to be a bit of a sequel to last season.  Consider it The Mavericks: Reloaded.  Is The Matrix Reloaded the 2nd or the 3rd one of the Matrix series?  They blend together to me for 4 and a 1/2 hours of stupidity for me, so it is difficult to remember.

The Mavericks graduate Kyler Erickson, Devin Patterson, Randy Reed, Tim Smallwood, Jake White from the program.  Each player brought something unique to help guide the program through the first year of transition into the CBI.  Erickson brought the heart, and the other 4 bought some earth element to create a superhero to save the world of disaster.  Normally teams that lose 5 seniors do not compete too highly the following season, but the Mavericks get to quickly reload their roster with Marcus Tyus (redshirted to recover an injury), Mitchell Hahn (redshirted due to transfer from Holy Cross), and JT Gibson (only played 10 games due to an injury).

The decision to redshirt Tyus apparently came a day or two before the start of the regular season.  Really, it was a smart move on the part of the Mavericks.  He tore his ACL in February of 2015, and normally tearing your ACL takes over a year to fully recover.  I still showed up to the opening game and had a 2 hour WHERE IS TYUS panic attack for that game.

You have got to think that Tyus will get the most shot attempts on this team next season.  His junior season, he may have had one of the most efficient seasons since the transition to division one, for a guard at least.  In his junior season he shot 49% from the floor and 44% on threes.  The only guard who really came close to that, that played most of a season, was Justin Simmons who shot 47% from the field and 40% on threes in his junior season.

While Tyus may take over as the primary shot taker, he never really showed the ability to create his shot in the same capacity that Devin Patterson could.  I’m not really sure this program has seen a guy that has that ability that Patterson had, and no one remaining on the roster is really that guy who can do that; so next season the team will have to work together more to get open looks…which can be good because of less standing around and less jump shots with 25 seconds on the shot clock.  Patterson attempted 5 threes a game in 2015-2016, granted that number would have been lower with Tyus on the floor, but Tyus should be taking about 4 threes a game in his senior season, but his percentage should put him at making the same number of threes each game as Patterson did in 2016.  Tyus wont really need to create his own shot with a play maker like Tra-Deon Hollins with him in the back court.

The Mavericks finished 8th in the conference in three point field goal percentage at 33.7%, but that number should go up with Tyus, Hahn, and Gibson on the court; and also Hollins improved from behind the arch as the season went on.  Hollins shot 17% on threes in November and December, and 39% on threes after January 1st.

Aside from the expected better shooting; arguably the best post player the Mavericks have had since transition, Jake White is graduating and that will be a huge piece to make up. Tre’Shawn Thurman will continue to get better and should be an All Conference player in his junior season.  Daniel Meyer and Zach Pirog will really have to improve this summer to help make up for that post production.  I never got to actually watch Mitchell Hahn in high school, but he doesn’t appear to be the same type of rebounder that Jake White was, or a dominating post player against Nebraska high school basketball.  Hahn has the ability to handle the ball and play as a very tall three, which could make the Mavericks very versatile team.  Either way, I hope one of the main on the court goals of the Mavericks this season will be to get my section to stop screaming “BOX THE EF OUT!”

The Mavericks currently have 10 players on scholarship.  Maybe 11 if they give Ben Kositzke a scholarship, who actually could be a pretty underrated player.  He has some really nice post moves, a baseline jump shot as good as Jake White’s, and he just had a year of redshirting to work out on basketball.  Kositzke also apparently had a scholarship offer to Tennessee Tech out of high school.  I was telling my wife about some of the Mavs’ roster and mentioned this, and she usually does some shit talking whenever a university in the state of Tennessee is brought up, instead she was like: “Tennessee Tech, really?  They’re a really good program, that’s a great scholarship offer…and he walked on to the Mavericks?  That’s great!”  That’s got to be worth something.

Speaking of basketball in Tennessee: the Omaha signee Daniel Norl, originally from the state of Tennessee, appears as if he can really add depth to the Mavericks back court.  The 6’2″ guard averaged 11 points, shot 50% from the floor, and 40% on threes for a top 25 junior college in 2015-2016.  He started his career at Eastern Kentucky after getting offers from Tennessee Tech, Belmont, Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State, and Murray State.  In his highlight videos you can tell he is a solid defender and likes to make the extra pass on offense.

There are still many available transferring players out there.  It is unclear if Nebraska’s Johnny Trueblood is going to transfer somewhere to play basketball, or if he going to just destroy every pickup basketball game in Lincoln; but many Husker fans on the Husker Hoops Central would like to see him transfer to UNO.  I’m sure both South Dakota schools will try and move in on Trueblood should he decide to pick the Mavericks.

South Dakota State was able to pick up a transfer from Southern Utah, AJ Hess, who will be a senior and eligible to play immediately for the Jackrabbits.  Hess only played in 6 games for South Utah in 2015-2016; in his junior season at SUU, he averaged 11.7 points and 3.7 rebounds; Hess also shot 44% from the floor, 41% on threes, and better than 80% at the free throw line.  The Jackrabbits are going to be able to put out some bigger lineups with two 6’6″ guys who can play the guard position.

I’m bummed that Omaha Benson/Iowa Western’s Thik Bol committed to Southern Illinois.  His post defense combined with Hollins’ perimeter defense would have been a delightful combination on the court.

With the potential to sign two to three more players, and another assistant coach, the Mavericks still have a lot to come in the next few weeks.