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.

My trivial Summit League rankings – Jan 17

1. South Dakota

Last week’s ranking : 3rd

It’s okay, I have a difficult time believing it as well.  I’m not wild about it either. Like I said earlier, there is not a huge difference from the best team in the conference to the 7th team in the conference this season.  I could just as well be drawing these team names out of a hat and seeing how it goes.

Without Tyler Flack, the Coyotes were able to split the week with North Dakota State and Fort Wayne.  They came pretty close to beating the Bison as well.  The Coyote defense is something that should be taken seriously.  They held the Mavericks to 69, the Jaguars to 74, the Pioneers to 69, and now the Mastodons to 63.  All known for scoring this season, and all below their average for points.

In the same week last week, they held North Dakota State’s AJ Jacobson to 2-of-9 shooting in 37 minutes and Fort Wayne’s John Konchar to 4-of-12 from the floor in 36 minutes.

Still, the big test for the Coyotes will be in the first two weeks of February when they play three straight road games at Omaha, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne.  Then come home to play their nemesis South Dakota State.

2. Fort Wayne

Last week’s ranking:  2nd 

They’ve lost two conference games by a total of 5 points.  Two of their three conference wins are by a total of 6 points.  Their next four of five games will be on the road.  While the Mastodons’ shooting is exceptional, their defense is average.

The next five games is a crucial part of the season for their positioning in the Summit League tournament.  Because of their depth, the top two seeds in the conference tournament are the most important for the ‘Dons  in comparison to the other top teams in the conference.  Daily RPI predicts the ‘Dons going 3-2 over the next 5 games, and then win the rest of the regular season.  There, you don’t need to watch basketball anymore.

By the way, if you watch the ‘Dons get in foul trouble you’re going to spend much of your time trying to figure out if freshman Jax Levitch could turn out to be the real deal.  Some of your other time will be spent debating if Jax Levitch is a bad ass name, or just a really weird name.  It’s interesting.   I think it’s the name of the world’s least trust worthy Financial Advisor, but we’ll keep track of him for his entire life to see what happens.  Not weird or anything.

3. North Dakota State

Last week’s ranking: 1st

What happened last week?  In the last three halves, the Bison have been outscored by 36 points.  Denver out rebounded the Bison by 22 rebounds.  Didn’t Denver have like one and a half post players last season?

Here is something that should be a concern to Bison fan:  AJ Jacobson is 2 of his last 14 on threes.

4. Omaha

Last weeks’s ranking: 5th

The Mavericks are on a roll right now winning three in a row.  It should also be worth noting that they will not have back-to-back road games for the rest of the season.

Also, in the last 4 games, Mitch Hahn has shot 56 percent on threes.

5. Denver

Last week’s ranking: 8th

Honestly, I have not had the chance to watch Denver.  I don’t have Altitude so I don’t feel that bad about it.  They did sweep the week against “a hot” Western Illinois and embarrassed North Dakota State who has the best RPI in the Summit League.

Rodney Billups said that Daniel Amigo was going to have a huge break out year, and I thought he was trying to be funny.  He was completely serious.  Look at his jump from last season.

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6. IUPUI

Last week’s ranking: 6th

The schedule has not been kind to the Jaguars, but at least they did not lose at Oral Roberts.

This was supposed to be the year for the Jaguars but they lost three key players with no real explanation, and also with the graduation of Marcellus Barksdale they lost their scrappyness on defense.  The Jaguars do still have a fair amount of depth to go to the wire with any team in the Summit.  However, if they do get a game down to the wire, they’re 8th in the conference in free throw shooting.  Hopefully they don’t get into too many battles at the line with teams, even though they are likely to.

7. Western Illinois 

Last week’s ranking: 4th

I love how the argument for this team for being good by every commentator is that “they are a weird match up.”

When are we just going to admit that this team completely relies on Garret Covington playing efficient on top of him having a second guy to be competent on a nightly basis?

In the Leathernecks’ only 4 wins over D1 teams this season, Covington shot 57 percent from the field.  In just their last 4 losses, Covington has shot 28 percent from the floor.  He’s only shot better than 50 percent in one of their losses.

Covington was apparently slowed with an injury against Omaha.  It’s cool, I’m sure Billy Wright has something up his sleeve.  Like putting all of his chips on switching to a zone defense and then never going away from it.

8. Oral Roberts

Last week’s ranking: 9th

They picked up their first conference win, and they may not be having that great of a year but at least they are staying in most of their games.  With their next four of five games at home, they may be able to sneak in a few wins to help give them enough distance to not be the team left out of the conference tournament.

9. South Dakota State

Last week’s ranking: 8th

Hold on.  I am taking a minute to reflect on something.

Remember when TJ Otzelberger was hired and the Jackrabbit fans were thinking that the new system was going “to be like Omaha, but with actual defense.”

At least Mike Daum is balling.

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings – Dec 8

A few weeks away from the start of the conference season for The Summit League, are you starting to get pumped? Nothing like some meaningless rankings and broad observations to help get you there.

1. Fort Wayne

The Mastodons beat Indiana.  Don’t you remember?

They actually average more steals than Omaha.  That might break you.

2. Omaha

Don’t let the Iowa State poor showing get you down.  The Mavericks were worn down in that game after putting all of their focus on the Hawkeyes over the weekend.  You could see how Tre’Shawn Thurman was warn down in that game, he had no lift in his legs what so ever.  The whole team seemed deflated from the opening tip.  I was hoping Derrin Hansen would have used half time as a kindergarten style group nap.

Also, don’t let Nebraska or Creighton smack talking fans take anything away from Omaha beating Iowa because “it’s a down year for Iowa.”  These are the same people that were in agreement that thought before the start of the season that Iowa would be in the NIT because “Fran McCaffrey is just that good of a coach.”  I guess it’s also a down century for Nebraska, so Incarnate Word should just forget their win over Nebraska a few years ago ever happened.

Looking up and down the Summit League, it is hard to find a team that is more set up for success this season AND in the future.  Even though the Mavericks still have some things they need to work on, they have an actual chance to win the Summit League this season.  In addition to that, sophomores Zach Pirog, Mitch Hahn, and Zach Jackson are showing that they could be a dangerous front court combination over the next few years.  Freshmen JT Gibson and KJ Robinson are also showing flashes of improvement and could combine with that front court in 2018 to be the best starting lineup in the Summit League in 2017-2018.  Yes, I realize that some teams could get some junior college players or some transfers from bigger schools to contend with them, but as of right now, we have a Pirog, Hahn, Jackson, Gibson, Robinson lineup to look forward to.

3. North Dakota State

The Bison have the second highest RPI and Kenpom rating as of right now, but remember when the Bison were just unstoppable at home?  Then the Mavericks broke that trend last season?  The Bison lost to the Fighting Si..Hawks by 18 in Fargo last night.  Dexter Werner had 30 points and 13 rebounds in the game, but no one else for the Bison really showed up.  The Bison back court of Paul Miller and Khy Kabellis combined for 1-of-18 from the floor.

It may actually shock you that the Bison currently have the worst three point shooting percentage in the Summit League.

4. South Dakota

Can we just call them Mini-Nebraska?  They are good at defense, poor at three point shooting, and struggle to score ball at times.  They also appear to have a ton of depth on the team, but really there is just not much difference from the starters to the bench players…but the starters are not exactly 1st Team All Conference players.

5. IUPUI

The Jaguars have had a pretty tough schedule, with only two home games so far, and they still have to play on the road against Southern Utah and Northwestern.    While you were not paying attention, because Omaha was playing in Iowa City, the Jaguars were able to pick up a win at Ball State.  Then they almost pulled off another Summit League versus Big 10 upset by playing Illinois close.

6. South Dakota State

Not sure if you’ve watched a South Dakota State game, but it’s not really looking all that pretty.  The team has no flow whenever Mike Daum heads to the bench.  There is no true point guard to really set up a pick-and-roll situation.  It really is a team of guys that have not played much basketball together and are still working to figure it out.  They can turn this around by late February, but the process of getting there may not be pretty.

They were able to beat UMKC over the weekend, but the Kangaroos were playing without their best player, Martez Harrison.

7. Denver

3-5 on the year so far, and the Pioneers have been competitive in almost every loss.  This team is still transitioning their offensive culture from Watch Out For The 10 Screens Every Play to They Shot That With 20 Seconds On the Shot Clock, but they may have a chance of having it figured out by the end of the year.

Joe Rosga is averaging 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists a game.  It may be a difficult decision if you have to pick who the best sophomore is in the Summit League between Rosga, Mike Daum, and John Konchar.

8. Oral Roberts

The Golden Eagles have still yet to beat a division one team.  Oral Roberts has the toughest strength of schedule in the Summit League, and they almost put a serious scare into Michigan State…which is why they are getting the edge on Western Illinois for not having the worst ranking in the Summit.

The Golden Eagles still do not have much of a bench, and their roster is filled with youth and inconsistency.  One has to wonder if the tough schedule will help them fight through and prepare them for the Summit League, or just wear them down to the point they cannot compete for 40 minutes each conference game.

9. Western Illinois

Work has been super hectic for me lately while we have been transitioning to a new software, the alternator in my car died last week, and when I had Roto Rooter come out to my place to snake my drain, and the guy poked a hole in a pipe so when I ran the dishwasher a bunch of water leaked into my basement.  We had to cut through drywall to replace the drain and all the of the furniture that was in that room is currently sitting in a hall way.

Sorry, I just thought you might want to hear about some problems I have had recently while we are on the subject of shit shows.

A month out game preview: Eastern Michigan

The second return game of the year for the Mavericks.  This time they get to go to Ypil…Ypilis…shoot, who cares.  It’s in the eastern part of Michigan.  Probably.

omaemu

You may remember the game last year as one of the games that Omaha was down by large margin and did not end up coming back for a win.  The Mavericks were able to cut a 15 point lead down to six before losing 80-73 at Baxter Arena in what was just another Baxter Arena shooting blunder.  You may have sat there in Baxter Arena wondering how this high octane offense could survive if they shot around 20% on threes.  Survive may be too strong of a word.  It’s not like we’re dealing with a zombiepocalyse here.  This was also the game that I figured out that I love the french fries at the Baxter Arena.  Maybe my favorite in town.  If there was a reward program for racking up points on french fry purchases at Baxter Arena, I might literally own Aksarben Village in a decade.

That game was early in the year, and you could guess that is one of the games that the Mavericks wish they could have back.  Tra-Deon Hollins was still trying to figure out how to shoot and be conditioned at the division one level.  The Mavericks had not inserted Kyler Erickson into the starting lineup at that point or were using him as the team’s source of energy.  It still seemed as if after one season that Derrin Hansen had not completely figured out how to utilize Randy Reed and Tim Smallwood at this point.

Hansen and the Mavericks still may have some issues trying to figure out some of their guys in this game.  Figuring out where and when to play Daniel Meyer, Mitchell Hahn, and Zach Pirog looks like it could be difficult at the beginning of the season.  Each has a different skill set, and finding that right mix in the post for the right opponent could be a challenge for this coaching staff.  Figuring this out will be important for the Mavericks in this game as Eastern Michigan has 6’10” sophomore Jason Thompson IV who averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds as a freshman.  He may have been one of the best post players that Mavericks played all season long.

The Eagles are likely to not have issues like this.  Eastern Michigan is bringing back four starters, and return 80% of their scoring to their team that finished 18-15 overall and 112th in RPI.  The biggest loss to the Eagles is the graduation of 6’8″ forward Brandon Nazione who averaged 9.6 points and 6.5 rebounds.  The other players they lost were mostly players with small roles.  Nazione had 12 points and 7 rebounds against Omaha last season.  The Eagles will get to replace Nazione with Nick Madray, a 6’9″ transfer from Binghamton, who averaged 10.8 points per game as a freshman before ending his freshman and sophomore seasons with injuries.

The main issues the Eagles may have is their depth.  They really only have 6 players that are in their main rotation, which could be a problem for a fast paced team like the Mavericks.  They have three players that transferred in but will be sitting out the 2016-2017 season, and while that is good for the future of the program, that hurts your depth right now.

The Eagles were able to win in Baxter Arena with a lack of depth against the Mavericks on the Mavericks shooting 37% from the field and 4-of-17 on threes.  With Mitch Hahn, JT Gibson, and Marcus Tyus in the lineup, the Mavericks do not plan on going 4-of-17 in many games this season from behind the arch.  Let’s just hope they can shoot so well that the Mavericks wont have to worry about rebounding…

This game will be played at noon on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  On ESPN3, so get prepared for your spouse to yell at you about hanging up Christmas decorations “because this is the best day to do it.”