I cant put together my thoughts when talking about Western Illinois

The Leathernecks beat Wisconsin to open up the season, and I am pretty sure it is the most forgettable big time win by a Summit League team of all time.  It is almost immediately discredited with: well, Wisconsin wasn’t together at that point…or something along those lines.  There were people that believed in Western Illinois after that, and hopefully those people that did use that belief to discuss how good the Summit League was as a whole for the season.  They probably more so had an attitude of: Well Western Illinois sucks, so who cares.

Western Illinois finished the season as 9th in the Summit League, which meant they had to sit out the Summit League tournament.  At least they got to really bulk up Creighton’s non-conference schedule.  It was not pretty after the Wisconsin win for the Leathernecks.  The team picked up some lopsided wins against the likes of some division 2 schools in addition to Illinois-Chicago and Eastern Illinois before going on an 11 game losing streak.  Then they hurt my brain when they broke their losing streak at home against the Mavericks.  The Leathernecks did expose a large weakness of that Mavs that Omaha was not a great defensive team in the post.  Once a team can get the ball past the quick hands of Tra-Deon Hollins and Devin Patterson, Omaha may not have the bodies to deal with guys down low.  Denver saw this and they just kept throwing the ball into Christian Mackey and CJ Bobbitt to just ruin the Mavericks.  Ehhh.

Much of the season for the Leathernecks was about as hard to watch as when your brother brings home some train wreck of a girl to meet your parents; and you hold a large amount of embarrassment that you know your brother.

The Leathernecks are going to be losing JC Fuller’s 12.7 points per game, which is probably a good thing as he thought he could have the green light to shoot like Steph Curry, but Curry actually makes the crazy shots he takes.  Western Illinois only played Fuller for 8 minutes when they beat the Mavericks and instead gave most of the back court minutes to freshman De’Angelo Bruster, who might be the new fastest player in the Summit League.  His speed created so many opportunities for other players in that game against the Mavericks, he may have actually won that game for the Leathernecks even though he scored 0 points.  Bruster only scored 2 points per game, but the Leathernecks were 2-0 in games he played more than 20 minutes, so hell, they might as well at least make an attempt to give him more minutes in 2017…but Billy Wright seems like the least creative coach in the League; so who knows.

Garret Covington will be the Summit League’s top returning scorer, and that is fun, I guess.  Covington has been known as being one of the league’s most threatening scorers over during the first three years of collegiate careers, but watch a Western Illinois game.  No one else knows how to get open, the coaching staff doesn’t have a great list of plays to really get players open, and Covington never really scores when the game is on the line and he can push the Leathernecks over their opponent.  Granted, they don’t have too many moments when the game is close for Covington can do that, but the point still remains…probably, I think, I may have gone in and out of points there.

The idea here is, who else on the team can actually score consistently?  Jabari Sandifer would go 8-of-12 from the floor one game and then go 2-of-13 the next game, and most of shots were Aw Crap, When Did the Shot Clock Change to 30 Seconds shots.  We like to ask these hypothetical questions of: Would Tre’Shawn Thurman put up the same numbers at a Creighton or a Nebraska?  The simple answer is no because he would be on a different team with a different depth and a different offense than what he is currently on, but it does not mean he is a worse player.

Anyway, if you took Garret Covington and threw him on any other team in the Summit League would he still be known as one of the most prolific scorers in the league?  Covington took 13 shots a game in 2016 and attempted almost 7 free throws a game to guide him to 18 points per game.  You put him on South Dakota State, pretend you’re trading him for Reed Tellinghuisen… Covington isn’t such a dominant of a scorer that he would have taken shot attempts from their three seniors and Mike Daum…Covington would score less than 10 points a game with the Jackrabbits.  Put him on Omaha’s roster, he’d score more than 10 points a game because of the offense, but he would have been the 3rd or 4th option on offense in most situations, and the Mavericks would have been freaking sweet…I think my general point here is that Covington should not have been a Summit League 2nd Team player.  Didn’t Lawrence Alexander finish as North Dakota State’s winningest player with over 100 wins?  It’s kind of a weird thing to say since basketball is a team sport, but Covington has only been a part of 27 wins in his three years at Western Illinois.

You know what, I hate talking about Western Illinois this long.  They at best will finish with 5 conference wins next season.  I am still salty at their men’s soccer team; they flopped so much against Omaha that I thought maybe Manu Ginobli, Vlade Divac, and Derek Fisher took up coaching college soccer.


My wife is out of town for a conference and I heavily debated of traveling (alone) to Tulsa to see the Mavericks take on Oral Roberts; or to Macomb to see UNO Softball play Western Illinois, but I unfortunately decided to be responsible and to save money.  Damn it, I brought up Western Illinois again.  UNO softball at Western Illinois is actually on the radio this weekend…sayyyyy whaaaaat?  88.3 FM is apparently a station?

I was worried about the softball team for UNO this season because of the depth of the pitching, but they are staying alive so far thanks to the bats.  Not saying the pitching has been awful between Laura Roecker and Abbie Clanton, but there are not a ton of options if the two of them are having a bad game or were to get hurt.  Nine players hitting above .250 right now…Nine!  That’s how many times Ferris Bueller unofficially missed class his senior year.  Three players are in the top 10 in the Summit League in batting average.  Oh and this team just beat Iowa State in Ames!  The Mavs are also 159 in RPI right now which is 2nd in the Summit behind North Dakota State.

With just one conference loss, the Mavs are currently 2nd in the conference standings behind 6-0 North Dakota State.  The Mavericks will end the regular season at North Dakota State and also still play 3rd place team South Dakota at home next weekend, so there is still a lot on the line for the Mavs as the two top seeds get byes in the conference tournament in Fargo.


Oh and per twitter, Caroline Hogue has left the women’s basketball team.  Someone may need to let Jon Green cry on their shoulder for a while.

 

 

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SDSU and NDSU should make for an important week for Omaha

Currently sitting tied at third in the Summit League, the Mavericks have the most important week that they have had since transitioning to division one.

It feels like crowds at both games should be bigger than normal this week.  A big crowd on a Wednesday might seem unlikely, but there are a decent number of South Dakota State alums that live in the Omaha area, and they all act like the Jackrabbits are the Spurs.  The Jackrabbit fans did declare Omaha as the “most dangerous” Summit League team, so we have that to hold onto. Omaha’s attendance has been up this season, for a number of reasons, but they have already surpassed the amount of fans that they had all of last season.  The Mavericks are currently averaging about 2050 fans per game, and they averaged nearly 1350 last season at the Ralston Arena.  The Mavericks averaged an attendance of 1970 in the three games that the Jackrabbits played at the Ralston Arena, so perhaps with more on the line this week, the Mavericks can have one of the biggest attendance weeks they’ve ever had in basketball…or at least since transition.  There is no Creighton game on Wednesday, and Nebraska is at Wisconsin, so there really could be more Omahans playing attention to this game than normal.

Not many teams have done well when facing the Jackrabbits and Bison in the same week over the past few seasons, and now the Mavericks unfortunately have to face that schedule after dropping two winnable games last week. There is obviously some pressure for the Mavs to do well here.  Losing two straight games made this week a must win week.  Omaha dropped 30 spots in RPI after dropping those two games last week. Starting off at 7-1 in the conference, and then dropping 3-of-4 games is certainly like watching the first half of a season of The Walking Dead, getting super jacked, and then sitting through 4 episodes where 75% of each episode is awful and you just want to get to the good stuff.

If the Mavs win (especially) Wednesday and Saturday , they still hold a chance to win the regular season title, and if they lose…well then.  The Mavericks have not done well against South Dakota State since transitioning to division one, only winning 1 game.  In fact, in the 6 losses to the Jackrabbits, SDSU has shot 51% from the field and Omaha has shot 38% from the field.  Omaha has also lost those 6 games by an average of 17 points.  The last time South Dakota State came to Omaha, the Mavericks shot 27% from the floor in the game.  I remember feeling confident about the Mavericks going into that game, but a few minutes into the second half made me want to take up a stress relieving hobby.  Like brewing my own craft beers, or just drinking craft beers…okay the drinking craft beers was in my wheelhouse all along.

The good news for Omaha is that road teams do not do very well in conference games on Wednesdays in the Summit League.  This season so far, road teams are 0-5 on Wednesday in conference games, and last year they were 3-9…but South Dakota State did have one of those wins; a 2 point win at Western Illinois last season.  Summit League players must just be upset that they have to wait for 2 Broke Girls, or Arrow.  Jurassic Park 3 is on TV this Wednesday night.  Okay, maybe the crowd wont be that big with that kind of competition.

The Mavericks are going to need senior guard Devin Patterson to step up on Wednesday.  Do you have a garbage can nearby?  Patterson in his last three games against South Dakota State has shot 24% from the field and 0-of-8 on threes.  The Jacks were able to, not stop but, contain the Mavericks penetration and ability to get to the line on the 28th.  Patterson might be the fastest player in the Summit League, although De’Angelo Bruster of Western Illinois is pretty damn fast, but he has had trouble with George Marshall and Deondre Parks, and he needs to penetrate and get to the line on Wednesday night.  Anything to force one of South Dakota State’s Big 3 to the line.

I mention these shooting woes in hopes of maybe reversing a jinx.  Patterson in his career against North Dakota State was pretty poor before the start of this season.  I mentioned weeks ago that in order for the Mavericks to beat the Bison in Fargo, that they would need Patterson to play better.  In 4 career games, he shot 22% from the field 21% on threes against the Bison, but he one of the better games of his career a few weeks ago going 11-of-14 from the field with 32 points; and the Mavericks were able to pick up their first win in Fargo.  The Mavericks need that Patterson on Wednesday night.

Patterson needs help though.  Tra-Deon Hollins has to step up a notch defensively with Patterson to help contain Marshall and Parks.  He only had 2 steals against South Dakota State.  It is good and sad that I said “he only had 2 steals.”  Marshall and Parks combined for 50 points and 19-of-25 from the floor in Brookings on the 28th.  It’s not like Jake Bittle should be ignored either.  In Omaha last year, Bittle went 7-of-7 from the floor with 21 points and 7 rebounds.  Oh, and the Jacks are 15-2 with Bittle in the lineup, and 4-3 without him in the lineup…so yes, he is important.

The Jacks are not quite as good as normal on the road, but the Mavericks are also probably slightly better on the road themselves than they are at home.  The Jacks lost at IUPUI and at North Dakota State, both games were without Bittle, but the Bison just absolutely embarrassed the Jackrabbits in Fargo.

The Mavericks have to play smart as a whole to pickup a win against South Dakota State.  They cannot have the missed dunks and layups, and the bad fouls, and the dumb turnovers against the Jacks; like they did against Denver.  The Jacks best lineup of Mike Daum, Reed Tellinghuisen, Bittle, and Parks really makes smart passes on the floor together, and every single one can knock down threes.  Tellinghuisen has struggled a bit this season, and he did well against the Mavericks last season, but he should be matched up mostly with Tre’Shawn Thurman on Wednesday night.  Thurman needs to attack Tellinghuisen, who appears to be the least confident looking player on the Jacks.

Then there is North Dakota State.  The Mavericks’ win in Fargo a few weeks ago is probably the best win that they have had since transitioning to division one, and the Bison struggle on the road with a 1-3 road record in Summit League games.  But the Mavericks just dropped two games to Western Illinois and Denver, and North Dakota State is not a team that should be taken lightly.

AJ Jacobson, last week, finally looked like the All Conference player he was predicted to be at the start of the season.  Jacobson averaged 21 points and 5.5 rebounds, going 15-of-23 from the floor and 9-of-15 on threes, in two games last week against Oral Roberts and IPFW, both at home.  Before that, he had really been struggling and it was questionable if he would even be named to the Honorable Mention Team in the Summit…well it’s still in question, but you get the idea.

North Dakota State’s defense was known for being very stingy last season, but they could only force the Mavericks to 8 turnovers on the 28th, and they had no answer for Devin Patterson.  The Mavericks also hold an advantage down low against the Bison.  Jake White had 17 points and 7 rebounds against the Bison and Thurman had 16 points and 9 rebounds against the front line of North Dakota State…which is banged up and undersized.

Still, whatever officials the Summit League puts in Omaha appear to be out to get White and Thurman.  Every home game I feel like the Mav fans are going to have to put in money for a bailout fund to collectively put together money to bail an entire arena out of the slammer for an altercation with referees. s

Randy Reed did not play last week with concussion symptoms, and Tim Smallwood appeared to be playing through some pain.  The Bison played without their leading scorer this season, Paul Miller, who sat out with a knee injury, and it is undetermined when he will be back at this point.

This week could really affect how the Mavericks finish.  They could end up in the top half of the seedings, and potentially even in the lower half of the seedings after this week.  So, no pressure at all.


Looking at the schedule this week and the standings…

  1. South Dakota State plays @ 7-4 Omaha and in Brookings against 3-8 South Dakota
  2. IPFW plays in Fort Wayne against  5-6 Denver
  3. Omaha plays in Omaha against 8-2 South Dakota State and 6-4 North Dakota State
  4. IUPUI plays @ 3-8 Oral Roberts
  5. North Dakota State plays @ 3-8 South Dakota and @ 7-4 Omaha
  6. Denver plays at home against 1-9 Western Illinois and @ 8-3 IPFW