2015-2016 opponent preview, Game 5: Minnesota Gophers

I am sitting here looking at the basketball schedule and many things go through my mind as I see the Minnesota Gophers.

  • Minnesota is only about 6 hours away
  • The state of Minnesota is known for Juicy Lucys, and no one here in Omaha has really perfected it
  • The Mavericks played the Gophers pretty close when these two teams met in 2013
  • The Mavericks have 3 players from the state of Minnesota
  • Could this game be on the Big 10 Network?
  • Am I the only one who thinks Richard Pitino is a little overrated?
  • Do we have a shot here?
  • This will be the Gophers first game back after a trip to Puerto Rico
  • UNO Hockey plays Ohio State the same day basketball plays Minnesota, and possibly at the same time?
  • Minnesota has not lost a true home game against a Mid Major team since 2006…they were really bad in 2006-2007
  • Does the internet have enough Minnesota Gophers/Caddyshack memes?

The first thing I want to ask myself when I see this schedule is: Should I make the trip?

As noted above, Minnesota is not a difficult drive unless the weather is not cooperating.  I debate several times a year for a reason to go up to Minneapolis.  While it is only a 6 hour drive, probably less even, it would feel even longer as I would sit in excitement like I am Buddy the Elf impatiently waiting for Christmas.  I would be thinking of that first sweet bite of bliss as I bite into a Jucy Lucy burger, and the idea that the Mavericks could potentially pull off this upset.

This thing is seriously life changing.
This thing is seriously life changing.

A few scheduling conflicts that come to my mind are; the Nebraska-Iowa football game; and the UNO hockey game against Ohio State.  Since the game time of the Mavericks at Minnesota has yet to be posted*, it is tricky to determine if I could make the trip, listen to the football game on the radio during the drive and watch the hockey game from Minnesota or listen to it on the radio on the drive back.  So many burning questions that need to be answered.


Could this game be on the Big 10 Network?*

The last time the Mavericks and Gophers faced off, the game was played on BTN.  My wife and I had a few friends over, for something actually completely unrelated, so I definitely had the game going on in the background.  Turning on the game we thought the game could get ugly, but it was ugly for Minnesota in the beginning.  A friend of mine, who did not and still does not pay attention to the Mavericks, but he is a big college basketball fan (he is a Husker fan, it’s cool).  He was completely impressed with the shooting of the Mavericks.

At first, I thought the game could get out of hand, as Justin Simmons was slowed by injury.  My friend and I were completely surprised by the shooting of Alex Phillips that game.  Every time the Mavericks needed a 3, Phillips showed no fear taking it.  With no prior experience watching the Mavericks, my friend thought Phillips was the star of the team.  Phillips (along with Caleb Steffensmeier and Matt Hagerbaumer) really brought energy and experience off the bench for that Mavericks team.  The Mavericks do not have that same dynamic this season, but hopefully seniors Randy Reed and Tim Smallwood could bring the experience, and new guards Tra-Deon Hollins and JT Gibson can bring the energy.

Marcus Tyus had 11 points and 5 rebounds against the Gophers in 2013-2014
Marcus Tyus had 11 points and 5 rebounds against the Gophers in 2013-2014

I just realized how I got off track here.  Anyway, the game was on BTN, there was drama to that game, could the network pick up the Mavericks-Gophers again for a live broadcast?

*So I looked it up after typing all of this out.  The game time is currently not posted on omavs.com, but the game is listed as a 2 pm start time on ESPN3 on the Gophers’ website.  With that in mind, 2 pm brings up a few different scenarios of stuff to do.  

If DJs Dugout or Dudley’s Pizza could stream the game, this could create a watch party at either place, and create for great pre gaming for the hockey game against Ohio State…nice.  

Or yes, one could drive to Minnesota listening to the Husker game on the radio, go to the basketball game, and then hopefully watch or listen to the hockey game on the radio.  That is a big day.

OR, your significant other could throw a big wrench in your plans and tell you that you have to put up Christmas decorations all day and you have an event with your in-laws because you did something with your family on Thanksgiving.


Do the Mavericks have a chance?

So after checking out what most Big 10 beat writers had to say, almost every single one had Minnesota ranked 11th in the Big 10 in the incredibly worthless “Way too early rankings.”  Much of this is based on the fact that the Gophers had big expectations for 2014-2015, but instead they came in 10th and failed to make the post season.  With that in mind, the Gophers lost their two leading scorers, most of their experience, and they will be a pretty young team this season with 6 freshman and 4 sophomores.  They also have two juniors that transferred into the program but will be sitting out during the 2015-2016 season.

The Gophers do not have much talent in their post game, as the two juniors that are sitting out after transferring are basically a bulk of their talent in the post.  The Gophers do have 6’9″ senior Joey King, who could pose a threat to the Mavericks, but King does play more like a guard with literally half of his field goals made in 2014-2015 being three point field goals.  King only averaged 3 rebounds per game in his junior season, and has only had a total of 11 games with 5 or more rebounds in his entire three year career between Minnesota and Drake.  While King is mostly a threat on offense, and the Gophers lack an inside presence, the Mavericks could feel comfortable with forwards Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman to guard King on the outside, as both appear comfortable stepping out and playing defense.

The biggest threat the Gophers have is 6’5″ senior Carlos Morris, who can do a little bit of everything, averaging 11 ppg, 3 rpg, 2 apg, and 2 spg in his junior season while shooting 45% from the field and 36% on threes.  The scariest thing to think about is who the Mavericks will use to guard Morris.  Could Minnesota go with Morris at the 4 with their lack of size?  If so, look to Thurman and/or Randy Reed to try and contain Morris in this one.

While Minnesota had a decent recruiting class and signed two talented point guards, their young guards are going to have to go up against seniors Devin Patterson, Marcus Tyus, and Smallwood; as well as junior Tra-Deon Hollins.  Patterson loves these games against the bigger schools.  A stat that I love to bring up is that in 5 career games against Power 6 teams, Patterson has averaged 16.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.6 spg, and shot 55 % from the field and 35% on threes.  Tyus has shot 52% from the field and 48% on threes in 9 career games against Power 6 teams.

Please note that if these figures seem off as compared to earlier posts (assuming you have actually read any of these posts), it is because I realized I forgot to include Kansas State into those figures earlier.

Not to mention the Mavericks were scaring the crap out of Gopher fans for about 30 minutes of the game the last time these two teams played.  That Maverick team had a little bit of a different look, but actually so do the Gophers with only one player (King) that played in that game.  Patterson and Tyus combined for 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists in that game.

With the Mavericks having seniors Jake White and Marcus Tyus*, along with freshman JT Gibson, looking to have big games in front of their home state fans, the Mavericks will more than likely be looking to work harder to push on for a win against the Gophers.  Out of the three games the Mavericks have this season against power conference teams, this could be the Mavericks best chance at getting an upset.  I say that without even really getting into Missouri yet.  This is what is making it difficult to pass up a chance to make the drive to see the Mavericks take on Minnesota.

Mav freshman was the 2014-2015 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year for basketball
Mav freshman was the 2014-2015 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year for basketball

I just realized that I am not even 100% sure that Marcus Tyus will be back and ready at this point.  I just kind of assumed, because there was actually (minimal) debate of him playing in Italy.

I am not saying it is a guarantee that the Mavericks will win this game.  I am not Paul Finebaum claiming that the SEC football teams will go 56-0 in non-conference play because God spent days 8 to 13 creating what we now know as SEC football.  I am saying the game should at least be entertaining, and that the Mavericks do have a chance to win this game if they play big.  Seriously though, imagine how crazy the UNO Maverick Maniacs would be at a Ohio State-Omaha hockey game hours after a Omaha win at Minnesota.  We are talking villagers storming Dr. Frankenstein’s house crazy.

 

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2015-2016 opponent preview, Game 2: Kansas City

This is where I could have done a preview of the Mavericks’ second opponent, St. Mary’s from Minnesota, but they play in Division 3 and on top of that St. Mary’s lists the game as an exhibition.  What fun would that be?  It does feel good to actually have 100% confidence in these games though, it is not like in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 when you just were not really sure what UNO would do against these teams.

So we move on looking at the UMKC Kangaroos.

Last year I heavily debated of going to Kansas City to watch this game.  I do not recall why I did not go, but it was more than likely because I had no one that wanted to brave the exhausting three hour drive with me.  Seriously, you have to drive through Iowa for part of it.  I listened to the game on the radio, but found myself screaming like I was Krusty the Klown screaming at the Washington Generals for just watching the Harlem Globetrotters spin the ball on their fingers.

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The Mavs were getting Jake White back into the lineup after being injured in their home opener against Central Arkansas.  UMKC was playing without probably their best post player, former Bradley Brave, Shayok Shayok.  I was not feeling like it would be an easy win, but I was still expecting a win that day.  The Mavs ended up losing to the ‘Roos with a 20 point performance from CJ Carter and a 19 point and 8 rebound performance from Tre’Shawn Thurman.  You can pretty much completely attribute the loss to a season high 26 turnovers.  26!  That is scary!  That is sick, and not the good kind of sick that all the kids are throwing around now a days.  The kind of sick you feel when you find out that person you hate at work is getting their cubicle moved right next to you.  That Mavs even outrebounded UMKC by 14 on the day.  This is still the one game of the 2014-2015 season that I look back most and say, if they replayed that game, UNO wins the game.

This loss, in my opinion, was more embarrassing than any other Mav loss on the year.  More embarrassing than Chicago State.  Even though the Kangaroos beat Missouri earlier in the season, the Mavs were a superior team but could not handle the ball.  The game was right there.  UMKC took their decent back court and attacked UNO’s poor perimeter defense.  Martez Harrison, who became the first D-1 All American (Honorable Mention) that UMKC has ever had, dropped 25 on the Mavericks.  Frank Williams Jr, doubled his season average with 16, these 6’4″ to 6’6″ wing players always seemed to have out of body experiences against the Mavs last season.

Martez Harrison was also the 2015-2016 WAC player of the year.
Martez Harrison was also the 2014-2015 WAC player of the year.

The obvious hope this upcoming season is that this will not be a glaring issue anymore.  Tra-Deon Hollins is expected to help with this perimeter defensive issues, and in my opinion, Randy Reed should hopefully get a little more playing time to guard against those 6’4″ to 6’6″ wing players that gave the Mavs fits last season.

In that wing position, the ‘Roos have sophomore Darius Austin, who averaged 4.4 ppg and 4.2 rpg in 20 minutes per game.  He did have 9 points and 8 rebounds against the Mavs last season.  There is also junior Broderick Newbill, who averaged 4.2 ppg and 2.1 rebounds per game in about 12 minutes a game last season.  He had 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals against the Mavericks last season.  UMKC will also be adding a 6’3″ junior college transfer, Deshawn King, who averaged about 12 points per game, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists.  King was not a tremendous threat from long range being that he made 33% of his threes in in his sophomore season, but he only attempted about one three point shot a game.  He also only shot 60% from the field.

My perception (actually this blog is pretty much 100% about my perceptions) is that one of the Mavs top two strengths this upcoming season will be their post game.  The Mavs lost crazy inside force Mike Rostampour, and that will hurt, but how good can the post look with a hopefully healthy Jake White and a stronger and more experienced Tre’Shawn Thurman?  Not to mention, Daniel Meyer is sounding as if he has improved his game a tremendous amount, based on the Mavs Euroblog.  The Mavs have a good three headed monster down low, and maybe even a 4 headed monster if freshman Zach Pirog is ready to play.  But if the Mavs have 26 turnovers again, or hell, even 25 turnovers, it is not like they are going to have enough opportunities to get the ball down low to the triple dragon.

With that in mind, the Kangaroos do not have much of a post game.  Can Shayok play this year?  He is basically their entire post game, but only played in 8 games last season.  UMKC will also be adding former Youngstown State forward, 6’7″ Kyle Steward, to their post game.  Steward spent his sophomore season at Butler Community College, who is pretty much good all the time (they went 29-4 last season), where he averaged about 13 points per game and 5 rebounds per game.  Steward can also step out and hit the three, so he can really help open things up for UMKC.

UMKC is a team the Mavs are kind of used to.  The proximity and somewhat equal size which has made this a little bit of a rivalry, it seemed like UNO-UMKC was going to create a nice little rivalry as Summit League members.  It would make sense for UMKC to come back to the Summit League and make it an even 10 teams, especially since UMKC does not have one conference opponent in the WAC that they do not have to fly to play.  Until they man up and face the reality that they have to come back to the Summit League, it will probably be a regular thing to play UMKC once a year.

The Kangaroos were the first team that UNO got a Summit League regular season win over, and the first team that the Mavericks swept in the regular season.  Okay, maybe that is why they do not want to come back.

It is definitely a good thing that this game will be played in Omaha.  Last season, for their conference schedule, the Kangaroos were 6-1 at home and only 2-5 on the road, so they are not that great away from the state of Missouri…but they did pick up a win in double overtime at Indiana State in their non conference schedule.  The Mavericks will have two games under their shorts at the Baxter Arena, and things are starting to look pretty good in Mavtown as it is, so hopefully a good crowd can make it out to this Tuesday game.

One difference with the Mavs as compared to last season is that when the Mavericks traveled to Kansas City, they were really still trying to figure things out.  The team was already trying to figure out where the additions of Tre’Shawn Thurman, Randy Reed, Tim Smallwood, Rylan Murry, Daniel Meyer, Kyler Erickson, and Devin Newsome were going to fit into a rotation.  That is even with trying to figure out what to do with Jake White, who was coming back with an injury at that point.  This season, there is not going to be a lot of process trying to figure those things out, and the Mavs will be trying to figure out how to add just three or four players into the mix (Gibson, Hollins, Pirog, and Jackson).  The team has had a trip to Italy and more practice to figure out rotations, so it will not take as long for the Mavericks to figure out who everyone is.  The team is going to be slightly deeper this season, which makes since now that they are a full fledged member of division one now.

So how are the Mavs’ chances against the Kangaroos this November?  The Mavs can hopefully take better care of the ball and be able to edge out UMKC this season.  Really, how could they not take better care of the ball this time around?  This is not the same Kangaroos team that Omaha swept in their first year in the Summit, really either are the Mavericks…the only player they still have from that team is Marcus Tyus.  This game can still be as close as last season, but with better defense the Mavericks will look to better contain Martez Harrison.

 

2015-2016 Opponent Preview, Game 1: UC Santa Barbara

So there are 13 weeks until the Mavs basketball season starts, so what is a better time to start previewing their 2015 fourteen non-conference opponents?  Probably last week actually if I wanted to take it one team at a time.  Crap.  Oh well.  Here we go.

The Mavs will open their season at the brand new Baxter Arena in Mavtown with the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.   Don’t you love it how nicknames of California teams (pro and college) make no sense?  This will be after Mav hockey will already be 10 games into the season, but there will not be any hockey this weekend, so really it is a great weekend to open up the season for the Baxter Arena for basketball.  UNO Men’s soccer should be in Denver this weekend for the Summit League tournament and championship, and hopefully the women’s soccer team will have made some noise at this point and maybe have already made the Summit League tournament.  This will also be the final weekend of the regular season for the volleyball team.

I know some Mav fans were expecting a bit time opponent to open up the arena.  Some were thinking the likes of Nebraska or Creighton, but the Gauchos are not a small opponent by any means.  In fact, they actually finished the 2015-2016 season with an RPI of 98.  If case you forgot: Creighton finished at 157; and Nebraska finished at 155, but I know it is more about the name and prestige for most.  The Gauchos also finished the year with a winning record, tied for 2nd with UC Irvine in the Big West, and a trip to the CBI where they lost to Summit League team Oral Roberts.

In addition to all of this, Santa Barbara had one win over a power conference team, Washington State.  I know Washington State is someone to not take incredibly seriously right now as far as power conference teams ago, but the Gauchos beat them 71-43.

Side note:  My Northwest friends are mostly Washington State fans.  Last year, when I heard UNO was going to Seattle and looking to play Washington or Washington State while in the Northwest, I told my Northwest friends that they might have a Mavericks versus Cougars match up.  They laughed and said “there is an easy win for UNO.”

Speaking of Seattle, remember when UNO lost to them and we were incredibly shocked by it?  The Gauchos beat Seattle 87-46.  Looking at the rest of their 2014-2015 schedule, they had some close losses to some good teams.  As mentioned, they lost to Oral Roberts by 4 in the CBI.  The Gauchos also traveled to Lawrence early in the year to lose to Kansas by 10, the Jayhawks had a final RPI of 5.  The team did also split games with Florida Gulf Coast, losing to Dunk City by 6 in overtime before beating them by 13 later in the non-conference schedule.

I really wish UNO and Colorado State could meet every year, the Rams are a fun team to watch, and they are “sort of local” with a large number of UNO alumni (and former Omahans) in the state of Colorado.  Santa Barbara lost to the Rams by 2.  Colorado State had a final RPI of 37.

Speaking of other teams I would like to see UNO play, but this is because of my wife’s fan hood, Santa Barbara lost to Oregon by 4 points in overtime in Eugene.  Also, a team I hate discussing, SMU, beat Santa Barbara by 7.  Larry Brown’s final experiment finished with an RPI of 27.

The Gauchos are coached by Bob Williams, who has been with Santa Barbara since 1998 after winning a Division 2 championship with (then D-2) UC Davis.  Williams has made the NCAA tournament with the Gauchos 3 times, his last time was in 2010-2011.


Who did they lose?

The Gauchos lost a huge piece of their team.  6’8″ and 265lbs Alan Williams averaged a double double in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons for Santa Barbara.  He was an All Big West player for all three of those seasons as well.  He is actually probably solely responsible for what kept Santa Barbara in the game against Kansas, as he showed to be too much for Perry Ellis, in which Williams had 22 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks.

Williams averaged 17.3 ppg and 11.8 rpg his senior season, he also was not a terrible free throw shooter at 77%.  He had a 20 rebound performance in a 65-60 overtime win over Mercer.  Oh Williams also led the NCAA in rebounding in 2014 and in 2015.

Willaims did miss 6 games in 2014-2015 with the Gauchos going 4-2 in his absence, and those two losses were against UC Irvine and UC Davis, the two top teams in the Big West.

After finishing his career as a Gaucho, Williams played for the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets in the NBA Summer League, where he was named All Summer League 2nd team after a 22 points and 21 rebound performance against the 76ers.  He has signed professionally with a Chinese team.

I feel like Mike Rostampour would have loved competing against this guy.


Who do they have coming back?

Williams is obviously a huge loss, but he was not the only Big West 1st Team player that the Gauchos had.  6’4″ senior Michael Bryson also made the all conference team after averaging 14 points and nearly 5 rebounds a game.  Bryson loves taking threes, he made about 2 threes per game in 2014-2015 with a total of 68 on the year.  In comparison, CJ Carter, who led the Mavericks, made 48 on the season.  Bryson also shot 85% from the free throw line.

The Gauchos return two more wing players that averaged over 10 per game last season.  6’5″ senior John Green averaged 11 points and 4 rebounds per game, though Green was mostly used at the 4 position last season since, other than Williams, the Gauchos did not have much of a post game.  The team also return 6’3″ sophomore Gabe Vincent who averaged 10 per game, but did face inconsistencies throughout the year, as most freshman do.  Vincent shot 41% on threes on the year, and had a total of 57.


So you’re telling me there is a chance?

Probably the Mavericks biggest weakness last season was their perimeter defense, so you get a little scared when you hear they are facing a team with their strength being their group of returning wing players.  The Gauchos will be trying to adjust to life without a walking double double, and after Williams, the Gauchos did not have a reliable post game.

So the keys to the game could be how much the Mavs can work the ball into Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman, as well as how good of a perimeter defender new Mavericks Tra-Deon Hollins can be in the game…who sounds to be a pretty stellar defender.

This is not going to be as easy of a game as playing Central Arkansas to open up the year, but to get better the Mavs have to play the best, this is great competition.  As of right now, it does sound as if Santa Barbara has the edge, but hopefully opening up the new arena (to basketball) can create a great atmosphere to give the Mavs a great home court advantage in this game.