Meet future Mav Evan Tricker

I’m not one to get excited over highlight reels of athletes, but I love it whenever I see a highlight reel of a tall high school basketball player and it’s not just him dunking on kids at the YMCA a foot shorter than him.

Meet Evan Tricker, one of Omaha’s incoming freshman for the 2017-2018 season.  Tricker comes from the state of Florida, stands at 6’11” and will wear the number 33 to trick your mind into thinking the Mavericks just used the Create a Player option to replace Zach Pirog.

Tricker graduated high school in 2016 and played a season at a prep school.  He averaged 14 points and 9 rebounds a game in his post-graduate season.

He may be 6’11” but the kid weighs 185 lbs, so hopefully he can add some weight for the college level. Surprisingly, he has been listed as a power/small forward.  He has the height of a center, but has the ball handling skills of a wing player.  Watching the video, he can really run the floor and knock down jump shots with ease.  Looking at Tricker, he appears to have Pirog’s size with the skills of a John Karhoff.

With a relatively thin roster this season, Tricker could find some playing time this season but will still have to compete for minutes in the post with Daniel Meyer, Mitch Hahn, Tre’Sh(damn it), and other incoming post players.  With his jump shooting ability, you could see Tricker being used to spread out the floor and keep someone like Mike Daum out of the paint on defense.

Tyus versus Bradley: A match up we never expected

Thursday night will mark, probably, the last time that Marcus Tyus and Jalen Bradley face off against each other, a match up Maverick fans never expected to see.

Seeing Marcus Bradley and Jalen Bradley in Omaha gear for the first time gave me a mix of emotions.

The first time I saw Tyus in person, he was coming off the bench to play a Western Illinois squad in the Ralston Arena.  He came into the game, and it appeared as if someone replaced the muscle in his arms with paper mache.  He didn’t scored any points and had only had 1 rebound, and I just found myself wondering why the hell the Mavericks were not redshirting this kid for his own benefit, and for the benefit of the program having him another year when they officially had a chance at making the post season.  The Mavs decision to not redshirt Tyus was apparently made the day before the 2012-2013 season started.

I questioned what this skinny guy from Minnesota could do.  I remember searching the ends of the internet to find any information I could on this freshman, and there was nothing.  This was a time, where it was easy to question why a kid would want to come play basketball at a school transitioning to division one.  There was nothing out there, almost as if he never existed.

That same season, we saw another freshman of that recruiting class, Jalen Bradley, sitting at the end of the bench who was redshirting.  As a fellow Nebraskan, it was easy to know where to go to get the details on Bradley.  It was known that he was a great shooter, and probably needed to work on his defense and point guard skills.  The fans that showed up to games in 2012-2013 could watch Bradley come out before the beginning of warm ups, and watch him drain half court shots as easy as free throws.

Omaha was the only school to give Bradley a division one offer at the time, and I’m not sure how much stock you want to put in Omaha’s division one status at the time.  As far as I can tell, Omaha was also the only division one offer for Marcus Tyus.

The question I had back then was: why are the Mavericks redshirting this one kid who appears to have the exact same positives and negatives of this other kid?

This may sound as if I was resentful toward Tyus over Bradley as a freshman.  I was not.  Both players were part of maybe UNO’s best recruiting class, but perhaps the 2015 recruiting class will prove to be a bigger asset to the program.  With the Mavericks coming closer to post season eligibility with each passing season, it was understandable that the recruiting would improve year-after-year.

With the recruiting continuing to improve, I never imagined either Tyus or Bradley to become starters for the Mavericks.  I was always under the impression that they would have been the high energy and highly efficient guys first off the bench when the transition period was over.

The first impression of Tyus wasn’t great, but after time you could see there was a spark to his game.  At first, he may have seemed as just a shooter.  There was an efficiency to his game, something that many Mavericks at the division one level had not had.

He handles the ball with ease, and moves around screens into open shots or open lanes to get wherever he wants on the basketball court.  Tyus even rarely makes a pass that has you wondering what he could have possibly been thinking in that scenario, unlike many other stars that have come through the Maverick program.

In Tyus’ sophomore season, he saw a slight increase of minutes in the line up due to injuries to senior Justin Simmons.  At the time, it became maybe questionable as to why Tyus was getting the start over senior Alex Phillips.  Tyus’ efficiency on the offensive end could have been the deciding factor as to why he got the starting job.

From his freshman to his sophomore season, Tyus’ points per game average increased by 3.4 points per game, and his minutes only increased by 1.5 minutes per game.

While Tyus was seeing success, Jalen Bradley was struggling to see the court as a Maverick. Bradley only played 9 minutes per game as a freshman, which were mostly garbage time minutes, and his lone season as a Maverick was cut short due to an injury.  Still, when Bradley saw the court, he was never timid to score.  He averaged nearly 5 points per game in his limited time, shot 50 percent from the field, and 40 percent on threes.

With the addition of Devin Patterson, I’m sure Bradley felt he may never see the court with the Mavericks, and that maybe there was no role for him in Omaha.

Bradley’s transfer for more playing time was understandable, but when Tyus went down with an injury toward the end of 2014-2015, Bradley’s presence on the basketball court would have been much appreciated.

With the loss of Tyus, and having no Bradley, the Mavericks were left without an efficient guard who could knock down threes with ease.  Can you imagine Omaha with Jalen Bradley on the court in 2015-2016 without Marcus Tyus?  The Mavericks would have had a knock down shooter.  He would of had the bigger role he was seeking.

Even without an injury to Tyus, Bradley would’ve eventually found a role with the Mavericks by his junior season.  Both the Omaha and Oral Roberts coaching staffs have given him a high amount of praise for how hard of a worker he is in the gym and in the weight room.  He may have had even the same role at Omaha as he currently does at Oral Roberts, but obviously the cast of Omaha could be different at this point had he stayed.

But Bradley did leave, he averaged over 17 points per game in junior college, and picked up interest that led him to being a Golden Eagle, so we’ll never know what could have been.

I am not sure if there are any ill feelings from Bradley toward Tyus for being part of the reason he didn’t get a lot of playing time in Omaha, but in their first meeting as opponents, Bradley helped the Golden Eagles cruise to a victory and had 24 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, and only had 1 turnover while Tyus dealt with foul problems and only had 10 points.

According to the commentators, Bradley had his parents in attendance in Tulsa…and also according to them, you always play better in front of your family.  Bradley will surely have his Nebraskan family seeing him in Omaha Thursday night, and they will definitely show up to see the senior play in Vermillion, where his sister also plays basketball.

Back in 2012, we never envisioned a day that we would see Bradley and Tyus going up against each other.  As Mav fans, this might be awkward for us.  Rooting on Tyus to defend Bradley well, but still kind of okay with Bradley having a good game.

 

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings – Nov 16

1. Fort Wayne

A road loss to Arkansas should not raise any concern to Fort Wayne fans.  I hope no one is getting too crazy about Fort Wayne beating Division 3 Kenyon 117-60.

The biggest issue with the ‘Dons last year was their lack of depth.  They were able to play 9 players at least 10 minutes in the loss, and 8 of those guys scored.

Sophomore guard John Konchar had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists in Fayetteville.  This may be the guy better than Mike Daum.

2. North Dakota State

2-0 is a good start, duh, but the schedule may be the weakest out of all Summit League teams so far.  The lack of a post game could hurt the Bison down the road.  The Bison had 6 blocks against Arkansas State, who only had two players in their rotation that are taller than 6’6″.

3. South Dakota

It seemed like there were two ways for South Dakota.  Either somewhat okay, or really bad.  Starting off 2-0 is better than somewhat okay.  The Coyotes did beat a Missouri Valley team and  MAC team, but neither of them have been overly competitive in recent years…still, they won two games that could have been considered toss up games.

The newcomers on this team are improvements over what the Coyotes lost…which was just about everything.  If the Coyotes can get everyone on the same page, they may end up being far more competitive in the Summit than people thought.

Guy to watch:  Trey Burch-Manning.  He averages a 1 double-double per game right now.

4. Omaha

With a difficult schedule so far, the Mavericks could have just worn themselves out with 3 games in 4 days.  They should hopefully get some much needed rest before the fast paced Rice comes to Baxter Arena.

The improvement of Zach Jackson has been a nice lift for the Mavericks.  If Jackson can be a regular 10 point and 6 rebound guy, the Mavericks could compete with Fort Wayne this season.

5. South Dakota State

A tough schedule with two road games at Cal and UC Irvine shouldn’t have the faithful Jackrabbit fans mapping out the tallest buildings in Brookings.  The Jackrabbits shooting 29 percent over two games as a team should be a cause for concern, especially with their two biggest shot takers, Reed Tellinghuisen and Mike Daum, both shooting 32 percent from the field.

Another contributor who was expected to be an impact player went 0-for-10 in the Jacks’ two games.  There is still time to fix this, but the Jackrabbits have two more games on the road this weekend against Wyoming (2-0) and Idaho (1-0).

6. IUPUI

The Jaguars did have a tough schedule with two road games against Eastern Kentucky and Michigan, but Eastern Kentucky is a young team this season.  The Jaguars were competitive in the Summit League last year, partially, because of their scrappy defense, but they may not have that edge this season.

The Jaguars have showed little interest in caring about getting home games in the non-conference schedule, which makes sense when they can barely get 1,000 people to their home games.  The Jaguars have a home game against Howard on Friday, and then 6 straight road games.  They may only win three non-conference games.

7. Western Illinois

Some of their guys looked good against a NCCAA team.

8. Denver

The Pioneers are in the middle of changing their program’s culture.  Rodney Billups has some of the right pieces to transition into his new run-and-gun offense, but this team will have to learn to play a face paced defense.  They let Jacksonville score 92 points in Denver.

Billups did claim before the beginning of the year that Daniel Amigo could have a break out year this season, and he did have 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists against Jacksonville.

9. Oral Roberts

A 15 point loss to a Big 12 team and an 11 point win against a D2 team sounds weird.  Get ready for the most inconsistent team in the Summit League.

Does Tra-Deon Hollins have draft stock?

It’s a question that had been in my mind during months of not being able to watch college basketball.  Time I tried to fill a void with watching NBA Summer League, which is fine.  It’s wasn’t that fine really, I worked out a lot in that time and lost 20 pounds.  I also created my My Career player to be Tra-Deon Hollins

img_20161026_130208980

Anyway, Tra-Deon Hollins might be the most complete players that the Mavericks have ever had, and the first legitimate guy that the Mavericks have had to with a chance to at least make a NBA or NBDL roster some day.  Looking around at the three division one programs in the state of Nebraska, he may have the best shot at the NBA or NBDL out of players that would be eligible for the 2017 NBA draft.

Mock drafts do have Creighton’s Marcus Foster as a potential 2nd round draft pick at this point, but he is still a junior, so we’ll see if he wants to leave Creighton early.  The city is getting robbed out of Foster and/or Maurice Watson versus Tra-Deon Hollins.  It’s like Greg McDermott and staff stole candy from a baby and then threw it in a dumpster.

With Hollins’ talent, he brings some excitement to a college basketball team that is already a fun product to watch.  I’ve had friends that poked fun at Omaha even trying to become division one that have asked “who is that guy at UNO who leads the whole nation in steals?  I need to get out and see that guy.  That’s awesome!”

Is there a more complete player that you have seen around the Omaha area recently?  Some writers have actually referred to him as the most all around player in the country.  Kerry Mill of Bleacher Report named Hollins as one of the top 25 seniors in college basketball for 2016-2017.

After averaging 12.5 points per game, 4.8 rpg, 6.1 apg, and leading the nation in steals per game as a junior; it’s hard to find another player of recent memory that do the things that Hollins can. Hollins might be the most likely player in the entire country that would be capable of getting a quadruple-double in a game.

I guess one could claim that his 28% three point field goal shooting would never cut it at the next level, and Rajon Rondo would disagree, but in the second half of the season Hollins was able to shoot threes at nearly 40%.

Maybe the 12.5 points per game is not incredibly attractive, especially on a team that plays at such a fast pace.  It takes some time for junior college transfers to get into the groove at the division one level.  For Hollins, that offensive groove maybe started coordinating itself in late December, maybe?

From December 22nd and on, Hollins averaged 14.4 points per game, and had slower teams in that statistical stretch like Denver and Western Illinois in there.  This season Hollins could be the 2nd or 3rd scoring option in most games after Marcus Tyus and Tre’Shawn Thurman, and will also be the team’s primary ball handler.  The points and the assists are going to be on the rise.


Fun Fact: 4 of the last 5 players to lead the NCAA in steals per game all at least made the NBDL in some capacity.  The 5th, is Tra-Deon Hollins who still has one more year of eligibility.

2015-2016: Tra-Deon Hollins

2014-2015: Corey Walden (3.1 spg) played for the Maine Red Claws, and appeared in four NBA preseason games for the Boston Celtics.

2013-2014: Briante Weber (3.46) played for the Sioux Falls Sky Force in 2015, and the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat in the 2015-2016 season.  He even played in 2 playoff games for the Heat.

2012-2013: Duke Monday (3.1) was drafted to play in the NBDL but never made an official team roster.

2011-2012: Fuquan Edwin: (2.7) played for the Sioux Falls Sky Force, and has played on the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans Summer League teams in the past.

One may want to argue that Hollins’ 4 steals per game is inflated because of the high pace of the Mavericks and the fact that they have a higher quantity of possessions as compared to other teams.  I doubt Hollins is going to send an apology letter to anyone anytime soon for being responsible for creating 4 more possessions a game for the Mavericks, with his steals alone.


Maybe a pessimist would want to take a minute to claim that Hollins only looks good because of the weak competition he faces.  You know who else had to face that criticism?  Steph Curry and Damian Lillard.  I am not comparing Hollins to Curry or Lillard, just saying that it might be possible that some of the best guys out there get overlooked.

I did sit there at Weber State and watch Damian Lillard take on the Big Sky and think that I was watching a NBA point guard, while all of my wife’s Portland friends and family thought Lillard was too small for the NBA and a waste of a draft pick.  I’m just going to set a little nugget it out there: Hollins would be a better back up to Lillard than Shabazz Napier.  Okay, I’ve officially reached full out homer biased mode.

While Hollins has a small sample size so far, since he has only played in one division one season, he has played well against NCAA tournament teams.  In three games last season, two against South Dakota State and one against Colorado, Hollins averaged 17.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7 assists, 3.7 steals, and shot 58 percent from the field.  With a tough schedule this season, Hollins should be able to showcase his talents against four to five point guards that should be in the NBA or NBDL at some point.

Hollins has mentioned before that he loves the big games, and loves going up against the bigger competition.  If one wants to knock that he doesn’t go up against the best competition, can you imagine how much better he may get against even better competition?

Hollins will definitely have his day to showcase his skills on the court to professional basketball teams.  The small market teams love bringing in players from mid-major programs with maturity and confidence to play at the next level.  The Utah Jazz invited over 100 players to work out so the Jazz could analyze their talents.

If you don’t think Hollins is booming with confidence, take a look…

img_20160701_092250

Derrin Hansen also stated in a radio interview that the coaching staff was able to analyze that defenses were figuring out that Hollins would either take a three point shot or drive the ball to the inside and expected it by the end of the season.  So over the summer, Hollins worked to improve his mid range jumper as it was a weakness of his.  If the most all around player in college basketball fixed his biggest offensive weakness to become an even more all around player, he could become the deadliest player in college basketball.

Hollins was the most improved player for the Mavericks, and maybe the Summit League, as the season went on.  With his current skill set, maturity, work ethic, and confidence, he is only going to get better and better.

A month out game preview: Montana State

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

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

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


untitled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copy and pasted from msubobcats.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My trivial preseason Summit League rankings

I find preseason rankings dumb, but I admit they are fun to talk about for a couple minutes.  I laugh when football preseason rankings for conferences try to predict a conference record for each team and the math does not add up.  Everyone is going to go 8-1, 7-2, 6-3, and one team will go 0-9.  It’s cool.

So, I did something different.  From the time the conference schedule was announced, once a week I would go through the schedule and predict who would win based on different thought processes.  Who has the most new comers, who has the most coming back, who has the best defense, who has the best offense, who just sucks on the road, and so on.  I added up all the wins and losses and came up with rankings.  It’s dumb, and crazy what you can do with your time when your wife spends 50 hours a week in a research lab on top of working on her PhD.  It is more fun than Paul Finebaum telling you every SEC team will go undefeated except for two of them.

1. Fort Wayne

Win range: 12 to 13

Overview:  It appears to be difficult to find a big glaring weakness in the Mastodons.  They are athletic, and adaptable to play big or play in a small ball offense.  They replaced what they graduated with experience and even more (on paper) athleticism.  They are expected to have more depth this season to actually last through the entire Summit League Tournament at the end of the year, but hopefully they do not lose anyone to an academic issue.

Crazy Predictions:

  • If Jon Coffman continues to have Bradley transfer Xzavier Taylor come off the bench, Taylor will win the Sixth Man of the Year for the Summit League.
  • Fort Wayne will upset Arkansas in the first weekend of college basketball.

2. IUPUI

Win range:  11 to 14

Overview:  So, this is my bad.  At first, I thought IUPUI was the most stacked team in the Summit League and were incredibly under the radar, which is a bad combination for their opponents.  Since I started doing this, the Jaguars had two key contributors just leave the team with no explanation, and an incoming graduate transfer just disappear.

The Jaguars are not going to be the scrappy defensive team that they were last year, but should be expected to be an actual fluid running offense.  With the losses of Nick Osborne and Jordan Pickett from their bench, the Jaguars could be dropping to 4th or 5th already.  None of this is all going to stay to form, but damn it this is the idiotic system I chose.

3. North Dakota State

Win range:  10 to 12

Overview:  Kenpom gave the Bison the highest ranking in their preseason ratings.  They are the only team in the Summit League that made the top 100.

It was announced that junior guard Malik Clements will miss the entire season with an injury, which could be a blow to the Bison.  The team does have the depth to recover from this, but their bench is relatively young.

Junior forward AJ Jacobson is also out right now after having thumb surgery, but not expected to be out long-term.

Crazy predictions:

  • Deng Geu will win the Summit League Freshman of the year…he will give the Bison the much needed athleticism that they have needed at center for the last two seasons.  Geu will serve as a large impact when the Jackrabbits face some of the best post players in the league like: Mike Daum, Tre’Shawn Thurman, and Matt O’Leary
  • The Bison will win more than 20 games and end the season in the CBI.

4. Omaha

Win range:  11 to 13

Overview:  The Mavericks have put together a difficult non-conference schedule to figure things out about themselves early, for the money, and because they are confident in themselves…but probably mostly for the money.

If you heard anyone talk about the Mavericks, you would think they have 12 newcomers on the team.  They lost two All-Conference players, but with Marcus Tyus coming back, the Mavericks will be contending with Fort Wayne for the best back court in the league.

With the loss of Jake White, the Mavericks have to figure out what do in their post.  You could make an argument that Tre’Shawn Thurman is the best forward in the Summit League behind Mike Daum, but there will be nights Thurman gets into foul trouble and the Mavericks will need to find an answer those nights.  Zach Pirog’s weight went from 200 to 220 according to the official roster.  Let’s hope that is true and he can become an essential piece off the bench, along with Daniel Meyer.

Crazy prediction:  When South Dakota State visits Omaha, the attendance reaches 4,000.

5. South Dakota State

Win range:  6 to 11

Overview:  Mike Daum is obviously fantastic.  The rest of his team is rather unproven and has a number of questions.  Things could go really well for the Jackrabbits, or really bad in comparison to their expectations.

With the loss of three extremely valuable guards, and a few transfers, the Jacks appear to be asking their newcomers to be making up the most ground as compared to Fort Wayne, North Dakota State, and Omaha.

The Jacks landed two seniors as transfers to help make up for the loss.  6’7″ forward AJ Hess from Southern Utah, who ended 2015-2016 early with an injury and helped the Thunderbirds go 25-67 with him in the lineup.  Michael Orris, from Northern Illinois, is not known as a huge offensive threat at point guard, but could give defensive problems to some of the best point guards in the league like Tra-Deon Hollins, Mo Evans, and Kellon Thomas.  That is actually kind of scary.

The Jacks did not play two players expected to be contributors this season in their one exhibition game, Cole Gentry and Ian Theisen.  Not sure what is going on there.  I wish Omaha had exhibition games.  I get why they don’t, but it would be nice.

Crazy predictions:

  • South Dakota State will lose AT Denver
  • Mike Daum will not win Player of the Year, this year

6. South Dakota

Win range:  4 to 7

Overview:  This team reminds me of when the Mavericks had a relatively new roster with just CJ Carter and Mike Rostampour as the main characters returning.  The Coyotes have more talent than they did last year, but bringing together and finding chemistry on the court could be a large issue for this team.

Everyone in the Summit plays each other twice, but the roughest part of the Coyotes schedule is three away games in a row against Omaha, North Dakota State, and Fort Wayne.  Ouch.

Crazy predictions:

  • Nebraska fans will add South Dakota point guard Triston Simpson to the list of Nebraska natives that they are angry about that the Huskers did not recruit.  It gets worse since he is from Lincoln.
  • South Dakota will defeat North Dakota State in Vermillion

7. Denver

Win range:  3 to 6

Overview:  The Pioneers have some talent, but Rodney Billups is trying to change their entire culture.  They are also quite young, which can be a huge issue for a first year coach trying to change everything.

Not so crazy prediction:  LetsGoDU will write eight different pieces during the season on how the Pioneers should join a new conference.

Crazy prediction:  The Pioneers will go 0-8 on the road in the Summit League

8. Western Illinois

Win range:  1 to 4

Having a coach with the charisma and inspiration of a terrible avocado, the Leathernecks could have another long season.  They are going to pick up some stupid win and maybe even two where some team overlooks them.  Let’s just hope Omaha takes them, and everyone, seriously this season.

Crazy prediction:  Freshmen Jeremiah Usiosefe will become the second leading scorer for Western Illinois and be the Leathernecks’ hope for the future.  He will make the All Newcomer team.

9. Oral Roberts

Win range: 2 to 4

 This team appears as if they will be horrendous on defense, and will struggle to score the ball as well.  All good things.

Crazy prediction:  Like usual, the Golden Eagles have put together a difficult non-conference schedule…with this, they will not win 10 game this season overall.

A month out game preview: Iowa State

I’m sorry this isn’t exactly a month out.  I’m sure both of you that read this are so pissed right now.

omaisu

I find myself angry when Iowa State is brought up.  Not because of my sort of fan to the Iowa Hawkeyes, but because I never get them right in the NCAA Tournament.  Every year, I have them in the Elite 8 or Final 4, they lose in the first or second round.  Every year, I have them losing early, they make it further than I expect.  Every time I watch a football game of theirs and I root for them, they lose, but that’s just a normal Iowa State thing.  Still, Iowa State is my dark mistress that I cannot quite figure out.

How did you feel Iowa State would do when Fred Hoiberg left for the Chicago Bulls?  I personally thought they might slip back down to mediocrity and win typically less than 20 games a season, just as they did under Greg McDermott.  I admit that I thought that based off of literally nothing.

The Cyclones did pretty well in their first year under Steve Prohm.  Down by 14 at half, they stormed back to beat their nemesis Iowa after a half of basketball that made me think Jared Uthoff was using some alien advantage that gave him the skill sets of Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Mugsey Bogues, Patrick Ewing, and Larry Johnson.  At home, they picked up wins against # 1 (at the time) Oklahoma, # 4 Kansas, and # 24 Baylor.  They made it to the Sweet 16, and ended the season ranked 15th in the Coaches Poll.

This was with some NBA talent on the roster.  Georges Niang is now playing with the Indiana Pacers.  All college teams are losing players every single year, but losing a piece of 20.5 points per game and 55 perfect from the field to the NBA can be a large impact to a team.  Aside from Niang, the Cyclones also had 6’6″ forward Abdel Nader get drafted 58th by the Celtics, and is playing for their NBDL affiliate.  The Cyclones also graduated 6’9″ Jameel McKay who averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds as a senior at Iowa State and is playing professional basketball overseas.

That is a lot to lose, especially in your front court.  Not only that, the Cyclones lost their top assistant coach, TJ Otzelberger, who is taking over at South Dakota State.

The Cyclones went out and landed a couple of post players that are graduate transfers to help fill the void of their departed front court.  6’8″ Merrill Holden transferred from Louisiana Tech and is most likely to start at the center position.  Holden averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds a game for a team that went 23-10 and lost in the first round of the Vegas 16.  I mean, the Vegas 8.  I mean, a post season tournament.  I feel like I remember seeing Holden once had interest from the Mavericks out of high school or junior college, but I am not 100 percent sure on that.  Holden is a defensive center that could give Tre’Shawn Thurman fits in the post.

The Cyclones also brought in Darrell Bowie, a 6’8″ forward from Northern Illinois that averaged 10 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior.  The Cyclones replaced their professional basketball talents with blue collar type guys, which is not a bad thing.

The Cyclones still bring back talent.  Their point guard, Monte Morris, is currently projected as a 2nd round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.  Matt Thomas will be in the back court with him a 6’4″ shooting guard that shot 43 percent on threes last year, and was known as the Cyclones top perimeter defender.  Thomas replaced Nazareth Mitrou-Long in the back court after he was forced to sit the remainder of the season with an injury after playing in six games.  Mitrou-Long is apparently fully healthy again.  He averaged 10 points a game as a junior and shot 39 percent on threes that year.

Omaha fans may be getting robbed on a Tra-Deon Hollins versus Maurice Watson match up, but this Hollins versus Morris could be equally as good.  Maybe even better.  Actually, how about we just say it’s better since it’s actually happening.

With their legitimately good three point shooting, the Cyclones like to get out and run the ball and spread the floor.  This will be a high scoring game, and the Mavericks are going to need to defend the three, which was something they were not too bad at last season.

They will need to get cause problems to Iowa State and force some turnovers.  The Mavericks were one of the best in the NCAA at forcing turnovers last season, but the Cyclones and their returning back court were able to take care of the basketball.  The Cyclones were tied at 70th in the NCAA in turnovers per game with 11.6 turnovers a game and were 27th in assist to turnover ratio.

Given how hard the Mavericks play against teams like Iowa State, I think Omaha can keep this game close.  Considering that the Mavericks have a harder schedule leading up to this game, and could be worn down from all of their early season road games, I think Iowa State could be favored by 10 to 15 points in this game.

You also have to throw in how hard it is for a mid-major to go into Hilton Coliseum and pick up a win.  The Mavericks would need a few lucky breaks to pick up a win, or like 10 to 15 lucky breaks.