Mavericks versus Montana State preview

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

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

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

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

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

However, there is this.

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I gotta say: that’s pretty harsh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montana State has won their last 3 home openers.

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

 

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A month out game preview: Montana State

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copy and pasted from msubobcats.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Montana State

2014-2015 Record: 7-23

2014-2015 Home Record:  5-9

Final 2014-2015 RPI:  323

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Key losses for the Bobcats.

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

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

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

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

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


Key returns for the Bobcats

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

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

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

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


 

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

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