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: Rice

It’s finally here.  The chance to play the Rice Owls in Baxter Arena!  You have been thinking about this since Day 1 of Omaha Mavericks basketball transition to division one.  Hosting a Conference USA team in a regular season basketball game, and you spent 5 years wondering if it would ever happen… I actually did spend 5 years wondering if and when the Mavericks would host a team like Rice.

riceoma

Don’t know anything about Rice University Men’s Basketball?  That’s fine, no one does.

Here are some things to throw out at you:


2015-2016 Record: 12-20

2015-2016 Final RPI: 279

Conference USA had a final RPI ranking of 22.

2015-2016 Attendance Average: 2,204


Omaha was better than Rice in all of these things last year.  So take that, Rice!  The Owls did beat Doc Sadler’s Southern Mississippi team twice last season, so they do have that on Omaha.  They do have a player named Egor, so they win the cool names competition.  I’m so hungry for a rice bowl from Pepperjax now.

I Googled “best rice bowl in Omaha” and the top three places on Foursquare were Pepperjax locations.  That doesn’t seem right.  Amigos/King Classic came in 7th.  We’re better than that, Omaha.  We need to get to the bottom of this.  Have you ever had the Tuna Tower or Sake Tower at Blue Sushi Sake Grill?  I get that it’s not an official rice bowl, but once you knock down the tower it becomes rice and a few different ingredients in a bowl and it’s one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth.  You can take your fork and cut it down and eat it as stacked ingredients, like a freak.

I’m not even going to look up the name of the Owls’ basketball arena.  If it’s not the Rice Bowl, I’d rather go one not knowing.

Rice is coached by former VCU Assistant, Mike Rhoades, who wants to play an uptempo style like Omaha, and as VCU did under Shaka Smart, but Rhoades has not had much of a chance to play this way with little depth on his team.

Rhoades and Rice may actually be able to have some of that depth this season, so they are not a team that the Mavericks should take likely, especially given that they will be playing the style that they actually want to play when they come to Omaha.

Being such a young team last season, Rice had 7 guys in their main rotation last year, and 6 of those players will be returning for 2016-2017.  This includes 6’2″ sophomore Marcus Evans who was named the Conference USA Freshman of the Year and 1st team All Conference after averaging 21.4 points per game.  In addition to this, the Owls had a freshman named Chad Lott sitting out with an injury, who apparently could be better than Evans… Lott picked Rice over Creighton, now watch this kid.  Warning: the first minute is one of the worst produced highlight reels you’ll ever see.

Similarly to Omaha, Rice had a guard sitting out who was expected to be one of their main scorers and leaders.  6’3″ guard, Marcus Jackson sat out his entire junior season after averaging 14.5 points per game and shooting 40% on threes in his sophomore season.  Without Jackson, Rice did not have much of an perimeter game on offense and struggled on threes, shooting 32% on the year.  So they’re just going to allow Jackson and Marcus Tyus to defend each other with both players wrapped in bubble wrap, right?  So many dudes named Marcus to keep track of in this game.

Rice will be adding 5 new scholarship freshman to their lineup as well, and they’re likely to redshirt a few of those guys.  Even though the Owls appear young on paper, there is a fair amount of division one experience on their basketball team, especially at the wing positions.  In the post, they are are quite young, with only one post player being a senior and the others being true freshman or a sophomore.  If the Mavericks get some opportunities to post up, Tre’Shawn Thurman could really have his way with the Rice post players.

With both teams wanting to score at a Millennium Falcon or Barry Allen the Flash type pace, there should be little opportunities for a post up move from either team.  This game is going to be a high scoring affair, and if Nebraska football was not playing Maryland this day, the attendance could actually get pretty large as the season home opener.

It’s easy to look at the 12-20 record and the bad RPI and think this could be an easy win for the Mavericks.  Considering, the two key injuries the Owls had last season, and their youth to a coaching staff in their second year, it is understandable for a team to produce such poor results.  With their style of play, this could be a game of whoever gets to 100 first wins.

 

 

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…

 

A Month Out Game Preview: UC Santa Barbara

omaucsb

A good ole rematch.  Everyone loves these home-and-homes, right?  I mean, you basically have no chance of watching this one, but playing the same team in back-to-back years can help give you an indicator of how your team has improved.  We hope anyway.

I’m not sure what you remember from this match up last season.  It is possible that you tried to put the actual game itself out of your memory.  I mean, it was the first regular season basketball game played at Baxter Arena.  There was that.  That was hot.  That was fun.  Tra-Deon Hollins went 0-6 from the floor, and most of us could never imagine him going 9-of-12 from the floor with 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists against South Dakota State a few months later; but it happened.

The only things that come to memory, other than the satisfaction of finally seeing basketball in the Baxter Arena, was the terrible offense, terrible shooting, and wondering if Marcus Tyus not playing was a sick prank.  The only memorable plays I have from that game was when JT Gibson gave the Mavericks hope by draining three pointers in back-to-back possessions after the Mavericks had been shooting so bad on threes I found myself wondering if the game would be closer if I was out there shooting some threes.  I assure you, the Mavericks would have been down by more.

Well the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos get to host the Mavericks this year for their home opener.  The Mavericks graduated four players from last season, and the Gauchos graduated six players, so it is possible that this game could have the same offensive woes of last season with both teams trying to figure out their personnel.  I imagine if the teams go a combined 34.8% from the floor again that Gary Sharp will leave at half time and go check out Santa Barbara.  Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s had a vacation home in Santa Monica.  Maybe, Brad Pitt is just bumming around in his home dipping mini tacos in nacho cheese, like a real man.

The Mavericks, for the most part, get to reload their roster, with some transfers, and guys coming back from injuries.  The Gauchos, though, have a relatively young roster with nine scholarship players that are freshmen or sophomores.  There might be some meshing issues at the start of this game for each team, so listen to this game holding your lucky rabbit’s foot, put that lucky penny in your shoe, or wear your Gauchos shirt if you’re the bad luck person.

Clearly biased here, but my perception would be that Omaha will not need as much time meshing together since most of their “newcomers” have been with the team for over a year at least.  The Mavericks, though, may have some difficulty of dividing up and figuring out what to do with minutes in this game since they play at USC the following night.

The Gauchos could have some issues finding some chemistry on the court with what is a mostly new roster.  Their coaching staff and fans have already claimed this season to be a “rebuilding year.” UC Santa Barbara does return Gabe Vincent, a 6’4″ junior that averaged 14 points a game and earned Big West Honorable Mention.  Other than that, the Gauchos do not return much scoring at all.  Vincent had 16 points on 5-of-16 scoring against the Mavericks last season, which was just a painful offensive showing from both teams.

Santa Barbara will be adding a very serious presence to their front line with Junior College transfer Jalen Canty.  Canty is a 6’8″ and 255 pound beast that can be a match up nightmare for teams, so… please be too slow for the Mavs quick pace, please be too slow for the Mavs quick pace, please be too slow for the Mavs quick pace.  While in junior college, Cantry also received offers from Colorado State, Tulsa, and Rhode Island, and he was once committed to Washington State while in high school.

Okay, he does not look all that slow, and appears to have some pretty solid footwork.

Going into their match up last season, I thought the scariest thing about the Gauchos was the quality of their wing players, and that may still be the case.  The Mavericks were going into last season introducing Zach Jackson, JT Gibson, and Tra-Deon Hollins to the wing, after a year of struggling at defending pretty much anyone from 6’2″ to 6’6″ on the wing.  Now the Mavericks are a little more established at the wing with Jackson, Gibson, Hollins all returning, and now the Mavericks will be able to add experienced 6’3″ guard Daniel Norl to that core wing players.  Let’s not forget, and how could we, that the Mavericks still have Kyler Erickson who’s non stop energy could give problems to Robocop.

The Gauchos lost their core of wing players, but are reloading with adding a few well recruited 6’5″ freshman.  Christian Terrell is a freshman out of Sacramento that held offers from Washington State, Tulsa, Pepperdine, and Gonzaga.  Terrell was rated as a 3 star recruit by Rivals and Scout.  They also have Clifton Powell, always be afraid of a guy named Clifton, who played at a prep school for a 5th year.  He’s described as “bouncy.”  The Gauchos also have Ohio State transfer, Mickey Mitchell, who will be sitting this season out.  The Mavericks don’t play these guys next year, right?

One thing to keep in mind: Los Angeles Lakers’ General Manager Mitch Kupchak’s son, Maxwell Kupchak, plays for UC Santa Barbara.  The Lakers will be away at New Orleans and Minnesota while Omaha is in Southern California.  Maybe Mitch Kupchak comes to watch his son play basketball, for the fun of it, and maybe he takes notice in a particular point guard on the Mavericks’ roster.  Maybe he’s impressed enough to check him out a second night in Los Angeles.

All in all, since this is a rebuilding year for the Gauchos, you would think the Mavericks would have the edge in this game.  Right?  Maybe with Santa Barbara having home court advantage, Omaha might be like a 3 point favorite or something.  Right?

Relax.  By the time this game happens, you’ll get to know if it will be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton filling out a presidential bracket on ESPN in March.  Actually, that is incredibly depressing.

 

 

 

Tyus and Jacobson lead the The Summit League All Snubbed Team

Not making the Preseason All Summit League Team is really not that big of a deal at the end of the day.  Making it, and then not making the final season All Summit League team is kind of a big deal.  Everyone laughs at you.  They don’t actually.  Okay, wait, what is the point of a Preseason Team of anything?  Is the real point of it to upset some of the players who just maybe should have been on there?

Former South Dakota State coach, Scott Nagy, basically said it was completely worthless.  It’s like when some movie gets really hyped up because it has Marlon Brando and he gets top billing, but the movie is actually great because of the acting of the 5th highest billed actor.  Maybe, it is a sign of respect to some guys?  It certainly has added a little motivation to guys in the past that were not selected to the team.

I’m not going to specifically say who should be dropped off from the teams, but here are some guys that maybe should have been named to the 1st or 2nd team.

Tyler Flack, Sr., F, South Dakota

No South Dakota player was selected to the Preseason Team, and we kind of get it. The Yotes lost a ton, and we have no idea what is going on there.

After missing all of 2014-2015 with a back injury, Flack was able to make a comeback in the second half of last season.  He ended up averaging 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and was able to raise those numbers to 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds over the last 12 games of the season.  With a number of players leaving, and having a relatively young and thin front line, Flack could be even more of a center piece for the Coyotes and put up even bigger numbers in 2016-2017

AJ Jacobson, Jr., G/F, North Dakota State

I had to double check a couple things here.  Jacobson seemed like Summit League royalty a year ago, so it was weird not even seeing him mentioned.  First, I had to double check that my Cntl + F was working properly when I did not see Jacobson’s name on the Preseason Team.  If you don’t regularly use the Cntl + F option to find certain words in readings, just know that if you start using it, it will really start angering you in regular life when you read things like restaurant menus without and you just want to know what items have avocado in them. After that, I had to go check to see if Jacobson was still on North Dakota State’s roster.  Sure is still on the roster.

Jacobson was named Summit League Honorable Mention as a freshman and again as a sophomore, and he’s been just about the only member of the Bison that’s been able to stay away from injuries and not get in trouble on the team in some fashion.  It’s possible he wont have to play as much at the 4 this season, so he could be a more effective player on offense and defense in his natural position.

Matt Mooney, So., G, South Dakota

With over 75% of their scoring from last season gone, South Dakota will need to replace that scoring…duh.  Mooney, a transfer from Air Force, could really be one of the main guys that step up and take a big role on this team.

I get that this is a stretch for being snubbed, and there is uncertainty here, but a couple of the guys on the Preseason Team could have slightly reduced roles because of the newcomers on their rosters taking their minutes and shots away.  Mooney is the one getting the shots.  Mooney was a consistent freshman for Air Force in 2014-2015, averaging 7 points per game and shooting 45% from the field.  There are 40+ points per game from the wing positions that need made up for South Dakota, and then some if they want to be a contender this season, Mooney is going to be the main guy to take over this loss of scoring.

Matt O’Leary, Sr., F, IUPUI

O’Leary had some consistency issues in 2015-2016, but he was still a big weapon for the Jaguars as a newcomer.  For a big man, he can do just about anything.  He has a few post moves, can hit mid-range jumpers, knock down a three here and there, step back and hit the three, put the ball to the floor and drive to the basket, and he even led all big men in the Summit in assists last season.  It’s bascially like watching what I thought Rylan Murry would have become, but the Indiana version.  With some late departures, O’Leary has been left as one of few experienced big men for the Jaguars and if he finds some consistency, could really be one of the biggest match up problems in the Summit League.

Marcus Tyus, Sr., G, Omaha

It’s fine, I get it, I am biased, but Tyus is being named the Co-Captain of the All Snubbed Team with Jacobson.  I sat here a year ago thinking Tyus got snubbed on the Preseason poll, in addition to Jake White and Devin Patterson who both ended up on the 2nd Team at the end of year.  I also thought Tre’Shawn Thurman was snubbed in both the Preseason and Regular Season awards in 2015-2016, but whatever.

Maybe some people forgot of Tyus’ existence, but can you imagine the Mavericks last year with a healthy Marcus Tyus on the roster?  Can you even believe it?  He arguably had a better junior season than Max Landis did (who was selected to the 2015-2016 Preseason 2nd team and then ended up as the Summit League Player of the Year), and Tyus was playing out of position on defense for basically the entire 2014-2015 season.  Tyus should be taking over the scoring left from Devin Patterson’s departure.  They both score in different ways, but are capable of putting up the same points.

I’m just putting a back court together in my mind of one of the best all around players the Mavericks have ever had (Hollins) next to one of the most consistent shooters the Mavericks have had in division one.  I’m trying to not start the Mavericks Would Beat the Huskers by 15 This Season debate.

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.

 

 

Meet future Mav KJ Robinson

I’m not sure what you can take away from a highlight tape from one game, but look at that cross over-step back jumper move…  It is the same move that helped Devin Patterson score many points as a Omaha Maverick!

A while back the Mavericks’ coaching staff made it a point to recruit players from winning programs.  In Robinson’s junior year, his team at Blue Springs South won the state Missouri Boys Class A Championship and he was teammates with current Missouri Tiger Kevin Puryear.  Blue Springs South ended the season at 29-2.

In his senior season, Blue Springs South ended at 17-11 and lost in the 2nd round of the state tournament to eventual runner up Kickapoo.  Kickapoo had a player, Jared Ritter, that is committed to play basketball at Xavier.  Kickapoo lost to Chaminade in the state championship, who has the second rated player in nation who is committed to Duke, Jayson Tatum.  So high school basketball in Missouri sounds fun.

If you are curious, Remy Davenport of the Omaha women’s team also attended Blue Springs South.

Robinson was named to the Missouri Coaches All-State basketball team, with guys that are committed to Duke and Xavier.  This is a guy that many people from the Kansas City area, per a series of tweets, thought that Omaha made a big time steal by landing.

Robinson’s dad appears to like every tweet involving UNO basketball, so that’s kind of cool.

I’m not sure what you were hoping for in basketball recruiting when the Mavericks made the transition.  Junior college players; Big 10, Big 12, and Missouri Valley transfers; in-state Nebraska guys should hopefully have been obvious; Iowa guys; Kansas City area guys; Minnesota guys; and the occasional three star recruit maybe… Robinson is a Kansas City area guy, and the occasional 3 star recruit.  Rivals rated Robinson as a three star recruit.

The 3 stars do not always guarantee a guy can be a star at the mid-major level, but the potential certainly adds some excitement and hope in local fans.  Cannot forget the days of how bad Creighton fans were salivating over P’Allen Stinnett being rated as a 4 star recruit by some sites.  This may sound like I’m dogging on the Bluejays here, but I’m not.  After seeing Stinnett as a highly touted recruit and him dominating his first NCAA basketball game, the math made sense that he was going to be the guy taking Creighton to the next level…not some guy from Ames, Iowa years later.

It is hard to imagine how many minutes Robinson can pick up as a freshman with the guard-heavy back court of Tra-Deon Hollins, Marcus Tyus, Kyler Erickson, JT Gibson, and Daniel Norl.  Robinson has the potential to be the team’s second best pure point guard on the 2016-2017 roster, but it is difficult to put it together how many available minutes there could be for him.  Hold on, my brain is about to take a break to imagine a 2019-2020 back court of Gibson and Robinson.  Okay, and I’m about to slip in a happy coma.  See what I mean about hope in potential?


On an unrelated note…

I got to the Omaha Metro Summer League Thursday night and floated around between as many games as possible.  Marcus Tyus was playing on the UNO Alumni team, and he is looking solid.  There were some brief moments where it looked as if he was still trying to adjust to his knee, but he ran the floor extremely well, always knew where to get to for a rebound, and was shooting lights out.

 

 

Meet future Mav Daniel Norl

That was not really the greatest quality of video that you could find on the internet, you may enjoy this one instead.

Daniel Norl is coming to Omaha from Mineral Area College, a junior college in Eastern Missouri, where Norl averaged 10.6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal, and shot 50% from the field, 40% on threes, and 75% from the foul line.  Norl’s 10.6 points per game was 3rd on the team behind two of his other back court teammates that will be playing basketball at Eastern Illinois and Nebraska-Kearney in 2016-2017.  Mineral Area College was ranked 18th nationally at the end of the season.

Before Mineral Area College, Norl played in 11 games as a freshman on an Eastern Kentucky team that made it to the 3rd round of the 2015 CIT.  Fun note, Eastern Kentucky’s Corey Walden led the NCAA in steals per game that season, so when Norl takes the court with the Mavericks in November, he will have played basketball with the last two Division 1 steals per game leaders.

Out of high school in Clarkville, Tennessee, Norl had scholarship offers to Tennessee Tech, Belmont, Middle Tennessee State, Murray State, and Austin Peay.  As a senior, Norl averaged 20 points per game and was 2nd Team All State for the state of Tennessee.

I’m not sure what you notice when you see these Daniel Norl videos.  I first took notice that he does not have blinding speed as a guard, but I wasn’t expecting much speed at 6’2″ and 210 pounds.  He appears to make up for his lack of speed with a high basketball IQ, great handling of the ball, and willingness to always make the extra pass.  Actually, that is almost the exact profile of a kid that Rick Byrd at Belmont likes to recruit.  It seems easy to picture Norl drawing in a help defender and kicking the ball to an open Mav.  A pick-and-roll game with Daniel Meyer seems like a great package of Daniels to have on the court for stretches of any game.

It may be difficult for Norl to see a huge amount of minutes for the Mavericks in his junior season with Tra-Deon Hollins, Kyler Erickson, and Marcus Tyus all returning to the lineup as seniors for the Mavericks in 2016-2017, but that does not mean that he cannot make an impact.  There were certainly some stretches in games last season where the Mavericks could have used a guy with his skills.  Norl also comes off as a strong defender that could really bother a number of Summit League guards.  40 minutes of having to play offense against Hollins, Erickson, and Norl could really create for a lot of off nights for Summit League guards.

Norl appears to be able to play either guard position, and the Mavericks like to play three guards at once, so there will be opportunities for him to make an impact for the Mavericks in his junior season.  Him and his skills will be incredibly useful against guard heavy teams like IUPUI, North Dakota State, and IPFW, who should be the top teams in the Summit League in 2016-2017.