It’s that time of year that the only sport we have to watch is mid-season MLB. It’s terrible. It’s the worst time of year. This time of year is the opposite of the holidays. I went outside yesterday. I don’t hate the MLB, but you can tell that American society cannot handle it when ESPN doesn’t know what to do with itself so they just experiment with drone racing and gluttony contests.
Don’t worry, college sports are around the corner. The schedule for the Mavericks’ basketball team should be coming out soon, and we know they will be playing at Rice, but who else could get scheduled while the athletic department scrambles to make money and probably forces the basketball team to play 10 non-conference road games.
They’re in Omaha. It’s not that far from UNO. They only have like 6,000 students or anything, so they probably are not all that good.
It’s a short drive to Des Moines, and Drake is…well…they have a new coach!
Florida Gulf Coast University
New Omaha Maverick Evan Tricker is from Florida, and a trip close to home and a chance to play in front of friends and family could have been part of the pitch to get him to move to the Midwest. I cannot think of many reasons as to why someone would want to relocate from Florida to Nebraska. It’s the fried grilled cheese sandwiches and bread pockets of beef and cheese, isn’t it?
A home-and-home series with Dunk City, you would be into that.
Maybe, the Mavericks could stop over and play the University of Houston while on their trip to play Rice. I’ve got a friend that lives in Houston. Let’s all make the trip. We can all stay in his one bedroom apartment. He claims to have moved into the “Yuppie neighborhood.” Let’s fill his 500 square foot apartment like a clown car.
Michigan (the state)
The Mavericks have traveled in the past to the state of Michigan to face Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, and Oakland. Let’s go after just about anyone else in that state. Why? Because the Mavericks have access to buses and a ton of recycling units all around campus. If you’re thinking we load up a bus with all the cans we can find and attempt the Michigan Bottle Deposit Scam – you’re right.
They’re in the same state as Omaha. Tim Miles may not be on the hot seat, but there is a candle sitting on the floor under his seat ready to be lit…so I doubt the Huskers are willing to schedule the Mavericks in 2017.
This could actually just be a terrible game if it happened in 2017. How? No one knows.
Apparently Dana Altman doesn’t like playing his friends, and it never appeared as if Altman and Derrin Hansen hated each other, so maybe he could just see it as helping UNO out by handing them a check for coming to Eugene. The Ducks also have former UNO coach Kevin McKenna and former UNO player Tony Stubblefield on the coaching staff.
Perhaps while in Oregon, the Mavericks could fly in or out of Portland and play the Portland Pilots so they can get an autograph from Terry Porter before he loses his job.
Someone in the state of Tennessee
There are a handful of universities in state of Tennessee, and I am sure senior Daniel Norl would love a trip home. Vanderbilt could hand the Mavericks some money, and while in the Volunteer State the Mavericks could also visit Belmont, Lipscomb, Tennessee State, or even Tennessee. Austin Peay even has Domas Budrys who played high school basketball in Lincoln after transferring from Lithuania.
First of all, why is their nickname “Valpo” and not “Valpa” which sounds like a terrible wrap you would buy at some trendy health restaurant?
Second of all, I seriously never knew that they were the Crusaders. I’ve never once heard anyone say “Valpo Crusaders,” it is always just “Valpo.”
Third of all, the Crus…Valpo got the invite over the Mavericks and a few other candidates to join the Missouri Valley. Part of the invitation should be facing every team on the possible list for a little drama.
After it was announced that New Mexico State football would be leaving the Sun Belt Conference, their administration has mentioned that they would form a committee to research a move looking into a new conference for their Olympic sports. Their administration mentioned The Big Sky as a conference that they have been in contact with, and one other unnamed conference. The move would more than likely break up the WAC, which is just the worst anyway, so how about we open up a topic of: Could the Summit League be growing anytime soon.
Here are some potential schools that could join the Summit League as a 10th member from the WAC or just something at random I felt like bringing up.
New Mexico State
Geographically there are conferences that would work out better for New Mexico State for their non-football sports. The SWAC, Southland, Big West, Big Sky, and the West Coast Conference all come to mind as suitors for New Mexico State to join. The Mountain West would too if the conference wanted to take on a 13th football member. Have you heard Wichita State has thought of adding football and joining the Mountain West? Oh wait, anyway…
You might be thinking that New Mexico State could be a travel partner with Denver, but really New Mexico State is a 9 hour drive from Denver. This is a school that is currently in a conference with programs in Kansas City, Chicago, and Seattle; so Denver may not be all that far away really in their minds. And Denver dream every week of joining a new conference. They’re probably somewhere right now discussing about how moving to the Big West would be better than the Summit League.
The school is open to the possibility of moving to FCS in football and maybe the Missouri Valley would be the most competitive conference for them to move into than the Big Sky. I have a friend who was a quarterback at Montana, and he said he would be against New Mexico State joining the Big Sky because it would put them at 15 teams with Idaho also joining the conference in 2018…and that is just too many damn teams. Though, the back up quarterback for Montana in the early 2000s does not decide who joins or leaves the conference. Or could he? It could be like that terrible Swing Vote movie with Kevin Costner that only Kevin Costner and whatever family member he forced to go with saw.
Again, the Aggies joining the Summit is a long shot, but the school could really help improve baseball for the Summit League. It would put the league at 7 baseball programs, and it is never bad for your conference to get more South and more West for baseball and softball recruiting. Aggies Baseball is coached by Brian (not Austin) Green, who is a former assistant of Kentucky and UCLA. He helped take the Aggies from a 10 win team to a 34 win team in baseball.
So maybe New Mexico State does join the The Big Sky and the conference does annoyingly have too many teams. If that happens, some school may want to get out of the conference. Maybe that school is Northern Colorado. It would make sense. Their football team could move to the Missouri Valley for football, wrestling would still be in the Big 12 with North Dakota State, and Denver would have a travel partner. Again, Denver is apparently a wild card in remaining in the Summit League.
The Bears may not be the most competitive athletic program, but it works out as far as what sports they have to offer. It would be hard for me to turn down a weekend trip to Colorado for the Mavericks versus the Pioneers and Bears. A weekend of college basketball, and possibly NBA basketball, hiking, Illegal Pete’s breakfast burritos, breweries, and maybe some hockey.
Really, why did they leave the Summit League? I was a little pumped to get to Kansas City to see the Kangaroos and Mavericks play year after year. There was a decent number of Maverick fans that made the drive when I went in 2013. I don’t think I can turn down a short drive to see the Mavericks and the prospect of eating at Oklahoma Joe’s. Now, I’ve got a shorter drive to look forward to get to Vermillion and eat at…Chick Fil-A is probably pretty exciting I guess. I just crave their cups of expired fruit.
If the WAC did end up breaking up, I really do not see where else the Kangaroos could go. Hold on, I just tried to think of how to compare the ridiculousness of UMKC asking to get back into the Summit League to my Trump loving uncle asking me for portions of spaghetti noodles in the 2020 American Civil War.
UMKC has very fan support. The Kangaroos have under performed in basketball the last few years under Kareem Richardson. Men’s soccer has a losing record in WAC games. They have no baseball and no football. Their main bargaining chip is that Kansas City is a pretty fun place, and I think we’re actually all okay with that.
Honestly, I just really think that the Summit League needs to go all in to get Drake to join the conference. I have no idea what I mean “go all in” because I don’t know what the official conversations consist of when a conference invites a school to join. Maybe we wave some fees? Give them a post season tournament? Buy them a steak? Squeak a cute dog toy in their direction and say “cooooooommmmeeee onnnnn.”
I have never really heard of Drake being consistently competitive in anything in the Missouri Valley, and for some reason their football team plays in the Pioneer League? Their women’s basketball, volleyball, and softball team have been okay the last few years, but nothing great. Drake could consistently be in the top half of every sport in the Summit League.
The Bulldogs in the Summit could help recruit some more Iowa kids to the conference, and open up another place like Des Moines for Summit League championships. I’m told that Des Moines is a great place by every boring person on the planet.
The Bears men’s basketball have not been eligible for post season play for the past two seasons due to APR penalties, so they may not be the most ideal program to add to the Summit League. Russ Pennell actually seems like he could turn their basketball program around with a little time. Other men’s teams are really not all that competitive, but their women’s teams are all pretty competitive in the Southland. The women’s basketball team finished the season at 28-4 with a trip to the NCAA tournament; and tennis; softball; and volleyball all finished with winning records as well.
Central Arkansas may actually benefit from joining the Summit League than the Summit League would benefit from Central Arkansas joining the conference. They could join the conference as a travel partner with Oral Roberts as they are only 3 hours away from Tulsa. The closest Southland school to Conway, Arkansas is a 5 hour drive. My initial feeling if Central Arkansas were to join the Summit League would be that the Denver fans would want out of the conference, but they find a new reason to get out of the Summit League every week.
By the way, they call their women’s teams the “Sugar Bears.”
The Denver Pioneers were a missed free throw away from playing North Dakota State in the Summit League Championship, and Joe Scott was also maybe that close to not being let go by the Pioneers.
The Joe Scott firing was a little shocking, but it kind of makes sense. With Denver Lacrosse, Hockey, and Soccer all being very extremely competitive programs; it makes sense that the expectations for the private university would be higher on the men’s basketball team. It’s sort of like how I had incredibly low expectations for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because it was directed by the guy who made 300 and written by the guy that wrote all three Blade films…I guess it’s the same… I know a few people that have migrated to Denver, and I’ve asked them if they ever go to Pioneer basketball games and usually the reason they don’t go is because the Pioneers were pretty boring to watch.
Rodney Billups, who you will always refer to as “Chauncey Billups’ brother” is offering a more up-tempo style of basketball in comparison to the Princeton offense that Joe Scott ran. One has to wonder how long it will take for this to turn out to be successful for the Pioneers.
Billups has a great young core of players who appear like they could work out well for an up-tempo style of play. By the way, it will be okay for Mav fans to accuse the Pioneers for being trendy in picking an up-tempo style. It’s fine. Freshman guard Joe Rosga finished the season averaging 12.7 points per game; freshman forward CJ Bobbitt finished with 8.4 points per game; and freshman guard Thomas Neff finished 6.0 points per game. All three freshmen shot above 43% from the field.
The Princeton offense is all about taking the best shot available, so their players usually shoot high percentages. The best shot isn’t always the most important thing in an up-tempo style of play, so soon the Pioneers as a whole may actually not lead the conference in field goal percentage for once.
The Pioneers are going to have a couple roster changes for Billups to move forward with this new brand of basketball. They are losing two guys, Nate Engesser and Marcus Byrd, who averaged double digit scoring, but we’ve routinely seen this to not be a problem for Denver. Both players were efficient scorers, and seemed to find themselves open quite a bit while playing in the Baxter Arena… I thought Byrd was one of the more underrated players in the Summit in 2016, he averaged 16.7 points over the last 8 games of the season. He was probably the biggest reason the Pioneers did not finish 8th in the conference.
Denver will also lose their point guard, Bryant Rucker. It is weird to call someone a point guard when they average 1.5 assists per game, but the Princeton offense is not an offense for point guards to rack up assists. No one seems to know what is going on with the sophomore center Daniel Amigo who only played in 13 games this season for Denver, but he showed some promise in his freshman season. It’s okay, the Pioneers have 6’6″ sophomore center Christian Mackey to haunt our dreams. I swear that kid was allowed 15 fouls in the first round of the Summit League tournament.
The Pioneers have two high school seniors that have signed letters of intent: a 6’0″ and 145lb point guard from Arvada, Colorado…and a 6’6″ wing player from the state of Texas. These players could change their minds and go elsewhere with Denver going a new route in coaching, but as of right now the Pioneers only have room for one more player to sign for next season.
Their roster is filled with wing players, so one would think they would love a junior college post player or point guard; or a 5th year transfer at either position. Denver is not really known for landing transfers, but maybe the new style will call for it.
Drake’s Kale Abrahamson is leaving the Bulldogs and will be eligible immediately. Abrahamson is originally from Des Moines, so it is not like he would be transferring back home. He started his college career at Northwestern, so he clearly likes academics…Denver just seems like the perfect place for the 6’8″ player that could help Chauncey’s brother jump start his culture change in year one. He shot a pretty low percentage from the field (39.1) in his one year at Drake, but Drake basketball seems like a cluster of poor choices right now. I say this like it’s a mean thing, but I am all about the Summit League going all in on trying to steal Drake away from the Missouri Valley. Just think about it…
It is hard for most coaches to see a high level of success in year one, especially when changing everything; but the Pioneers have the pieces to move forward. They are most likely not going to end up winning the regular season, but by could have things figured out as a team by the time they start the conference tournament, again. They will probably finish the regular season standings in 2016-2017 somewhere between 4th and 8th in the Summit League. Now if only they would actually play someone in their non-conference schedule.
My friend and I were talking and making fun of the Big 10 in how it has all these challenges, really I do not know if two challenges classifies as “all of these” but still, one sounds like enough. Anyway, we were talking, and we got on the subject that the Summit League should get a challenge going. It might not make a bunch of a sense really. Challenges are meant for the bigger conferences, I guess, but really they are meant for some nice television ratings and to ensure all of the bigger conference teams do not just schedule all the SWAC and American East teams of the world…or the Summit League teams.
Maybe for a conference like the Summit League it would not mean a world of exposure, but it could at least ensure a game on television, or atleast ESPN3, for each of the schools involved in a challenge. It seams most Summit League teams automatically throw in some WAC and/or Big Sky teams on the schedule, so really if you put together a challenge with the Summit League and the WAC or Big Sky, you really would not create much of a buzz. So my friend and I (lazily) threw out the Missouri Valley Conference as a potential challenger to the Summit League.
It does not have that high amount of prestige that the Big 10/ACC Challenge has, but what does, really? A bulk of the teams are already all in the same region, some even go after the same recruits, so maybe there would not be much national exposure to this, but regionally it could pick up a decent amount of attention. Fox Sports could get in on this, they seem to like the Missouri Valley, mainly because there is not a whole bunch else they can pick up, so they could get behind this.
So here, I put together what it could look like if these two teams were to meet up in a challenge. I based it off of the 2014-2015 standings, and took Wichita State out, just because, you know… After you see this, you will clearly see that I am in no way qualified to coordinate a conference versus conference challenge. But it actually creates for some pretty fun and interesting match ups if you get these conferences got together.
Final 2014-2015 RPI Rankings in parenthesis.
North Dakota State (94) @ Northern Iowa (11)
Admit it, you just got a little excited and you may have to go to the bathroom. Both schools have gone up against each in recruiting, in just about every single sport that both have available. If you have ever been to the Northern Iowa or the Fargo areas you will know that both like to pretend that they are in the state of Minnesota.
This could really serve as the marquee match up of this hypothetical challenge. Obviously, Northern Iowa finished with a much higher RPI ranking, and South Dakota State even finished higher than North Dakota State, so really you could flip-flop the two. North Dakota State has earned some national recognition for themselves, probably a little more than Northern Iowa sadly. Northern Iowa really seemed to sneak up on people in the middle of the 2014-2015 season, but really they are almost always a really solid team that can go right up against anyone. This game could really be the, Can North Dakota State Prove Themselves game, or the Is Northern Iowa Really That Good game, depending on which way you want to look at it. I want to put a disclaimer here, that I believe both schools are the real deal, but most people unfamiliar with both schools pretty much never give either of them any credit and attribute their winning to playing a weak schedule.
Knowing what I know about Fargonians, if you take the pride that they have in North Dakota State, which is a ton of pride, and you remind them that Northern Iowa snapped the football team’s winning streak, they might declare war on the state of Iowa until this game were to actually happen in basketball. Honestly, if this game were to happen in 2015, I am not sure North Dakota State has anyone that can handle Seth Tuttle. AJ Jacobson and Chris Kading are pretty good, but Tuttle is incredibly consistent and he is 6’8″ and 240 and can do literally everything.
Illinois State (53) @ South Dakota State (84)
It just so happens that these two teams will see each other in the Cancun Challenge in November. It is no guarantee that they will play each other, but they could at least see each at the hotel or something.
Both teams won 20+ games last season, and both made it to the 2nd round of the NIT in the 2014-2015 season. The teams though are returning the opposite type of players though. Illinois State is returning more post players, while South Dakota State is returning an incredibly solid core of guards. Both teams played 35 games in 2014-2015, the Jackrabbits attempted 116 more threes on the season than Illinois State did, so that might be an indicator of the different styles of play that the two teams go with…or it might be some dumb weird coincidence that stats are lying about, I honestly did not watch any Illinois State games last year.
IPFW (215) @ Indiana State (177)
Hey, hey, hey, Indiana! Indiana is a basketball state, but these two schools have not really profited off of that notion for quite some time. These schools appear to be moving in opposite directions with Indiana State on the rise and IPFW on the fall. Okay, has IPFW ever really been on the top of the world? Probably not, but they continue to underachieve. Maybe a little match up with the Sycamores could get them to care. It is not like the Sycamores are above exceptional, but they do have more glamour than the Mastodons do. Wait for it, wait for it…IPFW graduated a good deal of their core, while the Sycamores only graduated two players that were the 4th and 6th best scorers on the team.
(I think) The last time these two teams met was in 2006 in Fort Wayne. The Sycamores won the game 67-61 in front of about 2400 people. Indiana State finished that season 13-18 and IPFW finished 12-17. It is totally cool to not fully understand why people think Indiana is a basketball state.
Evansville (82) @ Oral Roberts (156)
Okay, we are getting lucky here. An Indiana-Indiana match up and now a Private School-Private School match up. Evansville always seems to be a bit of a wild card, and Oral Roberts is showing every sign of being a wild card in 2015-2016. This game could seriously be directed by Wes Anderson. You would be entertained, but you really would not know why. It would be incredibly slow at moments, and then just oddly paced for brief stints to confuse the crap out of you. You would constantly be thinking that you know what will happen next, but you will pretend to be surprised that it actually happened the way you thought it would exactly happen. You would also pretend that you were entertained the whole time afterwards, and somehow forget that you were just survived 2 of the most boring hours of your life, but hey that one guy was really good in it.
South Dakota (212) @ Loyola (87)
Nothing gets you going like an old Coyotes and Ramblers match, or a good old Vermillion against Chicago atmosphere. Does it shock anyone else to hear that Loyola had an RPI of 87? With the exception of a loss to Southern Illinois, the Ramblers really had a season in which they lost to the teams you would have expected them to lose and they won the game they should have won. This was the same team that most of us made fun of as the replacement to Creighton in the Valley. South Dakota exceeded expectations in 2014-2015, much like the Ramblers, but the expectations were so incredibly low for the Coyotes that no one outside of the Summit league seemed to notice. There was some inconsistency, like just about every team in the Summit League…they picked up a win against North Dakota State, but also lost to IUPUI.
Drake (259)@ Denver (234)
We are back on a little private school on private school action. Both teams will return very little in 2015-2016, so this would turn out to be a Who the Hell is That Guy With the Ball? game. Drake had transfers from Northwestern and Penn State sitting out, so they will have some instant help coming in, note that I did not say instant stars, I said instant help.
Also, take note that this is the state of Colorado against the state of Iowa. Those two states have a hate for each other that I will never understand. Maybe it is the fact that they are complete opposites. One has mountains, one has trailer parks, sorry for the slams Iowa, but seriously. I like to think it is because of the episode of South Park when they find the guy frozen from the early 90s, and to help the guy adjust to modern times they send him to Des Moines because it is constantly 3 years behind in everything. South Park is completely factual.
Wait, back to this…Denver is known for not scoring a bunch of points, not because of the inability to do so, but more so for the ability to be patient and wait for shots. With that in mind, Denver scored more points per game than Drake. That is how fun Drake is at the moment. I watched a few of their game this last season, they were incredibly slow, and not because they ran an offense like Denver’s, but because their players were physically all incredibly slow. Drake did shoot 41% on threes in 2014-2015, so there is that.
Missouri State (237) @ IUPUI (257)
These two teams between them only had one guy that averaged more than 10 points per game. that one player, Marcus Marshall, averaged 19.5 before leaving the team in January. I am really not building up a great case of this challenge to be an entertaining series. But IUPUI already gets every game of theirs on ESPN 3 somehow…
Omaha (299) @ Southern Illinois (274)
I love how outside of a basketball game, Derrin Hansen seems like the most fun loving guy you will ever encounter, like he would just go get a beer and watch the NBA playoffs and crack a bunch of jokes with you…but on the sideline he never smiles and is completely ready for business. There is no limit on the price that I would pay to see Derrin Hansen mean mug Barry Hinson all night.
Southern Illinois fans are some of the most sport educated people you will ever encounter. In case you cannot tell, I am being sarcastic. They are probably unaware that UNO is division one, but that is cool, it is not their job to know. But when their fans are looking up information on Omaha on their Motorala Razrs they will realize that their former big time rival is from Omaha. Ohhhhhhhhh, this will boil their blood like no other.
Western Illinois (328) @ Bradley (280)
This would definitely be the Aquaman versus Namor the Sub-Mariner of the crossover. That is a DC vs. Marvel reference, and a damn good one if you ask me. Western Illinois has Garrett Covington and JC Fuller to help them appear entertaining, note that I said entertaining. and not championship contending. Bradley has, well I am sure they have something entertaining about them. I know, I know, I have been completely ignorant for a guy that is in love with a basketball team that finished 299 in RPI.
The Mavs will finally be fully eligible for the post season next year…duh. From what I have heard, the 2015-2016 schedule for the UNO Mavericks men’s basketball team includes trips to Minnesota, Missouri, Wyoming, and “a trip to Vegas.” I am not sure how complete the schedule is at this point, but from what I have heard creating a schedule can be pretty difficult. It was pretty difficult in EA Sports’ March Madness 2007. That was the worst video game I have ever played. Well that is dead anyway, but here are some trips and games that I thought could be potentially good match ups and/or fun trips for the Mavericks and their fans should they choose to go. A few of these are suggested home-and-home series, and the others are just UNO going there once.
Virginia – 7 (Final RPI Ranking) or Virginia Tech – 221
The first UNO game I could watch on ESPN3 was UNO @ Michigan State. I remember the commentators saying Derrin Hansen was trying to sell recruits at the time on the opportunity to go play against the bigger teams in their home area. With Jake White and Marcus Tyus getting a run at Minnesota, Randy Reed getting the chance to go up against Missouri, and Tim Smallwood getting conference foe Oral Roberts, that leaves out Devin Patterson for the senior non-Omaha guys.
I would think you would be more comfortable with the Mavs going up against Virginia Tech just based on the RPI rankings, but if you are one of the people that want them to play the best to become the best, then obviously Virginia would be the more appropriate choice for that route. Tech had a pretty similar roster this season as far as experience with 2 seniors, 4 juniors, 1 sophomore, and 5 freshman but they were a substantially larger team. I never watched a Virginia Tech game this season, because I mean, why would I have? Based on the just really lazy investigating, they appear to be a pretty slow team which could draw to the Mavs’ advantage.
Drake – 259
I thought I heard that Drake had a return game to Omaha from the Mavs playing them in Des Moines in 2013, but I have yet to see it or hear anyone mention it ever since. I may have made it up in my own mind now that I think about it. If the Mavs had to go to Drake again, the Bulldogs are a little over two hours away, so obviously not a bad trip for Mav fans. Des Moines also has a lot of fun stuff to do like…turn around and drive back to Omaha.
As a former conference foe to the Creighton Bluejays, the JaySkers may draw some interest in this game and show up for a game in Omaha. The Bulldogs have been going after some of the same recruits as UNO, so that could add some animosity and create a new I-80 rivalry with the Bulldogs. Both programs could live off of the “screw Creighton” policy.
Drake did not have the greatest season in 2014-2015, but it is not like they had the greatest of expectations. The Bullsdogs did have a bright spot with freshman Reed Timmer leading the team in scoring at 11.5 ppg, so the future does not look awful. In addition to Timmer, Drake will have two Big 10 players that will be eligible for the 2015-2016 season, Kale Abrahamson from Northwestern and Graham Woodward from Penn State.
So most of this trip is based on wife’s alumni status to Belmont, and it is not like anyone would ever actually attempt to schedule all 6 of these schools, but my wife has stated that if someone needed 2 or 3 quick road games that they should check out the Nashville area. I have never been to Nashville, but as she described it, Vanderbilt, Belmont, and Lipscomb are all right on the same block.
Nashville is an 11 hour drive through Kansas City and St. Louis, so it is not like it would be the most boring drive in the world for the Mavs and/or their fans. Mav fans that like country music would have the time of lives in Nashville as it is the center of country music with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. My wife says to not go out and do karaoke unless you are a serious singer. The karaoke scene is much different there as it is composed of people trying to make it in the industry and get noticed for a record deal, not people getting really drunk and singing songs in an Eric Cartman voice. I would not know, I think karaoke is dumb either way.
Vanderbilt – 88
The only SEC school that appears to actually care about academics of the student athletes finished the season making it to the 3rd round of the NIT. Vanderbilt was made up of mostly underclassmen, so you have to think they have a bright future as they are not really a program that is built around one and done stars. They would be kind of the centerpiece of the Nashville trip, but with a SEC team already on the schedule, this could be a tough sell to the UNO program. As a fan if you went to the game or watched it on television, you could just find yourself upset that the team benches are located on the baseline. It is one of those things that bugs me and I cannot figure out what it is about it that is so upsetting. It is like not liking someone, but you cannot exactly put your finger on it as to what makes you want to punch them in the face every time you see them.
Belmont – 100
Rick Byrd has been with Belmont since they were in the NAIA so he knows what is like to take a program into division one and how long it can take to become a successful program at the D1 level. Hopefully because of this, he can have some sympathy for Derrin Hansen and the UNO Mavericks.
The two schools have played a home-and-home series in men’s soccer, so the two athletic programs have had some sort of communication. Playing Belmont would be no easy task, their size and athleticism is pretty similar to UNO, but they rarely make mistakes and are one of the best at hitting the three. Last year the Bruins ranked 4th in the nation with 10 threes made per game, and as you probably know, the Mavericks were not the best at perimeter defense. Belmont has a winning record of 101-36 since UNO made the transition in 2011-2012. The team should be returning their top three scorers as well. Hey, did you also know that, per Rivals, South Dakota State’s Reed Tellinghuisen’s final three choices were SDSU, UNO and Belmont?
Belmont also hosts the Country Music Awards, so there is that. My wife also claims you can just randomly see celebrities just about anywhere. She once saw Tim McGraw in Walmart and Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban at a tiny little diner. The university was also the shooting location for a number of Hannah Montana episodes, might I suggest a Socker Boppers tournament at random places around campus to get your rage issues out of the way when you think of Miley Cyrus?
Lipscomb – 275
I do not know much about Lipscomb other than that they are one of Belmont’s biggest rivals and that they are on the same block as Belmont, and hey they are pretty close to UNO in RPI. I bet a good ole Summit League versus Atlantic Sun battle really gives you that special feeling that makes you feel like your heart is going to explode out of excitement.
Tennessee Tech – 288
An hour and a half from Nashville, but per Verbal Commits, their basketball program has been going at the same level of recruits as UNO. They made offers to Zach Pirog and Ben Kozitske. Also pretty close to UNO in RPI.
Austin Peay – 316
A hour drive from Nashville, and hey what the hell, while we are there I guess. Austin Peay is one of those programs that you have seen the name on the ESPN bottom line score center and it always sticks out, but you literally do not know anything about them. The basketball program also has Lincoln’s Parkview Christian School’s Domas Budrys (by way of Lithuania) on the roster and they also gave former UNO player Jalen Bradley an offer this year, so where do they get off?
Middle Tennessee State -152
I am not going to pretend that I know anything about Middle Tennessee State, I seriously had no idea that they were in Conference USA until right now. Mufreesboro is also a hour drive from Nashville.
Weber State – 260
Okay, I know I am biased since I worked at Weber State for a year, but the schools actually have some pretty decent similarities that could make for a fun match up. Both schools are at that “lower major” status and battling for name recognition with the bigger names in their own state with UNO dealing with Nebraska and Creighton and Weber State dealing with Utah and BYU. Like UNO, Weber State is also a commuter campus and they have had difficulties trying to find that community support that UNO was struggling with for quite some time. Weber State men’s basketball though is pretty similar to Creighton in the Dana Altman era in regards to that it is difficult for them to get teams to come to them. They are a decent basketball program, and they really want to do the home-and-home series with the bigger programs, but the bigger programs end up laughing at them. They really do not want to do the Go Play a Big 10 Team and Get Crushed games. Weber State did play Oral Roberts in Ogden this year and won by one point, so it is possible that they will have a game in Tulsa in 2015-2016, not sure how many Summit League teams the Wildcats want to play.
Weber State was picked to win the Big Sky conference, based on basically nothing, but they ended up tying for 7th (out of 12) in the conference with Idaho and a 13-17 overall record and finished with an RPI of 260. The Wildcats are coached by Iowa native Randy Rahe who has tried to get into the Nebraska area of recruiting in the recent years. Last year he had former Omaha Skutt center James Hajek as a senior, and he has also had some players from Nebraska junior colleges join his program in the past. Rahe was also rumored for the Drake job when it was last available. He has taken the Wildcats to two NCAA tournaments.
Even though the Wildcats did under perform this last season, they have some great pieces returning that could help prepare the Mavericks for the Summit League. They will be returning 2nd Team All Big Sky forward Joel Bolomboy, who will be a senior, that averaged a double double with 13 ppg and 10 rpg as well as 6’2″ guard Jeremy Senglin, who will be a junior, that averaged 16 ppg, 3 rpg, and 3+ apg. Aside from that, the only player that they are graduating is Hajek.
If Mav fans were willing to make the trip, Ogden and northern Utah have a lot to offer. Anywhere you are in northern Utah, you are a guaranteed 15-20 minute drive away from a beautiful hike. Get some beautiful pictures at Antelope Island 20 minutes away from Ogden, see the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, and you can also go take a look at all the sights and gorgeous landscape that hosted the 2002 Olympics. Oh, there is also an In N Out Burger in between the Salt Lake City airport and Ogden… The trip is about a 13 1/2 hour drive from Omaha, but can be risky with the state of Wyoming basically giving up when it comes to taking care of I-80 during the winter. The flights are usually not too bad though, you will typically have to connect through Denver and end up on two separate 90 minute flights. There is a large Salt Lake City group that loves the Huskers that hosts watch parties for Husker games, but if you were to go you would actually find a decent number of UNO alumni in the group
If you are a beer drinker though and want to make the trip to Utah, you will more than likely not have a great time, especially if you are not into outdoors stuff. The Salt Lake City Husker bar is really fun though, they have a party room dedicated to the Huskers (and the Utes). I also have some Weber State friends that I have been talking a little smack to telling them that UNO is superior in basketball (and another number of sports), so there may be a few Ogdenians that will get a little too into the game and causing a ruckass. Weber State did have a decent club hockey team while I was there, and Ogden has the Mustangs, a Junior A team in the WSHL, so there is always the potential to catch some hockey while there.
Omaha and Weber State have already played in softball (UNO won) and women’s soccer (WSU won) so again, there has been some form of communication between the two athletic departments. Also, while I was working at Weber State the volleyball team played at a tournament in Lincoln against Nebraska and Creighton and I offered to give their (now former) head coach information on restaurants and things to go do and see…he was actually surprisingly a really big jerk about the entire thing.
Okay, so the schedule is already pretty tough as it is with two power 5 schools on the schedule already, and there may not be room for one more, but you have to admit you have some interest with the Mavs going up against former UNO coach Kevin McKenna. Derrin Hansen could definitely soften up Dana Altman and McKenna by bringing them some Runzas and Dinker’s. That may be the only way to sell it to Altman and McKenna. When Altman played against Creighton in the CBI Championship, it was definitely awkward already with how recent it was since Altman had just left Creighton, but also Altman claimed that he did not like playing against his friends. I am not sure if him and Hansen have a relationship, but I am sure they have ran into each other, and it could be difficult for Altman having to face a jersey with the word Omaha on it.
Portland State -166
Portland – 221
Okay there is not much that I actually know about Portland and Portland State, but to get to Eugene, Oregon to play the Ducks, it would probably be best to fly through Portland. I know that Portland State is a commuter campus just like UNO, they are in the Big Sky, which the Mavericks and other Summit League teams like to go up against, and I know that the city of Portland is awesome.
The city has literally everything you could ever ask for. Great scenic views, awesome hikes within driving distance, the Columbia Gorge is just about one of the most beautiful things that you will ever see, tons of breweries and unique restaurants, mountains to look at and drive to, the ocean is about an hour and a half away, and the state also has no sales tax. There is also Voodoo Doughnut, their line gets really long, I was there on a Sunday night at 10 pm and the line was longer than a Christopher Nolan film. Portland is also a huge hipster community, possibly the biggest I have ever seen, so it may be difficult for Rylan Murry to ever come back to Omaha after a trip out there. You can also walk around and mock everything that you have seen in “Portlandia”. Who else wants to have an adult hide and go seek league? Per the UNO Alumni Association, there are 400+ living in the state of Oregon that are UNO alumni, but Portland is right on the border of Washington state which has 700+ UNO alumni so there is a chance of getting a decent turnout to see the Mavs in the area.
Portland State has been trying to recruit a little from the Nebraska area, but I really do not know why, none of their coaches have any ties to the Midwest, and their basketball program has yet to land anyone from the area. The Vikings will lose seven seniors from their 2014-2015 roster that opened up the season by winning at USC, which really is not all that big of a deal. They also will not have much height on the roster with only only player 6’7″ or taller, as of right now anyway. The Vikings do have a Arizona State guard sitting out in the 2014-2015 season, Calaen Robinson, who the team is expecting to play a huge role in the 2015-2016 season.
The Portland Pilots beat Drake and Murray State this season, two teams that the Mavs lost to in 2013-2014. They also lost a narrow game at UNLV by two points. Okay, this seems a little more interesting now. The Pilots, like the city of Portland, is a really diverse team. Their roster this season consisted of guys from Canada, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and obviously the Pacific Northwest. If sitting around in a giant hipster city, drinking craft beer, eating delicious sushi, and making fun of tall people’s funny last names is fun to you, then maybe you are wishing this trip would have happened this season. The Pilots also has a will be sophomore named Jason Todd, so if you are a comic book nerd and understand what that means, you are pretty much looking for airplane tickets to Portland right now.
Montana State -323
Speaking of Dana Altman, Montana State is coached by his former assistant Brian Fish who is trying to grow some respect for his program. Fish was rumored for the Western Illinois job a while back, and he has been recruiting in Omaha’s backyard. Again, Montana State is a Big Sky team. I have never been to the state of Montana, so…that is all I have to say about that. The average high temperature of Bozeman in November is 42 degrees and in December it is 33 degrees, so it is not like it is completely awful.
In 2014-2015, the Bobcats had…ahh hell I am not even going to try.
Southern Miss – 283
Hey Doc Sadler, remember when you said there was no way you would schedule UNO? Southern Miss was one of the worst scoring and worst rebounding teams in division one this past season, that actually sounds really familiar to Nebraska fans. I am still pretty baffled that they beat North Dakota State, who they did schedule a home-and-home series with. Doc’s team had no player taller than 6’7″ and only graduated one player from this season, oh and their non conference schedule only had two power five schools on it, so yes that sounds exactly like a Doc Sadler team.
I am just saying, based on everything that I can perceive about Sadler, if the Mavs called him and pretended to be the University of New Orleans I am sure they could convince Doc to schedule “the Privateers” and Doc’s staff would just sign the contract without looking at it actually saying University of Nebraska at Omaha instead of University of New Orleans. Then Doc would actually look at his schedule at some point and drop his signature phrase of “I am not a smart man.”
I think UNO fans and people in Nebraska would like the match up. Doc was never really an enemy to anyone around here. He was never Santa Claus but he was never Martin Short as Jack Frost. People around here genuinely liked Doc as a person and would welcome back to Omaha for a night or two.
The transitioning schools
As a school that is just finishing up the transitioning period, we know how painful of a four year process it can be, so maybe we can help out the following programs. Also as a Mav fan, I am keen to go play and beat these teams as four of the five had better RPI rankings than the Mavs last season.
Abilene Christian – 326
10-21 record in 2014-2015, 3 wins were against non-D1 opponents
scored 27 points in their final game of the season, ouch
Grand Canyon – 279
They have Thunder Dan as their head coach, that is enough for me
Incarnate Word – 173
They beat Nebraska last year, which may have led to the destruction of the Huskers’ confidence all season
Massachusetts Lowell – 262
Finished 12-17 overall including 1 win over a non-D1 opponent
As of right now, their 2015-2016 roster will be composed of one senior and the rest of the team will be freshmen and sophomores
Ranked 346th out of 351 in the nation in rebounding as a team
Northern Kentucky -263
Will be coached by John Brannen, former Alabama assistant
They got to play in their conference tournament. Why? What the shit?
Southern Illinois – 274
Another team coming to terms with the “screw Creighton” policy. I am not sure if Creighton and Southern Illinois ever actually had a bitter rivalry program to program or if it was really just Creighton not liking SIU taking their attention away for a few years. I remember Southern Illinois fans being incredibly furious whenever Creighton played in Carbondale. I searched and searched online to find the “I h8 Cr8n” shirts that their fans made but had no luck.
Southern Illinois has also had and won some recruiting battles with the Mavs, so this just irritates me more than it should. With the transition over, this should be less and less of a problem so that is refreshing. Also I feel like Creighton fans would come out to the game in disguise just to yell at Barry Hinson. Seriously, Hinson seems like he was molded out of puddy by Rita Repulsa to create the ultimate douche to destroy the Power Rangers, but probably more likely to destroy Southern Illinois. Granted, it is not like he took over the best program there in Carbondale.
UMKC – 293
Is anyone else incredibly bored with this match up? I do love a trip to Kansas City, but the Kangaroos have more players than they do fans, so it feels like you are going back and watching an old Division 2 game. The game I attended in Kansas City in 2013 there were more Mavs fan than Kangaroo fans. Most of the UMKC fans there were parents of the youth cheerleaders that put on a routine at halftime and then they all left at halftime.
The loss to UMKC this last season should have left an disgusting taste in your mouth. It was the first loss of the season that the whole team was available for, and a team that most thought the Mavs should not have lost to. The Mavs had 26 turnovers in this game. 26! So yes, I would love to see the Mavs get the chance again to not have 26 turnovers. Every time the Mavs play UMKC in anything I get more wrapped up in “why the hell are they in the WAC” instead of the actual game itself. They have to fly to every single one of their conference games, so you know they are looking to make up for it in the non conference schedule. Oh we can drive there? Just send them a contract and hope they sign it.
They will be returning Martez Harrison who was an All American Honorable Mention player. He averaged 17.5 ppg and 4 apg, and he had 25 points and 6 assists against the Mavs in the one game they played this season. A guard like Harrison could prepare the Mav back court for what they are going to have to go up against in the Summit League next season. The Summit League is going to be filled with a lot of great guards this upcoming season.
I am not expecting Mav fans to make the trips for the in season games, but how refreshing was it as a Mav fan to see how many students and fans made it out to the Frozen Four? With things beginning to “matter” more, fans are going to be willing to make the fun trips.