Mavericks versus Montana State preview

I keep forgetting the college basketball season starts this week, but it does.  In my mind, it starts when Omaha tips off in Great Falls against Montana State.  Since the Mavericks have their first 5 games on the road, it might actually be better if I didn’t let it start in my mind until late November.

This is the third year in a row that the Mavericks will meet the Bobcats, and the first of two meetings of this match up this season.  Omaha won each of the meetings between the two teams in the last two seasons.

The Bobcats return much of their roster from last season after tying for 5th in the final 2017 Big Sky standings, the fans have high expectations for this veteran basketball squad.  The team was ranked 4th in the preseason rankings for the Big Sky conference.

Wait…someone make a screeching halt noise.  Or the Wilhelm Scream.  The Wilhelm Scream works too.

The Bobcats narrowly defeated NAIA Montana State University-Northern by 5 points in an exhibition game on November 1st.  The Bobcats didn’t even gain a lead over MSU-Northern until 17 seconds left in the first half.  Maybe, as an out of state person, I shouldn’t read too much into this game.  If Nebraska-Kearney played Omaha, I’m sure Kearney would give the Mavericks everything they could and put a scare into the team.

However, there is this.

rachtweet

I gotta say: that’s pretty harsh.

That is going to do one of two things.  That can really motivate the players to pull it all together by the time they start the regular season, or it can have the reverse and completely bring the confidence of the team even lower.

Maybe they can turn it around, but a team that doesn’t listen to the coach or buy into a system can have some nasty consequences in any sport.  With that said, the Mavericks have to really hope that the Bobcats don’t have it figured out to start the season, especially considering how much the Mavericks still need to figure out about themselves as a team.

I’m sure the Bobcats will figure a way to turn it around.  Even if it doesn’t look pretty, it was still an exhibition game.  Teams don’t normally return a bulk of their entire roster and just drop off the face of the earth with a load of chemistry issues.  Well, except for that year after Nebraska made the NCAA Tournament with Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway and turned out to have an incredibly follow up season.  As Maverick fans, we just hope the Bobcats don’t have it figured out by November 10th.

On paper, the Bobcats can be threatening.  They are led by Tyler Hall, a 6’4″ junior, who averaged 23 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3 assists as a sophomore.  Hall is on the Preseason Watch List for Lute Olson National Player of the Year Award.  The Mavericks were able to hold him to 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting in Omaha last season.  Running the point for the Bobcats is Norwegian point guard Harald Frey, who averaged 12.7 points and 3.4 assists as a freshman last season.

You can expect a shootout between Omaha and Montana State as both teams like to get up and score the ball.  The Bobcats, however, are not a very big team with the biggest player in their rotation at 6’7″.  Maybe Omaha will look to take the ball inside with native Montanan Daniel Meyer on the team.  They could also have freshman Matt Pile come in off the bench and set screens for Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson to find space for open shots.

Trying to come up with things that look better than Mitch Hahn’s shot going up against smaller competition, and I cannot thing of many things.

Montana State has won their last 3 home openers.

According to ESPN, Montana State is a 9 point favorite, and has a 71% chance of winning.

 

Advertisements

A month out game preview: Montana State

I have never been to the state of Montana.  Recently, a friend of my wife began dating a guy from Montana.  He used to play football at the university of Montana.  We’ve bonded over some time.  We bonded because he was trying to tell me that the Big Sky was an underrated conference, and I was able to argue and make points that the Summit League was better and more underrated.

Either way, he hates Montana State.  When I described all that is lovely about North Dakota hockey fans, he stopped me, and told me that it sounded exactly like Montana State fans.

I am not sure if he was just bullshitting that is true or not, but I have presented all of this to you to make a funny that I am really excited about the potential of putting my place up on Air B&B for North Dakota, and now Montana State fans. My place is next to two doughnut shops, a liquor store, a strip club, a classy establishment called Arby’s, and is 10 minutes away from Baxter Arena.  I’m living on a gold mine!  They’re going to want my place for $1500 a night!


untitled

The Mavericks have another return game.  The Bobcats will be coming to Omaha in the middle of a Summit League sandwich as they travel to Vermillion first to take on the Coyotes, and then for some reason meet back up with the Coyotes 8 days later in Bozeman.

I find myself wondering what would have happened had Devin Patterson not hit a three point shot with time expiring, and Omaha had not won in Bozeman last season.

Omaha was 2-4 against division one opponents on the year heading into Bozemen.  The Mavericks had an eight point lead with under three minutes remaining, and let the Bobcats claw their way back to tie the game with just a few seconds left.  This was a situation that was familiar to the Mavs as they had blown some leads like this before.

Gary Sharp made a point, as he was making the call, that there were so many games and situations in the past exactly like that moment that had not gone the Mavericks way.

Maybe had the Mavericks lost that game in overtime, they would have lost some swagger and confidence in themselves.  Maybe they would have gone on to lose at Grand Canyon, and maybe end up not having the fight they had in other games when they found themselves blowing a big lead, or needing to fight back from a large deficit.  I don’t know.  History happened as it did.

Either way, Patterson had 38 points, hit the game winning shot, and the Mavericks ended up moving on to a winning season and the Bobcats ended their season at 14-16.

Sounds like a recipe for the Bobcats to be out for some revenge.

The Bobcats are still coached by former Creighton assistant Brian Fish.  Fish is working to improve Montana State, and as you would expect from a former assistant of Dana Altman, he likes his team to get out and run and put up shots.  This will be a high scoring game, and should be fun to watch if you do not like defense.  Omaha and Montana State were both in the top 30 in field goals attempted per game last season.

The Mavericks are without Patterson.  That is obvious.  The Bobcats also lost a key point guard from last year.  Marcus Colbert was a senior that averaged 17 points and 5 assists a game.  He had 35 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists to help the Bobcats keep that game against Omaha close.  The Mavericks have Marcus Tyus to help replace Patterson’s scoring, the Bobcats are still in the middle of figuring out who will take over the scoring.

The Bobcats return five contributors from last season.  They will also have a couple guys sitting out due to to transfer rules, which can be a bad thing for a team’s depth, but thems the rules.

With only 5 players coming back that were contributors from last season, it is difficult to know what the Bobcats can be this season.  They were picked 7th in the Big Sky preseason poll, which is probably fair.  Their roster is made up of mostly former junior college players that appear to be hit or miss.  Fish recruited some guys to Creighton that were just right for their system, and one should expect he has done and will do the same at Montana State.

One returning player that could be one of the best opposing players to come to Baxter Arena this season is sophomore Tyler Hall.  Hall held a scholarship offer from the Mavericks if you want to spend the next month wondering why someone would intentially pick living in Bozeman over Omaha.   He averaged 18.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as he went on to be named the Big Sky Freshman of the Year, and was named to 2nd Team all conference.

Another player that could be good and have a breakout season for the Bobcats is sophomore forward Sam Neumann.  Neumann is a native of Minnesota and picked the Bobcats over South Dakota State.  He did not get much playing time last season, but Neumann had 11 points and 5 rebounds in the Bobcats’ lone exhibition game.

It is just a little difficult to gauge how good his players can be when their SID puts together descriptions of their players like this:

Copy and pasted from msubobcats.com

Montana State: (2016) An athletic wing with a diverse skill set.

Montana State: (2016) Begins his freshman season in contention for starting honors at a wing spot.

Montana State: (2017) Entes the fall in competition for starting honors on a wing.

Montana State: (2016) Enters the 2015-16 season competing for playing time on a wing… known for his offensive ability and shooting skill.

You might get pretty pumped up for the Mavericks season if the Omaha SID just wrote in for KJ Robinson: ” He’s shorter than the other guys so assume he’s fast.”

With the lack of depth for the Bobcats, and the fact that they are playing two other games this week, I would like to think the Mavericks have the advantage in this game.   It will be a much needed win considering how difficult the rest of the schedule is for the Mavericks.

There may be some Creighton fans that actually make it to Baxter Arena just to see Brian Fish, but probably not many.  Actually, probably not any.  There may be a fair amount that actually read the game recap in the Omaha World Herald.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each Summit League team’s case as to why they are number one

It is going to be a very exciting year in the Summit League for men’s basketball.  Several teams are returning a good portion of their rosters, and while many think the league will be easily won by South Dakota State; they will be in a much tighter race for a championship than most people think.  Every team has a goal of winning the Summit League, but what is their case as to why they are number one?  After all, 9 walk in and only one comes out… I’m just messing with you.

March To The Summit League


 

Denver

Hi, we are the Pioneers, and we know that some people are picking us to finish last in The Summit League this upcoming season.  But we saw a statistic from kenpom recently that our coach, Joe Scott, has coached teams over the last ten years that have had the 2nd highest 2 point field goal percentage in division one.  That is because we run the Princeton offense, we are all about using the entire shot clock to find the absolute best shot possible, it is based on unselfishness and not on stars.

We ranked 298th in division one in points per game as a team, but we were 20th in the country in field goal percentage which was 1st in the Summit League.  We were 3rd in the Summit League in 2013-2014 in field goal percentage behind North Dakota State and Fort Wayne, who were both pretty good that year.  We were also 3rd in the Summit in three point field goal percentage over the last two years, and we recruit to our style, so expect that to continue.

We know we are a young team this year with 8 freshmen and 4 sophomores, but it is not like we are going to just play the underclassmen for 40 minute a game.  We have an unselfish trio of seniors to run our offense with Marcus Byrd, Nate Engesser, and Bryant Rucker.  Engesser shot 51% from the field last season, he and South Dakota State’s Jake Bittle are the only 2 guards in the Summit League to shoot over 50% on the year, and they have the two best shooting percentages of any players returning to the Summit League this year.

With the exception of three games in the Summit League last season (we are still pretty baffled by our losses to IPFW), we play every game very close, so your players better be ready to hit some clutch shots in the closing minutes.  We know we had a record of 12-18 last season, but we are a tough home team going 9-7 at home and we even beat this upcoming year’s favorite, South Dakota State, in Denver.  So take that!

Engesser is the only returning player for Denver that averaged more than 10 points per game.
Engesser is the only returning player for Denver that averaged more than 10 points per game.

Fort Wayne

So we return the least amount of division one experience in the Summit League, but at least we have arguably one of the top three point guards in the league with Mo Evans.  Our offense will probably run through him, and he will hopefully be either on the 2nd team All Conference team or at least Honorable Mention at the end of the year.  Team that up with Joe Reed and we have a good inside-outside game that can be pretty difficult to defend.  With so many new faces on our roster, it could be difficult to set a consistent line up at first and get everyone on board with our team defense, but at least we will be a mystery team for our opponents to defend.

One thing that we would like to point out is that we were last in The Summit League in free throw percentage last year, which can matter sometimes apparently.  Our three players that shot the most free throw attempts: Steve Forbes (75%), Joe Edwards (63%), and Isaiah McCray (49%) are all gone.  We still have Evans and Max Landis who both shot over 80% from the free throw line, two of the best returning players in the league in free throw percentage.  We recruited a junior college player named DeAngelo Stewart who shot 82% from the free throw line in his sophomore season at North West Tech.  Let’s just say we do not plan on losing to Dartmouth by 1 because we went 18-30 from the line or losing to Georgia Tech by 9 because we went 14-28 from the line.  Oh, we know we cannot go 100% from the free throw line, but damn it we lost 4 games last season where missed the exact number of free throws that we lost the game by.  That stings a little.

Stewart also played at Alabama State his freshman season, where his team went to the CIT, and we are totes expecting Stewart to be a major contributor on this team.  Some magazine also tabbed him as the preseason newcomer of the year in The Summit League.  We added another junior college player who has division one experience in 6’11” and 270lbs Andrew Poulter who started his career at Arkansas-Little Rock.  Does anyone in the league have anyone that can defend 6’11” and 270?  Do not answer that.  Aside from these additions, we have two transfers from Purdue and Bradley that will have to sit the year out, but hopefully they should help our team out in practice.

Wait, what does Stewart's jersey say? The Mastadons will need big things from their newest addition this season.
Wait, what does Stewart’s jersey say? The Mastadons will need big things from their newest addition this season.

IUPUI

Remember how many dicks picked us to finish dead last in The Summit League last year, and we ended up winning 6 conference games?  Do you remember that?  Were you there for that?  Sorry if we are a little rambunctious right now, but seriously do you freaking remember that?  We have one of the better young coaches in probably all of the Mid Majors, and he can go into any recruits home and his parents will remember who he is just by his name alone.  Scott Sutton goes into someone’s home and his parents are automatically concerned if he has his drinking problem under control because they hear the name Sutton, and that is what they associate with.  With new facilities, a new coach, a new type of recruit, our program is a reboot film and it is being led by the best young director out there, James Gardener.  We had one of the largest attendance increases by per game average in the country last season, so you know things are getting good.

Again sorry if we seem rude, but y’all can suck it.  Combine our coach with Indianapolis, the 14th largest city in the United States and we are actually a fun place to live.  It’s not like we’re a bunch of yokels that base their diet off of a 5.99 steak combo meal at the local grocery store chain.  No, this is IndianGoshDamnApolis!

We lost 5 players to transfer, but it is cool because we have already forgotten their names.  We get to put 4 new players onto our team that transferred from bigger conference schools, so basically we traded in a vespa for a regular motorcycle.  Like, we actually have a threatening post game now that we get to add to a 6-10 team, so we are thinking those wins are going up.  Oh, and we still have the widely disrespected Marcellus Barksdale, maybe the best wing defender in the league. Who are the two biggest offensive threats at the wing position in the Summit League? Obi Emegano and Garret Covington?  That is cute.  Barksdale held Emegano to 30% shooting in three games and Covington to 36% shooting in two games last season, so that is nothing to us.

What can the Jaguars do with an actual post game this year?
What can the Jaguars do with an actual post game this year?

North Dakota State

We basically win everything as it is, so why would you expect anything to be different this year?  We lost Lawrence Alexander, but we return everything else for the most part.  Our players actually have the most returning division one starts in the entire Summit League.  On top of all the players returning, we got to take our team on a summer trip to the Bahamas for exhibition games, where we learned even more about each other.  We have the best defense in the league, and while we are young, we have an incredibly mature and well disciplined roster.  Anyway you want to cut it, we are the San Antonio Spurs of the Summit League.  We have the best fans in the Summit League, because of the cold weather and there not being much to do in Fargo or the state of North Dakota, there is not much else to do.

Can you think of a team with a better core of post players than us?  Chris Kading, AJ Jacobson, and Dexter Werner: the three players combine for the complete package in the post.  If you think Omaha’s Tre’Shawn Thurman can run the floor and dunk, you should see our newest recruit post player Deng Geu, he’s 6’8″ and has about a 40 inch vertical.  There is about 4 blocks a game right there with Kading, Werner, and Geu.  Oh, and our perimeter players are incredible defenders, so that stupid Jackassrabbits and their great core of guards do not scare us at all.  We held that team to 31% shooting in the Summit League championship last year.  What a bunch of turds.

The Bison lost by 10 to Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament.
The Bison lost by 10 to Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament.

Omaha

We know you are supposed to get better the more and more you go through transition, but we admit that last year we did not appear better by our amount of wins and losses.  Looks can be deceiving though… After picking up our best win ever as a basketball program, we stumbled mightily with losses against teams we should have beat like UMKC and Chicago State.  Consider the injuries though to some of our best players: Jake White, Devin Patterson, and Marcus Tyus battled through injuries.  You get all of those guys healthy on the court and we have a pretty deadly team.  Throw in some added motivation with a brand new arena and an opportunity to play in the Summit League Tournament, and we have an under the radar team.  Our attendance has been rising each and every season since the transition, and we expect that to continue as we move into the Baxter Arena so hopefully we can gain more and more of a home court advantage as time goes on.

We ended the 2014-2015 season on a three game winning steak, all those games were on the road.  We were actually even maybe 2 or 3 plays away from ending the season on a 6 game winning streak.  We still have yet to beat North Dakota State, but we came closer than we ever have before.  This was all with only having 4 players returning last year.  This year we have 9 players returning and 61% of our scoring, which is the 4th best in the league behind Western Illinois, South Dakota State, and North Dakota State.  We were able to take our players to Italy and learn about each other, we got in 10 extra practices, 4 exhibition games, and we know that this will pay off this season  We score a lot too.

College Sports Madness put senior guards Marcus Tyus and Devin Patterson on the Preseason All Summit League 2nd team, SDSU had George Marshall and Deondre Parks on the first team, so if you think about it; we have the second best back court in the league.  That is probably how it works, right?  Sophomore Tre’Shawn Thurman has the highest points per game average for any returning post player in the league, unless you count NDSU’s AJ Jacobson as a post player, that is up to you.  Thurman also has the 2nd highest rebounds per game average for returning players, actually he is tied with fellow Maverick Jake White.  So we could have the second best back court in the league, as well as one of the top post combinations in the league.

The transition is over!
The transition is over!

Oral Roberts

“OBI EMEGANO:PLAYER OF THE YEAR!  SCOTT SUTTON:14 STRAIGHT WINNING SEASONS!  FIRST IN THE LEAGUE IN ATTENDANCE!  GOLDEN EAGLES RULE!”

*drops microphone*

*flips off the crowd with both hands*

If there is ever a Summit League All Century team, Emegano will probably be on it.
If there is ever a Summit League All Century team, Emegano will probably be on it.

SOUTH DAKOTA

We had a winning record last year and most people were thinking we would finish in 7th or 8th in the conference. Fun thing: we were able to pick up a win against every single Summit League team last year, other than ourselves, that would be ridiculous. Craig Smith is from the Tim Miles coaching tree, so you should expect him to increase his win totals this season, based on nothing.  We may have lost a ton of our scoring and whatever, but we still have Casey Kasperbauer: the three point king of the conference.  We also will have Tyler Flack back who sat out 2014-2015 due to injury, and a gang of role players that know how to play as a team.  No one was expecting Tyler Larson to be one of the best players in the league last season, so who knows who will step up this year.

Yes again we lost a lot of our team, but we found two great recruits in Tyler Hagedorn and Dan Jech.  Hagedorn picked to come here over Omaha and North Dakota State, and Jech picked us over North Dakota State, Montana State, Louisiana-Lafayette, and others.  You want to talk about a place where there is nothing to do?  Talk about Vermillion, South Dakota.  All our players can do is work out and get better at basketball.  Also, somehow Hagedorn continues to get taller and is now listed at 6’10”.  Did any teams in the Summit League pick up any big men better than what we picked up (on paper)?  Probably not.

Fear Red! Or something like that.
Fear Red! Or something like that.

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE

We are the favorite to win this league this season, everyone’s favorite.  We return the most scoring in the Summit League, after Western Illinois, but ours has proven to be competent.  Slam!  We have an inexperienced post, but if we cannot get the ball into them we can just do whatever we want with Deondre Parks, George Marshall, and Jake Bittle.  Even after those three we have Reed Tellinghuisen who can score on the outside and is also capable of getting to the basket.  We keep being told about how our freshman Adam Dykman was incredibly overlooked by everyone as well.

We lost to North Dakota State by 1 in the Summit League championship, and our returning core is clearly upset about it.  It is not a question of why will South Dakota State win the Summit League, but rather; who has any chance of beating South Dakota State?

Seriously, come at us, bro.
Seriously, come at us, bro.

Western Illinois

We do not have much to say.  Garret Covington will score a bunch of points though, probably even be 1st Team All Summit.  We had a lot of injuries last season.

If it were possible, Covington might be demanding a trade.
If it were possible, Covington might be demanding a trade.

 

 

2015-2016 opponent preview: Game 7, Montana State Bobcats

Montana State

2014-2015 Record: 7-23

2014-2015 Home Record:  5-9

Final 2014-2015 RPI:  323

Big Win in 2014-2015:  vs UT-Arlington (180 RPI) 104-81

Random Stat:  UNO and Montana State both won at North Dakota last season by the exact same score of 80 to 78.


When you first hear of Montana State, you assume this could be an easy road win.  I mean, it is Montana State of all schools.

Okay, this has been getting a little stale talking about who is returning, and what new players might be good, but now we get to add a new ingredient to the recipe.  Some fish.

Brian Gosh Darn Fish.  I really do not think that his is full legal name, but it could be.  The Mavs may not have a shot at playing Creighton, but they do have a shot at former Creighton/Oregon/San Diego/Marshall Assistant Coach, Brian Fish.  Trying to get his program going, Fish will take on the Mavericks in their first full year of division one.  This seems like it should be a home and home series.  I feel like we should be able to expect the Bobcats in Omaha in 2016.

I cannot really think of many press conferences that introduced a new basketball coach that required him to wear a hat. So this must be serious, right?

I felt pretty confident in Fish’s ability to recruit a good team and make a positive impact on Montana State right from the second he got hired.  He appeared to be Dana Altman’s number one guy after Kevin McKenna left Creighton.  Fish was responsible for recruiting some great players to the Bluejays.  Every time Creighton played a team that had a coach in the hot seat, Fish appeared super into the game, like he wanted the opportunity to be a head coach.  It was always in him.  He had been rumored for a number of head coaching jobs before, one in particular was hearing his name being floated around when Western Illinois needed a new head coach…twice that came up actually.

We are going to throw in a pinch of another ingredient though.  Fish was able go all the way to Rock Island, Illinois to go after a recruit named Tyler Hall.  Why is this an item of interest?  Tyler Hall was rated a 3 star recruit by ESPN, but ESPN’s recruiting website is not all that great at rating players so it might not be that big of a deal in the long run.  However, Hall was given a scholarship offer by the Mavericks as well; and on top of that he saw offers from South Dakota, South Dakota State, Ohio (Saul Phillips), and Western Michigan.  So yes, Fish came into Omaha’s backyard and stole one from us.  It could be a big deal, it could not be.  The Bobcats are advertising Hall as a player that will be competing for a starting spot, but they won 7 games last season, so I assume every new guy is competing for a starting spot.  Fish was also able to get a commitment from Minnesota native, Sam Neumann.  The Mavericks did not offer Neumann, but Minnesota is an area the Mavericks like to get into for recruiting…Neumann did receive an offer from South Dakota State.

Actually kind of stoked to see JT Gibson and Hall go head-to-head.

This could give Omaha fans an indication of what kind of guys the Mavericks are losing out on and what type of guys we are going after, other than the obvious list of players that are currently on the roster.  As a fan, you like to know your team is offering guys that are capable players.  I hate it when Nebrasketball fans lose out on some recruit to Auburn and that player turns out to not be competent enough to player in a power conference, and the Husker fans get all giddy that the player “sucks”.  Shouldn’t you be upset that this dude was almost on your roster, but he did not think your team was good enough for his abilities?  Am I right?

How else has Fish done in recruiting?  Like many coaches trying to turn their team around quickly, Fish went after junior college players to add experience to his team.  He signed 5, that is right, 5 junior college transfers to his team.  3 of those junior college players are 6’8″ or taller.  I’m just going to do some quick math here.  5 junior college players, 4 freshman…that is 9 new players to work into the mix.  With 9 new players, it feels kind of worthless to bring up many teams stats from 2014-2015.


Key losses for the Bobcats.

Michael Dinson – 5’9″ G: 14.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 41 FG% 39 3ptFG%

You can average 4 rebounds a game at 5 foot 9?

Eric Norman – 6’9″ C:  6.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.7 bpg, 31 FG%, 27 3ptFG %

Blake Brumewell – 6’7″ C: 2.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 51 FG%

Montana State also had 3 players transfer away from the program, who all according to a Big Sky blog were “non-contributors” and should not be a big deal to lose.


Key returns for the Bobcats

Marcus Colbert – 5’11” G, SR: 13.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.7 apg, 43 FG%, 42 3ptFG%, 50 3ptM

The Mavericks were 2-0 against non-conference opponents in 2014-2015 that had a player that ended up averaging more than 4 assists per game.  Those wins were against Central Arkansas and North Dakota.

Stephan Holm – 6’3″ G, JR: 9.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 39 FG%, 34 FG%, 50 3ptM

Danny Robison – 6’8″ F, SR:  9.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 45 FG%, 37FG%, 34 3ptM


 

Omaha is 4-0 against the Big Sky since becoming Division 1, but in reality, 3 of those wins are against North Dakota.  This will be the second game of 2015-2016 that the Mavericks go up against the Big Sky after playing at Northern Colorado.

This should be a difficult game for the Mavericks.  Road game, on Sunday, in a place like Bozeman, Montana.  With so many new faces for the Bobcats, it could be difficult to scout Montana State, but the Bobcats could still be trying to figure each other out at this point.  Brian Fish is not going to be surprised by the Mavericks either, he should be pretty knowledgeable of the program and have a plan for this game.

 

 

 

Some teams and trips that could make up for an entertaining basketball schedule in 2015-2016

The Mavs will finally be fully eligible for the post season next year…duh.  From what I have heard, the 2015-2016 schedule for the UNO Mavericks men’s basketball team includes trips to Minnesota, Missouri, Wyoming, and “a trip to Vegas.”  I am not sure how complete the schedule is at this point, but from what I have heard creating a schedule can be pretty difficult.  It was pretty difficult in EA Sports’ March Madness 2007.  That was the worst video game I have ever played.  Well that is dead anyway, but here are some trips and games that I thought could be potentially good match ups and/or fun trips for the Mavericks and their fans should they choose to go.  A few of these are suggested home-and-home series, and the others are just UNO going there once.


Virginia – 7 (Final RPI Ranking) or Virginia Tech – 221

The first UNO game I could watch on ESPN3 was UNO @ Michigan State.  I remember the commentators saying Derrin Hansen was trying to sell recruits at the time on the opportunity to go play against the bigger teams in their home area.  With Jake White and Marcus Tyus getting a run at Minnesota, Randy Reed getting the chance to go up against Missouri, and Tim Smallwood getting conference foe Oral Roberts, that leaves out Devin Patterson for the senior non-Omaha guys.

I would think you would be more comfortable with the Mavs going up against Virginia Tech just based on the RPI rankings, but if you are one of the people that want them to play the best to become the best, then obviously Virginia would be the more appropriate choice for that route.  Tech had a pretty similar roster this season as far as experience with 2 seniors, 4 juniors, 1 sophomore, and 5 freshman but they were a substantially larger team.  I never watched a Virginia Tech game this season, because I mean, why would I have?  Based on the just really lazy investigating, they appear to be a pretty slow team which could draw to the Mavs’ advantage.


Drake – 259

I thought I heard that Drake had a return game to Omaha from the Mavs playing them in Des Moines in 2013, but I have yet to see it or hear anyone mention it ever since.  I may have made it up in my own mind now that I think about it.  If the Mavs had to go to Drake again, the Bulldogs are a little over two hours away, so obviously not a bad trip for Mav fans.  Des Moines also has a lot of fun stuff to do like…turn around and drive back to Omaha.

As a former conference foe to the Creighton Bluejays, the JaySkers may draw some interest in this game and show up for a game in Omaha.  The Bulldogs have been going after some of the same recruits as UNO, so that could add some animosity and create a new I-80 rivalry with the Bulldogs.  Both programs could live off of the “screw Creighton” policy.

Apparently Des Moines recreated Rainbow Road from Super Mario Kart
Apparently Des Moines recreated Rainbow Road from Super Mario Kart

Drake did not have the greatest season in 2014-2015, but it is not like they had the greatest of expectations.  The Bullsdogs did have a bright spot with freshman Reed Timmer leading the team in scoring at 11.5 ppg, so the future does not look awful.  In addition to Timmer, Drake will have two Big 10 players that will be eligible for the 2015-2016 season, Kale Abrahamson from Northwestern and Graham Woodward from Penn State.


Nashville trip

So most of this trip is based on wife’s alumni status to Belmont, and it is not like anyone would ever actually attempt to schedule all 6 of these schools, but my wife has stated that if someone needed 2 or 3 quick road games that they should check out the Nashville area.  I have never been to Nashville, but as she described it, Vanderbilt, Belmont, and Lipscomb are all right on the same block.

Nashville is an 11 hour drive through Kansas City and St. Louis, so it is not like it would be the most boring drive in the world for the Mavs and/or their fans.  Mav fans that like country music would have the time of lives in Nashville as it is the center of country music with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.  My wife says to not go out and do karaoke unless you are a serious singer.  The karaoke scene is much different there as it is composed of people trying to make it in the industry and get noticed for a record deal, not people getting really drunk and singing songs in an Eric Cartman voice.  I would not know, I think karaoke is dumb either way.

  1. Vanderbilt – 88
    • The only SEC school that appears to actually care about academics of the student athletes finished the season making it to the 3rd round of the NIT.  Vanderbilt was made up of mostly underclassmen, so you have to think they have a bright future as they are not really a program that is built around one and done stars.  They would be kind of the centerpiece of the Nashville trip, but with a SEC team already on the schedule, this could be a tough sell to the UNO program.  As a fan if you went to the game or watched it on television, you could just find yourself upset that the team benches are located on the baseline.  It is one of those things that bugs me and I cannot figure out what it is about it that is so upsetting.  It is like not liking someone, but you cannot exactly put your finger on it as to what makes you want to punch them in the face every time you see them.
  2. Belmont – 100
    • Rick Byrd has been with Belmont since they were in the NAIA so he knows what is like to take a program into division one and how long it can take to become a successful program at the D1 level.  Hopefully because of this, he can have some sympathy for Derrin Hansen and the UNO Mavericks.

      Byrd has become one of the most respected coaches in all of college basketball.
      Byrd has become one of the most respected coaches in all of college basketball.  Byrd is on the right if you want to be a smart ass about it.
    • The two schools have played a home-and-home series in men’s soccer, so the two athletic programs have had some sort of communication.  Playing Belmont would be no easy task, their size and athleticism is pretty similar to UNO, but they rarely make mistakes and are one of the best at hitting the three.  Last year the Bruins ranked 4th in the nation with 10 threes made per game, and as you probably know, the Mavericks were not the best at perimeter defense.  Belmont has a winning record of 101-36 since UNO made the transition in 2011-2012.  The team should be returning their top three scorers as well.  Hey, did you also know that, per Rivals, South Dakota State’s Reed Tellinghuisen’s final three choices were SDSU, UNO and Belmont?
    • Belmont also hosts the Country Music Awards, so there is that.  My wife also claims you can just randomly see celebrities just about anywhere.  She once saw Tim McGraw in Walmart and Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban at a tiny little diner.  The university was also the shooting location for a number of Hannah Montana episodes, might I suggest a Socker Boppers tournament at random places around campus to get your rage issues out of the way when you think of Miley Cyrus?
  3. Lipscomb – 275
    • I do not know much about Lipscomb other than that they are one of Belmont’s biggest rivals and that they are on the same block as Belmont, and hey they are pretty close to UNO in RPI.  I bet a good ole Summit League versus Atlantic Sun battle really gives you that special feeling that makes you feel like your heart is going to explode out of excitement.
  4. Tennessee Tech – 288
    • An hour and a half from Nashville, but per Verbal Commits, their basketball program has been going at the same level of recruits as UNO.  They made offers to Zach Pirog and Ben Kozitske.  Also pretty close to UNO in RPI.
  5. Austin Peay – 316
    • A hour drive from Nashville, and hey what the hell, while we are there I guess.  Austin Peay is one of those programs that you have seen the name on the ESPN bottom line score center and it always sticks out, but you literally do not know anything about them.  The basketball program also has Lincoln’s Parkview Christian School’s Domas Budrys (by way of Lithuania) on the roster and they also gave former UNO player Jalen Bradley an offer this year, so where do they get off?
  6. Middle Tennessee State -152
    • I am not going to pretend that I know anything about Middle Tennessee State, I seriously had no idea that they were in Conference USA until right now.  Mufreesboro is also a hour drive from Nashville.

Weber State – 260

Okay, I know I am biased since I worked at Weber State for a year, but the schools actually have some pretty decent similarities that could make for a fun match up.  Both schools are at that “lower major” status and battling for name recognition with the bigger names in their own state with UNO dealing with Nebraska and Creighton and Weber State dealing with Utah and BYU.  Like UNO, Weber State is also a commuter campus and they have had difficulties trying to find that community support that UNO was struggling with for quite some time.  Weber State men’s basketball though is pretty similar to Creighton in the Dana Altman era in regards to that it is difficult for them to get teams to come to them.  They are a decent basketball program, and they really want to do the home-and-home series with the bigger programs, but the bigger programs end up laughing at them.  They really do not want to do the Go Play a Big 10 Team and Get Crushed games.  Weber State did play Oral Roberts in Ogden this year and won by one point, so it is possible that they will have a game in Tulsa in 2015-2016, not sure how many Summit League teams the Wildcats want to play.

Weber State was picked to win the Big Sky conference, based on basically nothing, but they ended up tying for 7th (out of 12) in the conference with Idaho and a 13-17 overall record and finished with an RPI of 260.  The Wildcats are coached by Iowa native Randy Rahe who has tried to get into the Nebraska area of recruiting in the recent years.  Last year he had former Omaha Skutt center James Hajek as a senior, and he has also had some players from Nebraska junior colleges join his program in the past.  Rahe was also rumored for the Drake job when it was last available.  He has taken the Wildcats to two NCAA tournaments.

Even though the Wildcats did under perform this last season, they have some great pieces returning that could help prepare the Mavericks for the Summit League.  They will be returning 2nd Team All Big Sky forward Joel Bolomboy, who will be a senior,  that averaged a double double with 13 ppg and 10 rpg as well as 6’2″ guard Jeremy Senglin, who will be a junior, that averaged  16 ppg, 3 rpg, and 3+ apg.  Aside from that, the only player that they are graduating is Hajek.

If Mav fans were willing to make the trip, Ogden and northern Utah have a lot to offer.  Anywhere you are in northern Utah, you are a guaranteed 15-20 minute drive away from a beautiful hike.  Get some beautiful pictures at Antelope Island 20 minutes away from Ogden, see the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, and you can also go take a look at all the sights and gorgeous landscape that hosted the 2002 Olympics.  Oh, there is also an In N Out Burger in between the Salt Lake City airport and Ogden… The trip is about a 13 1/2 hour drive from Omaha, but can be risky with the state of Wyoming basically giving up when it comes to taking care of I-80 during the winter.  The flights are usually not too bad though, you will typically have to connect through Denver and end up on two separate 90 minute flights.  There is a large Salt Lake City group that loves the Huskers that hosts watch parties for Husker games, but if you were to go you would actually find a decent number of UNO alumni in the group

You can snap pictures like this all around Northern Utah.
You can snap pictures like this all around Northern Utah.

If you are a beer drinker though and want to make the trip to Utah, you will more than likely not have a great time, especially if you are not into outdoors stuff.  The Salt Lake City Husker bar is really fun though, they have a party room dedicated to the Huskers (and the Utes).  I also have some Weber State friends that I have been talking a little smack to telling them that UNO is superior in basketball (and another number of sports), so there may be a few Ogdenians that will get a little too into the game and causing a ruckass.  Weber State did have a decent club hockey team while I was there, and Ogden has the Mustangs, a Junior A team in the WSHL, so there is always the potential to catch some hockey while there.

Omaha and Weber State have already played in softball (UNO won) and women’s soccer (WSU won) so again, there has been some form of communication between the two athletic departments.  Also, while I was working at Weber State the volleyball team played at a tournament in Lincoln against Nebraska and Creighton and I offered to give their (now former) head coach information on restaurants and things to go do and see…he was actually surprisingly a really big jerk about the entire thing.


Creighton

Just kidding…


Oregon trip

  • Oregon -27

Okay, so the schedule is already pretty tough as it is with two power 5 schools on the schedule already, and there may not be room for one more, but you have to admit you have some interest with the Mavs going up against former UNO coach Kevin McKenna.  Derrin Hansen could definitely soften up Dana Altman and McKenna by bringing them some Runzas and Dinker’s.  That may be the only way to sell it to Altman and McKenna.  When Altman played against Creighton in the CBI Championship, it was definitely awkward already with how recent it was since Altman had just left Creighton, but also Altman claimed that he did not like playing against his friends.  I am not sure if him and Hansen have a relationship, but I am sure they have ran into each other, and it could be difficult for Altman having to face a jersey with the word Omaha on it.

  • Portland State -166
  • Portland – 221

Okay there is not much that I actually know about Portland and Portland State, but to get to Eugene, Oregon to play the Ducks, it would probably be best to fly through Portland.  I know that Portland State is a commuter campus just like UNO, they are in the Big Sky, which the Mavericks and other Summit League teams like to go up against, and I know that the city of Portland is awesome.

You can't show the O there either, it's been done.
Showing the O has already been done in Portland.

The city has literally everything you could ever ask for.  Great scenic views, awesome hikes within driving distance, the Columbia Gorge is just about one of the most beautiful things that you will ever see, tons of breweries and unique restaurants, mountains to look at and drive to, the ocean is about an hour and a half away, and the state also has no sales tax.  There is also Voodoo Doughnut, their line gets really long, I was there on a Sunday night at 10 pm and the line was longer than a Christopher Nolan film.  Portland is also a huge hipster community, possibly the biggest I have ever seen, so it may be difficult for Rylan Murry to ever come back to Omaha after a trip out there.  You can also walk around and mock everything that you have seen in “Portlandia”.  Who else wants to have an adult hide and go seek league?  Per the UNO Alumni Association, there are 400+ living in the state of Oregon that are UNO alumni, but Portland is right on the border of Washington state which has 700+ UNO alumni so there is a chance of getting a decent turnout to see the Mavs in the area.

For reals, Portland has everything.
For reals, Portland has everything.

Portland State has been trying to recruit a little from the Nebraska area, but I really do not know why, none of their coaches have any ties to the Midwest, and their basketball program has yet to land anyone from  the area.  The Vikings will lose seven seniors from their 2014-2015 roster that opened up the season by winning at USC, which really is not all that big of a deal.  They also will not have much height on the roster with only only player 6’7″ or taller, as of right now anyway.  The Vikings do have a Arizona State guard sitting out in the 2014-2015 season, Calaen Robinson, who the team is expecting to play a huge role in the 2015-2016 season.

The Portland Pilots beat Drake and Murray State this season, two teams that the Mavs lost to in 2013-2014.  They also lost a narrow game at UNLV by two points.  Okay, this seems a little more interesting now.  The Pilots, like the city of Portland, is a really diverse team.  Their roster this season consisted of guys from Canada, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and obviously the Pacific Northwest.  If sitting around in a giant hipster city, drinking craft beer, eating delicious sushi, and making fun of tall people’s funny last names is fun to you, then maybe you are wishing this trip would have happened this season.  The Pilots also has a will be sophomore named Jason Todd, so if you are a comic book nerd and understand what that means, you are pretty much looking for airplane tickets to Portland right now.

I mean, look at how entertaining sports can be in Portland.
I mean, look at how entertaining sports can be in Portland.

Montana State -323

Speaking of Dana Altman, Montana State is coached by his former assistant Brian Fish who is trying to grow some respect for his program.  Fish was rumored for the Western Illinois job a while back, and he has been recruiting in Omaha’s backyard.  Again, Montana State is a Big Sky team.  I have never been to the state of Montana, so…that is all I have to say about that.  The average high temperature of Bozeman in November is 42 degrees and in December it is 33 degrees, so it is not like it is completely awful.

In 2014-2015, the Bobcats had…ahh hell I am not even going to try.

Bran Fish went 7-23 in his first season at Montana State.
Bran Fish went 7-23 in his first season at Montana State.

Southern Miss – 283

Hey Doc Sadler, remember when you said there was no way you would schedule UNO?  Southern Miss was one of the worst scoring and worst rebounding teams in division one this past season, that actually sounds really familiar to Nebraska fans.  I am still pretty baffled that they beat North Dakota State, who they did schedule a home-and-home series with.  Doc’s team had no player taller than 6’7″ and only graduated one player from this season, oh and their non conference schedule only had two power five schools on it, so yes that sounds exactly like a Doc Sadler team.

I am just saying, based on everything that I can perceive about Sadler, if the Mavs called him and pretended to be the University of New Orleans I am sure they could convince Doc to schedule “the Privateers” and Doc’s staff would just sign the contract without looking at it actually saying University of Nebraska at Omaha instead of University of New Orleans.  Then Doc would actually look at his schedule at some point and drop his signature phrase of “I am not a smart man.”

I think UNO fans and people in Nebraska would like the match up.  Doc was never really an enemy to anyone around here.  He was never Santa Claus but he was never Martin Short as Jack Frost.  People around here genuinely liked Doc as a person and would welcome back to Omaha for a night or two.

You know you want everything that comes with this.
You know you want everything that comes with this.

The transitioning schools

As a school that is just finishing up the transitioning period, we know how painful of a four year process it can be, so maybe we can help out the following programs.  Also as a Mav fan, I am keen to go play and beat these teams as four of the five had better RPI rankings than the Mavs last season.

  • Abilene Christian – 326
    • 10-21 record in 2014-2015, 3 wins were against non-D1 opponents
    • scored 27 points in their final game of the season, ouch
  • Grand Canyon – 279
    • They have Thunder Dan as their head coach, that is enough for me
  • Incarnate Word – 173
    • They beat Nebraska last year, which may have led to the destruction of the Huskers’ confidence all season
  • Massachusetts Lowell – 262
    • Finished 12-17 overall including 1 win over a non-D1 opponent
    • As of right now, their 2015-2016 roster will be composed of one senior and the rest of the team will be freshmen and sophomores
    • Ranked 346th out of 351 in the nation in rebounding as a team
  • Northern Kentucky -263
    • Will be coached by John Brannen, former Alabama assistant
    • They got to play in their conference tournament.  Why?  What the shit?

Southern Illinois – 274

Another team coming to terms with the “screw Creighton” policy.  I am not sure if Creighton and Southern Illinois ever actually had a bitter rivalry program to program or if it was really just Creighton not liking SIU taking their attention away for a few years.  I remember Southern Illinois fans being incredibly furious whenever Creighton played in Carbondale.  I searched and searched online to find the “I h8 Cr8n” shirts that their fans made but had no luck.

Southern Illinois has also had and won some recruiting battles with the Mavs, so this just irritates me more than it should.  With the transition over, this should be less and less of a problem so that is refreshing.  Also I feel like Creighton fans would come out to the game in disguise just to yell at Barry Hinson.  Seriously, Hinson seems like he was molded out of puddy by Rita Repulsa to create the ultimate douche to destroy the Power Rangers, but probably more likely to destroy Southern Illinois.  Granted, it is not like he took over the best program there in Carbondale.


UMKC – 293

Is anyone else incredibly bored with this match up?  I do love a trip to Kansas City, but the Kangaroos have more players than they do fans, so it feels like you are going back and watching an old Division 2 game.  The game I attended in Kansas City in 2013 there were more Mavs fan than Kangaroo fans.  Most of the UMKC fans there were parents of the youth cheerleaders that put on a routine at halftime and then they all left at halftime.

The loss to UMKC this last season should have left an disgusting taste in your mouth.  It was the first loss of the season that the whole team was available for, and a team that most thought the Mavs should not have lost to.  The Mavs had 26 turnovers in this game.  26!  So yes, I would love to see the Mavs get the chance again to not have 26 turnovers.  Every time the Mavs play UMKC in anything I get more wrapped up in “why the hell are they in the WAC” instead of the actual game itself.  They have to fly to every single one of their conference games, so you know they are looking to make up for it in the non conference schedule.  Oh we can drive there?  Just send them a contract and hope they sign it.

They will be returning Martez Harrison who was an All American Honorable Mention player.  He averaged 17.5 ppg and 4 apg, and he had 25 points and 6 assists against the Mavs in the one game they played this season.  A guard like Harrison could prepare the Mav back court for what they are going to have to go up against in the Summit League next season.  The Summit League is going to be filled with a lot of great guards this upcoming season.


I am not expecting Mav fans to make the trips for the in season games, but how refreshing was it as a Mav fan to see how many students and fans made it out to the Frozen Four?  With things beginning to “matter” more, fans are going to be willing to make the fun trips.