Maverick Maniac's Musings

November 9, 2012

2012-13 UNO Men’s Basketball – Game 1 Preview – Northern Illinois

Filed under: College Sports,Men's Basketball,Omaha Mavericks — Jon Green @ 5:52 pm

Well the season is finally here. It’s been a long long wait for today. The Mavericks start their second season in transition to D1 and this year are part of a conference, even if they aren’t eligible for the postseason tournament. The men’s and women’s soccer teams both had highly competitive seasons in the first conference go-around (men tied for 4th, women finished 7th) while the volleyball team has struggled to get up to speed (last place, 1-14 in conference). Can the men’s basketball team find success quickly or will they have to ease into success in the Summit League? If they were eligible it would only have taken finishing above one other team to qualify for the conference tournament, a goal I think would be worthy in the first year… so top 8 finish here we come!

But first… homecoming and the Ralston Arena opener against Northern Illinois.

Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois University was founded in 1895 as Northern Illinois State Normal School. The named changed to Northern Illinois University in 1957.  The University is home to 25,000 students including nearly 19.000 undergrads. Northern Illinois is located in DeKalb, a city of 43,000 an hour west of Chicago on I-88. DeKalb is the birthplace of Cindy Crawford while Northern Illinois lists Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner among their alumni.

Northern Illinois was a member of the Illinois Intercollegiate Athletic Conference from 1920-1967 along with notable members Illinois State, Bradley, Eastern Illinois, Western Illinois, and Southern Illinois (see a trend there?). In the last couple decades they also included Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan in their conference. After the IIAC Northern Illinois hopped around a lot playing in the Midwestern Conference in 1970-72, Independent in 1972-73, the MAC in 1973-1986, Independent from 1986-1990, The Summit League (then the Mid-Continent Conference) from 1990-1994, the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now the Horizon League) from 1994-1997, and finally the MAC again for the last 15 years.

The Huskies have won seven regular season conference titles: 1933, 1934, 1941, and 1945 (in the IIAC),1972 in the Midwestern Conference, 1981 in the MAC, and 1991 in the Mid-Continent Conference (Summit League). They won postseason tournaments three times: 1932 in the IIAC, 1982 in the MAC and 1996 in the MCC). They made NCAA tournament appearances in the 1982, 1991, and 1996 seasons (receiving an at-large bid following their 25-6 regular season). They went 0-3 in those games with the closest being a 74-73 lost to #3 seed Texas Tech in 1996.

Northern Illinois was 5-26, 3-13 in the MAC, last year. That record included a  77-72 loss to UNO in DeKalb on December 3rd, 2011.  The leading scorer was Abdel Nader who averaged 10.4ppg. Nader is a preseason All-MAC selection this year. Two new PGs, Travon Baker and Daveon Balls, and a new F, Sam Mader will see playing time.

In their exhibition against Aurora, Northern Illinois were dominant and won 89-56. Six players scored in double figures and two more had eight points. The leading scorers were Keith Gray and Mike Davis with 12 points. Abdel Nader didn’t play in the exhibition and it appears he won’t start tonight, but I couldn’t find any reason on the internet.

Starters: 
Guard – Akeem Springs – 6-3 – Freshman – Waukegan, Ill.
Guard – Travon Baker – 5-10 – Freshman – Detroit, Mich.
Forward – Kevin Gray – 6-8 – Sophomore – Chicago, Ill. – Averaged 2.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.4 assists in 2011-12.
Forward – Keith Gray – 6-8 – Sophomore – Chicago, Ill. – Averaged 5.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.3 assists in 2011-12.
Forward – Aksel Bolin – 6-7 – Junior – Akser, Norway – Averaged 6.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 2011-12.

Last year Northern Illinois really struggled to score and didn’t want to play fast. They scored over 60 only nine times and averaged less than a point per possession in all but six games. The UNO game was their 3rd fastest of the year (UNO’s 3rd slowest) so the pace battle will be interesting.

Last year was the first ever meeting between the two schools, so UNO leads the series 1-0.

UNO

UNO finished 11-18 last year (with 10 of those wins against non-D1 teams). They only got a D1 win against… Northern Illinois.  One starter left the program, star Mitch Albers who averaged 18.3 points, and one starter has been moved to the bench, Caleb Steffensmeier. Two newcomers will start tonight, Justin Simmons and Koang Doluony.

Starters:
Guard – CJ Carter – 6-0 – Sophomore from  Omaha, Neb. – Averaged 10.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 2011-12.
Guard – Justin Simmons – 6-3 – Junior from Milwaukee, Wis.
Forward – Alex Welhouse – 6-7 – Senior from Kaukauna, Wis. Averaged 10.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 2011-12.
Forward – Koang Duluony – 6-4 – Senior from Omaha, Neb.
Center – John Karhoff – 6-8 – Junior from Omaha, Neb. – Averaged 12.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 2011-12.

3 Things to watch:
1) CJ’s play at the point – UNO will need consistency at the point guard position to have success this year. In CJ Carter they have an explosive athlete who can score, pass and play great defense. CJ is only a sophomore though and will have a lot of pressure on him as the most experienced starting guard and might be looked on to help pick up some of the points lost by Mitch Albers. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the offense while bringing the ball up and what Coach Hansen wants him to do and how he handles it. He’ll have a lot more responsibility this year but has the potential to be their first hometown star of The Summit League era.

2.) Defense – This is something UNO has struggled with in the past and will be looking to improve. The total number of points isn’t the issue here, it’s that teams are easily scoring over a point per possession.  Last year only two division one teams didn’t score over a point per possession (IPFW in Omaha – .94, and Northern Illinois – .99). Tonight should be a real chance to show some defensive improvement.

3.) Newcomers/Rotation – Each year one of the most interesting things to watch at the start is how the newcomers will fit into the team. There are several this year. Koang Doluony and Justin Simmons were covered in the season preview and will both start. Jalen Bradley and Marcus Tyus are both freshman who sound like they might redshirt. Questions remain as to the roles Alex Phillips and Simon Krych (who redshirted last year) will play. Krych is 6-8 so UNO has some depth inside behind Karhoff, Duluony, and Hagerbaumer. On the wings Alex Phillips is joined by Jacques Coleman, Caleb Steffesnmeier, and Tyler Egli. Who will Coach Hansen look to first off the bench? Will Jacques Coleman come in at the 2 since Steffensmeier is expected to be the backup PG? What will UNO’s small lineup look like? Will the Mavericks use Hagerbaumer or Simon Krych in any big lineups (sliding Doluony to the 3?), or are the Mavericks at their “biggest” when Alex Welhouse is playing the 3?  How do the Mavericks look in the four-out, one-in offensive style that they like play?

Prediction: I think UNO is going to get the win here at home to start things off. I’ll take the Mavericks 79-70.  Karhoff to be the leading scorer with 20 points.

Linkage:
Omaha.com Preview
NIUHuskies.com Preview
Omavs.com Preview
Live Stats
Live Audio via Northern Illinois
Live Video ($8)

No live blog because I’ll be at the game. Tickets are still available so you should totally make your way down to the new Ralston Arena.

I’d recommend following myself (@maverickmaniacs) and UNO’s Basketball twitter account (@UNO_Basketball) for updates.

Go Mavs!

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