Omaha women’s basketball was always about potential under Brittany Lange, and still is

Chance Lindley apparently just didn’t show up to work one day.

He left college coaching and just moved away or something with little to no notice.  I think I saw somewhere a while back that he actually moved to Wichita and ran a bakery, for some reason. It’s also possible this life isn’t real and we’re in a simulation and there was just a glitch in Lindley and he was written out of the coding in this matrix.  I don’t know, I’m not into conspiracies, but it sounds like it could hold up.

Lindley spent just two seasons as the head coach at Omaha, and he was actually pretty successful in his tenure at the school, even if you legitimately forgot who he was.  He posted a 32-23 record with stars Paige Frauendorfer and Jamie Nash on Maverick roster, as they were transitioning to division one.

In that time, he assembled a really good recruiting class with Mikaela Shaw and Madi Robson in the group.

Either way, Lindley left us and ghosted us like a match on a dating app.  His departure created an opening for 26 year old Brittany Lange to take on the opportunity as an interim coach.  Lange was taking over a roster filled with fresh faces, but also filled with potential.

Most of us think we can do our jobs better than our boss.  Hell, my direct boss is socially inept, and she has said a total of 9 words in person to me in 2 1/2 years.  Regardless, I can’t imagine coming into work one day and having her boss say: “yeah, so they just aren’t answering their phone.  You’re in their role now, and all your subordinates need to be trained.  Cool, I’ve got some golf to go play. don’t mess up” and then me actually doing the job, let alone have the local newspaper reporting on it…and at 26 years old.

I am the same age as Brittany Lange, so naturally she’s the Omaha Maverick head coach I would want to sit down and talk to the most, if ever given the opportunity to talk to any Omaha Maverick head coach.  I’d literally be made of questions around her, and they’d all be questions about being a head coach at 26 years old, in a scenario in which she didn’t even really apply the job.

I’m trying to think of all the things I was doing at 26 years old. I was working a job I didn’t really like, thinking Blue Moon was craft beer, drinking a lot beer, starting a really bad basketball blog, and watching endless amounts of videos of people online skateboarding off of things.

My friends were either starting grad school or finishing grad school, drinking craft beer, and drinking a lot of beer, working jobs for way less than they were worth, having kids, and sharing endless amounts of videos of people skateboarding off of things.

Just thinking of how different Lange’s life was from other people’s lives around her age has always fascinated me.  She was the head coach of a division one basketball team, and while you all say “I could do that,” no you can’t.  The Mavericks went 12-16 in her first season as head coach, a team made up of just one senior, 5 freshmen, 3 junior college transfers, and two injured wing players; Brianna Bogard who played just 4 games and Cathleen Cox who missed the entire season.

Lange had the interim taken off of her title and she was awarded the head coaching position with the Mavericks.  In her second season as head coach, the Mavericks roster consisted of mostly freshmen and sophomores, and the future appeared bright with Mikaela Shaw and the young core.

After seeing a group of players leave after her second year, Lange brought in arguably her best recruiting class into the 2015-2016 season.  The class included sisters Michaela and Moriah Dapprich, sisters transferring from Wichita State, as well as Texas Tech transfer center Courtney Vaccher.  Freshmen players like: Kalen Phillips, who was a 4 star athlete on ESPN, Sara Echelberry, a 6’2″ versatile forward who appeared to have the skills to play all three front court positions, Amber Vidal, a streaky floor general point guard, center Caroline Hogue who averaged 3 blocks a game as a freshman at UNO, the sharpshooting Ellie Brecht, and local center Jay Bridgeman.

In 2015-2016, the Mavericks finished 15-15, and made it to the second round of the Summit League tournament.  The future never appeared brighter for the Maverick women.  As fans, we saw the potential in the freshman and knew we were going to be adding Vaccher and the Dapprich sisters to this roster. I haven’t even mentioned Remy Davenport, who was fantastic with the Mavericks.

We thought the only problem the team might have would be having maybe too much talent and the coaching staff figuring out how to divide up all the minutes.  In our minds, we really thought we were going to have a three deep rotation at center with Vaccher, Hogue, Bridgeman, and maybe even Echelberry.  The 2015-2016 team also had 6’3″ rim protector Vanessa Barajas as a back up center.

In March 2016, I was convinced the Mavericks would win the Summit League tournament a year later.  The team even picked up Jess Walter, a transfer from Indiana, who would sit out the year, but it felt like another ingredient for the future after the expected greatness.

Over the Summer, Hogue and Barajas both left the program and the Mavericks lost their rim protection.  The Mavericks still had their most talented roster since transitioning to division one, but it wasn’t enough as the team finished below expectations for a 5th place finish in the Summit League.  2016-2017 was the only season Lange would finish with a winning record.

Make any excuse you want for Lange, but through injuries and early departures, Lange was constantly left struggling with trying to figure out how to get her teams to gel. Having to change the team’s starting lineup game-after-game, players appeared to struggle with their constantly changing roles.

Lange would consistently recruit solid recruiting classes, but each class consistently brought players transferring out of the program.  With all the potential in her recruiting classes, Lange only had 3 players play 4 years in her program: Mikaela Shaw, Taijhe Kelly, and Kalen Phillips.  Yet, when you account for all of the injuries that occurred in her tenure to Jay Bridgeman, Ellie Brecht, Kalen Phillips, Cathleen Cox, and others you can understand the complications in finding the right lineups.

With the constant turnover to players and assistant coaches, the Mavericks struggled to find an identity.  With the exception of the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons, the Mavericks were always looking for leadership on the court.

This last season was another example of all that turnover.  The roster was once again filled with new faces. The lineup was changed a number of times, roles were changed, the team kept coming close to wins but lost several chances late in the game, and players struggled to find consistency.

Like any other season under Lange’s tenure, fans can take note of the team’s potential.  Lange recruited wine players to the Omaha program, and year-after-year we saw the potential of where the program might be a year or two later.  As a fan, I wish we could see where the program might go with this core of talent and Brittany Lange, but year-after-year, we saw the mass exodus in the program.  Perhaps, a coaching change can take the potential Lange brought to the program and bring it some stability.  Maybe even be competitive with the likes of South Dakota and South Dakota State.

Lange leaves the program with some pieces attractive to a new coach.

Freshman Ella Ogier had perhaps statistically one of the most successful freshman seasons since Mikaela Shaw.  Sophomore center Mariah Murdie was named 2nd Team all conference, the first time a Maverick has been awarded to (1st or) 2nd Team since 2017.

The Mavericks finished 2-14 in the Summit League in Lange’s last season, but had 6 conference losses by 6 points or less.  The Mavericks will lose just one senior, and the foundation for a great team is there.

Lange took on a job no one really wanted at the time.  She will find an assistant coaching job and hopefully grow into the potential in her we all saw as fans, and I have no doubt she will be a head coach again. She will leave the Omaha program with pieces for a bright future, for the right coach.

As far as a head coaching search goes, all I’m going to say is: Connie Yori currently lives in Omaha.

I have no business listing off potential softball coaching candidates

I think the retirement of Jeanne Scarpello shocked a lot of Maverick faithful last week.  It was pretty unexpected considering the Mavericks just got through transition and have a bright future in softball, but per the release is stepping away to spend more time with family and you have to respect that.  Coaching softball takes up an incredible amount of my wife’s time and she is only coaching a few months of the year and not having to do all of the recruiting, off season work outs, and fall ball.  Well high school softball in Nebraska is played in the fall, but you get the idea.

I am not sure if Cory Petermann (I just realized that I want to scream “HEY PETER-MAN (Office Space),” will be able to be promoted to head coach or not.  I really hope that if a new coach is hired that they keep Petermann on the staff.  He’s been with the Mavericks for so long and has done so much to make the softball program one of the most successful athletic programs (that is still competing).

I’m not sure about other Mav fans feel, but I am fully confident in the hiring abilities of Trev Alberts and staff.  Dean Blais has taken Hockey to the Frozen Four.  Jason Mims built a program from scratch, his team was ranked in the top 25 for a short while in just the program’s 5th year of existing, and his recruits seem to get better and better each and every single season…which is actually to be expected, but still, it could have ended up much worse.  Chance Lindley was doing a stellar job with the women’s basketball team before unexpectedly in something that was just odd.  Alberts dropped the interim tag off of Brittany Lange, who is really kind of quietly building that basketball program into a competitor and gets better and better every year.  They’re going to be competing in the preseason WNIT in 2016 and they’re starting out at Colorado State, and that team could beat really Colorado State, who made the 2016 NCAA tournament, and possibly face off against Washington in the second round.  Excuse me, I have to go make make sure all of my bills get paid by my SouthWest Airlines Chase card so I can secure enough points for a free flight to Seattle in November…

Anyway, the Mavericks are looking for a softball coach.  I am sure that the process has already started, and we should hear who the newest head coach to Maverick athletics is in the coming weeks, but here are a list of random names that could be out there as potential candidates.  Do I have any business throwing out any names or have any insider info for this?  Certainly, no.  But when a football program like USC (which sucks) is looking for a new coach, some idiot online lists off a bunch of names that where only half of the list is actually being considered by USC and another portion of the list may just want to hear what USC has to say.  It’s just something kind of fun to talk about and contemplate as fans.

I’m content with being the idiot here.  Whatever coach does take over softball at UNO is getting a program that will be returning four All Conference players, and a part of an improving athletic department that is in the middle of upgrading their facilities and has mentioned the potential of a new softball (and baseball) stadium.

Tony Baldwin – Georgia Assistant

I’ve listed Baldwin here for no real reason for other than that I may have been Georgia’s Good Luck Guy.   It’s not a responsibility that I wanted, but it just happened.  Whenever I caught a Georgia softball game on ESPN3, or actual television, they completely dominated their opponent.  The Bulldogs were up 3-1 on Auburn when I was watching in the Women’s College World Series, and then I went for a walk and they ended up losing 3-4.

Baldwin is originally from the state of Indiana and played college baseball at Butler.  He has spent 2 season as an assistant at Georgia, he was an assistant baseball coach at Michigan State before taking on the job at Georgia.  He was mostly responsible for hitting and infielding for the Bulldogs, and in his first season at Georgia the team was 13th in the nation in batting average at .343, and they scored over 7 runs a game.

Jimmy Kolaitis – Oregon Assistant

Seriously, I have no business compiling this list.

Omaha is probably a far stretch for a guy that is an an assistant softball coach in the PAC 12, but going from a big name program to head coaching at a smaller program all to get a job as a head coach at a big name program again seems to be a likely road for many coaches.

Kolaitis was an assistant coach at South Alabama before taking the job at Oregon.  While at Oregon he has been in charge of coaching hitting, and the Ducks have one of the better offenses in college softball.  My wife is a huge Oregon Duck fan (seriously, this list is so biased) so I had to watch a number of Oregon softball games over the last 2 years, and their hitting is…dare I say it…”sick.”  Last season they had 8 of the 9 players in their lineup hitting above .300, which is “sick.”

Diane Miller – Nebraska Assistant

Miller has been an assistant for the Huskers since 2008, after coaching at Colorado State and has been primarily in charge of coaching hitting and the catchers.  With slight uncertainty where the Mavericks are going at the Catcher position after 4 years of Campbell Ditto behind the plate, it would be beneficial having Miller coach up catchers, especially in the beginning.

Miller has coached the Huskers to break more than 30 offensive records since becoming an assistant at Nebraska.  In her time in Lincoln, the Huskers have hit at an average of .295, which is right around where the Mavericks were this last season.  The chance to become a head coach, coach up a team that already has strong hitting, and develop a young team at an already successful program could be a huge attraction to Miller.

Ranae Sinkler – Creighton Assistant

Maybe this would help the relations between the Creighton and UNO program, who have still yet to face off since the Mavericks made the transition.  Sinkler is a Lincoln-native and currently works with hitters and infielders at Creighton, and while she was a player for the Bluejays she won the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award in two separate seasons.

She graduated from Creighton in 2011 and has only been coaching for a few years, so she does not have a ton of experience.  She could continue to help the Mavericks recruit some of the better players out of the state of Nebraska.  This year Creighton had a fielding percentage of .961 and the Mavericks were at .956.

Still, UNO might be a difficult sell to anyone who has been involved with the one program, let alone Creighton, since their freshman year in college.

Jamie Trachsel – North Dakota State Co-Head Coach (Already took job at Iowa State)

So I was going to list Trachsel as a far fetch, but seriously why does North Dakota State need two coaches?  Trachsel took the job at Iowa State last week, and she was in charge of defense, recruiting, and scouting while with the Bison.  The Bison were first in the Summit in fielding percentage this season, and North Dakota’s roster is filled with players from the hot recruiting bed of softball we know as the state of California.  Maybe the Bison’s defense and recruiting will take a slight drop and open up the gates for Omaha and the rest of the Summit League to compete for conference championships again.

If you’re wondering about Iowa State softball: they finished the season at 20-35 and lost to UNO, Creighton, Northern Iowa, and Drake to name a few.

Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler – former Iowa State head coach

Iowa State didn’t renew her contract after going 20-35 in 2016 and had an overall losing record with the Cyclones in her 11 seasons in Ames.  She really helped the team improve their hitting in the beginning, and I really cannot imagine how hard it is to recruit softball players to play in Ames against the Big 12 competition.  Her players did well in the classroom with over 70 players make All Big 12 Academic teams in 11 seasons, and I know that is something that UNO Athletics would love.  Gemeinhardt-Cesler, which looks difficult to pronounce, was 153-76 in four seasons at the Division 2 level as a head coach, so maybe The Summit League is a more appropriate level for her than the Big 12.

The Bluejays are coming to Mavtown to face an improving Mav team

Scheduling is incredibly difficult in college basketball, and that I guess is why the Creighton Bluejays (4-6) will be playing at the Omaha Mavericks (7-3) on Sunday in women’s basketball.  I will not be able to watch, listen, or attend this game because of a Christmas party.  I will be able to attend the UNO-Arizona State hockey game before, so I would like to point out that I will have attended more Arizona State athletic events this year than Creighton events.

Now, I assume most local casual basketball fans pay attention to women’s college basketball as much as people who love cop movies pay attention to the 2nd to 7th Police Academy films…so allow me to set a little dinner tray for you here…I say a dinner tray because there wont be much talk about Creighton (as a team).

This is probably from one of the Police Academy films. Who the heck knows.
This is probably from one of the Police Academy films. Who the heck knows.

Creighton fans, and by Creighton fans I mean the people who pretend to love the entire athletic program of Creighton University, even though they only attend fun sounding men’s basketball games and have season baseball tickets just so they can get College World Series tickets easier, will probably just assume that Creighton won this game the second it was scheduled.  They may pick up the Omaha World Herald preview of this game and see that Omaha only has one player that scores in double figures and say “oh the Jays are going to run that tiny might as well be D2 school out of the gym.  All they have to do is stop that one player, and it is over.  The Jays will also stop that player because I said so.”

I would like to think that the Jays have a couple coaches and administrators that will be using up their promotional dollars from Uber to travel to Baxter Arena so the whole team can carpool a few rides up Dodge Street for free.  The Jays come into the Baxter on a 4 game losing streak, but 3 of those 4 games were on the road and the home game was to some low major team from the state of South Dakota… This streak has also been without the returning Big East Player of the Year, Marissa Janning, who has been out with an injury.  This game will not be as easy for Creighton to win as Jays people* think.

*I decided to categorize Omahans that pretend to enjoy Creighton athletics as Creighton/Jays people instead of fans.

The crowd could get pretty big for this game.  The game is after a hockey game, so I assume there will be some hockey fans that will go hang out at Dudley’s and get in a really good mood before coming back to the Baxter to watch some basketball.  Dudley’s has a Bloody Mary bar on Sundays, right?   Some department of something at UNO sent out some free tickets for some alumni for filling out some survey to this game.  I really just wanted to say “some” a lot there, and I have no explanation as to why.  There will be Creighton people that will attend, as long as they can get through what they perceive as the harsh ghettos of Omaha to find the Baxter Arena.  An 8 pm start time on a Sunday is as odd as a collegiate hockey game on a Sunday, but several people should be done with work for the year so it might as well be a Saturday to most people.  There should be some movie goers that will be in the middle of a Star Wars hangover that may need to go straight from Aksarben Cinema to the Baxter to cure that hangover.  The Creighton-UNO women’s basketball game can be their personal pizza and Dr. Pepper.  String along a few people that still don’t understand you can buy tickets online and will get to the cinema and realize the earliest showing that is not sold out is 4 hours away…ah what the hell is going on at that arena over there?  Women’s college basketball games appear to be only taking about an hour and a half to finish now, so it is not like it is that late anyway.

I am sure there will be that Creighton group that thinks they cannot attend this game because they cannot help that UNO program build and do not want to help them pad their attendance.  Sad/Fun note:  The Mav women’s basketball team averaged the lowest attendance in all of division one last season with an average of 190 per game and a total of 2,850 on the season.  This season through 5 games, the Mav women are averaging about 615 people per game and already have a total attendance of 3,079.  That’s fine Jays people, don’t come if you don’t want to…don’t support your athletic program “on the road” when you can.  Don’t worry about padded attendance stats, you’re not the same people that bragged up one of the biggest home attendances in college volleyball after Nebraska made the CenturyLink Center their second home.

Even though the Mavs are coming off of an over time loss in a game that they led by 24 points, the Mavs are no joke.  The 3rd quarter is a little scary for them as it is the only quarter that they are being outscored by their opponents for some reason.

Again, one might look at this team and see they only have one player that is a double digit scorer and think they are just a one player team.  That is not true, but by the way, that one player is amazing.  With seven playable newcomers, I really did not have high expectations before the beginning of the year.  I thought this season was going to be like a television show in its first season that had some good characters, but was still trying to figure itself out and set up plot lines for the next season.  Mikaela Shaw was going to be the main character with everyone else getting a little screen time to develop their stories for future seasons, and they were going to set everything up for the introduction of the new character named Dapprich that will get plenty of screen time in the second season.  I just thought, if they could get through this season with a minimal amount of departures, then the next season would be something you cannot wait to binge watch on Netflix a few times.  With 7 wins already, the Mavs appear to be ahead of schedule. There is still some figuring out, but you can tell the team grows more and more every game.  That probably sounds really general, but watch the freshman on the team from game to game.  You can actually see Hogue, Vidal, and Brecht piece everything together game after game.

I thought with all the new faces and youth that Brittany Lange may have challenges again this season trying to set a lineup again.  Due to injuries and with trying to figure out what worked best last season, the Mavericks had already used 4 different starting lineups through 10 games last season.  This season, they have only used 2 different starting lineups, and that was just to start Marissa Preston over Amber Vidal.

You could tell Lange and staff were really excited about this recruiting class, and you should be able to see why.  The Mavs have a complete ensemble of characters that each bring something to the table.  First off, there is Shaw who you have just come to expect will come out with a 45 point, 18 rebound, 7 assist game at some point.  Not only does Shaw currently lead the Summit in points per game, but she is tied for 5th in the league with her own teammate, Vidal, in assists per game.  Shaw can pass out of double teams to Remy Davenport and Ellie Brecht who can each hit threes and mid range jumpers, or to Vanessa Barajas who appears more comfortable on offense and cutting to the basket for easy buckets, or to Caroline Hogue to pull off a post move down low…the Mavs appear to have more options offensively this season.

Teams cannot just go into the lane on the Mavericks either.  Barajas and Hogue are the number one and number two shot blockers in the Summit League.  I hope this develops to a rivalry between the two, trying to outdo each other for more blocks…similar to Antonio Banderas being obsessed with being “number one” in Assassins**.  The two of them combine for 4.4 blocks per game so far and the next closest team in the Summit averages 3.8 blocks per game.  Sara Echelberry is also starting to get a little time at the center spot and has 4 blocks in 8 games so far.  The Mavs get to add a transfer from Texas Tech to the center spot next season…and Westside graduate Jay Bridgeman…how crazy is that post player depth going to be?

**If you are unaware of what Assassins is…it is the 7 hitter hitter in the lineup of 90s Stallone movies that were all completely average in their respectful slot in the lineup…Rocky 5, Oscar, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Demolition Man, Cliffhanger, The Specialist, Judge Dredd, Assassins, Day Light, Cop Land…  This is the San Diego Padres of movie lineups.  I believe these are all films that college students watch when they are in the mood for a bad movie and to laugh that someone made these movies with the intent of making a serious movie.  I sadly have a Because You Watched Assassins list.

How crazy is the depth going to be next season if they can keep the group together?  I’ve come to just accept that at least one player will transfer or get just a job in the off season and leave team with every college basketball team every single year.  Figuring out minutes may actually be more of a challenge next season, as the team will be adding a serious scoring threat in Michaela Dapprich to play along side this cast of characters.


Some observations from the Mavericks’ Midnight Madness

Twice this week I was up past midnight watching sports.  Tuesday night for the World Series, and last night for the Oregon Ducks-Arizona State game.  Today could be rough, but I am still on a Baxter Arena high, so there is that.  Here are some random observations from last night’s Midnight Madness event.

  • Mikaela Shaw informed us that the student section for basketball games will be right behind the visitor’s bench.  I love that, great move.
  • Are the curtains going to be down for most of the sections during basketball games?  Like, I get it.  But what if a visiting team’s fans wants to come in and buy out one of those sections?  We wont turn them down, right?
  • The taco cannon shot a taco right next to me.  I was 2 seats away from a free taco.  I have also realized that I will probably never recognize the person holding and shooting the cannon as a person.  I just see a taco cannon and I do not recognize a person, I just see a taco cannon that is floating around on it’s own shooting out bliss wrapped in tortillas.
  • I saw Rylan Murry walking around and I really wanted to scream “Skinny Love!” into his direction and then run away like I’m a 4th grade girl.
  • The women’s scrimmage was nice.  None of the women had their numbers on the back of their jersey, so every time a new player touched the ball I would have to ask who the heck that was, since there are so many new players.
  • In the Summit League teleconference, Brittany Lange talked about how impressed she was in newcomers Ellie Brecht and Amber Vidal, and they do look very impressive.  Vidal’s point guard skills are fantastic.  Really excited to see her run the team’s offense.  Like, I want to create her as a player in NBA 2k16 and have her run my team.
  • All the women’s team appears to show a lot potential.  The hype in their recruits might be real.  This team could be stacked next year too if they keep everyone together and add in their transfers in 2016-2017.  Incredibly curious how the minutes get divided up though.
  • I am glad that Rodney Rogan is not a professional referee.
  • I was sitting on the side where the men’s team was warming up, so I was watching them warm up instead of the women.
    • The freshman that I have heard the least about, Zach Jackson, looks like he could be a really good player.  I do not think that he missed a shot in warm ups, or even in the team’s scrimmage.  Seriously look up any photo of him though, he might be incapable of smiling.  Looks like he has some pretty good ball handling too, but let’s get a real game under our belts and see whats up.
    • Can we give Zach Pirog the nick name of “The Mile High”?  I watched Zach Pirog take the ball coast to coast and get a dunk, so my life is complete.
    • I was actually really impressed with Ben Kositzke.  I know it is all based on an open scrimmage and warm ups, but he was showing some good stuff:  hitting some jumpers, keeping guys out of the low block, putting on a couple post moves.  Also, I am a Millard South guy, so to be impressed with a Millard West guy should mean something.
    • Speaking of Millard South, Kyler Erickson had a crossover that changed my life.  By the way, when I was in high school I badly wanted to make fake letter jackets that said Millard East.  I would wear it all over town and convince people there was a Millard East High School that was just atrocious and undersized in basketball and football.
    • Daniel Meyer looks like he has bulked up, like he just goes to the rocky mountains and lifts boulders and pushes cars up mountains just for the thrill.  All in blue jeans too.  I also watched him take the ball coast to coast.  Scrimmages, man.
    • Jake White just looks overall healthier, a healthy Jake White could really be a an All Conference player.
    • Marcus Tyus got to play, his knee looks fine.  Boo ya!
    • Tra-Deon Hollins is going to bring great defense, sweet dunks, and another great passer to his team…not a bad thing to have at all.
    • Randy Reed was hitting the three on command in warm ups, and handling the ball in the scrimmage really nice.  Granted, it’s not like Devin Patterson and Hollins were trying to poke the ball away from him constantly, but I can be optimistic about things.  Randy Reed can fly too, he might be a super hero.
  • The shooting competition was pretty fun, but for some reason the basket on the side where the visiting team’s bench is lost every single time.  Jake White couldn’t miss on the other end, but then couldn’t make it on that end.  I am convinced that side is cursed.  The Mavs are going to lose the first half of every game.  By the way, I have been a Celtics fan my whole life.  Even through the Rick Pitino era, so I sometimes scare easily with basketball.
  • The student that shot for free tuition made the lay up and free throw pretty easily, but the three pointer was rough.  Josh White shagged the ball for him for a little bit.  Josh White might be the best passer in Maverick history.  I call for Josh White shagging the ball for every shooting challenge this season.
  • Tre’Shawn Thurman did not have a great dunk competition.  It made me sad.  Tra-Deon Hollins won it (see previous tweets).  By the way, Omaha Central has 4 players from their 2013 state championship team in division one.
Quite possibly the greatest photo ever.
Quite possibly the greatest photo ever.  Photo by Mark Kuhlmann

Two weeks until college basketball.  Two of the longest weeks of the year.  It will be like when you drive from Denver to Omaha and it all goes pretty quickly until you get to Grand Island and time slows down because it hates you.

A hopefully decent attempt talking about Lady Mavs basketball

Before moving forward, I would like to point out to you that I worked 40 hours over the course of 3 days and got very little sleep while trying to write this in the little free time I had, so I was probably a little delirious, and noticed several errors and typos while skimming over this and I fixed as much as I could, so if there is a problem, see my assistant.  I do not have an assistant, so good luck with that.  There were many stretches where I just sat at my computer, wondering where the heck I was.

So I now have been to a few UNO women’s basketball games.  It is not my lack of interest or lack of support as to why I have only been to a few games.  During my time as a student at UNO, I would have night classes or work during most of the home games.  After the transition, I lived in Utah which was close to no fun, and after moving back it has seemed like I would always have a scheduling conflict with the women’s teams home games.  I listen to most of the games on the radio while I am working out, or doing other stuff.  But I was able to make it Thursday night, and I got to tell you I feel pretty good about this team moving forward.

Let’s think about the lady Mavs’ division one life.  First thing, they lose their coach.  They find a new coach in Chance Lindley, who was an assistant at Arizona.  Lindley would guide the Mavs to wins over three division one opponents in their first year:  Western Illinois, Texas-Arlington, and UNO (holy crap they beat themselves! – no, no, that is New Orleans).  In his second season, Lindley and his staff were able to pick up Carolyn Blair-Mobley, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State, who made an immediate impact to help seniors Paige Frauendorfer and Jamie Nash create a big time Big 3.  The lady Mavs were able to go 17-11 overall in their second year of transition.

Then, in a way, the whole thing comes crumbling down.  The seniors graduate, which is kind of a given, and on top of that 4 other players leave the team, Cathleen Cox is injured, players decommit, and Lindley unexpectedly leaves the school.  Brittany Lange is given the opportunity to fix the situation, which it appears she is becoming more and more comfortable dealing with day by day.  To top things off, Cox is injured again, Brianna Bogard injures herself as well early in the season, who seemed to be expected to be a big piece of the offense, which the injuries and transfers leaves the team with one senior, 3 juniors, and 5 freshmen to be the players night in and night out.  If you do not know anything about basketball rosters, that is not a lot, and why are you here?  This year, Lange was given the chance to have a little more depth on the team, really just one more player added to last year’s roster would have seemed like a ton more depth, but it is a full roster now for sure.


It is incredibly difficult to rebuild a women’s basketball team.  First of all there is very little parody in women’s basketball.  My wife and I have discussed this on a number of occasions.  On the men’s side, there are a million six foot tall shooting guards to knock down threes, and their dream is to play college basketball.  There just are not as many girls that have that same love of basketball that can play at a highly competitive level.  You also have to consider how many girls in high school basketball are playing it as their second sport, many go on to play volleyball, or soccer, or softball at the collegiate level.  Combine that with a bunch of high school coaches that do not know what they are doing and go with a Hey This Volleyball Girl is Tall so Let’s Just Keep Feeding Her the Ball Even Though She Has no Hands approach. Basketball is just kind of the side job for many of them.  I mean no disrespect to women in college basketball, I hope this should show as a sign of respect really to the ones who do play and have quality careers who put their love of the game and carry out for success.  My wife mentioned at her high school, the basketball team had 7 players (throughout 3 different classes) go play division one, but none of them went on to play basketball.  It was a second thing for all of them.  My wife averaged 5 steals a game as a freshmen on varsity, and ended up playing college softball over basketball (although Belmont tried to get her to play her 5th year of eligibility for the basketball team, she beat the team in a scrimmage three point competition, Remy Davenport also has the same form on her shot as my wife as a FYI)  With no parody in the sport, it creates situations in which the # 5 team in the country cruises past the # 15 team in the country by 30 points.  So yes, rebuilding, especially in transition, is no easy situation in women’s basketball.  It takes a committed coaching staff and patient athletic administration to get through the tough times, two things that UNO seems to have.

By the way, my wife is in her high school’s athletic all of fame for softball and basketball.  The high school athletics program has apparently gone down hill in the last couple of years with some new high schools opening up and taking away some of the high level athletes.  We went to her award ceremony which was at half time of the boy’s basketball game.  We sat through girl’s game which was before the boy’s game.  One of the teams scored a total of one point in the third quarter.  It was the 6th layer of hell for me.  If any coach is ever reading this, I urge you to not go recruit for girl’s basketball in the Vancouver, Washington area (Vancouver is the Council Bluffs of Portland, Oregon).

It did seem to take a little while to find a consistent lineup this season, but after finally settling in with a lineup, the Mavs seemed to pick things up, along with improving some fundamentals and especially their free throw shooting.  Before the month of February the Mavs went 6-15, but were able to get to double degit wins by going 4-3 in the month of February.  The Mavs were able to pick up wins against Western Illinois (finished 3rd in Summit League), North Dakota State (6th), Fort Wayne (9th), and Denver (T-7th with UNO) in the month of February, they also play competitively against the two top teams in the conference South Dakota and South Dakota State.  So yes, the lady Mavs were able to end transition on a positive note.

With a more consistent lineup, the Mavs were able to get going, but the Mavs were able to move through the month by huge performances from sophomore Mikaela Shaw.  How big?  23.1 points per game and 8.7 rebounds throughout the month of February big.  Those are superstar numbers, like Other Teams Are Going to Stick Their Hands in Their Armpits and Then Smell Their Hands When Shaw Comes to Town, Because They Are Going to Be So Nervous type of superstar.

Looking ahead to the future, it may be comforting knowing that Mikaela Shaw (as of before the start of post season) led all sophomores in the Summit League in scoring, as well as rebounding.  The only player that averaged more points than her that will be returning for next season will be Western Illinois’ Ashley Luke (assuming neither of these players leave for some reason).  I would also like to extend this and point out that Madi Robson led all sophomores in assists.  And yes, teams can pick up some stellar junior college players, and transfers from Florida that can just dominate the conference.

So the Mavs had their best season during transition with Frauendorfer and Nash leading the show.  Having your power forward and point guard as your main characters is never a bad thing.  Yes, I know Shaw is listed as a guard, but seriously, come on, she plays the 4.  When your 4 and your guard are your main characters, you can utilize the pick and roll game a ton, look at any team that had Jerry Sloan as their coach.

Mikaela Shaw’s Twitter handle is shawesome_43, and I do not think I have ever seen a more appropriate twitter handle for a young college person, she is freaking awesome.  She can score in a variety of ways, she can drive left, drive right, score on the baseline, knock down a 15 footer, knock down a three, I would not be shocked if she could dunk.

Shaw has easily become a star over the last two years.  Let me just throw a few numbers out at you.

  • I mentioned that she led all sophomores in points and rebounds this season, right?
  • Her 38 points is the most by any lady Mav since transition, it was also the most by any woman in the Summit League this season
  • Her 721 is the most career points in the transition period, Frauendorfer had 755 and Ericka House had 732, Shaw did that in her freshman and sophomore seasons, Frauendorfer and House scored their points as juniors and seniors
  • After her sophomore year she already ranks 38th on the career overall scoring chart
  • After her sophomore year she ranks 27th on the career rebounding chart

And that is just the scoring, she can rebound, pass the ball, block shots, defend the post, defend the perimeter, and her three point shooting has gotten better and better.  I watched a play where she was on defense and went up to contest a shot, and she did not even block the shot, she literally just grabbed the shot out of the air and started a break down the floor.  Is Grab Shot Out of Freaking Air a statistic?  If it is, she at least averaged 0.1 this last season.

Like I said, rebuilding anywhere is difficult, especially for a women’s team in transition, by the way, have we praised Brittany Lange for taking this job over?  Rebuilding a team in the middle of transition, that has to be a coach’s worst nightmare, especially taking the risk of starting your career with that.  With basically an entirely new roster in her first season, Lange essentially got a job at one of those start up companies.  Anyway, it is difficult to rebuild a team, and someone like Mikaela Shaw is a great marketing tool…no, no, no I am not saying we use her, it will just come naturally.

The smaller schools have to rely on that one above the rest of the conference player to market their program.  The outsiders who essentially know nothing about the the smaller teams, they need to hear something is interesting is happen to pay attention.  At this level, people want to hear about someone like Mikaela Shaw doing great things and they want to go see it for themselves.  They want to sit around and talk shop afterwards and feel better about themselves and ponder real philosophical stuff like “yeah, she can score at UNO, but could score at a bigger school?”  The high school kids want to learn from that player.  If you went to high school in Omaha from 2001-2003, you would have seen every high school kid wearing their socks real high, growing their hair out (high school kids tend to grow their hair out anyway), trying to become a knock down three point shooter trying to be Creighton’s Kyle Korver.  Go to a UNO softball game.  If you went and saw UNO take on the Huskers last year, the middle school girls were there to watch Nebraska’s Tatum Edwards pitch, and they were there to learn from UNO’s Allie Mathewson.  Every time Mathewson stepped up to the plate, the younger kids were up at the fence, studying her batting stance, wanting to be the next Allie Mathewson.  The younger kids see the Mathewsons and the Shaws as the heros.  The Nebraska girls that go in and dominate.  The Nebraska Cornhuskers did not exist to those girls in those games between the Mavericks and Huskers.

Should it be amazing that she even came to UNO?  I do not know.  Per press releases from athletics and the Omaha World Herald, I have not seen any other offers she picked up other than a walk on role at Nebraska, but I have to tell you, a walk on offer to a small town Nebraska kid might be a better thing than a full ride some place else from a sports stand point.  I do not know for sure if Deweese, Nebraska is a small town, but I am just just going to go with my Omaha instincts on this one and say yes it is a small town.

Let’s not look at this like it is the Omaha Shaws, it is still the Omaha Mavericks.  If you would have gone to a women’s game, you could have seen the other pieces of the future.

I am going to take a side step before moving on.  The players who never got to play after transition, should not be forgotten.  Taijhe Kelly’s blocks, Nash’s ridiculous amount of steals and assists, House’s threes, Bough’s ability to do a little bit of everything, Frauendorfer’s…just Frauendorferness, and everyone else.  They all helped the UNO program move on, I am simply just looking at what we have moving forward.  If anything the players moving forward have a little bit of the past in them.  Barajas has signs of playing like Kelly, Shaw has similarities to Frauendorfer, Robson to Nash, and so on.

So it is not just Mikaela Shaw that we have to look forward to.  Madi Robson, if you are a point guard, you will have nothing but respect for her.  If you love a score first point guard, then I always think there is something wrong with you, and her career average of 5 points per game will not impress you.  If you watch her though, you will take notice of what she does for the Mavericks.  She keeps the team moving, keeps communication up, finds players in their spots, sets screens on bigger players to get her teammates in a better position to make a play.

I have not seen if UNO has a +/- stat for games, I know North Dakota State does (just sayin’), but the second to last home game of the year against IPFW, I cannot stress to you how important she was in that game.  If there was a +/- stat, I am pretty sure the Mavs would have been up 15 points whenever she was on the court.  There was a stretch in the second half when she was on the bench where IPFW had dwindled down UNO’s lead to one possession, and I was thinking to myself – Where the Heck is Robson?  Then what do you know, Robson comes into the game, and controls everything to a point to where the Mavs get back up by a few possessions.

She scored 15 points that game, and most of it were free throws as IPFW was fouling to try and get back into the game, but I swear she was capable of scoring much more.  No matter what guard got on Robson, she would break that player down, IPFW could not stay in front of her.  I was sitting next to some older gentlemen, who I assume were former UNO players, and every time Robson would break down their defender they would just laugh and cry out, “they have no chance at guarding her.”  She would get by, and find the open player, or bring it back up to the top of the key so the Mavs could set something else up.  You could tell that she had that game completely under control.  While on the bench, the team was talking less, the defense was breaking down.  It is not like they just muted themselves, I am just saying that while Robson was on the court, you could clearly hear the players better and more frequently.  Taijhe Kelly was probably the second most talkative on defense, calling out whatever she saw.  Not saying no one else was talking, those were just the two players that were clearly keeping up the talk.  When Robson was on the bench, she was like a undergraduate coach, yelling whatever she could out to players, scolding them for mistakes.  Scolding may be the wrong word, from everything I have seen, Robson does not have a mean bone in her body.  I have not seen a college player (in person) take over an entire game without the need of scoring since Tyler McKinney at Creighton.  Also, just a little bit ago when I shot out some numbers about Shaw, after Robson’s sophomore year, she is 16th in program history in assists.

So you take Robson and Shaw, you have Davenport coming off screens as the three point specialist, Vanessa Barajas as the rim protector, add transfer Marissa Preston to the crew, as well as incoming freshman Caroline Hogue, who is apparently a block specialist herself, and you have the recipe for a quality basketball team.  So there is some hope for this improving basketball team that showed promise down the stretch of transition, and we know anything could happen, like (this is where some hypothetical situation is mentioned, something so horrifying, you vomit and crap yourself and cry out “no player deserves that”).  Add that in with a committed coaching staff, and athletic administration that wants to put in their support, and you have a girls team that can climb the standings in the conference. and who knows what the limits are.