The Omaha Chargers played their first game Tuesday night at the Ralston Arena, and I feel like you did not even notice. They won 143-97, by the way.
Probably unlike you, I have fantasized about a professional basketball team calling Omaha its home ever since I started watching basketball. So, basically since I was five years old. I created my own team on NBA Live 2000 called…you guessed it…The Omaha Racers.
I think we took over the Atlanta Hawks schedule, because I did not recognize them as a NBA team while I was in middle school. I had to create Mikki Moore to be my center since the game did not believe that he was in the NBA. I also had to create Rodney Buford as the team’s shooting guard, because again…EA Sports refused to acknowledge him as a real person.
I also created Venson Hamilton, who I don’t think ever actually made a NBA regular season team, but did play on some preseason rosters, if I remember correctly. Then I did the obvious next move which was signing Erick Strickland, Eric Piatkowski, and Tyronn Lue.
We were terrible. Anyway, now that you know a little more about me…
I have had a number of arguments that a NBA team would not work out in Omaha. I know it’s fun to think it would since Creighton men’s basketball averages a better attendance than one-third of the NBA each season, but selling out 41 games is a tougher accomplishment than selling out 17 or 18 college basketball games. With 41 games, you still get the Philadelphia 76ers coming to town as one or two of the 41 games.
I often think that a NBDL team would work out in Omaha. Hell, if it can work out in Des Moines and Sioux Falls, why cant it work out in Omaha? The Omaha Storm Chasers have been pretty successful since moving to Werner Park. The Lancers seem to do alright. The Beef, I guess are okay?
That last paragraph was sponsored by the Omaha Vipers.
So why did you not notice anything about the Omaha Chargers? If you’re like me, you got some interest when the announcement came in April that the team was being formed. Then you checked their website for information, and probably checked it a few more times over the span of a few months noticing that it was never being updated. Then all of a sudden, I guess they were having a basketball game?
If my imaginary Omaha Racers team was a real thing, I would think the first step would be to raise awareness that this community actually has a basketball team. So I did as much deep diving as I possibly could into this thing to see what could be found out about the Omaha Chargers.
I guess this is their home schedule? Just show up to the Ralston Arena at any time on those dates and hope for the best.
This basketball team is ran by a man named Darryl Greene. Greene is apparently also the president of the NBLA.
Which is actually kind of confusing, because Darryl Greene is also the president of the Dakota Magic, another team in the NBLA that you are not aware of. Is this the same Darryl Greene? Did he Multiplicity this thing and did Omaha get the # 4 clone? This is a social experiment, right?
The Chargers either have no Vice President or an Assistant GM, so Greene might be taking on those responsibilities as well at the moment. Or their website just sucks, both are possible scenarios. Spoiler alert: If you click on the LinkedIn link, it does not take you to an Omaha Chargers LinkedIn account, just to Wix.com’s account.
The Chargers have no Twitter account. It’s not like they have to necessarily have a Twitter account, but they have a Facebook page that barely gives any information about the team. Facebook right now is the place to go when you want to get really upset with your uncle’s political memes, not a place you go to see what sports franchises are up to. That’s what Twitter is for. In fact, the only reason I was reminded there was a game on Tuesday night was because I saw Mike Rostampour tweet to CJ Carter something about the game.
There is an unofficial Twitter account, set up by a fan, but that fan gave up on that thing pretty quickly.
This is all great, because the NBLA is totally utilizing social media platforms. Actually if you go to the Dakota Magic’s website, their social media links take you to actual social media accounts of theirs.
WOWT pretended to care with the San Diego Chargers logo.
And does that say Iowa?
Their Fan Page on their website will inform you that there was a NBLA Prospect game that would have been nice to hear about. I would’ve have loved to hear how locals did in the game.
You can even click on a link to let the Chargers know what you think. Which provides no real information on how to contact them. Just this logo. Staring right into your confused brain.
Want to play in the NBLA? It’s just that easy.
You can contact the NBLA. You do all the leg work.
This is an advertisement from the Dakota Magic for tonight’s away game for the Chargers. The Magic’s Facebook page provides you with more information on the Omaha Chargers than the Omaha Chargers do.
Do the Chargers and Ralston Arena have a deal like this? We don’t even know if Ralston Arena has the concession stands open during games. I know that CJ Carter, Deverell Biggs, or James Parrot could get me a $1 hot dog by 7:15pm with a deal like this.
The Chargers were able to update their season tickets to only being 9 games left, and that there is a 2 for 1 offer apparently. There, I just did more advertising for the Omaha Chargers than the Chargers have actually done.
A NBDL team could actually have some potential in Omaha. Even professional basketball like this can be successful One could even argue that a WNBA team would actually do pretty well in Omaha (or Lincoln). The organization has to at least make an attempt to get the community excited about it.
Hey, look, I want this thing to work out just like you probably do. But how are you supposed to get interested in this team if the only data you have is that they play at the Ralston Arena?
5-3 last week, but I love it when Omaha proves me wrong. I don’t like it when Western Illinois proves me wrong. This is a big week for seeding in the conference tournament. IPFW meets South Dakota State and Omaha, who are all in a fight for 1st (and 2nd) place. Denver has match ups against Oral Roberts and South Dakota, who are all in a fight for 6th, 7th, and 8th. North Dakota State and IUPUI will also meet on Saturday, which should be a preview of the 4 versus 5 match up in the conference tournament.
So with all of the intensity in these last 2 weeks, I have absolute confidence of picking at 1-7 this week.
Omaha (9-4) @ IUPUI (7-5) on ESPN3
Something that scares me is that road teams in the Summit League games are now 0-6 on Wednesday nights in conference play…this includes the Mavericks losing at Western Illinois on a Wednesday. The Jaguars are also 4-1 in conference play at home. I think I said that they were undefeated at home in conference play on Monday…my bad. It’s actually kind of amazing that IUPUI is better at home, it’s not like they have a huge home court advantage with a hopping crowd when averaging an attendance of about 1,000 people.
The Mavs won the earlier match up in Omaha, but it was not exactly a dominating performance. IUPUI’s size is scary for UNO that they should be able to out rebound and crash the offensive boards and not let UNO run out in transition and get a number of easy baskets. I say that somewhat blindly as IUPUI is 7th in the Summit in rebounds per game, but the Jaguars did have 15 offensive rebounds in Omaha.
The Mavs have to really watch out for Matt O’Leary. He’s second on the roster for IUPUI in scoring and tied to lead the team in assists. He plays efficiently, and at 6’8″, he might be the best big man in the Summit League at putting the ball on the floor and getting to the basket. He can also step out and hit the three. Matt Osborne’s game seems a little similar to Mike Rostampour as well, and the Jaguars have him coming off the bench; Mavs may have trouble crashing the boards with both Osborne and O’Leary on the court at the same time so Daniel Meyer and Randy Reed need to play smart in this game.
There is a part of me that is just going with the Jags in hopes to reverse jinx the Mavericks into a win. I’m not sure if that is how jinxes work, but damn it, the science is not all there on jinxes.
I’m not sure if IUPUI’s Evan Hall will play or not. He’s a 6’7″ freshman that averages 5 points and 4 rebounds, and he has missed the last 6 games. I heard he was out with concussion symptoms, but that was from ESPN3 commentators who routinely get stuff wrong. Anyway, the Jaguars are 3-3 in the last 6 games without him, and their three wins were by a total of 5 points. They also lost earlier in the season to Missouri and Creighton when he missed two games.
Western Illinois (2-10) @ North Dakota State (6-6)
North Dakota State won by 13 in Macomb, and Western Illinois is not greatly equipped to stop the weave offense of North Dakota State; but this game could be closer than the 13 that the Leathernecks lost by earlier in the year. The Leathernecks should actually have a shot in this game if NDSU’s leading scorer, Paul Miller, misses his fourth straight game. Another sort of scary thing for the Bison is that they are in Oh Crap, Let’s Just Make it to March Without Anymore Injuries mode and Western Illinois is in Playoff Mode. Western Illinois could be playing for a lot more right now.
Oh yeah, Summit League road teams are 0-6 on Wednesday nights in conference. This is the last Wednesday night in the Summit League.
This Bison are pretty much a lock to finish in 4th or 5th and facing up against IUPUI in the first round of the conference tournament, which is a really even match up.
York @ South Dakota (4-9)
South Dakota State (9-3) @ IPFW (9-3)
This could be really big. The Mastodons really have no one to stop Mike Daum. Brent Calhoun is not fast enough to guard him. John Konchar is too small to guard him. Joe Reed is also someone who is too slow to stop him, but probably has the best shot out of all the ‘Dons to do it. Daum could really big the big difference in this game. You could tell Omaha was deeply concerned with not letting Daum get the ball in the 2nd half last week. The ‘Dons are going to need another 30+ point performance from Max Landis to come out on top in this game, but does he have enough steam left in him after all the minutes he has played?
Landis has averaged 39 minutes a game in the last 10 games; and while he has had a few awesome performances in that stretch, he has had some duds in those 10 games. He did come out as the player of the week the last time IPFW faced South Dakota State and Omaha in the same week; but this reminds me of when Greg McDermott played the crap out of Antoine Young in his junior year because they had no back up point guard, and Young could barely finish the season.
Denver (5-8) @Oral Roberts (5-8)on ESPN3
Did you know Denver made 20 threes in a loss against IPFW on Saturday? They are not likely to repeat that sort of production, but Oral Roberts is not a great defensive team to play up against Denver’s constantly moving offense. Oral Roberts is a team that can really take advantage of all of Denver’s turnovers…and by Oral Roberts, I mean Obi Emegano. Denver leads the league with the most turnovers, which is actually kind of sad given how they have the fewest possessions in the conference.
Denver won the first meeting between these two teams by one point in Denver, but Obi Emegano was not playing in the game.
South Dakota State (9-3) @ Western Illinois (2-10) on ESPN3
Oh, Western Illinois is the team to have North Dakota State and South Dakota State in the same week.
Amazingly, South Dakota State only won by 2 points in Macomb last season; and SDSU is not as good of a road team this season…Western Illinois has something to ride into this game. Western Illinois also only lost by 4 to South Dakota State in Brookings at the beginning of the conference season. Wait, this doesn’t sound like the mismatch that it should be.
The Jackrabbits have won 11 straight meetings against the Leathernecks. Oh, there it is. South Dakota State could be in a tough game on Thursday night with IPFW, so maybe they might not have enough left in them to go up against Western Illinois this week. I thought the same thing when North Dakota State were traveling to IPFW and Western Illinois in the same week, so I don’t want to get burned on Western Illinois again…this is what it landing on red 12 times in a row in roulette does to a man.
IUPUI (7-5) @ North Dakota State (6-6) on ESPN3
The last meeting between these two teams was fun to watch. IUPUI has really struggled to score on the road since then. The Jaguars could really have the edge again if Paul Miller misses this game again.
Omaha (9-4) @ IPFW (9-3)
If it was not for a huge mistake on offense at the end of regulation in Omaha, the Mavericks would have had the comeback win against the Mastodons. The dream is that IPFW will get into a long drawn out exhausting game with South Dakota State on Thursday and really tire out the legs of Max Landis, and then have to face the Mavericks who will have an extra day of rest.
Landis was almost impossible to stop in Omaha, going for 37 points. Someone like Devin Patterson has responded well to defending someone after they’ve had a huge game like that against the Mavericks. The Mavericks also appear to play better under pressure…I feel like all the double digit comebacks should be enough to explain that.
Anyway, IPFW has one of their biggest weeks of the season. They could take control of 1st place in the conference, or they could lock them selves into 3rd, or they could keep it at a three way tie at the top of the Summit League. Man, I dislike IPFW. Jon Coffman really loves this basketball program, and seems like a guy to not let his team drop 2 games at home in the same week. He reminds of me of the guy that parks his 88 Toyota Celica in the back of the mall parking lot so no one door dings it, even though the bumper is covered in rust.
Denver (5-8) @ South Dakota (4-8)
South Dakota’s back court is not deep enough or quick enough to match up against all the guards of Denver. Denver embarrassed South Dakota a few weeks ago in Denver, and the Pioneers have shown that they can play in Vermillion by beating the Coyotes by 18 last season there.
I will accept a partial amount of blame for the loss of this Eastern Michigan game. You see, and please do not attempt to find me and punch me in the face, but I took a Creighton season ticket holder to the game with me. Yes, I took Dick C. Fan with me. DCF is a UNO graduate. He is a MavJaySker, though Husker football is the only Nebraska sport that he roots for, but he is cool with UNO sports. DCF is more of a Creighton fan though, and because of his Creighton roots, he used to despise Jake White due to his Wichita State days. The funny thing is, DCF actually looks a little bit like Jake White. Remember, part of the plan is to get the MavJaySkers to get to UNO games and respect the players, coaches, and where the program has come. I may have given DCF a little too much flack in the past. He did follow UNO athletics in their division 2 days, but thought them moving to division 1 was a bit of a joke at first, but he appears to be comfortable with it now.
When Jake White announced that he was going to transfer to UNO, I immediately texted DCF and told him that his distant relative was going to be a Maverick. DCF was not happy. I think he cussed me out over a text message, and begged me to stop calling Jake White his cousin. Over parts of last season, I would text DCF to update him on how good Jake White was playing as a Mav, and he never responded to any of the texts.
The day the Mavericks played UMKC, DCF texted me to see if I wanted to go to the Creighton game with him. I told him no, but he could go to Eastern Michigan-UNO with me, so we struck up a deal that we go to the games together. Tuesday afternoon, I asked him if he was excited to see his cousin play basketball. He was the opposite of pumped.
When we got to the game, I really thought DCF was going to just start yelling expletives in Jake White’s direction. Instead, the UNO fan in him came out, and he said “there is my boy.” DCF even threw out a first pump when Jake White’s name was announced in the starting lineup. Then, the game happened…
This is the first game that I walked up the arena and people were not on the community ice practicing curling. DCF and I used to want to start a curling team, but we legitimately know nothing about curling. I would feel bad if I get into curling and was instantly good at it and pissed off some guys that were doing curling for decades and saw some guy who doesn’t know how to do it is amazing. It’s no diss at curling, I just don’t know what makes a curling guy a good curling athlete. I’ve never heard anyone say: “oh that Caleb Steffensmeier had a pretty good basketball career, but could imagine him as a master curler?”
DCF asked every question you could think of about Tre’Shawn Thurman and Tra-Deon Hollins, as he remembered watching them play at Central. I really thought about lying to him, but I told him what I knew.
DCF then told me how excited he was about Creighton’s Khyri Thomas, and I almost broke into tears to admit that I used to sit around and hope that Thurman and Thomas would come to UNO and kick start the program to the next level. UNO got half of my equation.
DCF kept hoping that UNO would pass the ball to Jake White, this was quite the change as 3 years ago he was calling Jake White offensive names.
You could tell that he was immediately impressed with Tre’Shawn Thurman, and he should be. Creighton fans will catch glimpses of him over time and be saying things like “ah crap”
With Thurman having 13 points and 8 rebounds at half, we shared a short discussion of Is Thurman better than Creighton forwards…it’s kind of a dumb conversation to get into, but it is what Omahans that like basketball are eventually going to talk about. We agreed that Thurman is probably right on par with Cole Huff from an amount of talent, there are things that Huff does better than Thurman, but there are things that Thurman does better than Huff. It would be pretty difficult for most coaches to decide who to start between them. We then agreed that Thurman is better than Zach Hanson and Toby Hegner, but DCF pointed out that Hanson is playing the best basketball of his college career up until this point. My thought on this is: It is Hanson’s junior year, he should be playing the best basketball of his collegiate career up until now. You don’t want to say, “hey, this guy was one of the best freshman I had ever seen and now he is absolute crap. I love it.”
I thought the most shocking part of looking at the stats of this game was that the fouls were actually even. Though, I continuously felt like UNO’s fouls were giving them the shaft. No one was ever really in foul trouble except for Hollins. I think the fouls got into the heads of some of the UNO players, especially the no calls. It is just weird that the refs get incredibly knit picky for 97% of the game but space out for another 3% of the game. All players need to adjust to this crap, the deeper and more mature teams are going to get through this. I believe Scott Nagy said that…not in those exact words, but you get it, right?
Jake White got fouled going up for a basket and the ball flew backwards…DCF and I went on to make a number of Caddyshack 2 references. This has to be the first time anyone has referenced this movie in quite some time. There were also Celtic Pride references shared between us. If Celtic Pride and Caddyshack 2 are not films you are familiar with, I am not sure we would get along.
DCF and I were both thinking that the Mavs should have kept Hollins out on the court when he picked up his 3rd foul pretty early in the second half. The offense was completely flat without him. There was too much standing around when he was on the bench. Can we get a check on how many assists Hollins gets as a result of his penetration to the basket? It has to be 2/3 of his assists.
Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman each had double-doubles…when was the last time UNO had two guys with double-doubles in a game…and when was the last time a Maverick had two double-doubles in a row…and when was the last time a sophomore had two double doubles in a row?
I had another game where I found myself asking: why did Randy Reed not play more? The kid had some real hustle plays down the stretch…the team needed that energy for more of the game. Can we not go with a front court of White-Thurman-Reed all at once? I know you probably lose some three point shooting with that line and do not stretch out the floor a bunch, but just let them all set screens for Hollins and Patterson to get around and they will find a cutting man. Is it something you want to go with for 20 minutes of the game? No. But I wish it is something that should be tried out for a 3 to 4 minute stretch. Last year the Mavs went with a Rostampour-Thurman-Reed front court against Oral Roberts for a few different couple minute stretches and it really bothered Korey Billbury of Oral Roberts.
DCF commented about how watching Jake White now is like watching a completely different player than what he saw from him at Wichita State. Claimed that at WSU he just stood around and wanted to shoot threes, and now he is down low posting up and getting knocked around down low. He was really blown away at his nemesis turned…not friend…but…dude guy he has no reason to hate?
I tried to get DCF to go to the family that holds up pictures of Maverick players faces when they are shooting free throws and demand an answer as why they have his picture when they are holding up Jake White’s photo. I could not convince him to do this, but it could been entertaining.
Thanks to Facebook’s On This Day, I was able to get reminded that 3 years ago on December 1st, I watched a terrible football game in which Nebraska was involved and it was the most embarrassed I ever was to watch a Husker football game.
Mavericks were 4 of 17 on threes in this game…is this killing Marcus Tyus? Like how it was killing Mike Rostampour when he was sitting out and the Mavs could not rebound the ball?
Night 2 – Creighton vs Arizona State
I do not hate Creighton athletics, but I do get annoyed with their fans. I would say it is safe to call me a MavJaySker…in fact I think that is my gamer tag on Xbox. I would just much rather watch their games on television or listen to them on the radio than to actually attend a game. Hanging with 18,000 people freak out at every single whistle, good or bad, is not my thing. Let me make a correction there, I would be with about 14,000 people freak out at ref calls as at any given time the CenturyLink Center has a combined 4,000 fans walking the arena looking for the cheapest beer that they can find, or they are permanently planted in the beer garden to brag up about how they went to the most expensive bar in all of Nebraska. You can also always find a handful of people reading a magazine at any given moment.
It’s also stressful to hear some drunk guy try to convince his friend that the ranking of best basketball programs goes as this: 1. Duke/North Carolina/Kentucky/Kansas…2. Creighton…350. UNO…351. Nebraska…And Creighton was a three point shot away from Booker Woodfox from beating Kentucky in the National Championship in 2009? 2010? Ah hell, that one year the NIT second round was just as good as the NCAA Tournament.
I also love that when you go to a Creighton game and the fan’s pregame analysis is just that the other team sucks. For three straight hours Wednesday night, I just heard how Arizona State was a shitty basketball team…then the Jays lost to them. So I guess that means the Jays are back.
Some takeaways from the Creighton game…
I remember a few years ago thinking that Geoff Groselle was going to be one of the worst ever in Creighton basketball history. He was recruited to be a Missouri Valley player, and his first couple seasons were filled with several injuries; and when he did play he would bobble the ball a lot and could never score a basket. I thought for sure he would transfer out at some point. He has turned into a completely competent player though, and the Jays actually draw up plays to get him the ball in the post. He had a moment at the end of the game where he grabbed an offensive rebound under the basket and the guy in between him and the basket was 6’3″ or so, and he should have just gone back up for the easy basket, instead he pissed off 18,000 people…or just the 6,000 or so people that were paying attention. I know the Jays were down by 3 at this point with a few minute to go, but take the easy basket when you can get it!
The Jays take care of the ball, and their perimeter defenders are never caught flat footed. They really don’t have the greatest weak side defense though…which led to a few wide the hell open threes.
An attendance dip tonight for the Jays actually, only around 16.2k…was it the 8 o’clock start time?
I’m still sitting here wishing Khyri Thomas would have gone to UNO.
What is with Division 1 universities in Omaha not being able to box out and let up a bunch of offensive rebounds?
I know the Jays like having stretch 4s, but Cole Huff and Toby Hegner took 13 threes. It’s nice to have big men that can hit threes, but having forwards that only want to take threes is…well…Walter Pitchford… Don’t you want bigs that use it as a last resort type of thing? Maybe I am just old fashioned and love Jake White shooting 60% in the paint. Dumb, right?
Arizona State’s warm ups had hoods on them. I am sure there is some story behind this, but I am just going to assume it has something to do with witchcraft and that is why they had a better second half.
Arizona State did not look like a great three point shooting team, but they hit threes right when it mattered.
Whoever is in the Billy Bluejay costume is doing a great job. He spun a basketball on his finger, that cannot be easy in a costume like that. They were also a great break dancer, seriously, a great job and could really give the Oregon Duck a run for his money…even if Billy Bluejay looks like an evil stork and not a Bluejay.
Cole Huff missed 2 free throws and 1 three pointer in the last 8 seconds of a 1 possession game. I feel sorry for Huff, not just that he missed the shots, but that the Jays fans are going to completely turn on him. How many days until they demand that Toby Hegner start over him?
I watched a number of Jays fans heading for the exits when Creighton was down by 1 point with 6 seconds to go, like the Jays were down by 12 points.
There were two guys behind me that looked like Creighton Bluejays super fans, but instead of talking about Jays basketball or cheering on the Jays, they just talked about Breaking Bad the whole time. Seriously though, Breaking Bad was fantastic. Great basketball scenes that were totally applicable to what was going on too.
I heard a number of Jays fans say that Creighton would have won that game if the refs would have called the 8 travels that Arizona State committed in the game. I seriously want you to find me a basketball game where the refs got every single traveling call right. I watched a number of Jays players travel with no whistles blown, and the Jays fans would clap on like it was a great move. I complain about calls too, but I would never say the one and only reason a team lost the game is because of the fouls.
Isaiah Zierden is the best shooter out of Creighton, Nebraska, and UNO. The balance in his shot is the best…the best Jerry. The Jays have great quick plays to get him wide open on the outside too, it is the best thing about watching the Jays.
I really thought Greg McDermott was going to have a hard time dividing up minutes between Groselle, Hanson, Hegner, Huff, and Krampej this year, as he has seemed to have trouble distributing minutes other than when it was just obvious to go with Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge at the same time; but Greg has done a great job of that so far this season.
Heard a couple of Jays fans saying the worst part about the loss was that Arizona State didn’t have any stars that scare you. Honestly, what star does Creighton have? Zierden is a great shooter, but is he a star putting fear into his opponents for 40 minutes?
I’ve gone to two basketball games in two nights, and the home teams have lost in each one. I wanted to go to the Lady Mavs game tonight, but I am afraid I’ll drop three in a row and be the bad luck guy.
The coaches were not kidding when they said that The Summit League is a conference on the rise. Every team has an identity, and every team thinks they have a legitimate chance at winning The Summit League. Western Illinois with a win over Wisconsin and being 5-1 at the moment has definitely been the biggest surprise so far. The season is still young, but we are done with the first calendar month.
I was going to come up with something looking at who the 1st and 2nd All Summit League teams were up to the end of November, but then I realized there is still a ton of basketball to be played out, so what is the point? Instead, why not look at who and what have been some of the biggest surprises so far around the Summit?
Western Illinois with a win over Wisconsin is clearly what sticks out the most. J.C. Fuller’s scoring going up is not that big of a surprise as he was getting better and better as the season went on for the Leathernecks last season, but shooting 72% from threes so far is big surprise. He is not going to finish the year at 72% but he should continue to give the Leathernecks a second option after Garret Covington.
Obi Emegano being a scoring machine is not a surprise, but he has already made 21 threes on the year after making 29 all of last season.
We knew North Dakota State had to find someone to make up for the loss of scoring from Lawrence Alexander, but Paul Miller averaging 19.6 points per game, after scoring 6.7 per game last season, has been quite the jump through 5 games.
Jake White being healthy for the Mavericks has been like getting an entirely new player. He is 5th in the Summit League in scoring right now at 16.3 points per game through 6 games, while only averaging 21.5 minutes per game.
Marcellus Barksdale did not get a double digit scoring performance until his 7th game. He does not have a history of being a prolific scorer, but you would think the senior leader would be scoring a little more.
Tre’Shawn Thurman and Reed Tellinghuisen have caught up to AJ Jacobson. It is not a huge surprise really. Thurman was expected to get an increased role for the Mavericks as they lost Mike Rostampour, was Jacobson supposed to get more shots from the departure of Lawrence Alexander and the addition of a couple more post players? Tellinghuisen is still not expected to be the main option for the Jackrabbits, but he is an efficient scorer that has added on some muscle. The class of 2018 is a big time class for the Summit League, and there are still some junior college players and transfers that could be huge additions to the class.
John Konchar is what IPFW had been advertising. Jon Coffman stated that Konchar would have been worth 5 more wins for the ‘Dons had he not redshirted last season. He is averaging 11.6 points and 8.1 points per game so far. Watch an IPFW game too, he looks like the most mature player the team has. Coffman was also pretty big on the improvement of Brent Calhoun, but he is only averaging 1.8 points per game and shooting 31% from the field.
Nate Engesser is not starting for Denver. He is leading the Pioneers in scoring with 16.2 points per game, but he has yet to start a game, and he is only playing 22.5 minutes per game. Also Denver, who was thought to be the worst team in the league by many is 5-1 so far. Many had it between Denver and Western Illinois as the two worst teams in the league, and they are both 5-1.
There are 4 freshmen averaging more than 10 points per game so far: Konchar (IPFW), Mike Daum (South Dakota State), Dan Jech (South Dakota), and Joe Rosga (Denver).
Tra-Deon Hollins currently leads all Summit League players in assists and steals. He leads the nation in steals as of right now. He reminds of what it was like to play with Eddie Jones in NBA Live 99…on rookie mode.
I was pretty down on AJ Owens of Oral Roberts before the start of the season, but he is proving me wrong with 12.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and he even leads the conference in blocks so far. My bad.
If you look up the scores on ESPN before any games are played, and you see South Dakota, ESPN lists Eric Robertson has their must see player. Every time.
Sometimes I find preseason predictions pointless, other than starting a conversation about the upcoming season or letting people know what could potentially be the biggest games of the year, there is not really much of a point to it.
I mainly find them useless because of the methodology in ranking teams. Many seem to just copy and past the standings of last year, and then make a small edit if a team had a high amount of turnover from last season’s roster. But I came up with a plan to do this for the Summit League. I was reading some preseason predictions for the Big 10 football season which was done by a bunch of ESPN writers. Some made good points but they all had to come up with a record for each team, and the math did not always make sense. One clown had Ohio State going 12-0 with a 8-0 Big Ten record and Michigan State going 11-1, and also with a 8-0 Big Ten record. Seriously, how drunk and lazy and/or bad at math was that guy? Or some guys would have two teams going 8-0 in conference, a couple going 0-8, and everyone else going 5-3. The math didn’t add up and they were telling you that these teams would win these amount of games because they are Skeletor and they said so.
So I came up with a plan. I would go through the Summit League conference schedule and assign wins and losses over the course of a number of weeks. At first it was just: South Dakota State is a better team than Denver, so win goes to the Jackrabbits. Then later, I would look at the difficulty of each team’s conference schedule. Obviously, everyone plays each other twice, but there are some things that stick out; like how Denver is the only team with the highway to the danger zone in playing at North Dakota State and South Dakota State in back to back games. Or how South Dakota and Oral Roberts are the only two Summit League teams without three straight games on the road in conference play. Then things like Omaha playing on the road against someone on a Thursday, as road games on Thursdays appear to be difficult for most teams. Actually road games are pretty difficult for anyone. Then I would go through the schedule again and consider some teams’ strengths versus their opponents weaknesses. Like how teams better be good at three point shooting against South Dakota as they forced teams to take the most threes with their defense…and other things.
But I assigned wins and losses to each game, and did it several times considering different factors. Then I plain and simple would add up each team’s wins and losses to see who had the most after going through it about 15 times. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than just saying South Dakota State will go 15-1 in conference because of Jesus? Probably.
Really, after going through all of this; I really do not see much separation between many of the teams. South Dakota State seems like a clear cut favorite. Then North Dakota State seems like they are 2nd best, but they really should not be as comfortable as one would think. Then Oral Roberts-Omaha-IPFW-IUPUI-South Dakota appear to be in a fight for spots 3 to 7 with Denver and Western Illinois sitting at 8 and 9; but Denver is a difficult place to play; and Western Illinois, while not great last year, they do return basically everything.
So much of the 3 to 9 in the Summit League appears to come down to:
Who can stay healthy?
Who can win on the road?
Who can pick up a win against South Dakota State and North Dakota State?
But for the sake of length, I am going to just post about Omaha to get started and why they should win more games than their 5-11 record last season. Then I will come out with the rest of the Summit League later.
Range of wins: 7 to 11 wins
Boldest Predictions: Will pick up win against North Dakota State at home, will sweep South Dakota
Clearly, I am biased in how well I think the Mavs could do this season. The Mavericks finished 5-11, but they had 4 conference losses decided by one or two possessions. I know it does not work this way, but the Mavericks could have finished 8-8 or 9-7 in the Summit League had just a couple more things gone their way. There is also more to play for with the Mavericks this season, and they should have a slightly stronger home court advantage with their new arena being right on campus. The attendance for the Mavericks has risen each season since transition, and people in town are starting to take them more serious. 2012-2013 was probably the most fun season to watch, but Omahans did not seem to even notice. UNO Men’s Basketball was that new television show that had some good looking commercials that got you interested; but it was pitted in the same time slot as Breaking Bad in it’s prime and Sunday Night Football. Justin Simmons had some of the most exciting dunks you could possibly witness; but Doug McDermott was in the middle of one of the greatest careers in Creighton and NCAA history; and Tim Miles was bringing a personality to the Huskers. Omahans were in the mode of thinking they’d like to go to a Mavs game, but never fully pulled the trigger. A few years later: Creighton is down and Nebraska is too young for locals to know what is happening. UNO has a brand new arena, in a fun part of town, some local guys on the roster that can make some noise, and six seniors to help start the new era of the program.
The Mavericks also have a pretty good way to start conference play with Western Illinois and IUPUI at home. 2013-2014 started @ Western Illinois, @ North Dakota State, @ South Dakota State; and 2012-2013 was @ North Dakota State, @ South Dakota State, and then a month conference break before they had South Dakota and Kansas City at home before going back on the road against very good IPFW and Oakland teams. Last year the Mavs started on the road @ South Dakota and Western Illinois, and then came back home for North Dakota State and South Dakota State, before going back on the road against Oral Roberts. The Mavs are finally not being welcomed to the Summit League with the middle finger jammed in front of their face, so hopefully they can start league play with some momentum. The most difficult part of the conference schedule is going to be three straight road games at Denver, and the Mavericks yet to have a good game in the state of Colorado; then at Oral Roberts which is one of the toughest places to play in the Summit League; and then at South Dakota State who is the preseason favorite in the league and swept the Mavs last season by margins of 19 and 22 points.
As far as what is returning to the Mavericks: they lost Mike Rostampour and CJ Carter, but they are returning 61% of their scoring; which is the 4th highest in the league. Marcus Tyus and Devin Patterson as a returning back court is arguably one of the top 3 back courts in the league. Jake White is hopefully healthy enough to give significant minutes when the conference season turns around, he is tied with his fellow teammate Tre’Shawn Thurman as the 2nd leading returning rebounder in the league. Randy Reed and Tim Smallwood should hopefully finally have roles edged out to really help this team improve. Lack of depth was an issue for this team last season, but newcomers Zach Pirog, JT Gibson, and Tra-Deon Hollins sound as if they can really help the Mavericks improve on some of the weaknesses the Mavs had in 2014-2015, and add some needed depth to this team. This team can go big, it can go small, it has adaptable lineups that can go up against anyone in the Summit.
From what I could tell, the preseason predictions biggest concerns with the Mavericks are that they cannot make up for the loss of Mike Rostampour and CJ Carter. Okay, everyone loses someone in college athletics, but should we really be concerned about losing two guys that were not recruited to ever play in a Summit League conference tournament? So really, why are people so hard on them for losing Rostampour and Carter, but no one is hard on IPFW for losing Steve Forbes and Joe Edwards; or South Dakota for losing Tyler Larson and Brandon Bos; or Oral Roberts for losing half of their team? Please don’t take this as a Rostampour and Carter Were Not Unimportant thought… The Mavs would not be the same without them. The point is, it does not seem like the Mavericks are asking as much out of their newcomers and returning players as much as other teams. They are asking Jake White to be healthy enough to score 2-4 more points and grab a couple more rebounds, which I realize is easier said than done; Tre’Shawn Thurman to continue to improve; Tyus and Patterson to be more consistent; and Reed and Smallwood work more on their roles that they established toward the end of last season. Other than North Dakota State and South Dakota State, everyone else appears to be asking guys to come in and be stars or huge impacts right away. One thing that does scare me about Omaha finishing in the top half of the conference is the injury to Marcus Tyus. He’s coming off ACL surgery that he injured in February. Being ready in full form throughout November, December, and January just seems like a lot to look for at this point.
Hip hip hooray, it’s the annual: Who the Heck is Going to be in the Starting Line Up this Season post
I was listening to the Summit League media day, it sounded as if Derrin Hansen was not 125% sure of who to start on his team, and it is kind of fun to sit around and speculate stuff for people so here we go. If millions of people can sit at their computers dressed like a 7 foot tall puppy and speculate as to why Mark Hamill is not on the new Star Wars poster, then I can sit on the internet decked out in UNO Mavs gear and speculate who is going to start for the Mavericks and who will be the first guys off the bench.
One can safely assume that Devin Patterson and Tre’Shawn Thurman will be back in the starting line up. One could also assume that Marcus Tyus will be in the starting five as well, but he ended the season early on a knee injury in 2014-2015. It has been put out there that Tyus is doing fine in his recovery, and I am sure he is, but remember when Jake White got hurt in his junior season and we kept being told that he would be back next game because he was doing fine? I am sure that Tyus will be in the starting line up, but maybe not at first. We will see how his knees is actually doing in a few weeks.
So that leaves two spots open for starters to replace Mike Rostampour and CJ Carter.
Is it safe to assume that Jake White will fill in Rostampour’s spot? White started in 3 games in his junior season as a Maverick. He averaged 6.3 points per game in those three starts, and 8.3 rebounds. He is probably the obvious choice over sophomore Daniel Meyer and freshman Zach Pirog.
What becomes a more difficult choice for Hansen and staff will be filling in the void left by CJ Carter, one of the top scorers in school history. The leading candidates at this point appear to be Tim Smallwood, Tra-Deon Hollins, Randy Reed, or JT Gibson.
I was kind of hard on Smallwood and Reed last season. It’s not that I thought they were bad players, I just felt that UNO was not entirely sure how to use them for most of the season and did not have well defined roles for either of them for a majority of the year. I was unsure about them as most of you would be if there was a new movie coming out featuring Adam Sandler and Nicholas Cage. Over a ten game stretch, Smallwood had 3 DNPs, and was 0-10 from three point land. I felt that Reed’s junior year was up and down. One game he was getting 20 minutes, then the next game he was getting 2 minutes, and then a week from then he was getting a DNP. It just seemed like it was difficult for either of them to get any rhythm going. I would love a world where Smallwood is hitting three 3s a game and Reed is getting a monstrous dunk every other play. That world might actually have Luke Skywalker on a Star Wars poster.
Then Marcus Tyus went down with an injury and missed the last 6 games of the season, and these two guys became the twist at the end of an independent film. Smallwood was put into the starting line up, and I thought to my self: oh great, the guy who hasn’t had it in 2015 is getting the starting spot. When Smallwood started getting more minutes, I realized how good of a defender he was. He was not racking up a bunch of steals or blocks, but he was disrupting opposing players shots and passes, and he was a big reason why the Mavericks ended the season on a 3 game winning streak. I grew super proud of his work on the defensive end in those last 6 games. His 5-of-7 from downtown at IUPUI was a big factor for what helped the Mavericks hold on for a overtime win. A statistic that surprised me when I saw the final results was that UNO finished 8th in the Summit League in 3 point field goal percentage last season. Whether Smallwood is going to start or be one of the first guys off the bench, he has to help improve the team’s 3 point shooting. If he can get his 26% 3 point shooting up to the 33% range, he can be a huge impact on his team. The Mavs are 3-1 when Smallwood hits two threes or more…
Due to life, my wife was not able to get to many games last season. She was able to attend Oral Roberts at the Ralston Arena. When Randy Reed came onto the court, my wife asked me who this guy was. I read off his resume to her, and we watched on. Reed was the high energy guy off the bench that the Mavericks needed that game. He had clutch defensive plays to keep the game close, blocked some shots, altered even more shots, and really disrupted the Oral Roberts’ rhythm. Every time the Mavs were on defense and Randy Reed was on the court, the Mavs fans were completely locked in. We all wanted to see Reed take his game to the next level that night. Like, who cares if they have Obi Emegano? We’ve got Randy Reed on defense! You have to like Reed coming off the bench though, since he can really guard the 4 and the 3. With the much of the Summit League going to small ball, teams will really have a difficult time going up against Tre’Shawn Thurman and Randy Reed at the 4 for 40 minutes if they really want to play small ball against the Mavericks. If they want to play big, the Mavs can go with Reed at the 3 and either Meyer, Pirog, Thurman, or White at the 4 and 5.
Then there is Tra-Deon Hollins. Get excited for this kid. He adds a lot to this team, and he brings a lot to the areas that the Mavericks were missing last season. He can defend, he can pass, he can score, he can rebound, and he can hit threes. I would not be shocked if he got into foul trouble (along with other guards) early on in the season with the rule changes in college basketball, but hopefully everyone can adjust to everything fairly quickly. If Hollins does not start and he is used as the high energy bench guy, he should definitely be on the court in crunch time in most situations. It seems to take junior college players a little while to really define their role on a team, unless they are going to a 0-30 team that had no scoring before and they averaged 25 a game in junior college, then they probably know they will be taking a large quantity of shots. Hollins knows what the Mavericks were missing last year though, so hopefully it does not take him long to find his niche.
The Mavericks and some local media sound to be pretty excited about J.T. Gibson as part of future for the Mavs. Gibson was the player of the year for the state of Minnesota last year, and there are several Minnesotans that think bigger schools made a mistake by not recruiting Gibson. Sounds like this other guy named Tre’Shawn that we know. I have doubt that Gibson will start right off the bat for the Mavericks, but maybe he will as the season goes on and he establishes himself. He would really have to impress coaches and set himself apart from teammates as there are so many upperclassmen guards on the team. Apparently, Gibson is completely capable of playing the both guard positions.
Either way, the Mavericks should at least know who their top 8 guys are at this point. They probably even have a good idea what their best line ups are, which is not something every team in the Summit League has figured out yet.
So the Summit League is stacked with guards and wing players this season. College Sports Madness recently came out with a All Summit League 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th team and 16 of the 20 players were guards, 17 if you count South Dakota State’s Reed Tellinghuisen as a guard. The Summit League came out with their preseason 1st and 2nd teams yesterday, and 8 or the 10 players were guards. The teams they selected are fair for the most part, though I do not agree with leaving Tre’Shawn Thurman off the list, but I get that I am biased.
Anyway, there are so many guards on this list, and that is because the Summit League is going to be a very guard heavy league this year. So could one come up with a conclusion that who ever has the best post game is going to set themselves apart from the rest of the conference? So who has the best post players in the conference?
For the sake of argument, I am going to reduce each team’s list to their top 4 post players, because realistically teams hardly ever use more than 4 post players in the Summit League. Hell some players do not use more than two post players.
North Dakota State
Chris Kading, Dexter Werner, AJ Jacobson, and one of the other 3 players that will mix in.
I have kind of had North Dakota State as my team to win the conference this year, but I am growing more and more uncomfortable with that recently the more I am looking things up. Not that I think they are in trouble or anything. Anyway, it is pretty hard to argue that they do not have the best core of post players in the Summit League. I know someone might look at Chris Kading and say he’s only a 5 points and 4 rebounds guy, but he takes smart shots, he led the Summit League in blocks per game, and he would routinely hold the other team’s best post player to a bad game.
Dexter Werner was the Sixth Man of the Year in the Summit League last year, and he completely deserved it. He was a big time force that brought immediate energy to the Bison post game off of the bench, and he shot 51% from the field. He was playing undersized most of the time, but he was still able to get 1 block per game, which is tied with the 2nd most for returning players to the league.
Then the Bison have AJ Jacobson, and while there is no official Summit League Freshman of the Year Award, I am pretty sure it would have been him last season. He appears to be a popular choice for 1st Team All Summit this upcoming year, after coming off averaging 11.6 points per game and 4.2 rebounds, and many people think he is going to take a large load of the shots that Lawrence Alexander was taking. He is probably more of a traditional 3, but he did quite well for the Bison at the 4 position, and the Bison can bring in Werner off the bench and slide Jacobson over to the 3, making for a big lineup.
It is kind of unclear who the 4th post player will be at this point for the Bison. They had Nebraska-native, Spencer Eliason redshirting last season, and they are bringing in two 6’8″ freshmen that they appear to be pretty excited about. With Kading and Werner, you kind of expect one of the two true freshman to redshirt though, right?
Eric Robertson, Tyler Flack, Tyler Hagedorn, Dan Jech
I admit that is pretty difficult to go on from here, so how about South Dakota? The Coyotes might actually have the most talented post players, but there are some questions to it. Can Tyler Flack bounce back from sitting out all of 2014-2015 with an injury, and does Craig Smith even like him? Flack was averaging 8.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg, and shooting 55% from the field as a sophomore in 21 minutes on a pretty bad South Dakota team.
Can Eric Robertson survive as a starter if Smith doesn’t feel comfortable with starting a true freshman? Then there is two freshman, Tyler Hagedorn and Dan Jech. Jech gives the Coyotes a post player and Hagedorn gives the team a stretch four. The Coyotes were able to survive last season with 6’3″ Tyler Larson and 6’5″ Tre Burnette as their primary options in the post last season, so what is going to happen when Smith adds some height to their post game. Oh yeah, and there is also Tre Burnette, who had the highest rebounding average of any player returning to the Summit League.
Jake White, Tre’Shawn Thurman, Daniel Meyer, Zach Pirog (or Randy Reed)
It is kind of a bold move picking the Mavericks that high here. Consider this though, no player 6’7″ or taller that is returning to the league averaged more points per game than Tre’Shawn Thurman last season. Jake White is healthy apparently, while I cannot 100% verify this, but I am pretty sure he had limited minutes in his junior season due to injuries. Even with as many injuries that he had in his junior season, he was probably the fastest post player in the league. So you have to assume he will go from 20 minutes per game to 25-30, his field goal percentage should rise above 40% while he’s healthy, he can probably be a 10 and 8 guy. 10 and 8 should get you Honorable Mention in the Summit.
Daniel Meyer should be getting a minutes increase as well. Statistically, he had about the same statistics that Dexter Werner had in his freshman season at North Dakota State, and he should receive an increased role (maybe even a Werner like role) with Mike Rostampour and Rylan Murry no longer on the team. One game last year, I was sitting near Matt Hagerbaumer, you seriously need to take the opportunity to sit next to Hagerbaumer if you ever get that chance. He’s constantly yelling support to younger players, and he was so excited about Thurman and Meyer as freshman. He at one point said that they needed Meyer to be a banger down low and be the dirty work guy. Basically, the Mavs need him to be Matt Hagerbaumer 2.0, and he is capable of being that. Meyer apparently played very well on the team’s trip to Italy as well.
I am still unsure if Zach Pirog will redshirt. Hansen kind of has a history of redshirting big players, and the team already has White, Thurman, and Meyer; but maybe Pirog is even better than advertised? He should add immediate rim protection to the team, which would be extremely helpful, but how many minutes would be able to get this season? Not to mention, there will probably be a lot teams playing 6’5″ guys at the 4 position for a decent chunk of minutes this season, so wouldn’t you want to play Randy Reed more at the 4 position this season; leaving a lot of the minutes at the 5 to White, Meyer, and even Thurman. Just seems like minutes wise it would be a good idea to redshirt Pirog, but he is someone that can immediately help this team.
South Dakota State
Connor Devine, Ian Theisen, Michael Daum, Adam Dykman
There is a big gaping hole to make up in the loss of Cody Larson for the Jackrabbits, and it is unclear who will fill that role. The Jackrabbits also grew comfortable playing Reed Tellinguisen at the 4 last season, as the team’s 5th best offensive player, they really couldn’t keep him off the floor, even if he was playing undersized at times.
You look at Devine and Theisen and you think two guys that don’t even combine for 5 points per game, but really they were playing behind Cody Larson and sharing that role of backup post player. Then you realize that they both shot over 50 percent from the field, and they both had stretches over the season where they were making big plays. It’s also not like Scott Nagy cannot develop guys at all. Devine as a 40% free throw shooter might get left off the court down the stretch of the few close conference games the Jackrabbits will have.
The Jackrabbits also had Nebraska-native Michael Daum redshirting last season, who seemed like a pretty attractive recruit coming out of high school, so who knows how much he developed under the Jackrabbits staff. The basketball fan in me says “oh wow this guy averaged 25 and 13 as a senior in high school,” but the Nebraskan in me says “I have never even heard of Kimball, how could anyone be good at basketball from there.” The Mavericks offered him a scholarship though, he also held offers from South Dakota, Wyoming, North Dakota, and others, so non-Nebraskans see something in him.
Then there is even another Nebraska-native on the team, 6’7″ Adam Dykman. I am pretty nervous about Dykman, I constantly saw his name in the paper for big games, and I know a few guys hugely into Nebraska high school basketball that were upset that UNO or Nebraska did not give an offer to this kid. I am afraid he’s psycho angry about that.
With such a strong group of starting guards, I don’t think it’s going to come down to the post players for the Jackrabbits. The show Scrubs had a great core of cast with JD, Turk, Kelso, Elliot, and Dr. Cox, would the show have been successful if they threw in a bunch of episodes centered around Ted and made a three episode story arch about Ted? Many people would have turned away. I actually would have watched the crap out of that. So how many times are you going to hear a ESPN3 commentator say: The Jackrabbits are having a great night with Marshall, Bittle, Parks, and Tellinghuisen knocking down all these outside shots and beating their defenders to the rim; but I really think they need to get the ball into Devine to work his magic on Dexter Werner? Probably never.
Nick Osborne, Matt O’Leary, Evan Hall, and Noah Thomas
Nick Osborne and Matt O’Leary were decent players at Loyola and will now have increased roles with the Jaguars. Evan Hall and Noah Thomas are both true freshman, so the hard part for the Jags is throwing in an entirely new core of post players into their lineup. Hall is a 6’7″ freshman that was rated as a 3 star recruit and had offers from Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, and Lipscomb out of high school. Hall is a 6’9 and 235 post from the state of Indiana that averaged a double-double in his senior season. The Jaguars also survived last year on having guards playing as post players, so it’s not like they cannot win without a post game at all. Essentially, the team decided that they didn’t like the cast of the last season of the Power Rangers and went with entirely new ranger squad, and they feel pretty comfortable about how the new cast will go. How many other places are you going to find a Power Rangers reference talking about sports? Actually, I don’t think this my first time on here.
Joe Reed, Brent Calhoun, Andrew Poulter, Racine Talla
You’ve got to feel confident in a 6’8″ guy like Joe Reed that has shot about 55% for his career. Like Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman getting more shots because of departures, you’ve got to think that Reed’s shot attempts will go up with the loss of Steve Forbes. Reed is another guy with potential to be a 10 and 8 guy. His other three front court teammates are kind of question marks.
I’ve seen people bragging up Andrew Poulter, and I do not get it. He was a 7 and 5 guy as a sophomore at a junior college, and he also shot 47% from the field. I watched a video of him in high school working on some 1 on 1 moves, he was looking like an All American but he’s 6’11” and 275 going up 1 on 1 against some 6’5″ 175 pound guy. Granted, it is high school and I doubt there were too many guys near his size to work out with, but still, I don’t see how his 1 on 1 skills will ever come into play from the Summit. Then there is sophomore Racine Talla who is 6’9″ but hasn’t played a game of basketball in 3 years. It just seems like a gamble to take them seriously at this point. Maybe Jon Coffman realizes how to use them appropriately though, we will clearly have to wait and see. And many people have them picked as the 4th best team in the conference, so maybe I am just a moron. 95% chance that I am a moron.
Brandon Conley, Tre Vance, AJ Owens, and Darian Harris
Did you know this team led the Summit League in blocks per game last season? They essentially did not need production offensively from their post players as they had Obi Emegano, Kory Billbury, and Bobby Word to take on a bulk of the scoring, so they really just needed their post players to play defense and make great outlet passes. I don’t think people are realizing how important Denell Henderson was to this team. None of these players are huge scoring threats, and a lot of people are high on Owens even though he basically only got minutes when the Golden Eagles were getting killed last season. He shot 40% from the field, and he was basically playing against other teams’ 3rd string most of the time. Darian Harris also seems like he should be a shooting guard, but the ORU had to use him at the 4 position several times last season due to lack of a post.
I am nervous for Scott Sutton this season, but not in a way that I think he’s going to get fired or anything. I really do not think he has a great roster this season, but it is Sutton and Obi Emegano. I love hearing rumors every off season about schools looking at Sutton as a head coaching hire, but we may not get that this April and May. If Sutton can come in top three of the league this season, I really think he deserves coach of the year, but I don’t think he’ll get it.
Marcus Byrd, Daniel Amigo, Christian Mackey, and 1 of 2 freshman.
I am scared for Denver this season. A few have selected them to finish in last this season, CBS Sports rated them as the 3rd best team in the Summit League but it was pointless. It is really hard to look at Denver and say they have the best players in anything, not because of a lack of talent, but because of the offense that Joe Scott runs. Marcus Byrd averaged 8.5 points per game as a junior, 8.5 at Denver is like averaging 13 any place else. Byrd can also step out and take the three, he actually has the highest three point field goal percentage of any player returning to the Summit League this season, and he makes nearly 2 threes a game.
Daniel Amigo was also giving the Pioneers pretty good minutes as a freshman, but his season ended early due to injury. The Pioneers also have a 6’7″ freshman named Abiola Akintola from Australia, who was not widely recruited, but he averaged 17.8 ppg and 6 rebounds per game in the U18 Australian Junior Championships, whatever the heck that is. I know there are a lot of question marks for international players, and it could be difficult to figure out if he is even the right fit for Denver, but it could be something amazing watching him develop.
Tate Stensgaard, Jalen Chapman, Mike Miklusak, and the mystery man
All are average guys that on any other team in the Summit League would be role players, and really they are just role players for Western Illinois, but they give a lot of minutes to the Leathernecks when they are available. They many lost the last 13 of 14 games of the season because they had no Stensgaard or Chapman for that time, but still, could they have made the difference. The team has 4 freshman post players that will mix in. I wonder how they will work out.