A month out game preview: USC

Two games, two days in a row?  Is this some weird plan to prepare your team for March?  Well a day after playing UC Santa Barbara, the Mavs get to play the USC Trojans.  The Huskers of the Pac-12.  Or the Coyotes of the Summit, maybe?

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After being college basketball’s sweetheart in the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, Andy Enfield left Florida Gulf Coast University to take over the Trojans after USC ended a series of mistakes from Tim Floyd to Kevin O’Neill.  USC ended Enfield’s first two seasons as the last place team in the Pac-12, but finally saw some success last season ending their season 6th in the Pac-12 and making the NCAA tournament.

If you like offense, this could be a very fun game for you.  The Trojans enjoy a fast pace of basketball just like the Mavericks do.  USC finished third in the Pac-12 in points per game, and dangerously shot 39% on threes last year, but they will be working several new players new players into their lineup.

The Trojans lost a lot of production from their NCAA Tournament team.  The team lost six players that they initially believed were coming back for this season to make for one of the greatest years ever in USC basketball.  I don’t know if it would be one of the greatest ever in USC history, that is ignorant of me to say.  They have been basically pretty awful to mediocre my entire life, and the one year or two years they were pretty good came from a result of recruiting violations.

After the departures, the Trojans did not even enough players to hold summer practices.  Two players, 6’11” forward Nikola Jovanovic and 6’4″ guard Julian Jacobs both left early to sign as undrafted free agents in the NBA.  Four players players transferred away from the program, including 6’6″ guard Katin Reinhardt who left for Marquette after starting 18 games for the Trojans last season and averaging 11.5 points per game as a junior.

So who is left?  USC will return three players that started at least half of their games.  The Mavericks will need to prepare for sophomore forward 6’10” Bennie Boatwright, who averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds, and likes to play a bit on the outside for a forward making nearly 2 threes a game on 36% on threes.  There is also 6’5″ guard Elijah Stewart who started in 18 games for the Trojans last season and averaged 9.8 points and 3.6 rebounds.

The Trojans also have Pac-12 Honorable Mention guard Jordan McLaughlin, who has some NBA potential and averaged 13.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.6 steals as a sophomore last season.  McLaughlin played this summer on the Pac-12 All Star team, which traveled to Australia, so this could have provided some great experience to the young player.  Does the Summit League have an All Star Team?  Can they travel around all of Canada and beat up on all of the Canada YMCAs?  Hansen is going to make Tra-Deon Hollins stalk McLaughlin, right?

To make up for the losses, USC put together the 32nd rated recruiting class according to 247 Sports.  Incoming freshman guard, Jonah Matthews, was rated on ESPN’s top 100 players for the class of 2016.  These recruiting rankings and hype things do not appear to threaten the core guys for Omaha like Tre’Shawn Thurman, Tra-Deon Hollins, and Marcus Tyus.  Hollins has said he loves the big games, and loves playing on the road to shut up a crowd.  I am paraphrasing a series of tweets I have seen him say and combining it with quotes from things I have read in the Omaha World Herald.  These thoughts have been consistent with things Thurman has said as well, and Marcus Tyus has shot 52% from the field and 48% on threes against the Power 5 and Big East as a Maverick.

The Trojans are also adding two transfers that are eligible this season.  6’9″ Graduate transfer, Charles Buggs, from Minnesota, averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds as the Gophers finished in Might As Well Be Last in the Big 10.  By the way, I do not think the Big 10 should allow 11, 12, 13, and 14 seeds into their conference tournament…makes the regular season more important, but that will never happen.  Buggs had 8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and a three against the Mavericks last season.  They will also be adding 6’7″ forward, Shaqquan Aaron, who averaged 1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds as a freshman at Louisville in 2014-2015.  He had surgery on his hand while he was redshirting last season.  These guys do not really seem all that threatening, but who knows how well guys can do in a new system.

Either way, with all the new faces, it appears as if this team really has not had enough time to play together and work out together. The Trojans should still be trying to figure out the roles of most of their team at this point in the season.  They will start the season against a solid Montana team, that could wear down the Trojans two nights before this game.  Then again, this will be the second game in two days for the Mavericks, so the Omaha bench could be vital to the Mavs in this game.

The post players could be an issue for the Mavericks.  In addition to Boatwright and Buggs…Boatwright and Buggs sounds like the world’s worst law firm that specializes Feral Cat Ordinance laws…the Trojans also return 6’11” sophomore center, Chimezie Metu, who averaged 6.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks as a freshman last season.  With three guys that are 6’9″ and taller, and two of them being capable of going outside to hit threes, the Trojans advantage may to be to post up on the thinner Mavericks down low.  If Tre’Shawn Thurman and Mitchell Hahn get into a little foul trouble in this game, Daniel Meyer, Zach Pirog, and Ben Kositzke could be extremely important for the Mavericks in this USC game.

This game will be on the Pac 12 Network, and hopefully the women’s team will be playing Washington in the Preseason WNIT the same day.  Also, this game will be around the same time as the New England Patriots versus the Seattle Seahawks.  Someone set up a watch party where the NFL game wont interfere…now…

 

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Meet future Mav Mitch Hahn

I have never met a guy name Mitch that I liked, nor have I ever met a guy named Mitch that I did not like.  I have never met anyone named Mitch.  The closest I have ever come to meeting a guy named Mitch is watching Billy Crystal’s character in City Slickers, and I guess the sequel.

Helllllllooooooo.  Here, click here.

Anyway, Mitch Hahn comes to the Mavericks from Fremont, Nebraska after sitting out a year after transferring from Holy Cross.  Hahn was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Nebraska as a senior in high school, averaging a double-double.  Out of high school he reportedly had scholarship offers from North Dakota and Central Arkansas, according to Verbalcommits.com.  I remember wondering if Omaha was ever going to offer him a scholarship, there appeared to be “interest” but never heard anything that he actually had a scholarship offer from the Mavericks out of high school.

In Hahn’s one season at Holy Cross, he played in 23 games and averaged 4.7 points and 2.2 rebounds.  In those 23 games, he did have 3 outings in which he got into double figures for scoring.  A 22 point game against Albany where he shot 8-of-9 from the floor on 6-of-6 from three.  Excuse me, baking powder?  6-of-6 threes?  Hahn also had 18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 blocks in 26 minutes in an overtime loss to Army.

After a coaching change at Holy Cross, Hahn decided to transfer back home and was apparently recruited by Tyler Erwin to play for the Mavericks.  I feel like Erwin is responsible for recruiting all the shooters for the Mavericks.

At 6’8″ you may be thinking that Hahn is going to be a replacement for Jake White, but Hahn’s game is completely different from White.  White could go in and post up, and muscle his way to the foul line, hit the baseline jumper, rebound, and get called for a ton of bad referee calls.  Hahn, at 205lbs, is more like a small forward.  He has the ability to beat guys off the dribble and get to the basket, shoot the three, play on the wing, and find the open man.

Just get yourself excited at the prospect for every time Hahn hits a three you will get to scream HHHAAAHHHNNN!

One of the biggest keys to the Mavs’ roster in 2015-2016 was their versatility.  They could play bigger, play small, go fast, or go even faster.  With Hahn, the Mavericks still have that versatility.  The Mavericks will be able to go with a post of Daniel Meyer and Hahn, or Tre’Shawn Thurman and Hahn, or even a little Pirog and Hahn…or dare I say a front court of Meyer, Thurman, and Hahn?  That’s big.  The Mavericks did go with a big lineup like this when the team had a 6’8″ Koang Doluony for 7 games in 2012-2013, which I assume was before most people paid attention.

Hopefully the Mavericks could rebound with this type of lineup, in addition to being a better all around shooting team.  Hold on, I’m having a flashback to that Denver loss last season where the Pioneers got 4 offensive rebounds on one possession while Randy Reed sat on the bench with concussion like symptoms.  Okay something is wrong with my heart, I have to use an Automatic External Defibrillator on myself for a minute.  I attach one of the pieces to my temple, right?  It’s cool, I’m certified, well actually my certification is expired but it’s really not all that difficult to get re-certified.

The Mavericks were one of the worst three point shooting teams in the NCAA last season.  They got better as a team once Kyler Erickson and Tra-Deon Hollins got going in the second half the season, but the Mavericks game plan from game to game should change in 2016-2017 with Hahn and a crew of shooters on the team.

I think my favorite thing about Hahn is that he comes off as a no nonsense guy on the court.  He’s not barking at the crowd, or flexing his biceps after cool plays.  Just makes shots and gets back on defense.  I was at the Omaha Metro Summer League when his Nebraska High School Hoops team was going up against Creighton’s Toby Hegner’s team.  Hahn did not appear as if he was there to make friends, not start any trouble, but just play basketball and do what he could to help his team win.  He hit threes, had 20+ points, played good defense on Hegner, and while everyone was catching their breath at halftime, Hahn was shooting jump shots in the intermission.

He’s intense.  Not like the intensity of the guy that shows up to a co-rec noncompetitive softball team in baseball pants, batter’s gloves, eye make up, refuses to swing at any pitch unless it’s absolutely perfect, and yells at the umpire for making a correct call…but he seems like he could be intense.  Oh, did you know that there are Trump softballs?  I’m just going to let you roll with that one.

 

 

The Mavericks: Reloaded

2016-2017 is going to be a bit of a sequel to last season.  Consider it The Mavericks: Reloaded.  Is The Matrix Reloaded the 2nd or the 3rd one of the Matrix series?  They blend together to me for 4 and a 1/2 hours of stupidity for me, so it is difficult to remember.

The Mavericks graduate Kyler Erickson, Devin Patterson, Randy Reed, Tim Smallwood, Jake White from the program.  Each player brought something unique to help guide the program through the first year of transition into the CBI.  Erickson brought the heart, and the other 4 bought some earth element to create a superhero to save the world of disaster.  Normally teams that lose 5 seniors do not compete too highly the following season, but the Mavericks get to quickly reload their roster with Marcus Tyus (redshirted to recover an injury), Mitchell Hahn (redshirted due to transfer from Holy Cross), and JT Gibson (only played 10 games due to an injury).

The decision to redshirt Tyus apparently came a day or two before the start of the regular season.  Really, it was a smart move on the part of the Mavericks.  He tore his ACL in February of 2015, and normally tearing your ACL takes over a year to fully recover.  I still showed up to the opening game and had a 2 hour WHERE IS TYUS panic attack for that game.

You have got to think that Tyus will get the most shot attempts on this team next season.  His junior season, he may have had one of the most efficient seasons since the transition to division one, for a guard at least.  In his junior season he shot 49% from the floor and 44% on threes.  The only guard who really came close to that, that played most of a season, was Justin Simmons who shot 47% from the field and 40% on threes in his junior season.

While Tyus may take over as the primary shot taker, he never really showed the ability to create his shot in the same capacity that Devin Patterson could.  I’m not really sure this program has seen a guy that has that ability that Patterson had, and no one remaining on the roster is really that guy who can do that; so next season the team will have to work together more to get open looks…which can be good because of less standing around and less jump shots with 25 seconds on the shot clock.  Patterson attempted 5 threes a game in 2015-2016, granted that number would have been lower with Tyus on the floor, but Tyus should be taking about 4 threes a game in his senior season, but his percentage should put him at making the same number of threes each game as Patterson did in 2016.  Tyus wont really need to create his own shot with a play maker like Tra-Deon Hollins with him in the back court.

The Mavericks finished 8th in the conference in three point field goal percentage at 33.7%, but that number should go up with Tyus, Hahn, and Gibson on the court; and also Hollins improved from behind the arch as the season went on.  Hollins shot 17% on threes in November and December, and 39% on threes after January 1st.

Aside from the expected better shooting; arguably the best post player the Mavericks have had since transition, Jake White is graduating and that will be a huge piece to make up. Tre’Shawn Thurman will continue to get better and should be an All Conference player in his junior season.  Daniel Meyer and Zach Pirog will really have to improve this summer to help make up for that post production.  I never got to actually watch Mitchell Hahn in high school, but he doesn’t appear to be the same type of rebounder that Jake White was, or a dominating post player against Nebraska high school basketball.  Hahn has the ability to handle the ball and play as a very tall three, which could make the Mavericks very versatile team.  Either way, I hope one of the main on the court goals of the Mavericks this season will be to get my section to stop screaming “BOX THE EF OUT!”

The Mavericks currently have 10 players on scholarship.  Maybe 11 if they give Ben Kositzke a scholarship, who actually could be a pretty underrated player.  He has some really nice post moves, a baseline jump shot as good as Jake White’s, and he just had a year of redshirting to work out on basketball.  Kositzke also apparently had a scholarship offer to Tennessee Tech out of high school.  I was telling my wife about some of the Mavs’ roster and mentioned this, and she usually does some shit talking whenever a university in the state of Tennessee is brought up, instead she was like: “Tennessee Tech, really?  They’re a really good program, that’s a great scholarship offer…and he walked on to the Mavericks?  That’s great!”  That’s got to be worth something.

Speaking of basketball in Tennessee: the Omaha signee Daniel Norl, originally from the state of Tennessee, appears as if he can really add depth to the Mavericks back court.  The 6’2″ guard averaged 11 points, shot 50% from the floor, and 40% on threes for a top 25 junior college in 2015-2016.  He started his career at Eastern Kentucky after getting offers from Tennessee Tech, Belmont, Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State, and Murray State.  In his highlight videos you can tell he is a solid defender and likes to make the extra pass on offense.

There are still many available transferring players out there.  It is unclear if Nebraska’s Johnny Trueblood is going to transfer somewhere to play basketball, or if he going to just destroy every pickup basketball game in Lincoln; but many Husker fans on the Husker Hoops Central would like to see him transfer to UNO.  I’m sure both South Dakota schools will try and move in on Trueblood should he decide to pick the Mavericks.

South Dakota State was able to pick up a transfer from Southern Utah, AJ Hess, who will be a senior and eligible to play immediately for the Jackrabbits.  Hess only played in 6 games for South Utah in 2015-2016; in his junior season at SUU, he averaged 11.7 points and 3.7 rebounds; Hess also shot 44% from the floor, 41% on threes, and better than 80% at the free throw line.  The Jackrabbits are going to be able to put out some bigger lineups with two 6’6″ guys who can play the guard position.

I’m bummed that Omaha Benson/Iowa Western’s Thik Bol committed to Southern Illinois.  His post defense combined with Hollins’ perimeter defense would have been a delightful combination on the court.

With the potential to sign two to three more players, and another assistant coach, the Mavericks still have a lot to come in the next few weeks.