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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Summit League predictions: Feb 8-11

4-4 again last week.  This is actually a lot harder than it looks with everyone in the conference being so close.  The Tuesday to Thursday games always kill me.

February 7th

South Dakota (7-4) @ Fort Wayne (5-5)

The Coyotes defense held the high scoring Fort Wayne offense to 63 points last month, and most notably held John Konchar to 4-0f-12 shooting.  The game was a offensive struggle for both teams, and Tyler Flack was not playing in that game for South Dakota.  Can the ‘Dons have such an offensive struggle at home on a Wednesday night?

IUPUI (4-6) @ Omaha (6-5)

First off, if South Dakota loses and Omaha wins on Wednesday, they will be in a tie for third place.

Second off, IUPUI is so hit or miss this season, it’s hard to get a feel for them.  The Jaguars are also 0-3 in Wednesday/Thursday conference road games.

Third, the Mavericks had 10 blocks against the Jaguars in Indianapolis?

Fourth, there are going to be like 40 turnovers in this game, right?

Fifth, if you love half court offense, you should probably find a seventh grade YMCA game to attend tonight instead of this.

Western Illinois (4-7) @ Oral Roberts (3-8) on ESPN3

This loser of this game may very well be the team that does not make it into the Summit League tournament, so this game could sadly have a decent amount of intensity.  Intense like Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell chasing Jeremy Piven at the end of “Old School” intense but not that intense.

Western Illinois didn’t have a great rebounding advantage in Macomb, and each team had the same amount of turnovers, and made the exact same number of free throws, but Western Illinois made 7 more threes than Oral Roberts. That game was the 5th game in a row that Western Illinois had made at least 10 three point field goals, and since then they haven’t made more than 8 since or shot better than 35 percent on threes.  The difference in the game might not be the threes this time.

South Dakota State (5-6) @ North Dakota State (7-3) on ESPN3

It’s always fun when these two square off.  South Dakota State is on a three game winning streak with the last two wins against the two teams playing for last place.  North Dakota State has lost two in a row against South Dakota and IUPUI.

The Jackrabbits are not nearly as good on defense as the Coyotes or the Jaguars, and they don’t really match up that well against AJ Jacobson and Paul Miller.  If the Jackrabbits can play defense against Paul Miller, usually the Bison as a team do not play well.  Reed Tellinghuisen is just kind of a bad defender…

I also don’think it’s possible for North Dakota State to lose twice in a row at home.  I’m pretty sure the state has laws against this, so this is a safety thing for the Jackrabbits.

February 11th

South Dakota State (5-6) @ South Dakota (7-4) on ESPN3

What a tough week for the Jackrabbits.  Going from the bottom two teams in the Summit League at home to the top two teams in the Summit League on the road has to be a weird feeling.

The Coyotes are out for revenge after losing by 1 in Brookings on New Year’s Eve.

Seriously, are we not worried about the Jackrabbits’ safety this week?

Denver (7-4) @ North Dakota State (7-3) on ESPN3

Boring But Good meets Odd and Somehow Good.  You would think we should apply revenge factor to the Bison, and they probably will be out for revenge, but they were embarrassed in Denver.  That game probably led to the Pioneers to roll around the rest of the Summit League with a load of confidence.

Also, Denver is coming to Fargo with a week of rest.

Oral Roberts (3-6) @ IUPUI (4-6) on ESPN3

Prove that you can win on the road Oral Roberts.  I dare you.

Omaha (6-5) @ Fort Wayne (5-5) on, oh wait, it’s not on anything.

And I’ve just reached full on homer status.

I just want to start off saying that I’ve come to actually appreciate Fort Wayne fans.  They have a heart beat in them, and they engage in fun banter online against other Summit League fan bases.  They typically always back up their talk with an actual frame of reference.  If you point out something that their team is bad at, they see your point-of-view and can agree with your claim if factual. They don’t take you saying that they’re team is bad at defense, for example, as a personal attack and wish death upon your entire family like another fan base we know.

Now, the second half of conference play is a lot about revenge factor, intangibles, depth, and how you’re getting shafted on your schedule.  Sure, Fort Wayne is a better rebounding team.  Yes, John Konchar is unstoppable against the Mavericks.  Of course, Omaha has only beat Fort Wayne twice since transitioning to division 1.

Every game between these two teams has come down to the wire.  Omaha has been rebounding and playing better defensively ever since it was made obvious that they were a terrible rebounding team at home against South Dakota State.  Well that’s only two games, but you get it.  Daniel Meyer has played in the last two games like he has something to prove on the boards, so perhaps the Mavericks can actually defend Brent Calhoun for once.

John Konchar may be unstoppable against the Mavericks, but Derrin Hansen has been playing Daniel Norl off the bench more lately.  If you remember in the home game against the ‘Dons, and I’m going to throw out a guess that you don’t, Norl was the only Maverick that could stay in front of Konchar and keep the ball out of his hands.  Expect Norl to get more minutes against Konchar on Saturday.  I’m not claiming Norl is going to stop Konchar, the freaking guy shoots 64 percent from the field, but Norl defending Konchar for a few more possessions in Omaha could have made the difference.

Oddly, as much as the Mavs haven’t been able to stop Konchar and Calhoun, they have kept Mo Evans down in their meetings.  Evans has shot 37 percent in his career against Omaha, and he has shot 46 percent from the field during his career.

So if you’re wondering if the Mavericks are thinking revenge factor, and that they love playing on the road in big environments (in their minds) and haven’t been thinking about winning in the same building that Indiana lost in for a few months now…we’re wondering the same thing.

My trivial preseason Summit League rankings

I find preseason rankings dumb, but I admit they are fun to talk about for a couple minutes.  I laugh when football preseason rankings for conferences try to predict a conference record for each team and the math does not add up.  Everyone is going to go 8-1, 7-2, 6-3, and one team will go 0-9.  It’s cool.

So, I did something different.  From the time the conference schedule was announced, once a week I would go through the schedule and predict who would win based on different thought processes.  Who has the most new comers, who has the most coming back, who has the best defense, who has the best offense, who just sucks on the road, and so on.  I added up all the wins and losses and came up with rankings.  It’s dumb, and crazy what you can do with your time when your wife spends 50 hours a week in a research lab on top of working on her PhD.  It is more fun than Paul Finebaum telling you every SEC team will go undefeated except for two of them.

1. Fort Wayne

Win range: 12 to 13

Overview:  It appears to be difficult to find a big glaring weakness in the Mastodons.  They are athletic, and adaptable to play big or play in a small ball offense.  They replaced what they graduated with experience and even more (on paper) athleticism.  They are expected to have more depth this season to actually last through the entire Summit League Tournament at the end of the year, but hopefully they do not lose anyone to an academic issue.

Crazy Predictions:

  • If Jon Coffman continues to have Bradley transfer Xzavier Taylor come off the bench, Taylor will win the Sixth Man of the Year for the Summit League.
  • Fort Wayne will upset Arkansas in the first weekend of college basketball.

2. IUPUI

Win range:  11 to 14

Overview:  So, this is my bad.  At first, I thought IUPUI was the most stacked team in the Summit League and were incredibly under the radar, which is a bad combination for their opponents.  Since I started doing this, the Jaguars had two key contributors just leave the team with no explanation, and an incoming graduate transfer just disappear.

The Jaguars are not going to be the scrappy defensive team that they were last year, but should be expected to be an actual fluid running offense.  With the losses of Nick Osborne and Jordan Pickett from their bench, the Jaguars could be dropping to 4th or 5th already.  None of this is all going to stay to form, but damn it this is the idiotic system I chose.

3. North Dakota State

Win range:  10 to 12

Overview:  Kenpom gave the Bison the highest ranking in their preseason ratings.  They are the only team in the Summit League that made the top 100.

It was announced that junior guard Malik Clements will miss the entire season with an injury, which could be a blow to the Bison.  The team does have the depth to recover from this, but their bench is relatively young.

Junior forward AJ Jacobson is also out right now after having thumb surgery, but not expected to be out long-term.

Crazy predictions:

  • Deng Geu will win the Summit League Freshman of the year…he will give the Bison the much needed athleticism that they have needed at center for the last two seasons.  Geu will serve as a large impact when the Jackrabbits face some of the best post players in the league like: Mike Daum, Tre’Shawn Thurman, and Matt O’Leary
  • The Bison will win more than 20 games and end the season in the CBI.

4. Omaha

Win range:  11 to 13

Overview:  The Mavericks have put together a difficult non-conference schedule to figure things out about themselves early, for the money, and because they are confident in themselves…but probably mostly for the money.

If you heard anyone talk about the Mavericks, you would think they have 12 newcomers on the team.  They lost two All-Conference players, but with Marcus Tyus coming back, the Mavericks will be contending with Fort Wayne for the best back court in the league.

With the loss of Jake White, the Mavericks have to figure out what do in their post.  You could make an argument that Tre’Shawn Thurman is the best forward in the Summit League behind Mike Daum, but there will be nights Thurman gets into foul trouble and the Mavericks will need to find an answer those nights.  Zach Pirog’s weight went from 200 to 220 according to the official roster.  Let’s hope that is true and he can become an essential piece off the bench, along with Daniel Meyer.

Crazy prediction:  When South Dakota State visits Omaha, the attendance reaches 4,000.

5. South Dakota State

Win range:  6 to 11

Overview:  Mike Daum is obviously fantastic.  The rest of his team is rather unproven and has a number of questions.  Things could go really well for the Jackrabbits, or really bad in comparison to their expectations.

With the loss of three extremely valuable guards, and a few transfers, the Jacks appear to be asking their newcomers to be making up the most ground as compared to Fort Wayne, North Dakota State, and Omaha.

The Jacks landed two seniors as transfers to help make up for the loss.  6’7″ forward AJ Hess from Southern Utah, who ended 2015-2016 early with an injury and helped the Thunderbirds go 25-67 with him in the lineup.  Michael Orris, from Northern Illinois, is not known as a huge offensive threat at point guard, but could give defensive problems to some of the best point guards in the league like Tra-Deon Hollins, Mo Evans, and Kellon Thomas.  That is actually kind of scary.

The Jacks did not play two players expected to be contributors this season in their one exhibition game, Cole Gentry and Ian Theisen.  Not sure what is going on there.  I wish Omaha had exhibition games.  I get why they don’t, but it would be nice.

Crazy predictions:

  • South Dakota State will lose AT Denver
  • Mike Daum will not win Player of the Year, this year

6. South Dakota

Win range:  4 to 7

Overview:  This team reminds me of when the Mavericks had a relatively new roster with just CJ Carter and Mike Rostampour as the main characters returning.  The Coyotes have more talent than they did last year, but bringing together and finding chemistry on the court could be a large issue for this team.

Everyone in the Summit plays each other twice, but the roughest part of the Coyotes schedule is three away games in a row against Omaha, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne.  Ouch.

Crazy predictions:

  • Nebraska fans will add South Dakota point guard Triston Simpson to the list of Nebraska natives that they are angry about that the Huskers did not recruit.  It gets worse since he is from Lincoln.
  • South Dakota will defeat North Dakota State in Vermillion

7. Denver

Win range:  3 to 6

Overview:  The Pioneers have some talent, but Rodney Billups is trying to change their entire culture.  They are also quite young, which can be a huge issue for a first year coach trying to change everything.

Not so crazy prediction:  LetsGoDU will write eight different pieces during the season on how the Pioneers should join a new conference.

Crazy prediction:  The Pioneers will go 0-8 on the road in the Summit League

8. Western Illinois

Win range:  1 to 4

Having a coach with the charisma and inspiration of a terrible avocado, the Leathernecks could have another long season.  They are going to pick up some stupid win and maybe even two where some team overlooks them.  Let’s just hope Omaha takes them, and everyone, seriously this season.

Crazy prediction:  Freshmen Jeremiah Usiosefe will become the second leading scorer for Western Illinois and be the Leathernecks’ hope for the future.  He will make the All Newcomer team.

9. Oral Roberts

Win range: 2 to 4

 This team appears as if they will be horrendous on defense, and will struggle to score the ball as well.  All good things.

Crazy prediction:  Like usual, the Golden Eagles have put together a difficult non-conference schedule…with this, they will not win 10 game this season overall.

A month out game preview: Iowa

First off, congratulations to Chicago Cubs and all of the Cubs fans, except for all of the Cubs fans that were Royals fans last season. There is a special place in hell for you where they just force you to watch Major League 3 on a continuous loop but they replace Scott Bakula with Scott Baio, because you’re in hell and you did this to yourself.


I have no beef with the Iowa Hawkeyes.  My father attended the University of Iowa back in the day.  Both of my parents were born in our bordering state.  I have been forced to watch Iowa football games with a group of drunkards who just spat out nonsense the entire time. There is a very small part of me that has an unfortunate connection to the University of Iowa that I cannot deny.

Still, with my unfavorable connection, I cannot help but think negative things when I close my eyes and imagine up a die hard Iowa Hawkeye fan.  Usually, the person I enjoy working with the least always has Hawkeye memorabilia hanging up in their work space.

My wife was born into Oregon Duck fan hood, and when we first started dating we would go from establishment to establishment each week during football season in Omaha looking for a place for her to watch Oregon Duck games.  Typically, we would get told we could watch the bottom line of scores during the Husker game and if we were lucky ESPN might cut away to the Oregon game for a quick second to provide an update.

One time we went to DJs Dugout during a time that there was no Husker game, so we felt lucky about our chances that they would play the Oregon game.  We were told they would play the game for us, but there was an Iowa game on that night so there would be close to a 100 people in yellow screaming.  I immediately felt sorry for the waitress, knowing based on my Iowa roots that she would be dealing with a bunch of patrons complaining about not being able to smoke inside a bar and that clearly everything bad that happened was Obama’s fault.  Also, of course at the end of the night the dishwasher would have to deal with handling a number of glasses with spit, back wash, and chewing tobacco.

Still, I grew up as a closet Hawkeye fan.  My friends obsessed over Husker football recruiting and had Husker watch parties, while I had to watch Iowa games by myself or with the drunks.  If I even asked to change the channel to the Hawkeyes, I would get picked on.  Eventually, I just fell into peer pressure and went on in life as a Husker fan.  Yet, if I ever played a college sports video game, I typically would always play as the Iowa Hawkeyes…or create UNO as a team.  I still have Iowa as one of the teams I receive updates for on the ESPN ap, and I get made fun of for this.

I only provide you this prelude to hopefully point out that I might actually be objective in a Mavericks versus Hawkeyes match up.


December 3rd is apparently the Summit League versus Big 10 Challenege Day.

Oral Roberts will be playing at Michigan State, and the Golden Eagles will most likely get slaughtered.

Nebraska fans will spend their day pretending the Huskers did so poorly against South Dakota since Craig Smith knows Tim Miles so well, and not accept that the Huskers are actually just bad at basketball.  Actually, I think Nebraska will not be as bad as people think this season, but South Dakota still has a fighting chance against them.

The Omaha Mavericks will also take a short drive to face the sort of prestigious Iowa Hawkeyes.

omaiowa

I like Iowa.  Not the state, but the university and the athletic program.  With that said, I don’t think they will be very good this season.  My expectations are not very high for the Hawkeyes, yet I have been told to not count them out because Fran McCaffery is such a good coach, and many people expect them to be a NIT team.  While he is a good basketball coach, it is completely acceptable to tune into an Iowa Hawkeye game and wonder why they’re letting the team accountant pace the sidelines.

The Hawkeyes may have made the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2016, but they lost four starters from that team.  A team we thought would go undefeated in the Big 10 after they topped Michigan and Michigan State in the middle of the year because Fran McCaffery was such a good coach but then ended up losing 4 in a row and lost to Illinois in their first game of the Big 10 Tournament.  You should blame Mike Gesell and Adam Woodbury for that, just because.  Don’t blame McCaffery, he’s the best.  Actually, it would be best to blame Obama.

The lone returning starter for the Hawkeyes is Peter Jok.  An athletic 6’6″ player that can play the guard position and hit threes.  Guys like this have not been kind to the Mavericks since transitioning to division one.  It would not be great for the Mavericks if the Hawkeyes were playing Jok at shooting guard against a smaller Marcus Tyus or Kyler Erickson.  I may just think this because of the haunting memories I have of Shavon Shields  a few years ago having his way with Tyus and just shooting over him all night.

Aside from Jok, the Hawkeyes are a young team and it appears they will be having issues trying to figure out who to play on the court, especially early in the season.  The Mavericks offense is based on running out into traffic and causing confusion, and it looks like the Hawkeyes could get easily confused by the Mavericks.  If the Mavericks get out and run, Tra-Deon Hollins spin moves into some and-one opportunities, the Hawkeyes could have some problems with their lack of chemistry and experience in this game…and the whole season.  This game, may actually be the biggest opportunity for the Mavericks to pull off an upset against a Power 5 team.

The Hawkeyes may have more athleticism, but the Mavericks at least know who and what they are.  Since teams in their own state wont play them, the Mavericks look at teams like the Hawkeyes for a win to bring a notoriety to their program.  Guys like Tre’Shawn Thurman, Tra-Deon Hollins, and Mitchell Hahn have had Iowa on their minds most likely since they were youngsters.  This is a game they badly want to win.  They may actually want this win more than the Hawkeyes.  Do you remember how close the Mavericks played the Hawkeyes the last time they traveled to Iowa City?

The Mavericks may not have the advantage if the game is slowed down.  Iowa recruited very well for post players.  They landed three freshman all around 6’8 and 250 pounds.  They probably cannot play all three of these guys, and are likely to redshirt at least one of them.  Tyler Cook is the most coveted, who McCaffery already thinks could be a legendary player at Iowa.

Cook does not appear super fast, but he also does not appear super slow.  He is a strong player with a number of post moves.  If the game is slowed down, Tre’Shawn Thurman will need to stay out of foul trouble, and let’s sit and hope that Daniel Meyer and Zach Pirog have both improved defensively.

That is somewhat of an issue for the Mavericks in this game.  With Iowa’s size and athleticism, the Mavericks need somewhat unproven guys like Meyer, Pirog, and Zach Jackson to really step up in this game for the best chance to win, especially on defense.

The Mavericks do have an opportunity to win this game, but they could be playing on tired legs with this being their sixth road game of the year, and the third of a four game road trip.  At least the Mavericks will be used to playing on the road already by early December…

This game will be at 1pm on a Saturday.  It is about a four hour drive to Iowa City, and you apparently (per Rylan Murry) need to check out some place in Des Moines called Zombie Burger on the way.  So plan for that.  Don’t wear your nice shoes to Iowa City either.  Actually, you might want to check out the prices of Hazmat suits.  I don’t think you can buy one of those at the UNO bookstore, so you may want to get on that.

A month out game preview: Eastern Michigan

The second return game of the year for the Mavericks.  This time they get to go to Ypil…Ypilis…shoot, who cares.  It’s in the eastern part of Michigan.  Probably.

omaemu

You may remember the game last year as one of the games that Omaha was down by large margin and did not end up coming back for a win.  The Mavericks were able to cut a 15 point lead down to six before losing 80-73 at Baxter Arena in what was just another Baxter Arena shooting blunder.  You may have sat there in Baxter Arena wondering how this high octane offense could survive if they shot around 20% on threes.  Survive may be too strong of a word.  It’s not like we’re dealing with a zombiepocalyse here.  This was also the game that I figured out that I love the french fries at the Baxter Arena.  Maybe my favorite in town.  If there was a reward program for racking up points on french fry purchases at Baxter Arena, I might literally own Aksarben Village in a decade.

That game was early in the year, and you could guess that is one of the games that the Mavericks wish they could have back.  Tra-Deon Hollins was still trying to figure out how to shoot and be conditioned at the division one level.  The Mavericks had not inserted Kyler Erickson into the starting lineup at that point or were using him as the team’s source of energy.  It still seemed as if after one season that Derrin Hansen had not completely figured out how to utilize Randy Reed and Tim Smallwood at this point.

Hansen and the Mavericks still may have some issues trying to figure out some of their guys in this game.  Figuring out where and when to play Daniel Meyer, Mitchell Hahn, and Zach Pirog looks like it could be difficult at the beginning of the season.  Each has a different skill set, and finding that right mix in the post for the right opponent could be a challenge for this coaching staff.  Figuring this out will be important for the Mavericks in this game as Eastern Michigan has 6’10” sophomore Jason Thompson IV who averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds as a freshman.  He may have been one of the best post players that Mavericks played all season long.

The Eagles are likely to not have issues like this.  Eastern Michigan is bringing back four starters, and return 80% of their scoring to their team that finished 18-15 overall and 112th in RPI.  The biggest loss to the Eagles is the graduation of 6’8″ forward Brandon Nazione who averaged 9.6 points and 6.5 rebounds.  The other players they lost were mostly players with small roles.  Nazione had 12 points and 7 rebounds against Omaha last season.  The Eagles will get to replace Nazione with Nick Madray, a 6’9″ transfer from Binghamton, who averaged 10.8 points per game as a freshman before ending his freshman and sophomore seasons with injuries.

The main issues the Eagles may have is their depth.  They really only have 6 players that are in their main rotation, which could be a problem for a fast paced team like the Mavericks.  They have three players that transferred in but will be sitting out the 2016-2017 season, and while that is good for the future of the program, that hurts your depth right now.

The Eagles were able to win in Baxter Arena with a lack of depth against the Mavericks on the Mavericks shooting 37% from the field and 4-of-17 on threes.  With Mitch Hahn, JT Gibson, and Marcus Tyus in the lineup, the Mavericks do not plan on going 4-of-17 in many games this season from behind the arch.  Let’s just hope they can shoot so well that the Mavericks wont have to worry about rebounding…

This game will be played at noon on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  On ESPN3, so get prepared for your spouse to yell at you about hanging up Christmas decorations “because this is the best day to do it.”

 

 

 

 

 

A month out game preview: USC

Two games, two days in a row?  Is this some weird plan to prepare your team for March?  Well a day after playing UC Santa Barbara, the Mavs get to play the USC Trojans.  The Huskers of the Pac-12.  Or the Coyotes of the Summit, maybe?

omausc

After being college basketball’s sweetheart in the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, Andy Enfield left Florida Gulf Coast University to take over the Trojans after USC ended a series of mistakes from Tim Floyd to Kevin O’Neill.  USC ended Enfield’s first two seasons as the last place team in the Pac-12, but finally saw some success last season ending their season 6th in the Pac-12 and making the NCAA tournament.

If you like offense, this could be a very fun game for you.  The Trojans enjoy a fast pace of basketball just like the Mavericks do.  USC finished third in the Pac-12 in points per game, and dangerously shot 39% on threes last year, but they will be working several new players new players into their lineup.

The Trojans lost a lot of production from their NCAA Tournament team.  The team lost six players that they initially believed were coming back for this season to make for one of the greatest years ever in USC basketball.  I don’t know if it would be one of the greatest ever in USC history, that is ignorant of me to say.  They have been basically pretty awful to mediocre my entire life, and the one year or two years they were pretty good came from a result of recruiting violations.

After the departures, the Trojans did not even enough players to hold summer practices.  Two players, 6’11” forward Nikola Jovanovic and 6’4″ guard Julian Jacobs both left early to sign as undrafted free agents in the NBA.  Four players players transferred away from the program, including 6’6″ guard Katin Reinhardt who left for Marquette after starting 18 games for the Trojans last season and averaging 11.5 points per game as a junior.

So who is left?  USC will return three players that started at least half of their games.  The Mavericks will need to prepare for sophomore forward 6’10” Bennie Boatwright, who averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds, and likes to play a bit on the outside for a forward making nearly 2 threes a game on 36% on threes.  There is also 6’5″ guard Elijah Stewart who started in 18 games for the Trojans last season and averaged 9.8 points and 3.6 rebounds.

The Trojans also have Pac-12 Honorable Mention guard Jordan McLaughlin, who has some NBA potential and averaged 13.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.6 steals as a sophomore last season.  McLaughlin played this summer on the Pac-12 All Star team, which traveled to Australia, so this could have provided some great experience to the young player.  Does the Summit League have an All Star Team?  Can they travel around all of Canada and beat up on all of the Canada YMCAs?  Hansen is going to make Tra-Deon Hollins stalk McLaughlin, right?

To make up for the losses, USC put together the 32nd rated recruiting class according to 247 Sports.  Incoming freshman guard, Jonah Matthews, was rated on ESPN’s top 100 players for the class of 2016.  These recruiting rankings and hype things do not appear to threaten the core guys for Omaha like Tre’Shawn Thurman, Tra-Deon Hollins, and Marcus Tyus.  Hollins has said he loves the big games, and loves playing on the road to shut up a crowd.  I am paraphrasing a series of tweets I have seen him say and combining it with quotes from things I have read in the Omaha World Herald.  These thoughts have been consistent with things Thurman has said as well, and Marcus Tyus has shot 52% from the field and 48% on threes against the Power 5 and Big East as a Maverick.

The Trojans are also adding two transfers that are eligible this season.  6’9″ Graduate transfer, Charles Buggs, from Minnesota, averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds as the Gophers finished in Might As Well Be Last in the Big 10.  By the way, I do not think the Big 10 should allow 11, 12, 13, and 14 seeds into their conference tournament…makes the regular season more important, but that will never happen.  Buggs had 8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and a three against the Mavericks last season.  They will also be adding 6’7″ forward, Shaqquan Aaron, who averaged 1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds as a freshman at Louisville in 2014-2015.  He had surgery on his hand while he was redshirting last season.  These guys do not really seem all that threatening, but who knows how well guys can do in a new system.

Either way, with all the new faces, it appears as if this team really has not had enough time to play together and work out together. The Trojans should still be trying to figure out the roles of most of their team at this point in the season.  They will start the season against a solid Montana team, that could wear down the Trojans two nights before this game.  Then again, this will be the second game in two days for the Mavericks, so the Omaha bench could be vital to the Mavs in this game.

The post players could be an issue for the Mavericks.  In addition to Boatwright and Buggs…Boatwright and Buggs sounds like the world’s worst law firm that specializes Feral Cat Ordinance laws…the Trojans also return 6’11” sophomore center, Chimezie Metu, who averaged 6.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks as a freshman last season.  With three guys that are 6’9″ and taller, and two of them being capable of going outside to hit threes, the Trojans advantage may to be to post up on the thinner Mavericks down low.  If Tre’Shawn Thurman and Mitchell Hahn get into a little foul trouble in this game, Daniel Meyer, Zach Pirog, and Ben Kositzke could be extremely important for the Mavericks in this USC game.

This game will be on the Pac 12 Network, and hopefully the women’s team will be playing Washington in the Preseason WNIT the same day.  Also, this game will be around the same time as the New England Patriots versus the Seattle Seahawks.  Someone set up a watch party where the NFL game wont interfere…now…

 

Meet future Mav Mitch Hahn

I have never met a guy name Mitch that I liked, nor have I ever met a guy named Mitch that I did not like.  I have never met anyone named Mitch.  The closest I have ever come to meeting a guy named Mitch is watching Billy Crystal’s character in City Slickers, and I guess the sequel.

Helllllllooooooo.  Here, click here.

Anyway, Mitch Hahn comes to the Mavericks from Fremont, Nebraska after sitting out a year after transferring from Holy Cross.  Hahn was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Nebraska as a senior in high school, averaging a double-double.  Out of high school he reportedly had scholarship offers from North Dakota and Central Arkansas, according to Verbalcommits.com.  I remember wondering if Omaha was ever going to offer him a scholarship, there appeared to be “interest” but never heard anything that he actually had a scholarship offer from the Mavericks out of high school.

In Hahn’s one season at Holy Cross, he played in 23 games and averaged 4.7 points and 2.2 rebounds.  In those 23 games, he did have 3 outings in which he got into double figures for scoring.  A 22 point game against Albany where he shot 8-of-9 from the floor on 6-of-6 from three.  Excuse me, baking powder?  6-of-6 threes?  Hahn also had 18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 blocks in 26 minutes in an overtime loss to Army.

After a coaching change at Holy Cross, Hahn decided to transfer back home and was apparently recruited by Tyler Erwin to play for the Mavericks.  I feel like Erwin is responsible for recruiting all the shooters for the Mavericks.

At 6’8″ you may be thinking that Hahn is going to be a replacement for Jake White, but Hahn’s game is completely different from White.  White could go in and post up, and muscle his way to the foul line, hit the baseline jumper, rebound, and get called for a ton of bad referee calls.  Hahn, at 205lbs, is more like a small forward.  He has the ability to beat guys off the dribble and get to the basket, shoot the three, play on the wing, and find the open man.

Just get yourself excited at the prospect for every time Hahn hits a three you will get to scream HHHAAAHHHNNN!

One of the biggest keys to the Mavs’ roster in 2015-2016 was their versatility.  They could play bigger, play small, go fast, or go even faster.  With Hahn, the Mavericks still have that versatility.  The Mavericks will be able to go with a post of Daniel Meyer and Hahn, or Tre’Shawn Thurman and Hahn, or even a little Pirog and Hahn…or dare I say a front court of Meyer, Thurman, and Hahn?  That’s big.  The Mavericks did go with a big lineup like this when the team had a 6’8″ Koang Doluony for 7 games in 2012-2013, which I assume was before most people paid attention.

Hopefully the Mavericks could rebound with this type of lineup, in addition to being a better all around shooting team.  Hold on, I’m having a flashback to that Denver loss last season where the Pioneers got 4 offensive rebounds on one possession while Randy Reed sat on the bench with concussion like symptoms.  Okay something is wrong with my heart, I have to use an Automatic External Defibrillator on myself for a minute.  I attach one of the pieces to my temple, right?  It’s cool, I’m certified, well actually my certification is expired but it’s really not all that difficult to get re-certified.

The Mavericks were one of the worst three point shooting teams in the NCAA last season.  They got better as a team once Kyler Erickson and Tra-Deon Hollins got going in the second half the season, but the Mavericks game plan from game to game should change in 2016-2017 with Hahn and a crew of shooters on the team.

I think my favorite thing about Hahn is that he comes off as a no nonsense guy on the court.  He’s not barking at the crowd, or flexing his biceps after cool plays.  Just makes shots and gets back on defense.  I was at the Omaha Metro Summer League when his Nebraska High School Hoops team was going up against Creighton’s Toby Hegner’s team.  Hahn did not appear as if he was there to make friends, not start any trouble, but just play basketball and do what he could to help his team win.  He hit threes, had 20+ points, played good defense on Hegner, and while everyone was catching their breath at halftime, Hahn was shooting jump shots in the intermission.

He’s intense.  Not like the intensity of the guy that shows up to a co-rec noncompetitive softball team in baseball pants, batter’s gloves, eye make up, refuses to swing at any pitch unless it’s absolutely perfect, and yells at the umpire for making a correct call…but he seems like he could be intense.  Oh, did you know that there are Trump softballs?  I’m just going to let you roll with that one.