The Mavericks face North Dakota with more at stake than it just being the last home game of the season

This last Maverick home game will have more factors than “I’m just a simple cave man. North Dakota on road – bad; Omaha at home – good.”

JT Gibson and KJ Robinson already played their Senior Day at Baxter Arena, but unless Omaha plays a CIT or CBI game at Baxter Arena* this will be their game in Omaha.

*Highly unlikely they accept a CIT or CBI invite, if offered.**

**Though, maybe they’d benefit from giving post season experience to the young core of Wanjang Tut, Zach Thornhill, Marlon Ruffin, and Darrius Hughes.  Actually, can we just schedule a late season exhibition game against the Huskers in Baxter Arena?  That should be their punishment for – a lot of stuff.

The Mavericks will be entering this game on a three game winning streak, aiming to build momentum for the Summit League Tournament.  The Fighting Hawks come to Omaha facing consistent inconsistency, winning then losing every other game for the last seven games in a pattern.  If they continue the pattern, North Dakota will lose this game.  It’s not about patterns, and according to Steve Smith’s commentary on NBA 2k20 – This is WHY we play the game!

With the exception of a few, most Summit League teams have been bad on the road this season, so it’s easy just to say Omaha has the dominant advantage against North Dakota.  The Fighting Hawks did win their last road game in Macomb, though.  A three point win, they also had a recent three point win against North Dakota State over the weekend.

Facing injuries and players adapting to a new system, North Dakota has had an inconsistent season.  However, with three seniors capable of hitting clutch shots and decent three point shooting, the Fighting Hawks keep themselves in games.

Last year in the Summit League Tournament, when Omaha and North Dakota faced in the first round, the Mavericks appeared to be the better team, but the Fighting Hawks just wouldn’t go away as they kept knocking down threes.  The same thing happened in Grand Forks in January.  Omaha was up 10 points with 13 minutes to go, but North Dakota went on a run to keep the game close.  They again just wouldn’t freaking go away.  Marlon Stewart is a player who won’t let his team just go away.  Which, is pretty respectable.

Matt Pile and Filip Rebraca battled in Grand Forks forcing both to bad offensive games, but both grabbed double digit rebounds.  Pile struggled on the road against Fort Wayne and Western Illinois, and the Mavericks won both games, but if Pile can make an impact on offense against North Dakota, he could be the difference between the game being close down the stretch, or the Fighting Hawks not going away.  Denver couldn’t stop Pile late in the Mavericks’ latest home game, and it helped put Denver away and keep the Mavericks going to a 23 point win.

Both teams can go on hot and cold streaks, and the Mavericks will want to play as well as they most recently did in Baxter Arena against Denver, if they want to keep North Dakota away from a lead late in the game.  The Mavericks let Kobe Webster keep it close on Saturday in Macomb.  That’s right, I said Kobe Webster, since he was the only Leatherneck who appeared to want to win that game.

Let’s also keep in mind that the Fighting Hawks are undefeated playing in the state of Nebraska this season.

The emotions may run higher for Gibson and Robinson in their last game at Baxter Arena.  There is a lot to play for in this game.  This is their last chance for a win in front of their home crowd  They also have a chance at securing a 3, 4, or 5 seeding in the Summit League Tournament.

That’s dumb, I hate that last sentence.  I don’t think college basketball teams really concern themselves with tournament seeding outside of winning the regular season, or securing a top 2 spot in the Summit League Tournament for a day off in the tournament.

But hear me out.

standings

South Dakota, Omaha, Oral Roberts, and North Dakota are all competing for the 3-6 seeds in the Summit League Tournament.  Maybe seeding matters to teams, maybe it doesn’t.  Omaha and North Dakota play each other tonight, and Oral Roberts will be a strong favorite to beat Western Illinois tomorrow night and Fort Wayne on Saturday night.

Here is where seeding does matter…

Neither of these teams want to finish in 3rd place and go up against South Dakota, as the potential 3 seed, in Sioux Falls.  Omaha’s best options are to finish as the 4 or 5 seed.  Aside from not playing South Dakota in the first round, if they play in the 4 versus 5 game, they get to play at 6pm on a Sunday night, instead of 8:30, so there will be more of a possibility of their fans making the drive to Sioux Falls.

An 8:30 start time on a Sunday and a three hour late drive home isn’t ideal for those of us who have to work early on a Monday morning.  Trying to justify a half day with your boss because you were up late on a Sunday driving back home for a 3 seed versus 6 seed Summit League Tournament game isn’t the dream conversation.  Thanks a lot Summit League.

bracket

From the 4/5 game, the winner would likely go up against South Dakota State.  It would essentially be a home team for a  young South Dakota State team, who hasn’t really been tested.  Still, while young, they are a team who only has one game in the last week of the regular season, and was one of three teams in the Summit League to never play more than 2 consecutive away games in the conference, and also had week long rests heading into some of their biggest games.  Again, no conspiracy that the conference favors anyone here or tries to help them out a little bit the year after they lose one of the conference’s best players ever and 85% of their scoring.***

***Some Maverick sports fans may note the Frozen Four as their moment they really felt like UNO really had a sports community and felt like they were part of something when so many fans made the trip to Boston.  For me, it was sitting in the hotel lobby next to the Denny Sanford Premier Center with Maverick fans watching South Dakota State lose a historic game to the 8 seed Western Illinois.  We drank and cheered the shit out of a Western Illinois’ win.  After the game, we all gleefully marched into the arena as the Jackrabbit fans walked out with their tails between their legs. We talked smack, they had nothing to say.  The arena emptied.  We took over the lower bowl because the arena and Summit League staff stopped giving a shit about the tournament, but we cared.  My most memorable moment as a Maverick fan, so far.  Probably pretty sad it wasn’t an actual Omaha game, just watching a rival go down together, and that march into the arena.

After that tangent…anything can happen.  Seeding may not or may not matter, but this is the point the intensity level goes up.  There is more at stake for the JT, KJ, and the Mavericks.  These games matter, the momentum matters, you never know what’s going to happen this game or the next game.


The laziest Summit League predictions.

February 26th

Denver @ Fort Wayne

Fort Wayne is better.  I do think Denver has a brighter future, but for today Fort Wayne is better.

North Dakota @ Omaha on ESPN+

I closed my eyes, I’m biased, and I like Omaha more.


February 27th

Western Illinois @ Oral Roberts

Oral Roberts is better.

South Dakota State @ North Dakota State on ESPN+

The Jackrabbits may have won in Brookings, but North Dakota State is better.


February 29th

It’s Leap Day, anything can happen.

Western Illinois @ Denver

This game is a toss up.  Denver is probably better, and they’re at home.  Denver as the 8 seed, baby!  Billy Wright gone!  One more year of Billups!

North Dakota @ South Dakota

South Dakota is better, but maybe they rest some dudes after locking up the 3 seed?  It’s their senior day, so that’s doubtful.

Omaha @ North Dakota State on ESPN3

North Dakota is better.  Sigh.

Fort Wayne @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

Oral Roberts is better, but come on Mastodons!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summit League predictions: Feb 12-16

February 12th

Western Illinois @ South Dakota on ESPN+

I’ve got this idea for a movie.  It’s like a comedy version of “The Expendables.”  We round up them comedy Hollywood folk like: Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Steve Carell, Dave Chappelle, Tina Fey, Jerry Seinfeld, and more and it’s just a movie about them playing themselves trying to come up with a parody to “The Expendables” but none of them can stay on track long enough to put together a movie, and they get in a bunch of craziness along the way.

Okay, was that a bigger waste of time to read about, or would it have been a bigger waste of time to hear about a basketball game we already know the outcome to?

Omaha @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

Think about how much the Mavericks had to overcome to defeat the Golden Eagles in Baxter Arena.  Now think of how bad JT Gibson has been struggling shooting the basketball, he’s shot 15% on threes over the last three games, and 23% overall from the field.  Also throw in the fact that Zach Thornhill stole the ball and sprinted down the court to throw down a monstrous dunk as time expired when the Mavericks were already up by 5, and how that must have upset the Golden Eagles.


February 14th

Denver @ South Dakota State

Fort Wayne @ North Dakota State on ESPN+

I’m going over these games together, as it’s fitting both of these match ups take place on Valentine’s Day.  South Dakota State and North Dakota State are the most beloved teams in the Summit League, so I find it ironic they both get home games on Valentine’s Day against the two teams with the least amount of love in the Summit.  Fort Wayne won’t even be in the conference next season, and Denver wishes they weren’t in the conference next season.

It’s so beautiful The Summit League honored Valentine’s Day with match ups that make you feel like you’re watching a bad relationship end, and another game that just plays out like an abusive relationship you want to see end, but the Pioneers think they cannot find anything better.


February 15th

North Dakota @ Western Illinois on ESPN3

The Summit League and ESPN3 invite you to take in a basketball production so low in quality you’ll question if the broadcasters are in an active pursuit to ruin your Saturday.  Yes, tune in to listen to two grown men get paid to mispronounce 19 year old kids’ last names, as they dribble the ball off their knees and miss contested driving floaters 18 feet away from the basket for some damn reason.  You’ll be so frustrated watching this game, you may even take up reading novels again.

Why take Western Illinois in this game, you ask? Just because they are the home team, and every team in this conference has been so bad on the road that it just seems like a safe bet? That, yeah sure, but also because these teams aren’t far enough away in talent, depth, or just about anything, but CJ Duff is a good enough defender to throw Marlon Stewart off on the road to give the Leathernecks an actual chance in a basketball game.  Also, Ben Pyle has a chance to outplay Kienan Walter on the perimeter and go off for a big day, and whenever Pyle plays big, the Leathernecks play big. I get that’s rare.

South Dakota @ Oral Roberts on ESPN3

The Golden Eagles have already lost to one South Dakota team at home this season.  Emmanuel Nzekwesi and Kevin Obanor aren’t great at defending big guys on the perimeter like Tyler Hagedorn.


February 16

Fort Wayne @ South Dakota State on ESPN+

Things Fort Wayne would have to do to win this basketball game:

  • Be good at perimeter defense to slow down Douglas Wilson and Matt Dentlinger
  • Actually, be good at defense in general
  • Be good on the road
  • Not turn the ball over
  • Make free throws

Things South Dakota State has to do to win this game

  • Show up

Denver @ Omaha

Jace Townsend had to shoot 8-of-10 on threes to give the Pioneers a win in Denver, and that’s not likely to happen on the road at Omaha.  The Pioneers shot 55% overall from the field in that game, and they are capable of shooting well on the road, but the young Pioneers have a tough weekend on the road at South Dakota State and Omaha.

JT Gibson is going to have to get out of his current shooting slump for the Mavericks not to drop another game at home.  With the lack of depth of the Mavericks, they cannot afford one of their captains shooting 23% from the floor.  Not many teams could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some post game Western Illinois observations

  • The Mavericks best lineup is the 4 captains (Matt Pile, JT Gibson, KJ Robinson, and Ayo Akinwole) and Marlon Ruffin.
  • Matt Pile’s 37 blocks this season is the most by a Maverick in a season since Omaha transitioned to division one.  There are at least 10 games left this season.
  • CJ Duff of Western Illinois is a sneaky good on ball defender. He forced Gibson to tough shots all night and kept him in front of him the entire time.
  • Matt Pile was 8-of-11 from the free throw line?!  The team was 22-of-25 overall?  Can we get that all the time?
  • This was likely Billy Wright’s last game as a head coach in Omaha.
  • Prior to the start of the season, we wondered who the guy to take the big shots for the Mavericks would be.  That guy is KJ Robinson.
  • Is KJ one of the most underrated Mavericks ever?  If not the most?  The leadership KJ Robinson displays in the second half of game might be some of the best we’ve ever seen.  He may actually enjoy playing from behind, though.
  • The play in which Ben Pyle went up for a lay up, but was blocked by both Matt Pile and Zach Thornhill was one of the best defensive plays to watch in The Baxter Arena.
  • Billy Wright stood outside of the coach’s box for most of the game. He finally received a warning with 2 minutes to go in the game.  Derrin Hansen called him a cheater, and I legitimately could not tell if he was joking.  He was most likely joking, but I seriously couldn’t tell.

More on Billy Wright..

Billy Wright as a head coach in the Summit League might be one of the biggest crimes ever.  The main reason his team had a first half lead was because the Mavericks could not hit shots.  Their threes were uncontested and just didn’t fall.  The Mavericks’ defense adjusted to nick nack officiating and made everything difficult on the Leathernecks in the second half. He couldn’t draw up a single play in the second half to get his players any easy looks.

He actually has quality players on his roster, and any Summit League coach could coach the Leathernecks to a better record.  The lack of discipline and ball movement on the offensive end doesn’t allow for the team to ever get in a flow.  His players frequently looked confused at his play calling in Omaha.

His players are the exact same players from their freshman year to their senior year who no development. I once was told he doesn’t believe in weight lighting during the season.  Business professors should look into renaming The Peter Principle into The Billy Principle.

This game against the Leathernecks is an important one

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s Western Illinois, and the Mavericks have won 14 straight home games, so you’re expecting an Omaha win, but don’t underestimate how important this game is for the Mavericks.

In a preseason post, I pointed out how the Mavericks’ last 5 of 7 games are on the road, so being in 1st place in the conference at the end of this 4 game home stand is the most important thing to the Mavericks. Their lack of depth and loss at Denver, makes protecting home court even more important.

Every conference game is important, but given the Mavericks only regularly playing 8 players, a day off in the Summit League tournament is what they need*. After a loss at Denver, the Mavericks are going to need to play their best basketball against the Leathernecks to gain that confidence and momentum with these 4 home games to head into the end of the regular season.

*Most of the Summit League teams aren’t really deep, so the first 2 seeds are important to everyone. Teams in the 5th and 6th spots with 2 weeks to go in the regular season might want to consider intentionally losing games to drop to the 7 seed to get a day off.

Ayo Akinwole started off the season hot, but has cooled off and gone missing as KJ Robinson has been playing strong for the Mavericks.  In the last 4 games, Akinwole has averaged 2.3 points and shot 29% from the field.  Don’t blame Robinson on this. I don’t know why you would, unless you’re a psycho, but Akinwole isn’t getting by dudes like he was at the beginning of the season.

Zach Thornhill also went missing against the Pioneers not scoring at all.

Marlon Ruffin has turned into the perfect energy guy off the bench to lift the Mavericks when the team runs into a drought.  When the Mavericks hit a lull in the game, he’s capable of starting the run.  KJ Robinson has also been that guy, but you expected that since the start of the season when you didn’t see him in the starting lineup.

The Leathernecks give up the most points per game in the Summit League at 84 points per game, and have the worst defensive field goal percentage at 50%.  So this is the game for the Mavericks to regain composure and confidence after a 2 game losing streak.

However, Western Illinois does have experienced players on their roster. Coming into the season, they had the 4th most division one minutes returning to their team in the Summit League.  They currently have 4 guys averaging double figure scoring numbers, and all 4 are capable of knocking down big threes.  I mention this, because at most Mavericks games I find myself some kid from the opposing team shooting lights out on a career day and screaming: “WHY CAN’T HE MISS!”

If the Mavericks have one of their typical lulls in the game, and they allow the Leathernecks to get hot, things could get dicey for the Mavericks.  I’m imagining a world where Omaha drops consecutive games to Denver and Western Illinois, it’s bad. It’s as bad as the time Netflix recommended I watch “Ghost Rider” as a 97% match.

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings: Jan 6

How is it going? Has the New Year been pretty good to you? Do you have those 6 pack abs yet?  Nope, well that sucks.  At least there is basketball.

I wrote a post for an Oral Roberts at Omaha preview for Saturday, but forgot to hit the “publish” button, so here we are.  We’re going to do some rankings out of my genuine incompetence.

1st – Omaha, 9-8 (2-0)

Last week’s ranking: 3rd

The Mavericks have won three consecutive tough games in a row, however, they have all been at home.  Omaha will face a tough test with three straight road games.

Omaha has 4 veteran leaders who can help power them through tough moments in games, combining that with sophomore role players like Zach Thornhill, Wanjang Tut, and Marlon Ruffin will make the Mavericks a tough beat for anyone in the conference.

Also, it should be worth noting the Mavericks started 2020 with a three point field goal by Tut and two swishes at the free throw line by Matt Pile.

2nd – North Dakota State, 11-5, (2-0)

Last week’s ranking: 2nd

Why would Omaha jump over North Dakota State for the top ranking when they’re both 2-0 in the conference?  The Mavericks defeated Oral Roberts and South Dakota State, two teams who received 1st Place votes in the Summit League Preseason Coaches’ Poll.  North Dakota State defeated Denver and Western Illinois, two of the worst teams in the Summit League.

3rd – South Dakota State, 11-5 (2-1)

Last week’s ranking: 5th

After losing to Omaha, the Jackrabbits defeated Oral Roberts and then gave a full out beat down to Western Illinois.

This has been with a lack of depth due to injuries to Brandon Key and Tray Buchanan, and with only returning 15% of their scoring from last season.  I guess I’m impressed.

Luckily, for the Jackrabbits, they are loved by the Summit League office. This week will be their toughest week, travel wise, as they travel to Denver and then all the way to Fort Wayne, Indiana to play the Mastodons.  Pretty cool it comes on winter break.

Aside from my psycho conspiracy theory, prior to the start of the season Eric Henderson said this team was going to have to play an unselfish brand of basketball and the team was going to have to make up their loss in scoring from last season as an entire unit.  They have done just that, and they have started the conference season off strong.

4th – North Dakota, 8-8, (2-0)

Last week’s ranking: 6th

When reviewing the Fighting What Are They Nows over the summer, I was impressed at how much they had returning and it appeared as if Paul Sather could be a great fit for what they had as a team.

North Dakota has won 3 of their last 4, one of those wins at Nebraska.  North Dakota might be real, and another team to showcase just how deep and even the Summit League is this year.

Also, Marlon Stewart is averaging 25.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists to start off the Summit League this season.  That’s okay.

5th – South Dakota, 10-7, (1-2)

Injuries plagued the Coyotes last season, and much of the same has happened this season.  Senior point guard Triston Simpson was able to return at the start of the Summit League season, but the Coyotes dropped road games to Western Illinois and Fort Wayne, as Simpson struggled.

They also defeated Denver by just 2 points at home.  The Coyotes’ next three games will be against Omaha, North Dakota State, and South Dakota State.  This could be another long season if the Coyotes do not find themselves at full strength soon.

You could argue that none of this really matters, as all that matters in this league is who wins the Summit League championship game.  This was supposed to be the Coyotes’ year, and Todd Lee’s expectations for this team was to win the regular season and to at least make the NIT.

6th – Oral Roberts, 7-8 (0-2)

Last week’s ranking: 4th

The Golden Eagles dropped their first two conference games, and will have two tough tests at home as both North Dakota schools make their way to Tulsa…also North Dakota schools traveling to Oklahoma in January has got to be like traveling to Phoenix for a normal person.

Oral Roberts really should have beat Omaha. They had the size advantage in a generally evenly called game by the referees, but poor shot selection and turnovers have been an issue for this team for two seasons.

7th – Purdue Fort Wayne, 8-9, (1-1)

Last week’s ranking: 7th

It’s nice Fort Wayne was able to take advantage of a hobbled South Dakota team, but as the only person in Omaha who has watched the Mastodons play this season, I can tell you this team has a real problem with execution and finishing.

8th – Western Illinois, 4-9, (1-2)

Last week’s ranking: 9th

Congratulations to the Leathernecks on winning their conference opener and starting off the conference season with less fear of not making the Summit League tournament, like past seasons.  Billy Wright must be very proud.

Western Illinois’ next three games will be at home against Fort Wayne, Denver, and Oral Roberts.  Oral Roberts has not won in Macomb since 2016.  I think Western Illinois treats Oral Roberts coming to Macomb like their Mega Bowl.

If the Leathernecks can win their next three games, you know what, I’m not going to draw any conclusions, if they win their next three games they will be 4-2 in the conference and that’s all I have to say about that.

9th – Denver, 4-13 (0-3)

Last week’s ranking: 8th

No one had high expectations for this team for a reason. David Nzekwesi hasn’t turned out the way anyone thought he would, and Rodney Billups calling out his work ethic in public probably didn’t help.

Freshmen Robert Jones and Roscoe Eastmond have showed potential as future stars in the league, though.

 

 

 

 

My trivial Summit League rankings: Dec. 16

1st – South Dakota, 9-3

Last month’s ranking: 1st

Even with a knee injury to senior guard Triston Simpson, the Coyotes are the still the deepest team in the Summit League, even though they don’t really have a signature win.

Forwards Tyler Hagedorn and Stanley Umude combine for the best front court in the League, averaging 34.8 points and 14.2 rebounds together.

2nd – North Dakota State, 7-4

Last month’s ranking: 3rd

This ranking, while trivial, may actually just be based on respect to North Dakota State.

I don’t really like to compare team stats in the non-conference season because everyone plays different levels of competitions, and there are a ton of outliers.  North Dakota State, however, has a weird make up.

The Bison are currently 8th in the conference in points and field goal percentage, 7th in 3 point field goal percentage, last in blocks per game, 8th in forced turnovers, 6th in defensive field goal percentage.  They also have the worst RPI strength of schedule in the Summit.

The Bison are the reason people use the expression “they just find ways to win.”  That’s basically why they are 2nd.  And because I’ve ranked them low in the past, and then they do crazy things like win the conference.

3rd – Omaha, 6-7

Last month’s ranking: 4th

Last I checked, the Mavericks are still the only Summit League team with a win over a power conference school.

With just an 8 man rotation, the overall depth of this team could turn into a potential issue. Finishing in the top 2 in the standings will be most important for the Mavericks, as their depth may not be able to survive 3 games in 3 days in the Summit League tournament.

It cannot be stated enough how important Matt Pile is to this team.  His 19 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocks against University of Texas – Too Many Words In a Name has to be one of the Baxter Arena performances by a Maverick.  Three of his assists came from him being double or triple teamed and he just looked at the weak side and saw a cutting Zach Thornhill or Marlon Ruffin to the basket for the easy lay up.  That’s not something he could do the last few years.

Watching Matt Pile on a basketball court is like watching a group of puppy shih tzus playing with a ball, and someone throws a 3 year old English bull dog into the mix and he just bulldozes his way to the ball and take it away from all the shih tzus and doing whatever the hell he wants for the rest of the day.

4th – South Dakota State, 7-6

Last month’s ranking: 5th

The Coyotes have had the luxury of not running into any big injury issues while trying to figure out their new roster.  I also wanted to say “while trying to figure out that new team smell” but I thought that would be weird.

The Jackrabbits have beaten the teams they were supposed to beat, and lost to the teams to the teams they were supposed to lose to.  Except for Nebraska, they should have beat Nebraska.

5th – Oral Roberts, 5-5

Last month’s ranking: 2nd

Oral Roberts is just weird and I don’t even feel like discussing them.

Emmanuel Nzekwesi has missed half of the season with an injury.

They’ve kind of played a tough schedule with Creighton, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Wichita State, and Tulsa but they’ve also played 4 non-division one opponents.

The guards seem selfish and look like they’re intentionally trying to miss jump shots.

Maybe when they get to the conference season and play a more consistent schedule things will turn around for them.

6th – Purdue Fort Wayne, 7-7

Last month’s ranking: 7th

If you watch the Mastodons play basketball, you’ll constantly find yourself asking what’s wrong.  Eventually, you’ll realize their problem is that John Konchar graduated and is now playing professional basketball.

Every offensive possession is played as if there is no plan.  That may be because Jon Coffman has elected to not play a true point guard in the starting lineup.

7th – North Dakota, 4-7

Last month’s ranking: 6th

The Fighting Upset Mascots wont play a home game this season against a division one opponent until January 5th when they play Fort Wayne, so it’s understandable they’ve had a frustrating non-conference.

I thought they turned a corner when they picked up wins against Florida Gulf Coast, Georgia Southern, and a 2 point loss against Campbell in a 3 day tournament.  They lost two games since and are now on a 3 game losing streak.

Freshman De’Sean Allen-Eikens has been a nice surprise for North Dakota, averaging 13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and he’s already had 2 double-doubles on the season.

8th – Denver, 4-8

Last month’s ranking: 8th

The Pioneers have 2 more wins than most people thought they would at this point in the season, so that’s good.

I don’t really have much to talk about with the Pioneers other than something I want to vent about…

At the Summit League media day, Rodney Billups took a moment to mention junior college transfer Tristan Green could be a big time player for them.  After that, every person making a preseason prediction mentioned how Green could be a difference maker for the team.

Green averaged 2.5 points at a junior college last year, and people just took Billups’ word for it and thought he’d be some kind of stud.  He’s currently averaging 1.6 points in 14 minutes per game. I didn’t understand any hype given to Green, and I think Billups tried to jedi mind trick people.  That or Billups is in over his head as a head coach.

9th – Western Illinois, 2-6

Last month’s ranking: 9th

While 2-6, it might be worth mentioning that Western Illinois has been in all of their losses, with the exception of their loss to Indiana.

All of their losses have been in single digits and they only lost to Evansville by 4, who beat Kentucky.

The Leathernecks also shoot 85% from the free throw line.

 

From time zone to time zone, the Mavericks take on the Cougars tonight

The Omaha Mavericks will make the journey out to the Great State of Washington to take on some Cougars.

I have a lot of friends who follow the Pac-12, so I regularly follow the Pac-12 as well for conversation purposes.  A big time sports fantasy of mine is to go to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament.  It sounds like a real fun time.

Anyway, I can tell you with 100% certainty the Washington State Cougars are regularly the laughing stock of the conference. It wasn’t until the football program hired Mike Leach that Pac-12 fan bases actually respected them in something.  With that said, I have a lot of Washington State friends, and I’ve witnessed them sitting around screaming “WE’RE NOT THAT BAD, JUST GIVE US A YEAR OR TWO!”

As far as basketball fan hood goes, they are the Nebraska of the Pac-12.  Just to bring that home and find a relate able comparison for you.

The Cougars finished last season at 11-21 and 4-14 against the Pac-12. In their non-conference schedule they suffered losses to Seattle, Montana State, New Mexico State (twice), San Diego, and Santa Clara.

They’ve already dropped a game to Santa Clara so far this season. Like Omaha, they lack depth, and have similar characteristics to any other inconsistent basketball team trying to find themselves.

As of this morning, the Cougars are favored by 7 points. I would take Omaha to beat the spread and beat the Cougars…if this game was played one day later.

The Cougars will have 2 extra days of rest over the Mavericks, and the Mavericks most recent game was in Dayton, Ohio. After losing to Colorado State, the biggest problem for the Mavericks seemed to be not having enough time to prep for the Rams after playing Bethune-Cookman two days before.

So what can the Mavericks do to win?

The Mavericks will have their hands full with 6’6″ sophomore forward CJ Elleby, who is averaging 20 points per game and shooting 54% from the field.  Elleby did struggle in WSU’s road loss to Santa Clara, shooting 4-of-14 from the floor. It will be up to Zach Thornhill, Marlon Ruffin, and Wanjang Tut to spend their energy guarding and slowing down Elleby if the Mavericks want to win.

The Cougars really don’t have anyone to match up against Matt Pile.  The Cougars’ main offensive post threat, Jeff Pollard, has been struggling shooting 41% from the field so far this season, so hopefully Pile can stay out of foul trouble and make a difference for the Mavericks down low. The Cougars are currently last in the Pac-12 in blocks per game, averaging just 2.3 per game.  Please, just throw Matt Pile the ball!

The Mavericks could have a chance to win this game if Ayo Akinwole AND KJ Robinson are both on it this game.  With JT Gibson likely to guard WSU’s second leading scorer Isaac Bonton, Akinwole and Robinson will be needed to step up on offense and hit big shots. The Mavericks can’t afford an off night from either of those two.

Washington State has been atrocious shooting threes so far this season. They’ve shot 25% from behind the three point line. They also have somehow attempted 25 threes per game, like it was a good idea or something. Hopefully, Omaha can force the Cougars to the outside.