Hey, I’m going to talk about last night’s Jackrabbits-Mavericks game

I haven’t been able to get to many UNO games this season, and I didn’t even get to go last night but that was the best Omaha men’s basketball game I’ve ever watched.

In December, I had a detached retina that required surgery to fix that problem.  I’ve been messing with that, and haven’t gotten out much because of it.  I’m watching my parents’ house and their dogs as they are out of town, so I watched the game from the comfort of my parents’ kitchen as their dogs shuffled between begging for food and going outside and playing in the snow.

Baxter Arena hosted its largest crowd for a men’s basketball game with 4,228 in attendance.  It could have been 4,230 had I forced my parents’ dogs to fend for themselves for an evening and convinced a friend of mine to go.  My bad.

From home I could see the intensity in the arena, I mean, it was pretty intense from the kitchen I was watching from. It was almost like the game was played out from a screenplay.

After missing chip shots and officials appearing to protect and favor the famous Mike Daum, the Mavericks found themselves down 13 at halftime.

There was so much on the line in this game. It’s the Summit League’s top two teams playing for the top spot, a guaranteed spot in the NIT, and both teams would appreciate a top 2 seed in the Summit League tournament so they can have that Sunday night off from basketball – assuming they take care of business against their first round opponents.

According to Mitch Hahn in his post game interview, the Mavericks met at half time and discussed what they needed to do better to win that game.  No one sat there thinking the Jackrabbits got them.

My friend and I have agreed that if the Mavericks lock up the 1 or the 2 seed in the conference tournament, we’re heading to Sioux Falls.  We’re sports lovers and we’d go Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday if the Mavericks were playing but we’re adults and have jobs*.  I admit, when David Jenkins hit a three to open up the second half and push the lead to 16, I seriously debated of texting my friend that we should just prepare to go to Bockfest at the German American Society on March 9th, instead.

Eventually, Mike Daum went to the bench and I thought to myself that this was the Mavericks’ chance to make a push to cut into the lead and make this a game.  If it wasn’t going to happen then, it probably wouldn’t happen at all.  With Daum on the bench, they cut into the lead. All of a sudden, I had faith.

Even with Daum back on the court, the team the Summit League sees as perfect started messing up.  Turnovers and missed shots over a 4 minute stretch allowed the Mavericks to spark the comeback.

That’s the great thing about this year’s team.  They take care of the ball and they have so many weapons on offense that if their opponents can’t take care of the ball, the Mavericks can take advantage.  It’s not like a few years ago when the Mavericks as a team would have 8 assists on 20 turnovers, it’s the opposite of that now.  They’re not spending a large portion of the game just shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and bad shot selection over 8 minute stretches.

Once the Mavericks evened things up, the teams traded blows.  Daum would hit a three, and then Hahn would answer. KJ Robinson would hit a big three, and David Jenkins was there to rip our throats out.

While Jenkins was lighting up the Mavericks, Omaha did the unthinkable and actually slowed down Daum.  Daum was still creating space for Jenkins just by his presence on the court, but Daum was actually struggling in the game for a stretch.

For literally the first time of me ever watching Mike Daum play basketball, I thought he was actually intimidated.  He appeared to be completely confused by Matt Pile.  Excuse me, I want to retype that.  Daum appeared to be completely confused by Matt ‘effin Pile.  Daum looked like he couldn’t believe the sophomore wasn’t backing down from him.

In four years of witnessing Mike Daum, I have never thought he took a bad shot.  In the second half, he was going right after Pile and for the first time I ever I actually said “what are you thinking, Daum?”

On the other end, I literally had a debate with myself asking if Mike Daum was bad at defense. Like, I really just couldn’t tell. Pile and Hahn weren’t afraid to get after him, and when guards penetrated Daum just kind of let them do their thing. It is worth considering, though, that the Jackrabbits really don’t have much of a bench so they seriously cannot afford Daum to get in foul trouble and go to the bench.  I mean, look what sparked when Daum spent less than two minutes on the bench.

Don’t worry about Daum, he went 9-23 from the field and was the 3rd best player in last night’s game, but he’s still going to be voted Player of the Week.

The ending to this classic was about as perfect as they come.  The Nebraska-native, who is probably the best player the Summit League has ever seen knocks down two free throws to force the Maverick fans to say to themselves “son of a…”

But 5.7 seconds is too much time for Mitch Hahn.  The fellow Nebraska-native takes the ball the length of the floor and drills the baseline jump shot to seal the deal, and to create an even more intense final two weeks of the regular season for the Mavericks and Jackrabbits.

Third place Fort Wayne, who has won 5 consecutive games, comes to Omaha on Saturday for what should be another intense game.  I’m not the smartest person alive, but I just kind of assume Fort Wayne wants a top 2 seed in the tournament.  South Dakota State is at North Dakota State, the fourth place team in the Summit.  The Jackrabbits are historically kind of bad in Fargo, but they won there last year.

Even with this being the best basketball game to be played at Baxter Arena to this point, the Mavericks can’t stop now. It appears Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson understand this, and as they say: there is still a lot of basketball to be played.

*When are we going to stage a protest to have the Summit League tournament moved from Sioux Falls? The conference might get a third South Dakota school, and the rest of us have to suffer for it. If it’s going to remain in Sioux Falls can we at least set it up to where the conference championship isn’t on a Tuesday night?  If Denver made the conference championship, they would have less than 50 fans at the game on a Tuesday night.

 

 

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Hey, I think Matt Pile might be Captain America

I was never really a Marvel guy until about 2010, but I have seen enough of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to build an understanding that Matt Pile could actually be the real Captain America.

I am not going to sit here and start a conspiracy that Matt Pile became the way that he is, physically, because of some super serum put together in some lab, but I’m not going to sit here and tell anyone that it’s not possible.  I’m sure Pile built his physical presence up in a gym, but his 6 blocks against the Pioneers would likely have Denver wanting him to be tested for any scientific advantages he may possess.

Okay, I don’t really want to talk about Pile’s physical characteristics anymore, because, well, this is weird enough.  But what else does Pile possess for me to come up with such a claim?

Captain America doesn’t back down from a challenge, and neither does Matt Pile.  Capt moves without fear, as does Matt Pile.

When faced up against one of the most prestigious basketball programs in the country, Pile had to go up against NBA prospects.  Pile went right at them because he didn’t want to show fear.  When going up against South Dakota State’s Mike Daum, when Pile first got the ball, he looked right at Daum and took it right to the basket for a bucket.  On defense, when first against Daum, Daum tried going right back at him, and Pile blocked his shot.

Captain America is the tactician of whatever team he is on.  It would be a stretch to refer to Pile as a “floor general” in any sense, but he’s quite tactical on the court to use his strengths to help his team.

Watch Pile whenever he first gets the ball down on the block in any game.  With his back to the basket, he’ll look at his defender, he’ll look at the basket, and he’ll figure out his first move to show his defender who is stronger, and not that he’s not afraid.

As the game progresses and he catches the ball down on the block, with his back to the basket, he’ll stand there, maybe take a few dribbles, and watch teammates on the perimeter move around for an open basket, and he is completely capable of finding them.

Random thought:  The dumbest scene in all of the Marvel Universe is in “Captain America: Civil War” when Steve Rogers is holding the helicopter from flying away, and he switches arms positions, which the director wanted to do apparently because he just thought it looked cool.  Why wouldn’t the powered chopper just pull Rogers clear into the sky with it for the second he lets go of the platform?  I have no idea, but the scene would’ve been just as good, if not better, with Matt Pile as Captain America.

The free throws aren’t there, yet, and South Dakota and South Dakota State both exposed that Pile needs to figure out what to do when being double teamed, but he’s got a long basketball career ahead of him and he will figure that stuff out.  Also, how many freshmen in the Summit League are drawing double teams?  None.  Just Matt Pile.

There was a game in Tre’Shawn Thurman’s freshman year that I thought was really his coming out party.  It was ironically against Nevada, but he played with such confidence and swagger, and you could tell he felt he was the best player on the court.  I thought he was the best freshman Omaha had landed after watching him that game.

After watching Pile play Denver, I thought maybe Pile was the best freshmen Omaha has landed so far.  Pile had 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 blocks that night.  That may not have the feel of “this kid is the future” but he absolutely boggled Denver’s minds that night.  They couldn’t figure out how to score in the post with Pile on the floor.  Daniel Amigo, one of the best post players in the league, couldn’t match up against Pile.  As good as Thurman was against Nevada in the Baxter Arena, I never felt like Nevada was just frustrated by the guy’s presence like Denver.  I mostly just felt like Nevada was bad.

Also, coincidentally, both Thurman and Pile were able to take advantage of opportunities with older players being slowed down by injuries.  Pile received more playing time with Mitch Hahn, and now Lamar Wofford-Humphrey being injured.  Thurman picked up minutes with Jake White was sidelined, and the playing time probably helped him develop faster.  Hopefully, it can pay off in the same way for Pile.

Captain America may not have the coolest abilities out of all the Avengers, but he has the biggest heart and displays the biggest signs of leadership.  Matt Pile may not be the leader of the Mavericks, yet, but make no mistake that one day he will be Captain Omerica.


The Mavericks still have 6 regular season games remaining, and at least one Summit League tournament game to play, and Pile has already made an impression on the program.  This season he:

  • Had 6 blocks against Denver, which was the most by any Maverick in a basketball game since transition
  • Has 29 blocks on the season, one more and he’ll pass Tre’Shawn Thurman by an freshman since transition.  He’s 7 blocks away from passing Thurman for the most by any Mav for blocks on a season since transition.
  • Was the first Maverick freshman to record a double-double since transition.  It was against Doane, but it still counts.
  • Has the 4th most points by a freshman in a season since transition, he’s 28 points away from passing Marcus Tyus for 3rd.

My trivial Summit League rankings – Jan 9

1. South Dakota State, 2-0

The Jackrabbits have the best player in the conference, and they’re 2-0 on the road.  Depth is a slight problem as they let Omaha put a small scare into them by reducing a 29 point lead to just 13.

I legit feel bad because I thought Brandon Key was going to be a floor general to the team, and he did have some moments in the non-conference season, but he came into the game at Omaha for a minute and the Mavericks hit a couple quick shots, and he was immediately sent to the bench and not heard from again.

2. South Dakota, 2-1

A home loss to North Dakota State is probably what is keeping them from the top rating.  The Coyotes did play that game without Carlton Hurst, and it clearly showed on defense with the Bison’s Cameron Hunter going off for 35 points in Vermillion.

3. North Dakota State, 1-1

Yeah, yeah, it doesn’t seem like it would make sense to rank them below a team they just beat, but the Bison almost gave that game away in the end and was letting Matt Mooney get open shots late in the game.  The Bison also committed 17 turnovers in that game.  And again, had Carlton Hurst played that game, the Bison would likely be 0-2 right now.

4. Oral Roberts, 3-0

It may seem unfair to have the 3-0 Golden Eagles in 4th, but is it really?  They’ve played all three games at home and faced a depleted Omaha, an unproven Western Illinois, and a mismatched Fort Wayne team.  Their next three games are on the road against South Dakota State, North Dakota State, and South Dakota, so we will find out what the Golden Eagles are actually about.

I believe last year, I did say Emmanuel Nzekwesi was the future of the league.  So, I guess I’ll just sit here and toot this horn.

5. Fort Wayne, 1-1

You want to talk about another team with limited depth…in Fort Wayne’s two non-conference games only 7 players have reached double digits in minutes in each game.

Also, in those 2 games, the Mastodons only shot 22% on threes.

6. Western Illinois, 0-2

I got to admit, they have a pretty interesting Big 3 with Brandon Gilbeck, Dalan Ancrum, and Kobe Webster.  The Leathernecks also have some interesting role players around those guys.

7. Denver, 0-2

Fort Wayne is just inconsistent, Western Illinois is young, Oral Roberts has a bunch of a new faces, Omaha has injuries.  What’s Denver’s thing?

8. Omaha, 0-2

The Mavericks don’t really have a thing that they are great at right now.  They were pretty bad at getting to the foul line in the non-conference season, but they did a good job of it against South Dakota State and it helped them make the final score look more respectable.

Perhaps, they can get better at getting to the line and forcing some of the other conference teams with limited depth to foul trouble.  Maybe, Renard Suggs can get back into basketball shape and the Mavericks can have a threatening bench with Suggs, Matt Pile, and KJ Robinson/Ayo Akinwole.  Hopefully, Mitch Hahn’s shoulder can be better by March and he can actually play.

 

 

 

Maybe Arkansas State is just the right team to play right now

Sure, it might be a little difficult to get excited about a game between a 3-6 Arkansas State team coming to Baxter Arena to play a 1-10 Maverick team.  But hey, at least we get to see former Omaha Assistant Coach James Miller back in town.

Oh wait, no, James Miller left after last year’s Arkansas State team reached 20 wins and head coach Grant McCasland bolted for North Texas and took Miller with him.

Now, Arkansas State is coached by Mike Balado, who was last an assistant coach at Louisville from 2013 to 2017.  I don’t think anything bad went down there in that time frame.

Well, never mind.

There doesn’t seem to be any interesting Omaha to Arkansas State connections here.  Well, Arkansas State football almost beat Nebraska football in September, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with this.  Nothing at all, actually.

Either way, the Red Wolves are coming to Baxter Arena as a 3-6 team that still has yet to win a road game, and the Mavericks will be looking to defend home court as a team that has only played one home game, that they won.

After a grueling non-conference schedule, Omaha only has 5 non-conference games left.  In addition to tonight, they have two against non-division one opponents, another chance with Montana State, and a game we all assume they will lose at Kansas.  Though, maybe Nebraska can wear down Kansas this weekend.

Omaha will enter tonight’s game as a 3 point favorite against an Arkansas State team that just had a senior leave the roster.  The Mavericks might be able to finally play senior Renard Suggs tonight against Arkansas State.  Suggs could make an impact against a Red Wolves roster that has 8 upperclassmen.  Half of their upperclassmen are returners from last seasons’s 20-12 team.

The Red Wolves may have a better record than the Mavericks, but the Red Wolves currently rank 343rd in RPI, and their strength of schedule is ranked 333.  In addition to that, they are letting bad teams shoot nearly 50% against them.

Arkansas State’s leading scorer is 6’4″ senior Deven Simms, who is averaging 17 points a game and will likely be guarded by Zach Jackson.  The team’s second leading scorer is 5’11” junior Ty Cockfield averaging 14 points a game.

Even if Simms and Cockfield are working down a tiring Jackson and possibly David Norl or KJ Robinson, the Red Wolves lack a big man that could really defend Omaha big men Lamar Wofford-Humphrey or Matt Pile…and Wofford-Humphrey and Pile love to score down low and flex.  Daniel Meyer also had a pretty active game against a Jackson State team that was similar to Arkansas State in size.

The Red Wolves had held their opponents to shoot less than 30% from behind the arch, and Omaha has generally been a bad team at penetrating at getting to the basket and free throw line.

Not sure how much the Mavericks actually need a win over this Arkansas team, it’s not like they are trying to impress the NCAA Tournament committee with their resume at this point, but they will need a win for momentum heading into the Summit League schedule.  Also, they need to prove to their fans and themselves that because of their difficult schedule and injuries, that they are better than your typical 1-10 sports team.

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings – December 11th

1. South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits had a lead with 7 minutes to go playing at # 6 Wichita State.  The key to shutting down the Jackrabbits might be slowing down Mike Daum, but no one in the Summit League has really proven that they can do that.

2. South Dakota

The Coyotes are currently leading the Summit League in fewest turnovers, and they also rank 3rd in defensive field goal percentage.  It’s tough to beat a team that can defend, as well as take care of the ball on offense.

3. Denver

The Pioneers are currently 3rd in the Summit League in field goal percentage, 2nd in three point field goal percentage, and they’re also leading the conference in rebounding – as one of the smallest teams in the league.

While South Dakota State has defeated two Power 5 teams, Denver’s win over Wyoming is probably the best non-conference win for any Summit League team so far.  The Jackrabbits did lose to Wyoming.

4. Western Illinois

I just threw up in my mouth.  Okay, I actually just threw up all over my hands.

They are leading the Summit League in defensive field goal percentage, but they have played the against the easiest schedule in the league.  It will be interesting to see what happens when they get to conference play, and see how they might play against teams who went the opposite direction as them in creating an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule.

Jeremiah Usiosefe did almost pick up a triple-double against Milwaukee on Saturday.  He finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists.

5. North Dakota State

I’m sure the Bison will be fine in March, but they’re actually not looking too impressive right now.  AJ Jacobson appears slowed down, after having foot issues over the summer, and the post players are all incredibly inconsistent.

6. Fort Wayne

The Mastodons are leading the conference in steals, and probably have the fastest pace of play in the Summit League right now, and they’re going to need that as they are currently one of the worst shooting teams in the conference.  John Konchar actually seems a little more human so far this season.

7. Oral Roberts

Over the last couple of weeks, Missouri State managed to make South Dakota State and North Dakota State look like the worst version of themselves.  Yesterday, the Golden Eagles were able to pick up their third win of the season over the Bears.

This team has been playing with injury issues, inconsistency with the newcomers on the team, and even a suspension to one of their best players.

8. Omaha

This is turning out to be a nightmare season.  The expectations weren’t incredibly high before the beginning of the year, but now with the loss of Mitch Hahn, the Mavericks will have to fight harder for wins.

The Mavericks only had one steal as a team against Drake on Saturday.  Has that ever happened?

Maybe things will start to improve when this team gets to add Renard Suggs to the roster, but right now the team needs depth at the forward position.  Can we bring back Rylan Murry?  Is he still in school?

This season might turn into mix tape for seeing what the future can be with Matt Pile and Ayo Akinwole.  They’re both incredibly smart players, and watching them develop and show what they can do has some excitement to it.

At least the Baxter Arena has caramel filled pretzels?

I don’t even know what to really say right now.  My brain is just in random places.

 

 

Mavericks versus Montana State preview

I keep forgetting the college basketball season starts this week, but it does.  In my mind, it starts when Omaha tips off in Great Falls against Montana State.  Since the Mavericks have their first 5 games on the road, it might actually be better if I didn’t let it start in my mind until late November.

This is the third year in a row that the Mavericks will meet the Bobcats, and the first of two meetings of this match up this season.  Omaha won each of the meetings between the two teams in the last two seasons.

The Bobcats return much of their roster from last season after tying for 5th in the final 2017 Big Sky standings, the fans have high expectations for this veteran basketball squad.  The team was ranked 4th in the preseason rankings for the Big Sky conference.

Wait…someone make a screeching halt noise.  Or the Wilhelm Scream.  The Wilhelm Scream works too.

The Bobcats narrowly defeated NAIA Montana State University-Northern by 5 points in an exhibition game on November 1st.  The Bobcats didn’t even gain a lead over MSU-Northern until 17 seconds left in the first half.  Maybe, as an out of state person, I shouldn’t read too much into this game.  If Nebraska-Kearney played Omaha, I’m sure Kearney would give the Mavericks everything they could and put a scare into the team.

However, there is this.

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I gotta say: that’s pretty harsh.

That is going to do one of two things.  That can really motivate the players to pull it all together by the time they start the regular season, or it can have the reverse and completely bring the confidence of the team even lower.

Maybe they can turn it around, but a team that doesn’t listen to the coach or buy into a system can have some nasty consequences in any sport.  With that said, the Mavericks have to really hope that the Bobcats don’t have it figured out to start the season, especially considering how much the Mavericks still need to figure out about themselves as a team.

I’m sure the Bobcats will figure a way to turn it around.  Even if it doesn’t look pretty, it was still an exhibition game.  Teams don’t normally return a bulk of their entire roster and just drop off the face of the earth with a load of chemistry issues.  Well, except for that year after Nebraska made the NCAA Tournament with Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway and turned out to have an incredibly follow up season.  As Maverick fans, we just hope the Bobcats don’t have it figured out by November 10th.

On paper, the Bobcats can be threatening.  They are led by Tyler Hall, a 6’4″ junior, who averaged 23 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3 assists as a sophomore.  Hall is on the Preseason Watch List for Lute Olson National Player of the Year Award.  The Mavericks were able to hold him to 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting in Omaha last season.  Running the point for the Bobcats is Norwegian point guard Harald Frey, who averaged 12.7 points and 3.4 assists as a freshman last season.

You can expect a shootout between Omaha and Montana State as both teams like to get up and score the ball.  The Bobcats, however, are not a very big team with the biggest player in their rotation at 6’7″.  Maybe Omaha will look to take the ball inside with native Montanan Daniel Meyer on the team.  They could also have freshman Matt Pile come in off the bench and set screens for Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson to find space for open shots.

Trying to come up with things that look better than Mitch Hahn’s shot going up against smaller competition, and I cannot thing of many things.

Montana State has won their last 3 home openers.

According to ESPN, Montana State is a 9 point favorite, and has a 71% chance of winning.

 

My trivial preseason Summit League rankings

I find preseason rankings pointless.  So here are some preseason rankings.  After the conference schedule has been released in the last two seasons, I have ran through each team’s schedules and done different predictions through different scenarios.

The first time I would go through and predict wins and losses based on different factors, such as: who is coming off a tougher game, who has a better bench, who is just a better overall team, who do I hate less, who is a better defensive team, and so on and so on.  I add up all the wins and losses and then that’s how I come to rankings.

Like last season, there doesn’t really seem to be much separation in the Summit League from 2 to 7.  There are not many automatic wins.  The 4 seed won in the conference championship last season, so anyone has a chance to make the NCAA Tournament this season.  Don’t come at me if you don’t like the rankings.

1) South Dakota State – projected conference wins: 9 to 12

As the 4 seed in the Summit League tournament in 2017, the Jackrabbits were able to ride Mike Daum all the way to the NCAA Tournament.  They have Mike Daum back, and they even return 75% of their scoring, so it’s pretty easy to envision them as the best team in the conference.

The Jackrabbits graduated their starting point guard Michael Orris, who was 4th in the Summit League in assists per game.  On paper, they have what it seems to make up for that production after signing junior college transfer Brandon Key, who averaged 7.2 assists per game as a sophomore and was 5th in NJCAA in assists.  They were also able to sign Dallas Polk-Hilliard from junior college, who averaged 19.3 points and 8.4 rebounds as a sophomore.  Polk-Hilliard once had an offer from the Mavericks.

The Jackrabbits are going to be able to play small, play big, shoot threes, defend, and they have a pretty deep bench to go along with a solid starting 5.  Summit League teams are going to have to rely on the Jackrabbits making mistakes and beating themselves in order to pick up a win against South Dakota State.

2) Denver – projected conference wins: 8 to 9

The Pioneers were supposed to have a difficult time transitioning to Rodney Billups’ offense, but they had no problem last season.  They only lost CJ Bobbitt from their rotation, who transferred to New Mexico State.  The team is also bound to not run out of steam as they are able to go 9 or 10 players deep.

If the Pioneers can get to a situation where they South Dakota State in the conference championship, can Daniel Amigo show up to play?  Amigo scored in double figures in all but three conference games last season, including the conference tournament.  All three of those games were against South Dakota State.

3) South Dakota – projected conference wins: 8 to 9

The Coyotes still have Matt Mooney, who is a top 5 player in the league.  They are still going to play great defense, and hustle, and do the things that they do to help themselves win basketball games.  They do have more question marks than you would think.

Their top post player graduated, and their starting point guard transferred to Georgetown, so there is a little ground to make up there.  Junior forwards Dan Jech and Tyler Hagedorn have yet to show consistency in their careers, and no one is even really sure what Nebraska transfer Nick Fuller can be.  Without a back up point guard, sophomore Triston Simpson is going to have to play some big minutes at the point.  Matt Mooney will likely have to play stretches at the point guard spot.

4) Fort Wayne – projected conference wins: 7 to 9

John Konchar could win 5 conference games completely on his own, so they really just need a few more guys to step up to be in the top half of the conference.  The ‘Dons are still going to come out and hit threes and play at a fast pace.

They will have a solid starting 5, but out of all the teams competing for the Summit League championship, Fort Wayne has the most questionable bench.  If they find themselves in foul trouble in big games, other teams should be able to outplay them.  Again, like in 2015-2016, the Mastodons don’t have a deep enough team to last three nights in a row in the Summit League tournament, so it’s going to be very important for them to land in the top 2 seeds.

5) North Dakota State Bison- projected conference wins: 7 to 9

The Bison are actually the youngest team in the Summit League this season.  You know what happened the last time they were the youngest team in the Summit League?  Lawrence Alexander led them to the conference championship, but the Summit League wasn’t as deep as it is now back then.  Paul Miller and AJ Jacobson are the only two seniors on the team, and Jacobson is recovering from a stress fracture in his foot.

The Bison pride themselves on guys stepping up when someone goes down, and I’m sure a star will rise this season, but can Paul Miller carry the Bison like Lawrence Alexander once did?  Can this young team mentally get through the last 4 of 5 conference games on the road heading into the conference tournament?

6) Omaha – projected conference wins: 5 to 8

The Mavericks seem to have too much to make up after losing Tra-Deon Hollins, Marcus Tyus, and Tre’Shawn Thurman.  Omaha is actually the oldest team in the Summit League after adding transfers Renard Suggs and Lamar Wofford-Humphrey to the lineup, but there still appears to be a lot to figure out for the Mavericks.  They may even have a difficult time figuring out rotations against a non-conference schedule against Oklahoma, Washington, Louisville, TCU, and Kansas.

Losing 4 steals per game from Tra-Deon Hollins will be difficult in the sense that they may not be able to play as much transition offense as they did the last two seasons, which was Omaha’s comfort zone.  There will have be more half court sets and ball movement this season, which hasn’t been a huge strength of theirs in recent memory.  They do have the pieces around Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson to be competitive in the Summit League and play in half court sets, but there cannot be as many mistakes as there has been in the last season.

Figuring out how to divide up 40 minutes between Daniel Meyer, Lamar Wofford-Humphrey, and Matt Pile sounds like it could be a challenge for Derrin Hansen.  After seeing Matt Pile play against Creighton and show off his rebounding ability, and how good he is at setting screens, he may find himself beating out two seniors for minutes this season.

7) Oral Roberts – projected conference wins: 2 to 5

Paul Mills is known as being able to coach up an intense defense, and the Golden Eagles are going to need that in his first season.

Oral Roberts has the least amount of offense returning from last season, after graduating three starters and Kris Martin transferring to Colorado State.  The team has a serious three headed monster in the post with Albert Owens, Emmanuel Nzekwesi, and Javan White, but is that really a threat in a run-and-gun league?  They are capable of pulling off an upset against anyone, but consistency looks to be an issue for this team.

8) Western Illinois- projected wins: 1 to 4

I could not say with any confidence that any starter on their basketball team could start for any other Summit League team.  The Leathernecks could be classically bad.

Brandon Gilbeck averaged 3 blocks a game last season.  That’s cool, I guess.  Maybe he could have a break out season after the Leathernecks graduated their two leading scorers, and have few offensive weapons on the team.