Maverick Maniac's Musings

November 9, 2012

2012-13 Men’s Basketball – Season Preview

Filed under: Men's Basketball — Jon Green @ 12:40 pm

Last year I made it two weeks before this whole blog crashed down in a heap of not having enough time… Hoping to make it a little longer this year as I rather enjoyed it while I did it.

It’s a new year for the Mavericks… a new arena… two new starters… a new conference. It’s going to be different and I for one can’t wait to see what it’s like.

Let’s start with the arena. The Ralston Arena is UNO basketball’s new home. I haven’t been in it yet, but I will finally get to tonight. I’m excited to see what it feels like. I’ve seen enough images to have a decent idea what it looks like, but you can’t find out the feel until you are in there obviously.  Will it have an atmosphere, something the Sapp Fieldhouse seemed to be missing? Will there be a pep band (I have my doubts)? Will the Greeks show up and create a student section (something there never truly was in the Fieldhouse)? Will it have a more big time feel?

Two new starters… Koang Doluony, and Justin Simmons. Doluony may be a familiar name for long time Omaha basketball fans. Doluony was a player at Omaha Bryan who has been at Indiana State, where he was recruited by former Maverick head coach Kevin McKenna. Doluony averaged 13.1 minutes, 3.8 points and 2.2 rebounds in his redshirt freshman year at Indiana State but had fallen to just 6.6 minutes, 0.8 points, and 1.6 rebounds by his junior year last season.  Duluony scored in double figures four times during this Sycamore career, but will hopefully find more success as the level of competition drops a little from the Missouri Valley to the Summit League.  He also will be benefited by likely getting more minutes and being allowed to play his way into better form.  This is a player with only 695 career minutes in college basketball. For comparison, CJ Carter played 827 last year and all five starters had at least 763. While Koang may be a senior (graduate student in fact) he hasn’t had the time on the court.

Justin Simmons is a 6-3 guard who played at Butler Community College in Kansas last year after playing high school basketball in Milwaukee.  He will be a junior for the Mavericks and averaged 16.8 points last season.  Simmons really impressed in his visit to the metro area last year when he scored 36 points against Iowa Western.  He ran track in high school and as a freshman at Concordia University in Wisconsin, so we know he’ll be able to get up and down the court for the Mavericks.

A new conference… UNO got familiar with the Summit League last year playing IPFW, South Dakota, North Dakota State, UMKC, and Western Illinois, but this year they also get to play IUPUI, Oakland, and South Dakota State. Additionally they’ll have home and away games with each team instead of just hosting two of them. The season will feel completely different, and I for one am excited.

Five most exciting games of the year (no particular order):
1) 11-9 -12 – Northern Illinois – How can the home opener of the new Ralston arena not be on the list?
2) 11-18-12 – @Nebraska – An early season road trip down I-80 to Lincoln gives the Mavericks a chance to compare themselves to the Huskers. An upset win seems unlikely but anything is possible, especially early in Tim Miles’ first year.
3) 12-4-12 – @Wisconsin – This will probably be the toughest game UNO faces this year. Wisconsin is ranked in the preseason top 25 (#21) and is 5th in Ken Pomeroy preseason college basketball rankings.
4) 12-29-12 – South Dakota – This game will be big for two reasons. First of all it’s the first home conference game for the Mavericks. Secondly, South Dakota is picked 8th in the conference this year, UNO 9th. If UNO is going to finish ahead of South Dakota getting a home win against them will be crucial!
5) 2-28-13 – South Dakota State – This will be the best team in the Summit League this year and will feature STUD guard Nate Wolters.  Definitely the most high profile game on UNO’s schedule.

Five questions coming into the year:
1) How does UNO deal with a full Summit schedule?  – One of the benefits of not playing a full Summit schedule last year was that UNO didn’t have to face as tough of competition week in and week out in the second half of the year. There were some smaller schools (Peru  State, Avila, Doane) mixed in. This year the Mavericks will be playing Thursday/Saturday on eight weekends to comprise their conference schedule.  The Mavericks did play twice within three days a number of times last year, but very rarely with both opponents being Division I. One on occasion they lost by two to South Dakota on Sunday and got blown out by 33 on Tuesday to North Dakota State. On another occasion they beat Northern Illinois by 5 on Saturday and lost to Michigan State by 42 on Sunday. On a third occasion they lost by 19 to Seattle on Thursday and by 10 to Coppin State on Friday. How much of these losses can be blamed on the schedule is doubtful… Michigan State was obviously a fantastic team last year, but I think the schedule could wear on the Mavericks a bit over the season, especially on the 2nd leg of a road trip (South Dakota State, Fort Wayne, Kansas City, and IUPUI).

2) Can the Mavericks win ten games? – It’s not really all that meaningful, but the Mavericks haven’t won less than 10 games since 2000-01, when they went 9-17.  They have only won less than 10 games in five seasons over the last 40 years.  Last year’s 11-18 record included 10 wins against D2 and NAIA teams, the only D1 win coming over Northern Illinois.  So the question is: Is UNO looking at something like a five win year?  I think the answer is maybe. We’ll know more in a week, but it will be an uphill battle to get to 10 wins.  Let’s start by giving UNO wins over both their non-D1 games (Saint Mary and Benedicitine).  Then if we assume UNO wins several of their games against programs that are not historically real good (in this case not in the top 300 last year) – Northern Illinois, Texas Pan-American, and Chicago State (possibly twice). UNO still would need four more wins… perhaps the home Bracket Buster (which will probably be against a team outside the top 300), South Dakota and UMKC at home, and one more win. I think it’s doable, but it’s going to take more than a few upsets (by the numbers) along the way.

3) Can the Mavericks speed up their tempo? – An article by Rob White in the World Herald previewing the season talked about Coach Hansen wanting to get back to the faster pace and more open offense of the past. Last year they felt they needed to get the ball to certain players at certain times instead of just taking good shots, no matter where and when they came from.  This probably makes sense too with the Mavericks new starting lineup and bench rotation. Starters Carter, Welhouse, and Karhoff are back and combined for 43% of the team’s shots. Albers, Gandy, Freeman, Farr, and Ring are all gone and they combined for 40% of the shots. When you lose that much of your offense (heavily reliant on Albers – 22% of the shots and 25% of the points) it’s a good time to switch things up some.  UNO won 7 of their 14 games when there were 74 possessions or more while they went 3-13 in the other games. Is this meaningful? I’m not sure. They lost games to IPFW, South Dakota, and Seattle that were part of their five fastest games while they beat Northern Illinois, their only D1 win, in their 3rd slowest game. We’ll see if the statistics show anything more clearly this year with the D1 schedule.

4) How does Caleb Steffensmeier adjust to coming off the bench/CJ Carter adjust to being the main PG? – Both players started every game last with Stefensmeier playing more point guard and Carter playing more SG. Steffensmeier played the PG position in a way that didn’t require a lot of possessions (only 159 shots – 98 of those being 3’s), and didn’t turn the ball over much (102 assists, 30 turnovers). He played good solid defense, reminded me a lot of the way Josh Dotzler tried to to play the PG position for Creighton. Carter on the other hand is a PG who would seem to require more shots. He took 238 shots last year and was more aggressive (76 assists, 63 turnovers). His scoring average was twice that of Steffesnmeier, but he did have more steals and is a capable defender. I think Carter is a better fit for Coach Hansen’s preferred offense. Andrew Bridger fit the PG role perfectly for UNO and took 230 shots in his senior year, had 193 assists and 101 turnovers. He was aggressive and the defense had to account for him as more than just the ball handler who tried to find open players and hit open shots. Carter looks to create his own shot more. This isn’t to diminish the role Steffensmeier plays for UNO, I just think Carter’s style fits the offense coach Hansen wants a little better.  Steffensmeier came off the bench as a freshman and played 16 minutes a game. His numbers weren’t exceptional, but he was a solid contributor who provided some reliable play off the bench (something that can sometimes be lacking). I think he will do a great job of settling the team down when on the court.

5) UNO looks to be playing bigger this year, how the heck will that look? If you’ve been a Maverick fan for a few years the idea of UNO playing a big lineup is a little weird.  From 2007-2009 the Mavericks started Justin Petersen at the 4 position (6-5, 185). In 2009-2010 UNO got a bit bigger with the combo of Dion Curry (6-6, 230) and Eugene Bain (6-5, 220) inside, but still relied on a smaller lineup using Torrian Harris (6-1, 180) or Matt Newman (6-5, 200) to guard bigger forwards. In 2010-11 they relied on Alex Welhouse (6-7, 205), and Aaron Terry (6-3, 208) to play many of those minutes.  Last year Welhouse handled most of the minutes at the 4 position. Welhouse was up to 220 pounds and did a great job grabbing rebounds down low and shooting 3’s outside on offense.  This year the lineup looks like it will allow Welhouse to play the 3 and Koang Duluony will play the 4.  Duluony weights in at 6-8, 195 and should provide some added height inside next to Karhoff at the 5.  UNO hasn’t had a 4 of Duluony’s height in the last five years, let alone of 3 of anywhere near Welhouse’s size.  This lineup will allow UNO to match up better with bigger teams, but will it slow the Mavericks down some? We’ll see soon, but don’t forget Duluony is not a bulky big man and should be able to run the court some. I also expect the Mavericks will go small at some points and shift Welhouse to the 4.

I’ll be posting a preview of the Northern Illinois game soon.

Season predictions:
Record: 10-29 (4-12) – I just can’t predict less than 10 wins… too much hope in my mind to spring a few upsets.
Leading Scorer: John Karhoff – He has really developed a lot of offensive weapons and I think this year he’ll really put up some points (15ppg)
Leading Rebounder: Alex Welhouse – Going out on a limb with this one. He was a great rebounder last year but won’t be expected to get as many this year playing out on the wing. Karhoff has never been an astounding rebounder and with Duluony taking some of the interior rebounds I think Welhouse could narrowly sneak over these two to lead the team.

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