Creighton and UNO baseball are playing, but basketball…

Let me start out by saying, and maybe reminding you, that I like the Creighton basketball program.  I hope they do well, and I think the program is great for the city of Omaha.  I like to see all the Creighton athletic programs be successful in addition to the Huskers and Mavericks (obviously)…except for Creighton softball…I just have this unexplained animosity where I don’t like Creighton softball.  I try to watch every Creighton event on television that is available, but they are at the bottom of the three instate division one schools on my Give A Crap About Meter.

Now, I would like to awkwardly transition to say that I hate going to Creighton events because of how annoying I find Bluejay fans.  That is not to say that Maverick (or Husker) fans are perfect, by any means, but Creighton fans are a lot like 16 year old kids that start out driving and drive like they own the roads that they think belong to them; not to mention they think driving validates them to finally be respected as adults.  They turn into the adults that drive 40 through the Village Pointe parking lot and run stop signs because their lawyer is better than your lawyer.

Another awkward transition: Creighton and Omaha will again not be playing in men’s basketball next season.  This will upset Omaha Maverick fans and make the Creighton fans’ heads grow…or just go on with their days.

Creightonites will say things like: “We would beat them by 40 anyway” and “That game wouldn’t help us anyway.”

I have to ask, how are you so certain that Creighton would beat the Mavericks by 40?  I know you’ve seen very little basketball as you spend most of your time at Creighton games in concession lines for hot dogs, pretzels, and Bud Light; so how do you know this?  Have you heard of intangibles?  Do you really not think Omaha guys like Tre’Shawn Thurman and Tra-Deon Hollins are not going to outwork guys for 40 minutes on the Bluejays roster that have never even heard of UNO?

As a Maverick fan, I am not sitting here and claiming that Omaha would go into the CenturyLink Center and roll the Bluejays…I am not that guy, and I really don’t think many Maverick fans are in that group.  I’m more of a Let’s Have Some Fun With This Game kind of guy.  And since when has scheduling teams that Creighton can beat by 40 turned you off as casual basketball fans anyway?  The pregame analysis of every Creighton non-conference home game is just wasted time spent trying to legitimize every opponent that won 12 games in their previous six combined season seasons.  Is that the problem?  You don’t want to spend 8 seconds legitimizing UNO basketball?

I am not even sure what it means when Creighton people (and Greg McDermott) say “Playing UNO would not benefit our program,” and I am pretty confident that they have no idea what it means.  It’s been rumored, and confirmed by some local media Twitter accounts that UNO has offered to play a men’s game for free.  How did Texas San Antonio, Western Illinois, IUPUI, and Coppin State benefit you in such colossal ways that the Mavericks would not?  I’ll even go a step further here, how does playing Nebraska every season help them?

When was the last time we had just a solid player versus player match up that got us super excited for Nebraska versus Creighton?  Here is a list of 1 on 1 match ups to laugh at in this series.


2015

Geoffrey Groselle vs. Michael Jacobson

Mo Watson vs. Benny Parker

2014

Avery Dingman vs. Terran Petteway

Toby Hegner vs. David Rivers

2013

Okay, there was decent amount of anticipation for McDermott vs. Petteway

2012

The high octane slow and furious match up of Gregory Enchinique vs. Andre Almeida

Austin Chatman vs. Benny Parker

Jahenns Manigat vs. Ray Gallegos


2016 could be an incredible potential point guard match up between Tra-Deon Hollins versus Mo Watson.  We’re being robbed from seeing this happen.  Robbed!  It’s okay though, it’s not like Omaha is a big event town or anything.  People hate going to things here.  I’m getting goosebumps over the thought of paying 50 bucks to see Watson get 20 points and 10 assists against over some SWAC point guard who was listed as “pretty good in high school.”  A Tre’Shawn Thurman versus Cole Huff match up sounds pretty enticing as well.  And even Marcus Tyus versus Isaiah Zierden perimeter match up even sounds pretty fun.  Damn it, this game really does not nothing for Creighton.

In state programs do not have to play every single year, but the bigger programs need to play the smaller programs when they have someone that everyone agrees is a legit basketball player.  I was in Utah when Damian Lillard was with Weber State (similar in size to UNO)…Utah, BYU, and Utah State all had to take on Weber State that year.  It was what was best for them.  This is somewhat ignorant of me to see…Maybe they had some instate deal that year or something going on, I don’t know, I hated living in Utah.  I am not saying that Tra-Deon Hollins, or anyone with the Mavericks, is on the Damian Lillard level, but Hollins just led the nation in steals and he got better and better offensively as the year went on.  Hollins has even been compared to some Big East guards, and you’re seriously tell us this would do nothing for Creighton?

Creighton is like the older sibling that thinks they are really special and they see their younger brother trying to get bigger and better, and develop, so they have to mock and tease them to hide how insecure big brother is.  They don’t want to give the Mavericks the big stage of the CenturyLink for the casual fans* that attend their games to see the Mavericks actually play an exciting brand of basketball and grow some interest in actually paying money to go to the Baxter Arena to watch a basketball game…or even two!

*I’m not saying all fans at Creighton games are casual fans, but there is a decent chunk that are just there for the event.

Take Creighton baseball for example…the first year of UNO’s transition, they played twice and split games.  The Bluejays got a small taste of Oh Crap, Our Baseball Team Is Not THAT Far Ahead of Them.  The second year the two teams played in three games, one was even played at Werner Park, and Creighton won 2 of the 3 games.  It was so bad for the city to play that game at Werner Park, the Old Mattress Factory had pretty poor beer sales that day…and on a Saturday… The third and fourth years, the two went down to just playing one game, splitting those games over two years.  Now, it’s 2016, and Creighton baseball offered us a charity event for a division one baseball game on a Tuesday at 12:30.  That’s prime time for college baseball…in June.  How are their baseball season ticket holders no complaining about this game time?

While I know Mav fans are grateful that the two schools will finally play a regular season game in men’s soccer in 2016, the game is at 7 pm on Labor Day; which is exactly when people want to get out and go to an event in this town.

Let me throw this idea out there…it’s a long stretch, but UNO being a division one school was a long stretch for quite some time.

UNO just stops calling Creighton to do events.  For them, it will be like they are a girl that has a boy that keeps asking them out, and she keeps rejecting the boy.  The boy gives up and then starts talking to other girls, and the girl gets pissed that she’s not getting that attention anymore so she does something dramatic and weird.  Is that how middle school worked?

The Mavericks start asking out the Huskers.  Make that a yearly rivalry, convince them that Creighton can be the once in a while thing…if they feel like it.  Take the big event away from Creighton fans.  Taking the event away was lightly discussed during the Doc Sadler era, but Doc was a total dick about that sort of stuff.  I think the Creighton versus Nebraska men’s basketball game every year is the super bowl for Creighton fans.  It is their Batman versus the Joker boxing match set right in front of them.  Shit, play Huskers versus the Mavericks in the CenturyLink Center, let them bring their court up from Lincoln so they actually feel confident in that building…  Get UNK involved to come to Nebraska and Omaha in the same weekend for exhibition games, and then play each other.  You get three in state games in a week, keep that money in “the system.”

That plan will basically never happen, but it is a thought.  Wait, do we know someone’s dad?  That’s what Creighton people have taught me, anything is possible if you know someone’s dad.

Creighton better seriously start considering playing the Mavericks in basketball.  Some day the Mavericks are going to make the NCAA tournament, and the selection committee loves matching up potential in state match ups in the 2nd round.  You really want the first time you play UNO since their transition to be in the 2nd round after pissing them off for not playing them for years by not playing them?

 

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The Bison should roam the Summit again in 2017

So did you think the North Dakota State Bison men’s basketball team overachieved or underachieved in 2015-2016?  They finished 5th in the Summit League (after being picked 2nd by most people), but they had a fair amount of injuries (maybe even most in the Summit), and they were able to make it to the Summit League championship again.

The Bison are only graduating Kory Brown (10.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg) and Chris Kading (3.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg), so they will be returning 4 starters to their lineup.  On top of that they will be returning their top bench player, Dexter Werner, so on paper so far it sounds as if they can be at least good enough to return to the top half of the Summit League.

With three shooting guards committed, the Bison have one scholarship still open; and they are not a basketball program that really seeks out a lot of transfers from bigger schools or junior colleges.  After losing Lawrence Alexander, the team really prided themselves on replacing his 19 points per game with the guys they already had on their team.  Next Guy Up: I believe was their slogan.  Paul Miller boosted himself from 6.7 points per game his freshman season to 15.3 points per game into his second season.  Brown increased his scoring by 2 points, AJ Jacobson by 1 point, and the team did add sophomore Malik Clements (okay, I lied he came from a junior college) who averaged 6.3 points per game…so they were able to make up the scoring lost by Alexander.

The team can replace the 13.6 points per game that they are losing easier than they can make up the 19 points per game they lost from the year before.  It’s not really about just replacing x amount of points…you cannot just replace Val Kilmer (an average Batman) with George Clooney (terrible Batman) and expect to make a good movie.  Not that Batman Forever was great, but it wasn’t Kilmer’s fault.  Point is, I think, Brown and Kading did more than just score points.  They brought smart play when they needed it.  Losing smart players who bring defense and make big shots right when you need them can be a big loss for a team.  But…next guy up, I suppose.  When the Bison were at Omaha without Paul Miller, and AJ Jacobson was in foul trouble; Chris Kading and Kory Brown took the moment to just do more than scoring.

Chris Kading’s defense was really bothering Tre’Shawn Thurman for a stretch in that game.  Kading ended that game with 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks; but also every shot he made were instrumental to mounting a comeback for the Bison.  In the second half of the game, Jacobson was brought back in, as was Jake White for Omaha, and Jacobson couldn’t guard White or Thurman.  He couldn’t defend anyone driving to the basket, which is what helped Omaha from letting the Bison get the comeback win.  For a Bison fan, it was probably as sad as I was watching Batman & Robin.

It sounds as if the Bison are going to attempt to replace Kading’s production with their redshirt freshman Deng Geu.  Geu (it’s pronounced GOO) is 6’8″ with a lot of hop.  He said that the Bison wanted to add an outside shot to his game, so they are hoping to making him a shot blocking-jump shooting center who can get 2nd chance opportunities on the offensive end, so they want him to be Kading.  That’s what is odd, or special, or whatever, about Dave Richman, is that he is going to try and do the exact same thing offensively every single game.  Just run this stupid weave offense with the exact same pieces of the puzzle game after game.  Okay, it’s a successful plan obviously, but I would think it would get figured out after a few runs through the Summit League.

I thought the Bison were the anomaly of the Summit League this year.  Lots of injuries in the off season and regular season.  They are a pretty undersized basketball team, and also pretty slow for an undersized basketball team.  Malik Clements was listed at 6’3″ and 210 pounds, but he looked more like an unhealthy 230 pounds.  Players left the team at semester.  Carlin Dupree leaves the team in January over a dispute in playing time, and then comes back a month later just suddenly accepting that Khy Kabellis is better for the team as a starter. They had just a completely unwatchable game against IUPUI in the first round of the Summit League tournament, the way they played, anyone else in the Summit could have beaten them that day.  Paul Miller, the team’s leading scorer, was suspended for breaking team rules and could not play in their 2nd round game of the Summit League tournament.  Carlin Dupree, the same guy who was pissy about playing time two months ago, got the start to replace Miller against IPFW and scored 22 and 6 rebounds and hits timely shot after timely shot to lead the Bison over the top team in the Summit.  Dupree really bothered Max Landis in that game as well, if Paul Miller would have played more minutes in that game over Dupree, the ‘Dons may have actually won that game.  They then lost by 8 to South Dakota State, who maybe should not have been in the championship game the way they played against Denver and Oral Roberts, but damn it the Jackrabbits did it and played a really good game against Maryland in the NCAA tournament.  After this, the Bison didn’t get a trip the CIT, and I assume turned down a trip to the Vegas Mistaketeen.

All of this is why the Bison will probably be picked in the top 3 in the preseason rankings for the Summit.  These weird series of events, and the fact that they will be led next season by Dexter Werner and AJ Jacobson, who are the two most consistent players in the Summit League…though like stated, everything that the Bison do is based on doing the same thing over and over.  I’m sure if you played Texas Hold em with Dave Richman, he would be the guy that only bets to get in a hand if he has a pocket pair.

 

Summit League Predictions: Feb 10-13

I went 4-4 last week, and I have the confidence to go 2-6 this week.

If you’re wondering about my resume for predictions; I finished in the top 5% of ESPN brackets last season, so I’m kind of cool.  The worst my bracket has ever done was when I picked Kansas to win the whole thing and Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh hit a game winning shot to upset the Jayhawks.  Farokmanesh jogs on the same jogging path as me, and I have yet to scream at him, so I also have that going for me.

February 10th

South Dakota State (8-2) @ Omaha (7-4) on ESPN3

Badly want Omaha to be wrong on this game, it would be the biggest win they’ve had since transitioning to division one, but it is a really big challenge and Omaha would have to play nearly perfect.  The Omaha team we saw against Denver was far from perfect, and almost lost that game completely on fundamentals.  Omaha cannot win if Devin Patterson is 2-of-9, Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman are in foul trouble, and Randy Reed & Tim Smallwood are both hurt.

But hey, if Creighton can beat the # 5 team in the country on Tuesday, why can’t Omaha beat the # 45th-ish team in the country at home on Wednesday?

As much as South Dakota State has embarrassed Omaha since the transition, the Jacks are only a 3 point favorite tonight.

February 11th

IUPUI (7-4) @ Oral Roberts (3-8) on ESPN3

Obi Emegano only played 20 minutes in their first meeting and ended up fouling out, and hearing that would make you think IUPUI won the game.  The Jaguars were out rebounded by 12 and gave up 10 threes, though.  The Golden Eagles are on a 5 game losing streak and do not appear to have any momentum going their way, but IUPUI also dropped their last 2 games.  Oral Roberts had guys step up, who normally don’t step up to beat IUPUI, can they really do that again?

Look, I just think IUPUI is an all around better team.  Do you want to fight about it?

North Dakota State (6-4) @ South Dakota (3-8)

North Dakota State narrowly beat the Coyotes in Fargo last month, and Coyotes are a bad match up for the Bison…especially if Paul Miller won’t be playing for NDSU.  The Coyotes are going to force teams to shoot threes, and although they have the worst defensive three point field goal percentage in the Summit, the Bison do not have a lot of guys that can consistently hit threes outside of Miller and AJ Jacobson.

Something I would like to randomly point out about Omaha: The Mavericks are no longer last in three point field goal percentage in conference games.  They are 7th above South Dakota and Western Illinois thanks to Omaha shooting 41% on threes over the last three games.

Yeah, I think North Dakota State is a better overall team.  I don’t want to fight about it.

Western Illinois (1-9) @ Denver (5-6)

Western Illinois still has some fight in them, but the Denver players are really getting the hang of their system.  Western Illinois has yet to beat Denver since the Pioneers joined the Summit, and they have lost by an average of 11 points.

February 13th

North Dakota State (6-4) @ Omaha (7-4)

A sweep of the Bison?  You homer, you!

Paul Miller missed NDSU’s last game with a knee injury, even if he plays, can he be nearly as dangerous on a bum knee?  The Bison will struggle to score without Miller.

Of course I say that the Bison will struggle without Miller like a complete jerk, after NDSU just beat IPFW by 16 in Fargo.  The ‘Dons were playing that game with basically 6 players, more evidence to stick out there that IPFW is the least equipped team, of the top 4 or 5 teams in the League, to play 3 games in the Summit League tournament.

South Dakota (3-8) @ South Dakota State (8-2) on ESPN3

The Coyotes have still yet to win in Brookings since both schools joined the Summit League, and South Dakota has lost in Brookings by an average of 18 points.

Denver (5-6) @ IPFW (8-3)

IPFW only beat Denver by one in Denver.  IPFW should actually not be heavily favored in this game, Denver won 2 upsets last week by a total of 5 points.  This game could be another big game for Max Landis, and the Denver slow pace could be really good for him to have an efficient game.

Western Illinois (1-9) @ Oral Roberts (3-6) on ESPN3

Got to say, I don’t feel that confident in Oral Roberts here.  The inconsistency of both of these teams is incredibly scary to really make a call.  I am still going with I just can’t see Obi Emegano letting Oral Roberts lose to his former school.

Maybe the Leathernecks can win again if they barely play JC Fuller like they did against Omaha.  The kid has an awful shot selection, and Billy Wright decided to play De’Angelo Bruster a bulk of the minutes.  Bruster did not make any shots, but he only took 3, and he got his teammates involved and made some really good decisions on the court as a freshman.

The New Year’s Day Leatherneck-Maverick Bowl

Back from a trip to see the in-laws in Portland just in time to see some Summit League basketball.

Random Note:  I was wearing an Omaha Mavericks shirt out in Portland and ran into a guy with a Nebraska Cornhuskers who started a rant at me that the Mavericks “suck.”  I am still unsure what to make of the whole situation.  I tried to talk to my father-in-law about it, but he is a North Dakota fan, so that was worthless.

Anyway, it is 2016, and the Mavericks are still a full fledged member of division one.  The Western Illinois Leathernecks will be the first opponent for the Mavericks to try and build their record to get in good standing for their first trip to the Summit League tournament.  There is a good chance (or a bad chance depending how you look at it) that the Baxter Arena crowd may not be a large crowd in the conference opener.  College bowl season is going on today, students are back home (even though most UNO students hail from Omaha), and many people are still struggling to find dignity at 1pm on New Year’s Day.  The Mavericks started each season in the Summit League on the road, but this season they get a great chance to start out with a decent record with 2 games at home against Western Illinois and IUPUI.

What is there to know about the Western Illinois Leathernecks?

  • Record: 7-4
  • They beat Wisconsin at the beginning of the year, you may have heard of it.  You probably have not heard many positive things for the Badgers since that either, but hey let the Leathernecks brag about it to cover up their loss to Chicago State.  Oh wait, this sounds familiar.
  • They only played out out of the state of Illinois in 3 games in their non-conference schedule.  This is their second game in the state of Nebraska after losing to Creighton 97-67 in November.  Does this make you want the Mavericks to beat the Leathernecks even harder to hurt Creighton’s RPI?  I am not even sure if that would hurt Creighton’s RPI, but it wouldn’t help it.
  • Leathernecks beat Eastern Illinois twice, Omaha beat EIU once.
  • Garret Covington is pretty good at this basketball thing.  At 6’5″ and 180lbs, Covington is currently 3rd in the Summit in scoring with 17.4 points per game.  I don’t want to talk smack about Covington, but he does not really rank that well in any other statistical category…He is 10th in the Summit in free throw percentage.
  • JC Fuller appears to be the X-factor for the Leathernecks.  In wins, he is averaging 17.7 points per game and shooting 52% from the field.  In losses, Fuller is averaging 9.5 points per game and shooting 29% from the field.  Do the Mavs have a really good defensive guard to help slow Fuller down?  Yes…
  • Jabari Sandifer gave the Mavericks problems last season.  He is 2nd in the conference in assists behind Tra-Deon Hollins, and Sandifer is 2nd in the conference in Assists to Turnover ratio, so the match up between Sandifer and Fuller against Hollins and Devin Patterson appears to be a big factor in this game.
  • The Leathernecks were really excited for 6’11” freshman Brandon Gilbeck before the start of the season.  The frosh is averaging 3.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and has only made one free throw all season, so I am not sure if they are still super jacked about him or not.  The front line for the Leathernecks is deep with 4 guys that are 6’8″ or taller to play in the post, but none of them are half has good as Jake White or Tre’Shawn Thurman.

Since only one conference game has been played so far, and the non-conference schedule had completely different levels of competition for each Summit League team, I feel it is dumb to discuss team statistics at this point…and Western Illinois only played 11 games in their non-conference schedule when everyone else had 13 or 14 games…and 3 of their 11 games were against non-D1 teams…and they played Eastern Illinois twice…my teeth hurt right now.  But hey, the Summit League is currently 10th in RPI as a conference!

The Summit League RPI rankings as of December 31st…

37. South Dakota State

77. Oral Roberts

91. IPFW

120. South Dakota

153. North Dakota State

172. Omaha

212. Western Illinois

227. IUPUI

241. Denver


 

But hey, if you like Kenpom more…

57. South Dakota State

144. Omaha

160. North Dakota State

176. IPFW

181. Oral Roberts

193. Western Illinois

201. South Dakota

219. Denver

 

Can the Mavericks improve on 5 Summit League wins?

Sometimes I find preseason predictions pointless, other than starting a conversation about the upcoming season or letting people know what could potentially be the biggest games of the year, there is not really much of a point to it.

I mainly find them useless because of the methodology in ranking teams.  Many seem to just copy and past the standings of last year, and then make a small edit if a team had a high amount of turnover from last season’s roster.  But I came up with a plan to do this for the Summit League.  I was reading some preseason predictions for the Big 10 football season which was done by a bunch of ESPN writers.  Some made good points but they all had to come up with a record for each team, and the math did not always make sense.  One clown had Ohio State going 12-0 with a 8-0 Big Ten record and Michigan State going 11-1, and also with a 8-0 Big Ten record.  Seriously, how drunk and lazy and/or bad at math was that guy?  Or some guys would have two teams going 8-0 in conference, a couple going 0-8, and everyone else going 5-3.  The math didn’t add up and they were telling you that these teams would win these amount of games because they are Skeletor and they said so.

So I came up with a plan.  I would go through the Summit League conference schedule and assign wins and losses over the course of a number of weeks.  At first it was just: South Dakota State is a better team than Denver, so win goes to the Jackrabbits.  Then later, I would look at the difficulty of each team’s conference schedule.  Obviously, everyone plays each other twice, but there are some things that stick out; like how Denver is the only team with the highway to the danger zone in playing at North Dakota State and South Dakota State in back to back games.  Or how South Dakota and Oral Roberts are the only two Summit League teams without three straight games on the road in conference play.  Then things like Omaha playing on the road against someone on a Thursday, as road games on Thursdays appear to be difficult for most teams.  Actually road games are pretty difficult for anyone.  Then I would go through the schedule again and consider some teams’ strengths versus their opponents weaknesses.  Like how teams better be good at three point shooting against South Dakota as they forced teams to take the most threes with their defense…and other things.

But I assigned wins and losses to each game, and did it several times considering different factors.  Then I plain and simple would add up each team’s wins and losses to see who had the most after going through it about 15 times.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it better than just saying South Dakota State will go 15-1 in conference because of Jesus?  Probably.

Really, after going through all of this; I really do not see much separation between many of the teams.  South Dakota State seems like a clear cut favorite.  Then North Dakota State seems like they are 2nd best, but they really should not be as comfortable as one would think.  Then Oral Roberts-Omaha-IPFW-IUPUI-South Dakota appear to be in a fight for spots 3 to 7 with Denver and Western Illinois sitting at 8 and 9; but Denver is a difficult place to play; and Western Illinois, while not great last year, they do return basically everything.

So much of the 3 to 9 in the Summit League appears to come down to:

  • Who can stay healthy?
  • Who can win on the road?
  • Who can pick up a win against South Dakota State and North Dakota State?

But for the sake of length, I am going to just post about Omaha to get started and why they should win more games than their 5-11 record last season.  Then I will come out with the rest of the Summit League later.


Omaha

Range of wins:  7 to 11 wins

Boldest Predictions:  Will pick up win against North Dakota State at home, will sweep South Dakota

Clearly, I am biased in how well I think the Mavs could do this season.  The Mavericks finished 5-11, but they had 4 conference losses decided by one or two possessions.  I know it does not work this way, but the Mavericks could have finished 8-8 or 9-7 in the Summit League had just a couple more things gone their way.  There is also more to play for with the Mavericks this season, and they should have a slightly stronger home court advantage with their new arena being right on campus. The attendance for the Mavericks has risen each season since transition, and people in town are starting to take them more serious.  2012-2013 was probably the most fun season to watch, but Omahans did not seem to even notice.  UNO Men’s Basketball was that new television show that had some good looking commercials that got you interested; but it was pitted in the same time slot as Breaking Bad in it’s prime and Sunday Night Football.   Justin Simmons had some of the most exciting dunks you could possibly witness; but Doug McDermott was in the middle of one of the greatest careers in Creighton and NCAA history; and Tim Miles was bringing a personality to the Huskers.  Omahans were in the mode of thinking they’d like to go to a Mavs game, but never fully pulled the trigger.  A few years later:  Creighton is down and Nebraska is too young for locals to know what is happening.  UNO has a brand new arena, in a fun part of town, some local guys on the roster that can make some noise, and six seniors to help start the new era of the program.

The Mavericks also have a pretty good way to start conference play with Western Illinois and IUPUI at home.  2013-2014 started @ Western Illinois, @ North Dakota State, @ South Dakota State; and 2012-2013 was @ North Dakota State, @ South Dakota State, and then a month conference break before they had South Dakota and Kansas City at home before going back on the road against very good IPFW and Oakland teams.  Last year the Mavs started on the road @ South Dakota and Western Illinois, and then came back home for North Dakota State and South Dakota State, before going back on the road against Oral Roberts.  The Mavs are finally not being welcomed to the Summit League with the middle finger jammed in front of their face, so hopefully they can start league play with some momentum.  The most difficult part of the conference schedule is going to be three straight road games at Denver, and the Mavericks yet to have a good game in the state of Colorado; then at Oral Roberts which is one of the toughest places to play in the Summit League; and then at South Dakota State who is the preseason favorite in the league and swept the Mavs last season by margins of 19 and 22 points.

As far as what is returning to the Mavericks: they lost Mike Rostampour and CJ Carter, but they are returning 61% of their scoring; which is the 4th highest in the league.  Marcus Tyus and Devin Patterson as a returning back court is arguably one of the top 3 back courts in the league.  Jake White is hopefully healthy enough to give significant minutes when the conference season turns around, he is tied with his fellow teammate Tre’Shawn Thurman as the 2nd leading returning rebounder in the league.  Randy Reed and Tim Smallwood should hopefully finally have roles edged out to really help this team improve.  Lack of depth was an issue for this team last season, but newcomers Zach Pirog, JT Gibson, and Tra-Deon Hollins sound as if they can really help the Mavericks improve on some of the weaknesses the Mavs had in 2014-2015, and add some needed depth to this team.  This team can go big, it can go small, it has adaptable lineups that can go up against anyone in the Summit.

From what I could tell, the preseason predictions biggest concerns with the Mavericks are that they cannot make up for the loss of Mike Rostampour and CJ Carter.  Okay, everyone loses someone in college athletics, but should we really be concerned about losing two guys that were not recruited to ever play in a Summit League conference tournament?  So really, why are people so hard on them for losing Rostampour and Carter, but no one is hard on IPFW for losing Steve Forbes and Joe Edwards; or South Dakota for losing Tyler Larson and Brandon Bos; or Oral Roberts for losing half of their team?  Please don’t take this as a Rostampour and Carter Were Not Unimportant thought… The Mavs would not be the same without them.  The point is, it does not seem like the Mavericks are asking as much out of their newcomers and returning players as much as other teams.  They are asking Jake White to be healthy enough to score 2-4 more points and grab a couple more rebounds, which I realize is easier said than done; Tre’Shawn Thurman to continue to improve; Tyus and Patterson to be more consistent; and Reed and Smallwood work more on their roles that they established toward the end of last season.  Other than North Dakota State and South Dakota State, everyone else appears to be asking guys to come in and be stars or huge impacts right away.  One thing that does scare me about Omaha finishing in the top half of the conference is the injury to Marcus Tyus.  He’s coming off ACL surgery that he injured in February.  Being ready in full form throughout November, December, and January just seems like a lot to look for at this point.

Who has the best Big 3 in the Summit League?

Basketball, meh, mainly the NBA has entered into an era of looking at teams by asking the question: Who has the best Big 3?  Having a Big 3 certainly is key, but really I think it’s just as important to follow up with who has better role players to back up Big 3?  Could the 2008 Boston Celtics have won an NBA championship without their young starters Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, and older bench players of PJ Brown, Sam Cassell, and James Posey?  But while we are on the subject, that I brought up, let’s take a look at who could have the best Big 3 in the Summit League in the 2015-2016 season.


 

SDSU:

Jake Bittle, George Marshall, Deondre Parks

There is little doubt that the Jackrabbits will have the best guard trio in the league.  Each averaged double figures in scoring, and all three can defend the perimeter.  Each averaged double figure scoring, and Bittle has the highest field goal percentage of any returning player to the Summit league at 53.4 %.  The Jackrabbits also have 3 of the top 5 returning players in 3 point field goals made, Marshall made 64 threes in 2014-2015 and he did not even play the entire season.  The big question mark is; with Cody Larson graduating, who is going to rebound and defend in the post for them?

The Jackrabbits are returning 74% of their scoring from 2014-2015.
The Jackrabbits are returning 74% of their scoring from 2014-2015.

Role Players:

Reed Tellinghuisen, 6-6 SO:  If you look at the Jackrabbits fan forum, someone posted pictures of Tellinghuisen lifting weights, which is not weird at all.  He does appear as if he has added some weight onto his frame, which is great as he will be used more at the 4 position in his second year as a Jackrabbit.  The Summit League has Tellinghuisen, AJ Jacobson, and Tre’Shawn Thurman all in the same class at the forward position.  How excited are you for 2017-2018?

Connor Devine/Ian Theisen:  These two split time and basically taking turns of who was backing up All Conference player Cody Larson.  These two combined for for almost 5 points and 4 rebounds per game.  With a young front court, these two will be counted on more in the 2015-2016 season to step up.

Skyler Flatten, 6-6 SO: Flatten was actually getting a decent amount of minutes, but then something happened.  George Marshall happened.

Keaton Moffitt, 6-5 SR:  Keaton Moffitt also happened.  The transfer, from Division 2 Sioux Falls, made quite the impact on his team with his leadership and hustle, routinely making big plays when it was needed most.


 

Omaha:

Devin Patterson, Tre’Shawn Thurman, Marcus Tyus, (Jake White)

The Mavericks could have a Big 4 if Jake White is healthy, with as many injuries as he had in his junior season, it is going to be like getting an entirely new player in the line up.  It seemed as if the entire team faced injuries issues last season, so if the Mavs can stay healthy, they can be a very dangerous team in the Summit League with their senior back court of Patterson and Tyus to go along with their rising sophomore star Tre’Shawn Thurman.

Random stat:  The Mavericks have the most experienced roster with the average eligible player being 2/3 of the way through their sophomore season, but they have the smallest roster with an average height of 6’4″.  If Zach Jackson, Ben Kositizke, and Zach Pirog all redshirt, the roster gets even smaller, but more experienced.  It is still up for debate if this is one of the meaningless things I have ever posted here.

The Mavericks are looking to make a big jump with a new arena and new era.
The Mavericks are looking to make a big jump with a new arena and new era.

Role Players:

Tra-Deon Hollins, 6-2 JR:  Averaged 17 ppg, 6.2 rpg, and 5.3 apg his freshman season of junior college, he appears to be a little bit of everything, and can really help the Mavericks improve their perimeter defense.

Daniel Meyer, 6-9 SO:  Only averaged four and a half minutes a game in 2014-2015, but he is likely to see an increased role with the graduation of Mike Rostampour and the departure of fellow redshirt freshman Rylan Murry.  Meyer appeared to play with a lot of activity on the team’s trip to Italy.

Randy Reed, 6-6 SR:  I’d like to see Reed’s shot chart, I cannot think of many jump shots Reed made, or took.  He really can slash and get to the basket though.  When Marcus Tyus missed the last 6 games of the season, Reed really did a decent job of bringing energy off the bench.  There were many instances in the Mavericks’ home game against Oral Roberts that he made a play to keep Omaha in the game.  I would think with not a ton of post players around the Summit League that Reed will be used as a backup 4.


 

NDSU:

Kory Brown, Carlin Dupree, AJ Jacobson

After losing the Summit League player of the year, Lawrence Alexander, the Bison will look to replace that offense in their back court.  AJ Jacobson said in a Q&A that the Bison are all about a team effort, and know that there is a next one up to take Alexander’s place.  It will probably actually be two up with Kory Brown and Carlin Dupree to take the load on offense over.  Seriously, this team is starting to become the HYDRA of the Summit League.

While this team is still relatively young, they seem to have completely bought into Dave Richman’s schemes.  A Big 3 probably does not really matter to the Bison, they appear to be ready for anything.  Looking at their roster, they probably have the most complete roster in the Summit League.  It is also probably worth nothing; that while the Bison are a young team, their roster has the most division one starts on the active roster for 2015-2016 with 197 starts.  Kory Brown is after all a 4 year starter…assuming he is going to start this season.

The Bison will continue to work as a team after the loss of Lawrence Alexander.
The Bison will continue to work as a team after the loss of Lawrence Alexander.

Role Players:

Chris Kading, 6-8 SR:  Kading averaged 5.3 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game in 2014-2015.  He is not much of a threat on offense, but he does rarely make mistakes.  Actually the Bison rarely make mistakes as a team.  Kading led the Summit League in blocks per game.

Paul Miller, 6’4 SO:  Miller averaged 6.7 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game, while making 37 threes in his freshman campaign, which is all impressive considering he was sharing the back court with the likes of Lawrence Alexander, Kory Brown, and Carlin Dupree.  He also had 10 games in which he scored in double figures.

Dexter Werner, 6-6 JR:  Had a massive jump from his sophomore to his junior season going from 2.8 points per game to 8.4 points per game.  He also only averaged under 20 minutes per game in 2014-2015.  With Werner coming off the bench, he and Jacobson allow the Bison to be extremely tough at the 4 position for 40 minutes.  It also allows Jacobson to move over to the 3 and play more outside, which is not a bad thing for them.  Werner was second on the team in blocks per game, and is tied with Omaha’s Tre’Shawn Thurman as the 2nd leading shot blocker returning to the league.


 

IUPUI:

Marcellus Barksdale, Darrell Combs, Nick Osborne

A bunch of new faces for IUPUI, which is not a terrible thing.  Marcellus Barksdale is the team’s returning leading scorer, but he can easily fall to the team’s 2nd or 3rd best scorer on the team.  Eastern Michigan transfer Darrell Combs is ready to go and has shown he can get buckets.  I cannot wait for the “combing the court” puns from terrible ESPN3 commentators.  Loyola-Illinois transfer Nick Osborne is expected to make a big impact on this team as well, and will more than likely serve as the team’s primary post presence, as he and other Loyola-Illinois transfer Matt O’Leary are the only upperclassmen post players on the team.  Osborne was known for getting into lots of foul trouble when he was a post player for Loyola.  The Jaguars are going to look entirely different this season.

The Jaguars exceeded expectations in 2014-2015, what can they do with a group of new and improved players?
The Jaguars exceeded expectations in 2014-2015, what can they do with a group of new and improved players?

Role Players:

Seriously, how many 6’5″ guards do the Jaguars need?

Aaron Brennan, 6-6 SO:  Averaged 6.4 points per game in 2014-15 and started in 24 games, but could be moved to the bench with the additions of Osborne and O’Leary.  Not a bad thing for your team to have a guy on your bench with 24 career starts as a freshman.

DJ McCall, 6-5 SO:  Averaged a shade under 5 points per game and had 15 starts on the year.  Could also see an increase of minutes with the graduations of Elijah Ray and Khufu Najee.

The further I get into this, I realize that the entire team is a group of role players.

 


 

South Dakota

Tre Burnette, Tyler Flack, Casey Kasperbauer

I admit that throwing Flack’s name into the mix is a risk.  Due to an injury, he has yet to play under Craig Smith, but Craig is probably going to like using a 6’7″ guy who shot 45% on threes in his sophomore season.  Combine that with Casey Kasperbauer ranking 95th in the nation last season in threes made, and South Dakota will rely on the three ball a lot this season, again.  The trio can really make up for the losses of Tyler Larson and Brandon Bos from last season.

Tre Burnette is the Summit League’s leading returning rebounder from 2014-2015, and Kasperbauer has the most three point field goals made of any returning player to the League, he also has the 3rd highest three point field goal percentage of any returning player.

South Dakota lost 56% of their scoring, that is the most in the Summit League.
South Dakota lost 56% of their scoring, that is the most in the Summit League.

Role Players:

Trey Norris, 6-0 Sr:  Came off the bench in his junior year after being a starter in his sophomore season, but will compete for the starting point guard position with incoming JuCo player, Shy McClelland.  Norris had a drop off in production from his sophomore season under coach Smith, but he can still be a capable part of the offense for the Coyotes.

Eric Robertson, 6-8 Sr:  He made the game winning shot over the Mavericks in Omaha, right?  I just remember the beard, and being incredibly angry.  I do not completely blame him for the Mavericks’ loss, it is just the final image I have in my mind of that game.  Perhaps an increased role in his senior season with the departure of James Hunter, but Craig Smith did a decent job recruiting two 6’9″ freshman (Tyler Hagedorn and Dan Jech) that he may be intrigued to get to the top of the rotation immediately.


 

IPFW

Mo Evans, Max Landis, Joe Reed

I continuously forget about the existence of Max Landis, but he is on the team, I swear it, and he was 4th on the team in scoring last season.  The ‘Dons lost a lot of their post game, and they do not appear to have much replacing what they lost, so the team could rely a lot on Mo Evans to be a star.  Landis will be there to shoot the three, and Joe Reed will need to be counted on even more to be a stretch 4 than he has before.  Seriously, this is the first time we have seen the ‘Dons without a serious threat of a stretch 4.  Yep, first time in 5 years?  Reed did shoot 36% from behind the line last year, but did not take many as he only made ten on the year.  The team will be counting on two junior college transfers to fill the void of what they lost from last season, and will need them to adjust and contribute quickly.

Side note:  The ‘Dons will have transfers from Louisiana Tech, Purdue, and Bradley all eligible to play in 2016-2017.

The 'Dons have the fewest number of Division 1 starts by players on their roster.
The ‘Dons have the fewest number of Division 1 starts by players on their roster.

Role Players:

Andrew Poulter, 6-11 JR: Played in seven games his redshirt freshman year at Arkansas-Little Rock before transferring to Western Texas for his sophomore season, where he averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds per game.

DeAngelo Stewart, 6-6 JR:  Played his freshman season at Alabama State before transferring to Northwest Tech in Kansas for his sophomore season.  Averaged 16 ppg, 6 rpg, and shot 47% from the field in his sophomore season.  A few people have already tabbed Stewart as the Newcomer of the Year in the Summit League.

 


 

Western Illinois:

Garret Covington, JC Fuller, and Jabari Sandifer

It is hard to determine who the Leathernecks’ third best player is behind Covington and Fuller.  Sandifer was the third leading scorer on the team with 7.4 points per game, and he also led the Summit League in assists with 4.3 per game.  He even had a great opening weekend in the Summit with 22 points and 4 assists against IPFW and 20 points and 6 assists against Omaha, but then he was basically never heard from again only scoring in double figures one more time through the season.

Western Illinois actually has a lot of experience on their team, but how much faith can you put in a team that has gone 1-27 on the road in the last two seasons.  The last time they won a road game was January 30th, 2014 against IPFW.

The Leathernecks return 89% of their scoring, can they see improvement if they stay healthy?
The Leathernecks return 89% of their scoring, can they see improvement if they stay healthy?

Role Players:

Mike Miklusak, 6-6 JR:  Played in 15 games because of a season ending injury  He had 21 points and 7 rebounds against Omaha.  I am putting my head down right now.

Jamie Batish, 6-4, SR:  A bit of an inconsistent guard, but gives the Leathernecks an option on offense after averaging 6.4 points per game in his first season with the team.  He had 15 points in a win against Omaha.  Seriously, I am going to punch myself in the face right now.

Tate Stensgaard, 6-8 SR:  Played in 20 games before facing a season ending injury.  Has shot over 56% on his career as a Leatherneck.


 

Denver:

Marcus Byrd, Nate Engesser, Bryant Rucker

Honestly it is pretty difficult to analyze a team’s Big 3 when they run the Princeton offense.  Excuse me, I have to take a break, I just had a random memory of Barry Collier being a terrible basketball coach.

Okay, I am back… With their offense you need guys that take high percentage shots.  These three seniors-to-be had a combined shooting percentage of nearly 50% from the field and 42% on threes.  Marcus Byrd has the highest three point field goal percentage for any player returning to the Summit League.  The Summit League has been more difficult for Joe Scott and the Pioneers than it was for them against the Sun Belt and WAC, which hopefully is not all that surprising.  The Pioneers have gotten worse each of the last three seasons going from 22 wins to 16 wins to 12 wins, can they go for 10 this year?  With their high shooting percentage, the Pioneers can always be in a game, but with the Summit League having so many good shooters, teams have been able to take over games down the stretch.  It is pretty difficult to beat at home as they are 32-13 at home over the last 3 years, and last year they lost 7 games at home by a combined total of 39 points…one of those games was a 16 point loss to IPFW as an outlier.

Denver does not care about a Big 3.
Denver does not care about a Big 3.

Role Players:

Daniel Amigo, 6-10 SO:  5.7 ppg, 46 FG%

Jake Pemberton, 6-3 SO: Likely to see an increased role with the graduation of Brett Olson and Cam Griffin.


 

Oral Roberts:

Obi Emegano, Brandon Conley, Scott Sutton

With Korey Billbury and Bobby Word departing from the team, I really cannot come up with who is going to make up a Big 3 for the Golden Eagles.  On paper, it looks kind of rough for Oral Roberts and coach Sutton, but Sutton is probably one of the top coaches in the Summit League and entering his 17th season as the head coach of the Golden Eagles, so they cannot really be counted out, especially if they arguably the best player in the conference.  You want to talk about new faces?  Oral Roberts is going to be like trying to figure out who is joining the cast of another Expendables film.

Obi Emegano is a popular choice of Preseason Player of the Year.
Obi Emegano is a popular choice of Preseason Player of the Year.

Role Players:

Seriously have no idea what will be happening with this team.  Perhaps this is what happens to a team when they change conferences so often…naw what I mean Denver?  Brandon Conley is probably the only for sure thing on the team, everyone else seems to be the mystery man with his trigger on the finger.  The Golden Eagles can probably get above .500 in the conference with Emegano and Sutton though.

 

 

 

2015-2016 opponent preview, Game 5: Minnesota Gophers

I am sitting here looking at the basketball schedule and many things go through my mind as I see the Minnesota Gophers.

  • Minnesota is only about 6 hours away
  • The state of Minnesota is known for Juicy Lucys, and no one here in Omaha has really perfected it
  • The Mavericks played the Gophers pretty close when these two teams met in 2013
  • The Mavericks have 3 players from the state of Minnesota
  • Could this game be on the Big 10 Network?
  • Am I the only one who thinks Richard Pitino is a little overrated?
  • Do we have a shot here?
  • This will be the Gophers first game back after a trip to Puerto Rico
  • UNO Hockey plays Ohio State the same day basketball plays Minnesota, and possibly at the same time?
  • Minnesota has not lost a true home game against a Mid Major team since 2006…they were really bad in 2006-2007
  • Does the internet have enough Minnesota Gophers/Caddyshack memes?

The first thing I want to ask myself when I see this schedule is: Should I make the trip?

As noted above, Minnesota is not a difficult drive unless the weather is not cooperating.  I debate several times a year for a reason to go up to Minneapolis.  While it is only a 6 hour drive, probably less even, it would feel even longer as I would sit in excitement like I am Buddy the Elf impatiently waiting for Christmas.  I would be thinking of that first sweet bite of bliss as I bite into a Jucy Lucy burger, and the idea that the Mavericks could potentially pull off this upset.

This thing is seriously life changing.
This thing is seriously life changing.

A few scheduling conflicts that come to my mind are; the Nebraska-Iowa football game; and the UNO hockey game against Ohio State.  Since the game time of the Mavericks at Minnesota has yet to be posted*, it is tricky to determine if I could make the trip, listen to the football game on the radio during the drive and watch the hockey game from Minnesota or listen to it on the radio on the drive back.  So many burning questions that need to be answered.


Could this game be on the Big 10 Network?*

The last time the Mavericks and Gophers faced off, the game was played on BTN.  My wife and I had a few friends over, for something actually completely unrelated, so I definitely had the game going on in the background.  Turning on the game we thought the game could get ugly, but it was ugly for Minnesota in the beginning.  A friend of mine, who did not and still does not pay attention to the Mavericks, but he is a big college basketball fan (he is a Husker fan, it’s cool).  He was completely impressed with the shooting of the Mavericks.

At first, I thought the game could get out of hand, as Justin Simmons was slowed by injury.  My friend and I were completely surprised by the shooting of Alex Phillips that game.  Every time the Mavericks needed a 3, Phillips showed no fear taking it.  With no prior experience watching the Mavericks, my friend thought Phillips was the star of the team.  Phillips (along with Caleb Steffensmeier and Matt Hagerbaumer) really brought energy and experience off the bench for that Mavericks team.  The Mavericks do not have that same dynamic this season, but hopefully seniors Randy Reed and Tim Smallwood could bring the experience, and new guards Tra-Deon Hollins and JT Gibson can bring the energy.

Marcus Tyus had 11 points and 5 rebounds against the Gophers in 2013-2014
Marcus Tyus had 11 points and 5 rebounds against the Gophers in 2013-2014

I just realized how I got off track here.  Anyway, the game was on BTN, there was drama to that game, could the network pick up the Mavericks-Gophers again for a live broadcast?

*So I looked it up after typing all of this out.  The game time is currently not posted on omavs.com, but the game is listed as a 2 pm start time on ESPN3 on the Gophers’ website.  With that in mind, 2 pm brings up a few different scenarios of stuff to do.  

If DJs Dugout or Dudley’s Pizza could stream the game, this could create a watch party at either place, and create for great pre gaming for the hockey game against Ohio State…nice.  

Or yes, one could drive to Minnesota listening to the Husker game on the radio, go to the basketball game, and then hopefully watch or listen to the hockey game on the radio.  That is a big day.

OR, your significant other could throw a big wrench in your plans and tell you that you have to put up Christmas decorations all day and you have an event with your in-laws because you did something with your family on Thanksgiving.


Do the Mavericks have a chance?

So after checking out what most Big 10 beat writers had to say, almost every single one had Minnesota ranked 11th in the Big 10 in the incredibly worthless “Way too early rankings.”  Much of this is based on the fact that the Gophers had big expectations for 2014-2015, but instead they came in 10th and failed to make the post season.  With that in mind, the Gophers lost their two leading scorers, most of their experience, and they will be a pretty young team this season with 6 freshman and 4 sophomores.  They also have two juniors that transferred into the program but will be sitting out during the 2015-2016 season.

The Gophers do not have much talent in their post game, as the two juniors that are sitting out after transferring are basically a bulk of their talent in the post.  The Gophers do have 6’9″ senior Joey King, who could pose a threat to the Mavericks, but King does play more like a guard with literally half of his field goals made in 2014-2015 being three point field goals.  King only averaged 3 rebounds per game in his junior season, and has only had a total of 11 games with 5 or more rebounds in his entire three year career between Minnesota and Drake.  While King is mostly a threat on offense, and the Gophers lack an inside presence, the Mavericks could feel comfortable with forwards Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman to guard King on the outside, as both appear comfortable stepping out and playing defense.

The biggest threat the Gophers have is 6’5″ senior Carlos Morris, who can do a little bit of everything, averaging 11 ppg, 3 rpg, 2 apg, and 2 spg in his junior season while shooting 45% from the field and 36% on threes.  The scariest thing to think about is who the Mavericks will use to guard Morris.  Could Minnesota go with Morris at the 4 with their lack of size?  If so, look to Thurman and/or Randy Reed to try and contain Morris in this one.

While Minnesota had a decent recruiting class and signed two talented point guards, their young guards are going to have to go up against seniors Devin Patterson, Marcus Tyus, and Smallwood; as well as junior Tra-Deon Hollins.  Patterson loves these games against the bigger schools.  A stat that I love to bring up is that in 5 career games against Power 6 teams, Patterson has averaged 16.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.6 spg, and shot 55 % from the field and 35% on threes.  Tyus has shot 52% from the field and 48% on threes in 9 career games against Power 6 teams.

Please note that if these figures seem off as compared to earlier posts (assuming you have actually read any of these posts), it is because I realized I forgot to include Kansas State into those figures earlier.

Not to mention the Mavericks were scaring the crap out of Gopher fans for about 30 minutes of the game the last time these two teams played.  That Maverick team had a little bit of a different look, but actually so do the Gophers with only one player (King) that played in that game.  Patterson and Tyus combined for 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists in that game.

With the Mavericks having seniors Jake White and Marcus Tyus*, along with freshman JT Gibson, looking to have big games in front of their home state fans, the Mavericks will more than likely be looking to work harder to push on for a win against the Gophers.  Out of the three games the Mavericks have this season against power conference teams, this could be the Mavericks best chance at getting an upset.  I say that without even really getting into Missouri yet.  This is what is making it difficult to pass up a chance to make the drive to see the Mavericks take on Minnesota.

Mav freshman was the 2014-2015 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year for basketball
Mav freshman was the 2014-2015 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year for basketball

I just realized that I am not even 100% sure that Marcus Tyus will be back and ready at this point.  I just kind of assumed, because there was actually (minimal) debate of him playing in Italy.

I am not saying it is a guarantee that the Mavericks will win this game.  I am not Paul Finebaum claiming that the SEC football teams will go 56-0 in non-conference play because God spent days 8 to 13 creating what we now know as SEC football.  I am saying the game should at least be entertaining, and that the Mavericks do have a chance to win this game if they play big.  Seriously though, imagine how crazy the UNO Maverick Maniacs would be at a Ohio State-Omaha hockey game hours after a Omaha win at Minnesota.  We are talking villagers storming Dr. Frankenstein’s house crazy.