South Dakota State comes to Lincoln to take on Nebrasketball as an “underdog”

Friday night, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits basketball team will come to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. At the start of Friday, the Cornhuskers are a 6.5 point favorite for the game.  If the Jackrabbits were to pull off a win, would it be considered an upset?

Maybe?

Summit League schools going up against a power conference school always seems like this big event. The smaller schools get to come check out the big time facilities, play in front of larger crowds they’re not used to, and get the opportunity to possibly play on national television.

Nebraska is not an environment the Jackrabbits should walk in to scared like it’s some haunted house. If you’re a Nebraska fan, you may want to sit down for what I’m about to tell you.

Out of the games Nebraska has played so far, South Dakota State has the highest RPI they have seen, and Nebraska will have the lowest RPI of any team they have seen so far.  Actually, I hope you weren’t sitting down for that, RPI is pretty worthless at this point in the season.


If you are a Nebraska fan, and you just want to think I’m some Anti-Nebrasketball fan, I would love to present you with this.

I am a Nebrasketball fan. I’ve enjoyed watching Nebrasketball since Tyronn Lue played for the Huskers. I can also tell you that I am a life long Boston Celtics fan, and Tyronn Lue on the Lakers team made me care about the Lakers for a few seasons. I was called a bandwagon fan those years, and it still hurts my feelings to this day. I’m pretty sure Nate Johnson played for the Lakers summer league team at some point and I paid attention to that as well.  Terran Petteway played for the Celtics summer league team a couple seasons ago, and it was a big time for me. I also hate the Cleveland Cavaliers, so Lue coaching them was also rough for me.

I’m not sure if this helps, but typically for someone to prove their fan hood, they have to answer a riddle as old as sports: “I bet you can’t name 5 players for (Sports Team).” I ran into this situation over this Summer when some Kansas City native (he was a Creighton student too) questioned my Royals fan hood and said he bet I couldn’t name 5 Royals other than Alex Gordon…actually, the Royals roster last season was a little rough to find player names in my mind, so instead I named off the 5 pitchers from the 2010 season. That my friends was Zack Greinke, Kyle Davies, Brian Bannister, Luke Hochevar, and Bruce Chen.  I was trying to lose weight that season and watched every game on a treadmill.  I yelled a lot.

I don’t think I can sit here and name off the current Nebrasketball roster without looking up their names, mostly because of the new faces. I could sit here and say there are two junior college transfer guards, a French freshman I prefer to call “YoGo,” a couple grad transfers, one from Seattle and one from Florida Gulf Coast.  Essentially, this year’s roster to me is like from a NCAA video game and the game doesn’t give any names, everyone is just “#14” and whatever other number. It’s like when you walk into a party and you know everyone’s faces, but you can’t remember from where, because you likely met them while intoxicated.

I can name off a list of Husker players who had okay seasons in their first years of Nebrasketball and as Husker fans we would say “oh man, we’re going to be so good with (dude’s name) in a year or two” but then they just ended up disappointing us in one way or another…Joe McCray, Jamel White, Jim Ledsome, Jay-R Strowbridge, Cookie Miller, Eshaunte Jones, Christopher Neimann, Jorge Diaz, Christian Standhardinger (who I thought would be in the NBA), Deverell Biggs, Walter Pitchford, Nate Hawkins, Jake Hammond.

Cool, let’s all go cry now.


Nebrasketball and South Dakota State are two teams I do regularly follow.  I haven’t had the opportunity to actually sit down and watch either of them this season, but I have paid attention to the rosters, box scores, and all that stuff that makes you feel like you know what you’re talking about in conversation.

Both teams have a lot of fresh faces on their rosters, including new coaches. South Dakota State returned 18% of their scoring from last season, which was last in the Summit League. I haven’t done the math to see the percentage of returning scoring for what the Huskers brought back, but I’m fairly sure Thorir Thorbjanarson is the only returning player from last year’s roster, and he averaged 2 points per game in 2018-2019.  So unless Nebraska scored 10 points per game as a team last season, the Jackrabbits should have returned more scoring.

While trying to figure out their new team, the Huskers have gone 0-2. As the Big 10 team, you would think the Huskers would at least have enough talent to beat Big West and Big Sky teams. I had this conversation with my boss last night. We were both like, it’s understandable the Huskers are still in trying to figure it out mode, but they still lost to two teams they should have beat. During the conversation, I did also learn my boss thought South Dakota State was division 2 in everything except for basketball. So there was that.

You might think the Big 10 team has the more talented roster. I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate in this instance. I legitimately don’t know. I do think the Jackrabbits will have the best player on the floor in junior college transfer Douglas Wilson, and it appears the likes of two true freshman will be responsible for guarding the post player averaging 19.5 points per game and shooting 58% from the floor so far this season.

I do know intangibles matter in games like this. South Dakota State football played Minnesota football better than Nebraska football did, and much of the credit was given to so many Jackrabbit players knowing the Gopher program so well. A lot of people got down on the Gophers after that game, they’re 9-0 right now.

The Jackrabbits will have two Nebraska natives on the roster, ready for the chance to play in Pinnacle Bank Arena. There will also be plenty of Jackrabbit fans in the arena. It’s not a long drive from Brookings, and large number of South Dakota State alumni reside in the city of Omaha. There is a reason Baxter Arena’s largest attendance for basketball is South Dakota state versus Omaha every season.

I also found tickets to this game on Seat Geek for 1 dollar.

I’m not here to argue South Dakota State will definitely win this basketball game. I’m here to say that it is an actual toss up of a basketball game. If these two teams played each other 10 times, and they were all played in Pinnacle Bank Arena, Nebraska might win 7 of them.

The thing is, so early in the season with Nebraska trying to figure things out, this could be one of those three times.

 

 

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings: Nov 12

The first week of college basketball passed on by, and now we no longer have to discuss basketball teams in terms of what they have coming back from last season.  We can gauge them on how they beat up on division three opponents and how they kind of came close against teams from better conferences.

1. South Dakota, 3-0

My preseason ranking: 1st

The Coyotes started their season undefeated in Hawaii as part of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic with 2 neutral games against Pacific and Florida A&M, as well as a game at Hawaii.

Even though Nebraska transfer Brady Heiman was granted a waiver, it appears he’ll still be sitting out this season. The Coyotes were still able to prove they had plenty of depth with 5 players scoring in double figures over the weekend.

The Coyotes shot over 50% from the field and 50% from behind the three point line over the weekend. Three players averaged 17 points or more in Hawaii.

6’7″ true freshman Hunter Goodrick out of Australia showed off as a nice surprise averaging 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds through the first three games.

2. Oral Roberts, 1-1

My preseason ranking: 2nd

Down by as many as 14 in the second half, Oral Roberts was able to come back and almost beat Oklahoma State. The Golden Eagles are now 2-0 against the spread this season.

With three seniors off the bench, the Golden Eagles will be a mature team and that teams will have to play a complete 40 minutes against.

Sophomore RJ Fuqua came back to the lineup after sitting out 2018-2019. Maybe it was rust, but Fuqua had 10 turnovers and shot 25% from the field through the first two games and may not be the appropriate point guard to lead this team who had the most turnovers in the Summit League this season. He almost seems to be too fast, if that’s possible.

Kevin Obanor hasn’t had a great start to the season. Coaches say the biggest jump for players can be from their freshman to their sophomore season, but sometimes a sophomore slump can occur. Obanor got in foul trouble in his first two games this season and has shot 2-of-12 on the year. He really didn’t use his large frame to get inside baskets and relied on the three just a bit much.

Still with Obanor and Fuqua struggling, the Golden Eagles took Oklahoma State to the wire and beat Houston Baptist by 14.

3. North Dakota State, 2-1

My preseason ranking: 3rd

The Bison haven’t started as hot as they would have hoped to, shooting 29% on threes, but it’s the North Dakota State Bison and they will come around.

4. Omaha, 2-1

My preseason ranking: 4th

The suspension of KJ Robinson has allowed for Ayo Akinwole to step up into a starring role, and allow Zach Thornhill and Wanjang Tut to showcase their talents as they’re being integrated into the starting lineup.

Without Robinson, the Mavericks are averaging nearly 15 turnovers a game.

Not having Robinson and UMKC transfer Marco Smith, the Mavericks are only playing with 7 players, which is depth that won’t get you too far in conference season.

5. South Dakota State, 3-0

My preseason ranking: 8th

The Jackrabbits are 3-0 with a team entirely made up of newcomers. We’ll have a little to compare them to as their first opponent, UT Rio Grande Valley will square off against North Dakota State this Friday.

Sophomore Matt Dentlinger was a huge surprise notching a double-double in their home opener.

Junior college transfer Douglas Wilson is on his way to being candidate for Newcomer of the Year, averaging 21 points and 8.7 rebounds through three games.

6. North Dakota, 1-0

My preseason ranking: 5th

The Fighting Hawks haven’t fought too hard, only playing one game so far against division three Crown College.

Paul Sather’s team will play the opposite of opponents tonight when they faces off against Gonzaga.

7. Fort Wayne, 1-2

My preseason ranking: 7th

The Mastodons only beat Division 3 Manchester by 11 points?

With not much of a point guard presence, the Mastodons look lost on offense and everything appears to be played in random.

8. Denver, 1-1

My preseason ranking: 9th 

The team everyone thought would get beat up by everyone this season actually has not looked bad to start the season.

With an 11 point loss to Colorado State and an 12 point win over Utah Valley, the young team can look to build on some confidence. They were able to beat Utah Valley with Ade Murkey scoring just 9 points, and people said the Pioneers would live and die with Murkey.

9. Western Illinois, 0-2

My preseason ranking: 6th

I don’t even want to talk about Western Illinois right now. They’re 0-2 with an understandable loss to Indiana and a 2 point loss at home to Stetson. They lost at home against Stetson only committing 5 turnovers in the game.

A biased Summit League preseason ranking preview: 8th place (you might be shocked by this)

South Dakota State

Projected Conference Wins: 2 to 6

Projected Regular Season Finish: 6th to 9th

Key returning players: To be determined

History and tradition may be on the side of the Jackrabbits, but 2019-2020 isn’t on their side.


Disclaimer:

You’re probably shocked by this ranking, or maybe you’re not. You might be mad by this, and if you are, you should probably grow up. These are trivial rankings from a blog, written by a guy with just a little too much time on his hands.

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The Summit League is pretty even and up for grabs this season. Really, it feels like there are 3 tiers of basketball teams.

Since we’re working our way up, we’re just going to talk about the bottom tiers. The bottom tier is Denver, and that’s it, just Denver. The middle tier are teams 4th to 8th. All teams in this tier have about the same amount of talent and experience, but what may make or break their seasons will be their overall health.

Injuries to both Oral Roberts and South Dakota broke their seasons last year. Both teams finished 7-9 to finish 5th and 6th in the standings. With better health, each of them could have finished above North Dakota State. They were in the 2nd tier.

Omaha was in the 2nd tier in 2017-2018. Probably could have picked up a few more wins with a healthier Mitch Hahn and Renard Suggs.


Every team loses players from year-to-year. Everyone has something to make up. All the teams are shuffling in new faces and trying to figure out their rotations.

The Jackrabbits lost their head coach. They graduated the Summit League’s all time scoring leader, in addition to graduating two other starters. David Jenkins, who was expected to be the focal point of their offense going forward, transferred to UNLV.

First year Head Coach Eric Henderson will be dealing with entirely new look Jackrabbit team. The roster returns 18% of their scoring from last season, which is the lowest in the Summit League. The team also has just 40 division one starts on the roster, also the lowest in the Summit League, and the lowest amount of division one minutes, 500 minutes behind Denver.

This is the first time in a long time South Dakota State will be coming into the season without a star. There was a long line of Mike Daum, Cody Larson, Deondre Parks, Jake Bittle, Jordan Dykstra, or Nate Wolters…this season, they don’t have a star coming into the season. No one knows who “The Guy” is for the Jackrabbits this year.

Henderson came off as the most excited Summit League coach at the Summit League Media Day, and he did claim everyone in the locker room is confident and ready to be The Next Guy.

I’m going to do a comparison to Omaha, because, well, you know why…

The two teams are similar in experience, both have just 2 seniors and 2 juniors, both lack size, both like to play at a higher pace. That’s some pretty vague exposition, but here we go.

This is the third year Omaha’s 4 upperclassmen will be playing together. One of South Dakota State’s upperclassman, Beau Brown is a seldom used walk on, and the other three have never played game a college basketball game together.

If Omaha was in a close game with anyone in the conference, they know who is taking over the game down the stretch. In contrast, South Dakota State doesn’t have that. The Jackrabbits may have plenty of talent on their roster, but they follow the typical archetype of a team missing leadership in late game situations.

And a side note: out of the players who are coming back – The Jackrabbits were seriously afraid of Matt Pile last year. When they played in Omaha, South Dakota State was up by 8 when they put Mike Daum on the bench, and the Mavericks came back in less than 2 minutes. They couldn’t afford to play without Daum last season, because they were not confident in the players behind him.

Their roster just follows the type of pattern of teams who struggle down the stretch of games and have poor communication defense. Basketball is played on a court and not on a spreadsheet in my computer, so it’s just up to the Jackrabbits to go out and play and tell me I’m wrong.

It’s up to Henderson and his staff to get his players to play as a team, and not just letting the players try to each selfishly be “The Guy.”

The rest of the Summit League is more experienced than the Jackrabbits, and are less likely to have those issues. There are more “toss up” games for South Dakota State, certainly more than there have been in the last 4 years.

I know I spent a paragraph shit talking about their returning players, but the Jackrabbits do have talent on the roster.

Senior point guard Brandon Key decided to use a redshirt last season. As a junior, Key led the Jackrabbits in assists and was 5th in the conference in assists per game. He was also 8th in the conference in assist to turnover ratio. Key also came off the bench when the Jackrabbits played Maryland in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, and he scored 16 points in 29 minutes. North Dakota State’s Vinnie Shahid is the only Summit League player to have more points and minutes in the NCAA Tournament (not counting NDSU’S “First Four” game). Key’s ability to be a floor general and experience will be an x-factor in the ceiling of how good the Jackrabbits can be this season.

Junior college transfer forward Douglas Wilson was the NJCAA Player of the Year last season and was the leader of a National Championship team. The 6’7″ forward will be an immediate impact for the team down low, but he doesn’t have much of a perimeter game and won’t help with stretching out the floor, like Jackrabbit offenses have been accustomed to in the past. Oddly, as the NJCAA Player of the Year, he didn’t make Jucorecruiting.com’s top 100 junior college prospects.

Fellow junior college transfer Tray Buchanan did make the website’s honorable mention list. The 6’4″ guard started his college career at North Dakota before transferring to Des Moines Area Community College. Buchanan scored over 19 points per game at DMACC and made 2.5 threes per game. Henderson expects him to be a key player on the team with Wilson and returner Alex Arians.

Again, the Jackrabbits have a talented roster, and it will be up to the coaching staff to lead everyone to figure out their roles in order for the team to finish in the top half of the league.

With the Denver’s roster, I made a comparison to the movie world, and I’d like to do that with South Dakota State.

This Jackrabbit roster is just like the casting of Major League 3.  There was no Tom Berenger, no Charlie Sheen, no Wesley Snipes/Omar Epps, just role players like the All State guy, the idiot catcher, and Corbin Bernsen as a grown up came back. The movie did bring us Walter Goggins, and you don’t know that because you didn’t waste your time on that movie, and I respect that. This team is looking for their Walter Goggins.

Now, you know I’d never accuse the Summit League of picking favorites and showing favoritism toward anyone. They’d never help out one of their favorites in scheduling.

The Jackrabbits, are one of the three teams to never have three consecutive conference road games, though. They do have a pretty difficult week in January where they travel to Denver for a Wednesday night match up, and then travel all the way to Fort Wayne for a Saturday afternoon contest. They are fortunate enough to have that journey over winter break. Their other two game road trip is after week of rest, too.

They’ll also have 4 of their last 6 games leading into the conference tournament at home.

The Jackrabbits have talent, but they will have chemistry issues and growing pains in comparison to the rest of the league. Life after Daum (and Jenkins) might just be a little rough, but they’ll be fine, eventually.

I think it’s just fine to expect them to not be at the top, or even the top half of the league, this one year.

Okay, there is a possibility I might just want South Dakota State to be bad for once, but I think there is a strong case for them not having high expectations this season.


My trivial Summit League preseason rankings

8th South Dakota State

9th Denver

Some things to think about with basketball teams around the Summit League

College basketball is back in two weeks, so I’ll be coming out with some of my own Summit League preaseason rankings and obviously biased team previews over the next couple weeks.

How about we start you off with a little something to think about around the Summit League.

DENVER

The Pioneers had a disaster of a season in 2018-2019. Rodney Billups’ staff  had picked up two graduate transfers, Ronnie Harrell from Creighton and Tory Stewart-Miller from Colorado, to go along with a veteran team, and the preseason expectations were high. Some even thought the Pioneers were going to be able to compete with Mike Daum and South Dakota State for a conference championship.

Unfortunately, the team had injuries up and down the roster, and Pioneers season seemed to get worse and worse as time went on. There were only 3 players on the roster who played in every game for the Pioneers last season.

The injuries allowed for more playing time and development for freshmen David Nzekwesi and Jace Townsend, who are expected to be young leaders in 2019-2020.

As the least experienced team in the Summit League, most are expecting the Pioneers to miss the conference tournament again this season. In combination with being the youngest team in the conference, the coaching staff will also have 3 assistant coaches in their first year in their roles.

One thing helping the Pioneers is that they are one of three teams in the conference to never have 3 consecutive conference road games this season. Also, with only 6 returning players, it could be difficult to scout Denver.

NORTH DAKOTA

Did you know the Fighting Hawks had the best defensive three point field goal percentage in the Summit League last season, but the worst overall defensive field goal percentage?

Another weird stat: they were 3-0 playing at home on Saturdays, and 0-4 playing on the road on Saturdays in the Summit League.

North Dakota will be returning 68% of their scoring, and that’s the 4th most in the conference. One of their best players last season, Marlon Stewart, was slowed down with injuries last season, but is apparently the healthiest he has been in a while.

It’s hard to get a feel for North Dakota with a brand new coaching staff.

Head Coach Paul Sather appears to be quite excited about redshirt freshman De’Sean Allen-Eikens, and thinks he’s a future star in the league.

NORTH DAKOTA STATE

The Bison were picked as the preseason favorite in the Summit League, with good reason.

They won the conference tournament last season, and they only lost Deng Geu who transferred to North Texas, so they do lose some height and energy off the bench. Dave Richman has a steady track record of finding replacements, so it’s not really something to worry about.

It’s hard not to like the Bison. One thing to think about is that Cameron Hunter was playing with an injury last season. Hunter averaged 9 points a game as a freshman and saw a drop in production his sophomore year, and he’s just going to be another weapon for the Bison if he comes back at 100%.

OMAHA

Everyone in Omaha is talking about the losses of Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson, and yeah it’s a lot to lose.

Something no one in Omaha seems to be discussing is the losses of 6’9″ Brett Barney, 6’8″ Logan Strom, and 6’11” Evan Tricker. With just 4 upperclassmen on the roster, the Mavericks will be younger, but they’re also going to lack some serious size, even with Matt Pile on the roster.

We’re going to discuss Omaha more at a later time. I think that’s obvious.

One thing to consider…The Mavericks and the Creighton Bluejays never have a home game on the same day this season. With some energy and attention brought on with a successful 2018-2019 season, the Mavericks home games could start seeing some larger crowds.

Also, did you know that last season was the first season the Mavericks have had a winning road record since joining division one?

ORAL ROBERTS

The Golden Eagles started the conference season in 2019 with three straight wins, and they eventually faced injury situations with Emmanuel Nzekwesi and struggled with consistency.

Though, they are the biggest team in the conference, the Golden Eagles struggle with taking care of the basketball. They had the most turnovers in the Summit League last season, and teams were able to outrun them.

The Golden Eagles were picked 3rd in the preseason poll, but they are intimidating on paper.

In addition to returning 83% of their scoring from last season, the Golden Eagles are adding experience to their roster. Paul Mills’ staff added two graduate transfers and will also have point guard R.J. Fuqua coming back to the roster, who redshirted his sophomore season.

Paul Mills has also stated that Nzekwesi is 100% healthy, and had the best summer that he has ever seen in all of his years of coaching.

If Oral Roberts can cut down on the turnovers and Nzekwesi is healthy, the Golden Eagles can beat anyone in the league.  Maybe even any team in the state of Nebraska.

Purdue Fort Wayne

I initially wasn’t feeling impressed with the Mastodons. John Konchar was one of the best players ever to play in the Summit League, and I’d argue that he was a better overall player than Mike Daum. Making up that loss seems like it’s too much.

I don’t think they’ll be better than the likes of North Dakota State or South Dakota, but they’ll be competitive, and they will frustrate anyone in the league.

The ‘Dons will be adding Brian Patrick, a 6’5″ transfer from Kansas State, who didn’t see the floor much for the Wildcats, but he does have experience in 4 NCAA Tournament games. In addition to losing Konchar, the ‘Dons also lost guard Matt Weir to transfer, and I thought Fort Wayne would be light at the point guard sport. Jon Coffman landed junior college transfer point guard DeMieere Black, who was made the Honorable Mention List on JUCOrecruiting.com’s Top 100 recruits list. The website also listed him at 6’3″ and Fort Wayne’s website lists him at 6’0″, so maybe just no one knows what they’re talking about.  Fellow incoming junior college transfer Jalin Wimberly also made the list. Wimberly scored 15 points on 73% from the field as a freshman. Yikes!

Fort Wayne might be the most sneaky good team in the conference, but maybe the Summit League will sabotage the Mastodons’ last Summit League season?

The Mastodons have never been particularly deep, at least since I started paying attention to them after Omaha joined the Summit League, and last year the Mastodons had 9 players play in all 33 games on the season. Can they be that lucky with health again?

That may sound like a threat of some kind after mentioning the Summit League might be out to sabotage their season, but it’s not. Welp, this is awkward.

South Dakota

With 5 seniors and 2 juniors, the Coyotes will be the most experienced team in the Summit League.

The roster has 11,455 division one minutes played on the active roster. That’s over 1000 more minutes over the North Dakota State with the second most.

According to Jeff Goodman, Nebraska transfer Brady Heiman was granted a waiver to be immediately eligible to play this season for South Dakota. It is unclear if Heiman will still use his redshirt, but the 11,455 minutes does not include Heiman.

The Coyotes are another team we’re going to discuss more later.

South Dakota State

Who gave the Jackrabbits first place votes in the preseason poll? Seriously, who? Two people apparently did this.

I’d love to meet the two maniacs who went camping on the hottest day of the year, saw who could chug a bottle of Fireball the fastest, then had a candy corn eating contest, bumped each other in the head, and then rolled down a hill into a bee’s nest…then apparently came to and said: “Yeah, South Dakota State is definitely better than North Dakota State, South Dakota, and Oral Roberts.”

The Preseason Summit League Notes in the press release for the preseason rankings said something nice about all the teams in the conference except the Jackrabbits. They couldn’t even think of a positive note about this team, but two people thought they’d be the best team in the conference.

The Jackrabbits lost the Dauminator, their top 4 scorers, and their head coach.

Western Illinois

Riding the confidence of upsetting South Dakota State, and almost beating North Dakota State in the Summit League Tournament, this Leatherneck team could be the most talented and well rounded team Billy Wright has had at Western Illinois. I understand that isn’t saying much, but it’s true.

 

 

 

 

Hey, I’m going to talk about last night’s Jackrabbits-Mavericks game

I haven’t been able to get to many UNO games this season, and I didn’t even get to go last night but that was the best Omaha men’s basketball game I’ve ever watched.

In December, I had a detached retina that required surgery to fix that problem.  I’ve been messing with that, and haven’t gotten out much because of it.  I’m watching my parents’ house and their dogs as they are out of town, so I watched the game from the comfort of my parents’ kitchen as their dogs shuffled between begging for food and going outside and playing in the snow.

Baxter Arena hosted its largest crowd for a men’s basketball game with 4,228 in attendance.  It could have been 4,230 had I forced my parents’ dogs to fend for themselves for an evening and convinced a friend of mine to go.  My bad.

From home I could see the intensity in the arena, I mean, it was pretty intense from the kitchen I was watching from. It was almost like the game was played out from a screenplay.

After missing chip shots and officials appearing to protect and favor the famous Mike Daum, the Mavericks found themselves down 13 at halftime.

There was so much on the line in this game. It’s the Summit League’s top two teams playing for the top spot, a guaranteed spot in the NIT, and both teams would appreciate a top 2 seed in the Summit League tournament so they can have that Sunday night off from basketball – assuming they take care of business against their first round opponents.

According to Mitch Hahn in his post game interview, the Mavericks met at half time and discussed what they needed to do better to win that game.  No one sat there thinking the Jackrabbits got them.

My friend and I have agreed that if the Mavericks lock up the 1 or the 2 seed in the conference tournament, we’re heading to Sioux Falls.  We’re sports lovers and we’d go Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday if the Mavericks were playing but we’re adults and have jobs*.  I admit, when David Jenkins hit a three to open up the second half and push the lead to 16, I seriously debated of texting my friend that we should just prepare to go to Bockfest at the German American Society on March 9th, instead.

Eventually, Mike Daum went to the bench and I thought to myself that this was the Mavericks’ chance to make a push to cut into the lead and make this a game.  If it wasn’t going to happen then, it probably wouldn’t happen at all.  With Daum on the bench, they cut into the lead. All of a sudden, I had faith.

Even with Daum back on the court, the team the Summit League sees as perfect started messing up.  Turnovers and missed shots over a 4 minute stretch allowed the Mavericks to spark the comeback.

That’s the great thing about this year’s team.  They take care of the ball and they have so many weapons on offense that if their opponents can’t take care of the ball, the Mavericks can take advantage.  It’s not like a few years ago when the Mavericks as a team would have 8 assists on 20 turnovers, it’s the opposite of that now.  They’re not spending a large portion of the game just shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and bad shot selection over 8 minute stretches.

Once the Mavericks evened things up, the teams traded blows.  Daum would hit a three, and then Hahn would answer. KJ Robinson would hit a big three, and David Jenkins was there to rip our throats out.

While Jenkins was lighting up the Mavericks, Omaha did the unthinkable and actually slowed down Daum.  Daum was still creating space for Jenkins just by his presence on the court, but Daum was actually struggling in the game for a stretch.

For literally the first time of me ever watching Mike Daum play basketball, I thought he was actually intimidated.  He appeared to be completely confused by Matt Pile.  Excuse me, I want to retype that.  Daum appeared to be completely confused by Matt ‘effin Pile.  Daum looked like he couldn’t believe the sophomore wasn’t backing down from him.

In four years of witnessing Mike Daum, I have never thought he took a bad shot.  In the second half, he was going right after Pile and for the first time I ever I actually said “what are you thinking, Daum?”

On the other end, I literally had a debate with myself asking if Mike Daum was bad at defense. Like, I really just couldn’t tell. Pile and Hahn weren’t afraid to get after him, and when guards penetrated Daum just kind of let them do their thing. It is worth considering, though, that the Jackrabbits really don’t have much of a bench so they seriously cannot afford Daum to get in foul trouble and go to the bench.  I mean, look what sparked when Daum spent less than two minutes on the bench.

Don’t worry about Daum, he went 9-23 from the field and was the 3rd best player in last night’s game, but he’s still going to be voted Player of the Week.

The ending to this classic was about as perfect as they come.  The Nebraska-native, who is probably the best player the Summit League has ever seen knocks down two free throws to force the Maverick fans to say to themselves “son of a…”

But 5.7 seconds is too much time for Mitch Hahn.  The fellow Nebraska-native takes the ball the length of the floor and drills the baseline jump shot to seal the deal, and to create an even more intense final two weeks of the regular season for the Mavericks and Jackrabbits.

Third place Fort Wayne, who has won 5 consecutive games, comes to Omaha on Saturday for what should be another intense game.  I’m not the smartest person alive, but I just kind of assume Fort Wayne wants a top 2 seed in the tournament.  South Dakota State is at North Dakota State, the fourth place team in the Summit.  The Jackrabbits are historically kind of bad in Fargo, but they won there last year.

Even with this being the best basketball game to be played at Baxter Arena to this point, the Mavericks can’t stop now. It appears Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson understand this, and as they say: there is still a lot of basketball to be played.

*When are we going to stage a protest to have the Summit League tournament moved from Sioux Falls? The conference might get a third South Dakota school, and the rest of us have to suffer for it. If it’s going to remain in Sioux Falls can we at least set it up to where the conference championship isn’t on a Tuesday night?  If Denver made the conference championship, they would have less than 50 fans at the game on a Tuesday night.

 

 

Summit League predictions: Jan 24-27

I was 5-2 last week.  My best week.

Amazingly, Oral Roberts has no conference games this week.  They play two non-D1 opponents.  It’s like they’re an SEC football team that plays a FCS team in week 9.

January 24

South Dakota State @ South Dakota on ESPN3

How fun of a game is this going to be?  INCREDIBLY FUN.

Daum versus Hagedorn.  Jenkins versus Mooney.  Blue versus Red.  Okay, I ran out of things.

Is it wrong of me to think that the Coyotes are the best team overall in the conference, even though the Jackrabbits have the best overall player in the Summit League?  Probably not.

With their home court advantage, in what should be a sold out crowd, the Coyotes will be able to utilize more depth and a better defense.

The x-factors of this game could be Reed Tellinghuisen and Trey Burch-Manning.  They’ll be guarding each other, and have two totally different styles of play.  Whichever of them can make key plays in big moments and take control of the other may be the difference maker in this game.

January 25

Omaha @ North Dakota State on ESPN3

Each team is on a…I have no idea what to call this…a streak of conference games where you go W-L-W-L-W-L.  A Pattern Streak?  I don’t know.  I got nothing.  If the patterns hold true, both teams will win this game.  No, wait.  Crap.

The Bison have dropped 3 of their last 4 home games, which seems unheard of.  So really, what Bison team is going to show up?

I don’t think the Bison have an answer for Zach Jackson, and Mitch Hahn might be back.  So we will see what happens.  Hopefully, it’s good.

Western Illinois @ Denver

The Leathernecks have yet to win a game outside the state of Illinois this season.

Was it even noticed that the Leathernecks held Mike Daum to just 11 points last weekend?  Probably not since South Dakota State was still able to win by 28 points.  With Brandon Gilbeck being Daum’s primary defender, it plays into my theory that the one thing that bothers Daum is length.

January 27

Western Illinois @ North Dakota State on ESPN3

The Leathernecks have yet to win a game outside the state of Illinois this season.

Fort Wayne @ South Dakota State on ESPN3

The Mastodons have not won in Brookings since 2007, and Mike Daum scored 42 points the last time Fort Wayne came to town.  He also had 51 in Fort Wayne last season.

No one really has an answer for Mike Daum, but the ‘Dons don’t even have a clue.

Maybe with a full week off, the Mastodons can be well rested against the Jackrabbits who will be coming off an emotional game in Vermillion on Wednesday.

South Dakota @ Denver

The Coyotes are better at basketball on almost every level.  Home court advantage really shouldn’t matter that much.

My trivial Summit League rankings – Jan 16

This weather has me too mad for words.

1. South Dakota State, 4-0

The Jackrabbits have the best player in the Summit and they’re undefeated in the conference.

They did have 0 bench points against Oral Roberts last week. The lack of a bench hasn’t hurt them yet.

2. South Dakota, 3-1

Without a doubt, they miss Carlton Hurst’s defense, but they were able to hold Fort Wayne to shooting 3-of-20 in Fort Wayne last week.

3. North Dakota State, 2-2

An up and down start to the conference schedule for the Bison, and they have already lost 2 in Fargo, which seems unheard of.  They’re not the only Summit League team having an up and down season, but they’re probably the best of the teams having an up and down season.

Their home loss to Denver seemed like a fluke.  The Bison were finding open shots, but just couldn’t knock them down.  Denver wasn’t doing anything spectacular.

4. Fort Wayne, 2-2

They can beat anyone in the Summit League when they’re knocking down threes, but when they’re not knocking down threes, the Mastodons are kind of bad.

5. Oral Roberts, 3-2

As somewhat expected, the young Golden Eagles couldn’t stay undefeated going into a weekend on the road against South Dakota State and North Dakota State.

The team did get Austin Ruder back from injury, and the rust was really showing, but with Ruder back on the team, the Golden Eagles have more depth and three point shooting.  If Ruder can be healthy, he could make up that three point difference in to South Dakota State.

6. Denver, 1-3

I’m still lost as to how Denver was able to pick up a win in Fargo.  The Bison just couldn’t hit wide open shots.

7. Omaha, 1-3

The Mavericks were able to finally pick up a road win in Macomb and held on for a competitive game in Fort Wayne last week.  Hopefully, the team can take advantage of a week at home against a kind of bad Pioneer team and a South Dakota team playing without Carlton Hurst.

They were able to hold John Konchar to 6 points on Saturday night, which is actually one of their bigger accomplishments this season.

8. Western Illinois, 0-3

Everything make sense again.