Are the Mavericks finally turning a page here?

Fact: The Mavericks are still writing their story for their most successful basketball season since transitioning to division 1.

Thought: Does this program have the momentum to keep this going to the future?

The 2017-2018 Omaha men’s basketball season was filled with several thoughts of wondering what could have been had things just gone better for them. Injuries plagued that team from top to bottom. There were only a couple games where the team had their entire roster healthy to play. Several games were lost of bad plays down the stretch, and the team saying: we’re one or two plays away from a winning record. The team was also trying to mesh together a hoard of new faces and get everyone on the same page.

The 2018-2019 season has been the complete opposite. The Mavericks are actually several Mitch Hahn baskets and double digit comebacks away from having a pretty average season.

After Hahn’s game winner against South Dakota State, I checked the Jackrabbits’ fan forum page to see their thoughts on the game.  As I’ve done this in the past after Mavericks-Jackrabbits games, it’s typically filled with just some fans whining about Gary Sharp’s sarcasm. Something else really caught my eye this time.

Someone begged the question: Have the Mavericks finally turned the page and are moving away from mediocrity?

The question being asked by a Jackrabbit fan sets it up for me to think that the South Dakota State fans think they’re the Texas of the Summit League, or the Gonzaga of low major basketball.  They’re not, though, South Dakota State is the South Dakota State of the Summit League.

Perhaps, we should rephrase this question into a tone that doesn’t offend me. Have the Mavericks moved into position to consistently be in contention for a Summit League regular season championship?

Regardless of how this season has gone down, 19 wins and a 2nd place seeding in the Summit League Tournament has proven to be the most successful season in the division one era for the Mavericks, but how is the future?

The Mavericks are only going to be graduating two players, but those players are Mitch Hahn and Zach Jackson, two of the best players this program has ever had.

The Summit League will be graduating two of the best players the conference has ever had, so the field is already open in 2019-2020.  Actually, I think North Dakota State and South Dakota are going to be the toughest teams to beat next year, but this is for another day.

Omaha will presumably bring back a Big 3 of Matt Pile, JT Gibson, and KJ Robinson. None of them have shown that clutch killer instinct of the likes of Hahn or Jackson, but they certainly have that potential. This Big 3 is going be one of the most talented in the Summit League next season.

You never know, though. Pile could get a bizarre toe injury and his feet won’t be able to support his pro wrestler body, or Gibson or Robinson could transfer to Nevada just for kicks.

No one can ever replace Hahn or Jackson, but we’ll find out what Logan Strom can do. We’ve been teased with the potential of Zach Thornhill.  Ayo Akinwole has proven to be a weapon when given the opportunity. Wanjang Tut is a quality defensive post player, and there have been glimpses of offensive potential.  Incoming freshman Lamel Robinson’s game seems similar to Devin Patterson’s.

A successful season like this can lead to Omaha being an attractive transfer destination for former Nebraska kids to come back to. Let’s just say hypothetically that Tim Miles gets fired from Nebraska, Omaha could definitely be a possibility for someone like Brady Heiman. Omaha can absolutely be a place for any of the former Nebraska kids in the Mountain West looking for more playing time.

Perhaps, this is all a conversation for another day. The Mavericks have North Dakota to worry about to continue building on this season for a hopeful present and future.

 

 

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Surprise! The Mavericks and Jays are playing!

It’s here.  It’s finally happening.  The Jays and the Mavericks will play basketball on the same court, at the same time, and in a bizarre twist they’ll even be playing against each other.

In a charity game for Hurricane Relief, and a little bit for the Mavericks’ ego, the Jays will finally face off against the Mavericks in an exhibition game.  This is actually the Mavericks’ first exhibition game since transitioning to division one.  Unless you count all of 2011-2012 season an exhibition season.

100% of the net profits are going to hurricane relief across the country.  Is the beer stand with $9 cans of PBR going to be open?  There is a lot of profit in a $9 can of PBR.  That’s a lot of money going to hurricane relief.  Ugh, I can’t wait to get a $9 Schlitz on my lips.

I’m not going to get into the Jays too much because I don’t need a gang of Creighton fans tweeting at me about how I’m a garbage of a human being for not thinking the Jays are not going to be that great of a basketball team this season.

HOT TAKE: I don’t think Creighton will be that great this season.

They’ll still be better than Nebraska and UNO.  So good for them, I guess.  Actually, Nebraska’s roster looks pretty underrated…I think I say that every year so who cares.

Like, the Bluejays will be okay.  They received a preseason ranking of 4th in the Big East, which is more impressive than receiving a preseason ranking of 6th in the Summit League, but this Creighton team feels more like a 5th or a 6th place finish in the Big East.  Without a big time run in the Big East Tournament, the Bluejays are a NIT team.

Sure, Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas are great.  Toby Hegner and Ronnie Harrell Jr have their moments.  Martin Krampelj has some potential.

I also think Martin Krampelj should have a nickname of “Crampy Jay” but that’s just my opinion.

Still, doesn’t seem like the Bluejays have enough weapons to not be an inconsistent team this year.  It’s easy to look at a team with two stars like Thomas and Foster and say “hey, those are two good basketball players and they belong on a NCAA Tournament team.”  Two guys don’t always get you to the NCAA tournament.

This is all from a UNO fan who recognizes that the Mavericks are filled with new and even newer guys trying to fill the voids left from guys with big time roles.

The Mavericks lost their Big 3 in Tra-Deon Hollins, Marcus Tyus, and Tre’Shawn Thurman and will be counting on a committee to fill their most consistent scorer, best defender, and best rebounder.  Now their Big 3 is Mitch Hahn, Zach Jackson, and there is an application open for the third member.

As Mav fans, we’ve never really gotten that game that didn’t officially matter to see what the new guys on the team have to offer.  What a perfect opportunity to see what they can do against the team we’ve always wanted to play, and in our hometown.  It will be great to start the careers of freshmen Zach Thornhill and Matt Pile in a confusing setting wondering why two Division 1 teams in the same city don’t ever play each other in a regular season game.

Thornhill and Pile both come from Kansas, and there has been some chatter of both players being future All Conference players.  We’ll have to wait and see.  Pile shot 71 percent from the floor as a junior, and Thornhill has some abilities that make him sound like he could be the next John Konchar.

We’ll also be introduced to senior guard Renard Suggs. He sat out last season after transferring from Washington State, so it’s possible you forgot about him.  It’s possible with his three point shooting ability, that Suggs will be replacing some of the production lost by Tyus.  He’ll be competing for minutes with Daniel Norl, who I think is one of the most underrated guards in the Summit League.  I say that with a high level of bias.

And of course, the Mavericks are returning Zach Jackson as a starter, and might as well have been a starter Mitch Hahn.  I’ll throw out a guess that Creighton will base their defense on slowing down Hahn or forcing him into dumb shots.  Luckily for the Mavericks, no shot of Hahn’s is a dumb shot.

This is an exhibition game, and I’m sure the UNO players will take it far more seriously of a game than the Creighton players will.  That doesn’t mean Creighton won’t protect home court, as they definitely don’t want to lose to a Summit League team in the CenturyLink Center.  There still won’t be a huge amount of defense played, which is kind of a dream scenario for each team.

So here is a prediction:

The game will start out pretty close with Thomas and Foster getting to the rim whenever they want on offense, and Hahn and a mystery man on UNO getting off shots as they please.

Creighton will get a 10 point cushion in the first half, and UNO will stage a comeback and take a brief lead as the Bluejays go to their bench.

The game will be kind of close for a bit, but the Creighton players will take it pretty seriously in the last 5 minutes as Thomas and Foster run away with the game.

Also, at some point, Hahn will shoot a 3 from the First National Bank logo.

It should be fun though.  And we can take comfort in knowing that every Omaha World Herald story on the Mavericks for the rest of the season will come packaged with a stock photo from this game.