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.”

 

 

 

 

 

2 games, 2 nights, 2 losses, and I had to eat some pride

I will accept a partial amount of blame for the loss of this Eastern Michigan game.  You see, and please do not attempt to find me and punch me in the face, but I took a Creighton season ticket holder to the game with me.  Yes, I took Dick C. Fan with me.  DCF is a UNO graduate.  He is a MavJaySker, though Husker football is the only Nebraska sport that he roots for, but he is cool with UNO sports.  DCF is more of a Creighton fan though, and because of his Creighton roots, he used to despise Jake White due to his Wichita State days.  The funny thing is, DCF actually looks a little bit like Jake White.  Remember, part of the plan is to get the MavJaySkers to get to UNO games and respect the players, coaches, and where the program has come.  I may have given DCF a little too much flack in the past.  He did follow UNO athletics in their division 2 days, but thought them moving to division 1 was a bit of a joke at first, but he appears to be comfortable with it now.

When Jake White announced that he was going to transfer to UNO, I immediately texted DCF and told him that his distant relative was going to be a Maverick.  DCF was not happy.  I think he cussed me out over a text message, and begged me to stop calling Jake White his cousin.  Over parts of last season, I would text DCF to update him on how good Jake White was playing as a Mav, and he never responded to any of the texts.

The day the Mavericks played UMKC, DCF texted me to see if I wanted to go to the Creighton game with him.  I told him no, but he could go to Eastern Michigan-UNO with me, so we struck up a deal that we go to the games together.  Tuesday afternoon, I asked him if he was excited to see his cousin play basketball.  He was the opposite of pumped.

When we got to the game, I really thought DCF was going to just start yelling expletives in Jake White’s direction.  Instead, the UNO fan in him came out, and he said “there is my boy.”  DCF even threw out a first pump when Jake White’s name was announced in the starting lineup.  Then, the game happened…


  • This is the first game that I walked up the arena and people were not on the community ice practicing curling.  DCF and I used to want to start a curling team, but we legitimately know nothing about curling.  I would feel bad if I get into curling and was instantly good at it and pissed off some guys that were doing curling for decades and saw some guy who doesn’t know how to do it is amazing.  It’s no diss at curling, I just don’t know what makes a curling guy a good curling athlete.  I’ve never heard anyone say: “oh that Caleb Steffensmeier had a pretty good basketball career, but could imagine him as a master curler?”
  • DCF asked every question you could think of about Tre’Shawn Thurman and Tra-Deon Hollins, as he remembered watching them play at Central.  I really thought about lying to him, but I told him what I knew.
  • DCF then told me how excited he was about Creighton’s Khyri Thomas, and I almost broke into tears to admit that I used to sit around and hope that Thurman and Thomas would come to UNO and kick start the program to the next level.  UNO got half of my equation.
  • DCF kept hoping that UNO would pass the ball to Jake White, this was quite the change as 3 years ago he was calling Jake White offensive names.
  • You could tell that he was immediately impressed with Tre’Shawn Thurman, and he should be.  Creighton fans will catch glimpses of him over time and be saying things like “ah crap”
  • With Thurman having 13 points and 8 rebounds at half, we shared a short discussion of Is Thurman better than Creighton forwards…it’s kind of a dumb conversation to get into, but it is what Omahans that like basketball are eventually going to talk about.  We agreed that Thurman is probably right on par with Cole Huff from an amount of talent, there are things that Huff does better than Thurman, but there are things that Thurman does better than Huff.  It would be pretty difficult for most coaches to decide who to start between them.  We then agreed that Thurman is better than Zach Hanson and Toby Hegner, but DCF pointed out that Hanson is playing the best basketball of his college career up until this point.  My thought on this is:  It is Hanson’s junior year, he should be playing the best basketball of his collegiate career up until now.  You don’t want to say, “hey, this guy was one of the best freshman I had ever seen and now he is absolute crap.  I love it.”
  • I thought the most shocking part of looking at the stats of this game was that the fouls were actually even.  Though, I continuously felt like UNO’s fouls were giving them the shaft.  No one was ever really in foul trouble except for Hollins.  I think the fouls got into the heads of some of the UNO players, especially the no calls.  It is just weird that the refs get incredibly knit picky for 97% of the game but space out for another 3% of the game.  All players need to adjust to this crap, the deeper and more mature teams are going to get through this.  I believe Scott Nagy said that…not in those exact words, but you get it, right?
  • Jake White got fouled going up for a basket and the ball flew backwards…DCF and I went on to make a number of Caddyshack 2 references.  This has to be the first time anyone has referenced this movie in quite some time.  There were also Celtic Pride references shared between us.  If Celtic Pride and Caddyshack 2 are not films you are familiar with, I am not sure we would get along.
  • DCF and I were both thinking that the Mavs should have kept Hollins out on the court when he picked up his 3rd foul pretty early in the second half.  The offense was completely flat without him.  There was too much standing around when he was on the bench.  Can we get a check on how many assists Hollins gets as a result of his penetration to the basket?  It has to be 2/3 of his assists.
  • Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman each had double-doubles…when was the last time UNO had two guys with double-doubles in a game…and when was the last time a Maverick had two double-doubles in a row…and when was the last time a sophomore had two double doubles in a row?
  • I had another game where I found myself asking: why did Randy Reed not play more?  The kid had some real hustle plays down the stretch…the team needed that energy for more of the game.  Can we not go with a front court of White-Thurman-Reed all at once?  I know you probably lose some three point shooting with that line and do not stretch out the floor a bunch, but just let them all set screens for Hollins and Patterson to get around and they will find a cutting man.  Is it something you want to go with for 20 minutes of the game?  No.  But I wish it is something that should be tried out for a 3 to 4 minute stretch.  Last year the Mavs went with a Rostampour-Thurman-Reed front court against Oral Roberts for a few different couple minute stretches and it really bothered Korey Billbury of Oral Roberts.
  • DCF commented about how watching Jake White now is like watching a completely different player than what he saw from him at Wichita State.  Claimed that at WSU he just stood around and wanted to shoot threes, and now he is down low posting up and getting knocked around down low.  He was really blown away at his nemesis turned…not friend…but…dude guy he has no reason to hate?
  • I tried to get DCF to go to the family that holds up pictures of Maverick players faces when they are shooting free throws and demand an answer as why they have his picture when they are holding up Jake White’s photo.  I could not convince him to do this, but it could been entertaining.
  • Thanks to Facebook’s On This Day, I was able to get reminded that 3 years ago on December 1st, I watched a terrible football game in which Nebraska was involved and it was the most embarrassed I ever was to watch a Husker football game.
  • Mavericks were 4 of 17 on threes in this game…is this killing Marcus Tyus?  Like how it was killing Mike Rostampour when he was sitting out and the Mavs could not rebound the ball?

Night 2 – Creighton vs Arizona State

This was painful for me.
This was painful for me.

I do not hate Creighton athletics, but I do get annoyed with their fans.  I would say it is safe to call me a MavJaySker…in fact I think that is my gamer tag on Xbox.  I would just much rather watch their games on television or listen to them on the radio than to actually attend a game.  Hanging with 18,000 people freak out at every single whistle, good or bad, is not my thing.  Let me make a correction there, I would be with about 14,000 people freak out at ref calls as at any given time the CenturyLink Center has a combined 4,000 fans walking the arena looking for the cheapest beer that they can find, or they are permanently planted in the beer garden to brag up about how they went to the most expensive bar in all of Nebraska.  You can also always find a handful of people reading a magazine at any given moment.

It’s also stressful to hear some drunk guy try to convince his friend that the ranking of best basketball programs goes as this:  1. Duke/North Carolina/Kentucky/Kansas…2. Creighton…350. UNO…351. Nebraska…And Creighton was a three point shot away from Booker Woodfox from beating Kentucky in the National Championship in 2009?  2010?  Ah hell, that one year the NIT second round was just as good as the NCAA Tournament.

I also love that when you go to a Creighton game and the fan’s pregame analysis is just that the other team sucks.  For three straight hours Wednesday night, I just heard how Arizona State was a shitty basketball team…then the Jays lost to them.  So I guess that means the Jays are back.


Some takeaways from the Creighton game…

  • I remember a few years ago thinking that Geoff Groselle was going to be one of the worst ever in Creighton basketball history.  He was recruited to be a Missouri Valley player, and his first couple seasons were filled with several injuries; and when he did play he would bobble the ball a lot and could never score a basket.  I thought for sure he would transfer out at some point.  He has turned into a completely competent player though, and the Jays actually draw up plays to get him the ball in the post.  He had a moment at the end of the game where he grabbed an offensive rebound under the basket and the guy in between him and the basket was 6’3″ or so, and he should have just gone back up for the easy basket, instead he pissed off 18,000 people…or just the 6,000 or so people that were paying attention.  I know the Jays were down by 3 at this point with a few minute to go, but take the easy basket when you can get it!
  • The Jays take care of the ball, and their perimeter defenders are never caught flat footed.  They really don’t have the greatest weak side defense though…which led to a few wide the hell open threes.
  • An attendance dip tonight for the Jays actually, only around 16.2k…was it the 8 o’clock start time?
  • I’m still sitting here wishing Khyri Thomas would have gone to UNO.
  • What is with Division 1 universities in Omaha not being able to box out and let up a bunch of offensive rebounds?
  • I know the Jays like having stretch 4s, but Cole Huff and Toby Hegner took 13 threes.  It’s nice to have big men that can hit threes, but having forwards that only want to take threes is…well…Walter Pitchford…  Don’t you want bigs that use it as a last resort type of thing?  Maybe I am just old fashioned and love Jake White shooting 60% in the paint.  Dumb, right?
  • Arizona State’s warm ups had hoods on them.  I am sure there is some story behind this, but I am just going to assume it has something to do with witchcraft and that is why they had a better second half.
  • Arizona State did not look like a great three point shooting team, but they hit threes right when it mattered.
  • Whoever is in the Billy Bluejay costume is doing a great job.  He spun a basketball on his finger, that cannot be easy in a costume like that.  They were also a great break dancer, seriously, a great job and could really give the Oregon Duck a run for his money…even if Billy Bluejay looks like an evil stork and not a Bluejay.
  • Cole Huff missed 2 free throws and 1 three pointer in the last 8 seconds of a 1 possession game.  I feel sorry for Huff, not just that he missed the shots, but that the Jays fans are going to completely turn on him.  How many days until they demand that Toby Hegner start over him?
  • I watched a number of Jays fans heading for the exits when Creighton was down by 1 point with 6 seconds to go, like the Jays were down by 12 points.
  • There were two guys behind me that looked like Creighton Bluejays super fans, but instead of talking about Jays basketball or cheering on the Jays, they just talked about Breaking Bad the whole time.  Seriously though, Breaking Bad was fantastic.  Great basketball scenes that were totally applicable to what was going on too.
  • I heard a number of Jays fans say that Creighton would have won that game if the refs would have called the 8 travels that Arizona State committed in the game.  I seriously want you to find me a basketball game where the refs got every single traveling call right.  I watched a number of Jays players travel with no whistles blown, and the Jays fans would clap on like it was a great move.  I complain about calls too, but I would never say the one and only reason a team lost the game is because of the fouls.
  • Isaiah Zierden is the best shooter out of Creighton, Nebraska, and UNO.  The balance in his shot is the best…the best Jerry.  The Jays have great quick plays to get him wide open on the outside too, it is the best thing about watching the Jays.
  • I really thought Greg McDermott was going to have a hard time dividing up minutes between Groselle, Hanson, Hegner, Huff, and Krampej this year, as he has seemed to have trouble distributing minutes other than when it was just obvious to go with Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge at the same time; but Greg has done a great job of that so far this season.
  • Heard a couple of Jays fans saying the worst part about the loss was that Arizona State didn’t have any stars that scare you.  Honestly, what star does Creighton have?  Zierden is a great shooter, but is he a star putting fear into his opponents for 40 minutes?

 

I’ve gone to two basketball games in two nights, and the home teams have lost in each one.  I wanted to go to the Lady Mavs game tonight, but I am afraid I’ll drop three in a row and be the bad luck guy.

 

 

 

2015-2016 opponent preview, Game 6: Eastern Michigan

The Rundown

The Eagles do not have a very experienced roster, and they only have two seniors who combine for returning 5 points per game.  They add two junior college transfer guards to their roster; Ty Toney who averaged 18 points per game; and Willie Magnum who averaged 20 points per game in his sophomore season.

The Eagles have size, but they are not incredibly talented in the post.  Seriously, how does a 6’8″ man shoot 27 % from the field?

The Mavericks will need this win.  Really, you need every win, but the Mavericks will meet the Eagles after a 3 game road trip and right before another three game road trip.  The next home game the Mavericks will play will be against Simpson College, so I am guessing most fans are pretending it is not a real game.  After Simpson, the Mavericks have another three games on the road before starting another three game road swing.  The Mavericks have two home games in the month of December, the Eagles and Simpson College…when they come back, Omaha will start the Summit League.

Prior to playing the Mavericks, the Eagles will take on Vermont, Oakland, Michigan State, and 3 non-division one teams.  They have 4 non-division one teams on their schedule, I get annoyed with the Mavericks having 2 non-division one teams on the schedule, I cannot imagine 4.


Eastern Michigan

2014-2015 Record: 21-14 (but they went 18-14 vs D-1 opponents)

2014-2015 Road Record: 4-10

Final RPI in 2014-2015: 148

2014-2015 Post Season:  Lost to Louisiana Monroe in CBI 71-67

Big win in 2014-2015:  @ Michigan 45-42

Random Stat:  Eastern Michigan ranked 280th in the nation in field goal percentage in 2014-2015


Key losses:

Karrington Ward, 6’7″ F

12.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 44 FG%, 38 3ptFG%, 65 FT%

Mike Talley, 6’0″ G

10.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.1 spg, 35 FG%, 29 3ptFG%, 72 FT%

Anali Okoloji, 6’8″ F

5.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 39 FG%, 76 FT%


Key returners:

Raven Lee, 6’3″ G, Junior

That name is made up, right?  He was a 3rd Team All MAC as a sophomore showing he is a serious scoring threat averaging 16.7 ppg and shooting 44% from the field.  It is scary to think about who the Mavs will have guard him.  He made 70 three point field goals as a sophomore.  Lee is a guard that could really prepare the Mavericks for the Summit League.

Tim Bond, 6’7″ G/F, Soph

Bond is listed at 160 pounds.  That kind of stands out… He was 4th on the team in scoring with 6.1 ppg and in assists at 1.1 per game.  A 57% free throw shooter.

Jodan Price, 6’8″ F, Junior

Transferred to Eastern Michigan from DePaul after his freshman season.  At 6’8″ he likes to play on the outside with 75% of his shot attempts being from outside for three.  Averaged 4.3 points per game, but only shot 27% on the year.  He constantly has a look on his face that makes you feel like he is bored.  Actually if you look up any picture of any player on their team, they look like they just woke up from a nap.


The Rundown-Continued

I say I am afraid of Raven Lee because of the Mavericks’ poor perimeter defense last season, but I am gaining more hope as I read about the additions of Tra-Deon Hollins and Alex Allbery.  Both claim to be defensive specialists, but I do not imagine Allbery getting much playing time.  You can be comfortable with your walk on wanting to be a defensive specialist.  In most scenarios, your walk on is going to be your 5th option on the court, so it can be huge if he can make some defensive stops while he is on the court.

While, the Mavericks were one of the highest scoring teams in college basketball in 2014-2015, they unofficially averaged the 19th most points in division one…the Eagles are a sound defensive team.  The Eagles were 11th in the nation in steals per game, and ranked 51st in blocks per game.  How much can the Mavericks score on a defensive team like this?

Hey, the Mavericks are 3-0 against the MAC since joining division one, but all three of those wins are over Northern Illinois.  But, hey, the Eagles had the same conference record as Northern Illinois last season.

I am not going to sit here and say this game is a guarantee for the Mavericks, but if Hollins is as good as a defender as advertised, don’t you like Mavericks’ chances to pick up a win at home against the Eagles?  I know there was not a lot here, but how excited can one man get in writing about Eastern Michigan basketball?  Earl Boykins played at Eastern Michigan, he was pretty fun to watch.