Omaha’s near miss validates Denver’s course

Photo courtesy of omaha.com. Omaha’s Tre-Deon Hollins missed the potential game-winning shot. 

They came within a single last minute shot of defeating South Dakota State University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Omaha native Tre-Deon Hollins hoisted a 3-point shot that was off the mark and the Omaha Mavericks fell 79-77. The Summit League auto-bid went to South Dakota State University – again.

The Mavericks should have won – they were the more athletic team and had their chances to deliver the knockout blow in the final minutes of the contest. But, the Jackrabbits had a force of nature on their side, an unlikely 6’9″ kid from Kimball, Nebraska who was so unprepared for college basketball that he was a red shirt freshman. Now a super sophomore, Mike Daum scored seven of his 37 points, one shy of the tournament’s championship game record, over the final 3 1⁄2 minutes to seal the contest.

But give the Omaha Mavericks credit. They play fast and  loose and score 83.9 points per game. Defense is not their strong suit. No problem – run at your own risk.

They have been D-1 for only two years yet they were in the conference final.

Omaha guard Tre-Deon Hollins has lightning fast hands and he had a whopping 104 steals this season – one of the best perimeter defenders in the nation. Half their squad is from Nebraska. Athletic guards Marcus Tyus and Zach Jackson can score the ball and even play defense when they feel like it.

As much as we like to have fun at Omaha’s expense, they are reinforcing DU’s chosen path.

Play fast and loose. Recruit athletic players, especially locally. Feature guards who create chaos on the defensive end and score points on the offensive end. Add mentally tough players and construct a hard-nosed team that can go into Sioux Falls and exchange punches with the local “home teams”.

Watching this year’s Summit League final was like watching your best friend go out on a date with the most beautiful girl in school. While you wanted Omaha to steal this game in one of the most hostile tournament environments in the country (if your team is not from a state that ends in ‘Dakota’), you still felt an empty “why not us” feeling.

It won’t be easy. The Summit league is full of teams that watched the contest and had the same feelings.

Omaha showed that playing fast, even in the most hostile of environments, can work. The Mavs had a shot.

Logic tells us Billups and company will need some time.

But our gut tells us, “Why not Denver?”

6 thoughts on “Omaha’s near miss validates Denver’s course”

  1. Omaha may offer some lessons for DU in terms of style of play and the need to recruit locally but their overall roster makeup is completely different. Three players are on their third college (Hollins – two jucos, Suggs – juco/WashSstate, Norl – Eastern Kentucky/Juco) and four are on their second college (Meyer and Hahn DI transfers, Erickson DII and Albery DIII). Relying so heavily on transfers and especially junior college transfers like Omaha, CSU, Utah Valley have done well is tempting but a tough fit in DU’s academic environment. Under Joe Scott, DU brought in Griffin MacKenzie from Xavier who made little impact but otherwise was more of a source of transfers (Royce O’Neale, Drick Bernstine) than a recipient.

    With strong grad programs in an appealing metro area, DU seems best-suited to seek out graduate transfers who have proven their abilities in the classroom and have a year of eligibility remaining without needing to sit out a year. Gonzaga has turned this approach into an art form and other schools have also done this effectively. There is a chicken-and-egg problem in attracting these recruits so it may take a Colorado native to see DU and Billups as an attractive destination and get the ball rolling. (Hard to blame Coloradan Canyon Berry for choosing Florida since he was just named SEC 6th man of the year on a Top-20 team.) If redshirt junior Alan Herndon graduates at Wyoming this year he would be an ideal pickup. Zach Braxton of Highlands Ranch redshirted a year at Weber State and might be an option in a couple of years.

    Despite early season optimism DU’s final record was virtually the same as last year despite the core lineup having another year of experience and playing DU’s weakest schedule since 2010-11 (according to kenpom.com). The team had no real “signature wins” nor did attendance bounce back significantly. Hard to imagine DU’s incoming freshmen being enough to change the situation significantly, making a grad transfer even more appealing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Great note PRS. Omaha and even SDSU used transfers to their advantage. I think DU will still mostly go after 4-year players and, tactically, bring in qualified graduate transfers/transfers. I hope you keep checking in on basketball – u know your stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. PRS, you menttioned Canyon Berry, 5th of HOFer Rick Barry’s kids to play major college basketball. Ga Tech, Ga Tech, Oregon State, Kansas, and now Florida. Most amazing stat, Rick’s kids did it 25 years or more apart. It’s better then back to back no-hitters. Someone may someday tie that record, but nobody will beat it. Bravo Mr. Barry

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    2. That’s a good point about grad transfers, and in the current climate of college basketball, there is nothing wrong with trying to attract some of those players to Denver, it could definitely reap rewards.

      I will say that despite a similar record as last year, I still think this was a very impressive season. Engesser, Byrd, and Rucker were all very valuable last year, and going into the season there was little reason to expect Amigo to turn into what he did. I certainly never expected a .500 conference record.

      And I agree with 5BWest that Omaha’s style of play is very entertaining and that can be the difference to some recruits. I think we are on the way to a tempo like that, clearly Billups discovered early on that he couldn’t do the uptempo with this group and he adapted as necessary. I think in a few years Denver will be top 50 in tempo and will have the players to make that work.

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    3. PRS is correct. Basically the same record as last season. DU playing “fast” really isn’t that “fast” based on the games I saw this season. It’s faster than Joe Scott’s offense but by no means a fast-break, run-and-gun team.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t want to see DU become a haven for Juco transfers either, as it just doesn’t fit our school’s academic and residential/social model. It’s one thing for a public commuter school with lower academic standards to take academic chances on kids, since they do it all the time with their general student population. The reality is that many of those Juco players are partial qualifiers who can play basketball, but they often don’t have the academic chops to make it at a demanding private school like DU. However, if DU is looking for a specific missing piece of the basketball puzzle, and there is a Juco or transfer who fits what is needed with academic ability and is the right fit for the team, by all means go for it.

    Liked by 2 people

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