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.
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.