Summit League Championship preview

We’re all so juiced right now, right?!

All season I have been hoping to see Omaha rise up to what they are capable of being and blow someone out.  It was part of my desire to not wanting to be stressed out for two hours of watching sports.

The best part about last night night is that the Mavericks were able to defend the passing lanes and create havoc just as they did last season.  The entire team was playing with a huge amount of energy, and there is really no reason why they wont bring the energy tonight.  Even with the team only shooting 24 percent on threes, the Mavericks were able to play their brand of basketball and showcase an incredible performance.

It’s unfortunate that the Mavericks have to play in the championship game which is pretty much on the road, but this is still one of the greatest opportunities Omaha has ever had.

Yes, most of the arena will be wearing blue, but there will be some black and crimson.  This is the Mavericks moment, though.  The players and coaches have said they love playing in the big away games, and taking the home crowd out of it with big plays.  Since the Mavericks beat the Jackrabbits in Brookings this season, the only game the Jackrabbits have lost to in the state of South Dakota was to South Dakota in Vermillion.

We’ve been talking about the mind game for the Mavericks, but tonight they’re going up against a team that also has something in their own heads.  The Jackrabbits have under performed this season, and even though they were able to pick up a win against the Mavericks in Omaha, they let Omaha shoot all over them in Brookings.  Both teams almost gave up big leads to escape with wins on the road in the regular season against each other.  Neither team is just going to lay down and let the other one take this win.

Mike Daum is clearly going to demand an incredible amount of attention from the Mavericks.  He is like their Super Shredder.  Watching him play basketball at times is like watching the opening scene in X Men 2 when Nightcrawler dominates the Secret Service into submission.  Hopefully, like that scene, the Mavericks can stop Daum before he does anything catastrophic.

A big factor in the game is if Tre’Shawn Thurman can stay out of foul trouble and challenge Daum enough to throw him off of his game.  If Thurman get into foul trouble, Zach Pirog, Daniel Meyer, and Mitch Hahn will need to be ready.  Meyer is not the type of player that can really defend Daum, but Pirog can.  In Omaha, Pirog’s length really bothered Daum on possessions; and the Mavericks were +11 with him on the court.  Derrin Hansen doesn’t give Pirog a lot of minutes, but if things with Daum get a little dicey he may want to take a chance on Pirog.

It’s easy to look at this as OH MY GOD, NOT MIKE DAUM, but there are other guys that Omaha needs to worry about.  With all the attention on Daum, backup center Ian Theisen is able to find wide open looks against the Mavericks and knock down big shots.  He had 15 points off the bench on 6-of-8 shooting in Brookings against the Mavs.  Theisen did suffer an injury after the Jackrabbits trip to Omaha and missed 6 games and has struggled to find a role in the last three games for the Jackrabbits.  Omaha is healthier and has some more depth than South Dakota State, but that doesn’t mean the guys who can step up wont step up.

Michael Orris is also a good point guard that can really control the offense for the Jackrabbits, so hopefully the Mavericks can continue this great team defense to disrupt what he can do.  Reed Tellinghuisen is another guy that the Mavericks cannot underestimate.  Tellinghuisen has struggled this season, and has even gone 1-of-10 on threes against the Mavericks this season.  He shot lights out against Omaha as a freshman and sophomore, and the Jackrabbits appear to be more successful when Tellinghuisen gets hot so forcing him to a struggle bus is key.

How about who the Jackrabbits need to go up against?

The Jackrabbits have struggled defensively for much of the season, just like the Mavericks, but they have shown signs that they are capable of being a quality defensive team. With Ian Theisen and other senior AJ Hess both slowed down with injuries, who is going to defend Mitch Hahn who is playing incredible basketball right now and seems more focused than any other play we have ever seen?  He could literally hit a shot from anywhere on the court.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit a trailer 3 from the half court line.  Hahn had a three in the first half where he was about 5 feet behind the three point line and he just looked at the IUPUI defender, who was giving him the space, like: Seriously, do you not know who I am?

The Mavericks got their huge emotional game out of the way on Sunday night when they topped the team that scared them the most, and the Jackrabbits got their huge emotional game out of the way last night against their in-state rival.  The Mavericks are playing with a high level of confidence, and they’re playing smart basketball right now.  They have to continue that if they want the biggest win in program history.

When the Mavericks entered the Summit League, South Dakota State was the program they were striving to be, and now they have the chance to show that they have come a long way to be where they want to be.

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My trivial Summit League rankings – Jan 24

Like I’ve said, and still maintain, there is not a huge amount of difference in the Summit League from top to bottom, so we could just say North Dakota State is number one and everyone else is tied for 2nd.

It is my birthday, so the Mavericks are going to be in 2nd this week.  Deal with it.

1. North Dakota State

Last week’s ranking: 3rd

The Bison have a RPI ranking of 77 right now, they shot 13-of-16 on threes at Western Illinois over the weekend, and we are currently trying to figure out what the hell went so wrong in Denver.

I would check LetsGoDU, but it’s just going to talk about how the Pioneers should be in the Sun Belt.

2. Omaha

Last week’s ranking: 4th

Today is my birthday, so I am allowed to let my bias side show.  They were embarrassed in Tulsa, but a lot of that was just letting themselves embarrass themselves with: Marcus Tyus getting in early foul trouble, Tre’Shawn Thurman picking up the most untimely technical foul possible, and turning the ball over at least 10 times just by just dropping the ball right out of bounce unguarded.

These are things that can be fixed.  The biggest issue with this team appears to be rebounding, and especially giving up offensive rebounds.  It seems like too glorious of an event when you see Mitch Hahn, Daniel Meyer, or Zach Pirog beat a guy out for position to take away a rebound.

Omaha has lost the 2nd chance points battle in every conference game, except for their win to Denver…and I think Denver missed three shots the whole game.

Now, I’m just going to throw out a few things to make me feel better about this.

The Mavericks and the Bison are the only two teams in the Summit to have multiple conference road wins.  They also have the two best three point field goal percentages in conference play.  The Mavericks have also led conference play in steals per game.  They also have had the most turnovers, but have the highest pace and have more possessions from all the steals.

For other Summit League fans claiming Omaha is atrocious at defense; the Mavericks are 6th in defensive field goal percentage in front of Fort Wayne, IUPUI, and Oral Roberts.  They are also second in three point field goal percentage, and they are also in second in forced turnovers per game.

3. Fort Wayne

Last week’s ranking: 2nd

The ‘Dons have dropped three in a row, and it’s a little understandable since they’ve all been on the road.  None of their wins have been dominating in anyway, and they even got Dauminated last week.  Typing that hurt me to the core.  The ‘Dons haven’t actually been beaten badly in any of their losses, but they are 3-4 and many people thought they were going to win 13 to 14 conference games this season.

Their next two of three games are on the road, and the one home game is against IUPUI who swept the ‘Dons last season.

4. South Dakota

Last week’s ranking: 1st

They’re a little thin in the post with Tyler Flack out, and that was one of my fears with picking them last week against Oral Roberts.

A week at home against Western Illinois and Denver should be nice.

5. Denver

Last week’s ranking: 5th

I don’t like getting mean, well, it’s cool if it’s Denver; but isn’t Joe Rosga the least interesting of all the Summit League Super Sophomores?  Probably the worst defender out of all of them as well.

Welp, this has been fun.

6. IUPUI

Last week’s ranking: 6th

There was a point last year, where I found it difficult to figure out what kind of team the Jaguars were, and I feel that I have gotten there again this season.  They are not as tough and scrappy as they were last season on defense, and if they don’t get out in transition on offense, there appears to be a lot of just standing around.  There seems to be a lot jump shooting and hoping to God that they can grab the offensive rebound for easy put backs.  They lead the conference in offensive rebounds, so I guess it kind of works.  With 2-of-13 shooting from Darell Combs against Denver, and only grabbing 8 offensive rebounds as a team, that strategy did not work…

7. Oral Roberts

Last week’s ranking: 8th

The Golden Eagles are continuing to improve week after week.  In life after Obi Emegano, players are becoming more comfortable and confident with their shot selection.  In conference play, the Golden Eagles have the second best field goal percentage behind Denver, and they have had the best free throw percentage.  The Golden Eagles have also had the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference.

Albert Owens has scored 20 or more points in six consecutive games. Sophomore Kris Martin has also scored 20 or more points in five of the team’s seven conference games.  This young team has weapons, and if they continue to be consistent and find more confidence, they could potentially ruin the Summit League tournament for a top team.  Freshman Emmanuel Nzekwesi has also scored in double figures in each of the team’s conference wins.

8. South Dakota State

Last week’s ranking: 9th

The Jackrabbits’ five conference losses came by an average of 7 points per loss.  They’re not far away from turning this around.  They were able to hold Fort Wayne’s great three point shooting to 7-of-21 on Saturday.  Not sure if that is a sign of improvement on their perimeter defense, or just a consequence of Fort Wayne being run down from playing a competitive game against North Dakota State on Thursday.

The Jackrabbits actually have the second best defensive three point field goal percentage in conference play.  I just the poor perimeter defense talk on their fans being in complete panic mode in their fan forum online, and how easy it appears for opposing guards to penetrate and get in the lane against South Dakota State.

The Jackrabbits did also play a competitive game on Wednesday against IUPUI, and the last 3 minutes of that was probably the most frustrating chunk of basketball for any Jackrabbit or Jaguar fan.  Each team kept making shots in the last minute with plenty of time on the shot clock for the other to do something.

The Jackrabbits do appear be getting their rotation sorted out, and setting up an inside-outside game between Mike Daum and Michael Orris.

9. Western Illinois

Last week’s ranking: 7th

After winning their first 3 out of 4 conference games, the Leathernecks have dropped three in a row and have shot less than 40 percent in all three losses.

It’s good to see the Leathernecks are back.