Omaha’s near miss validates Denver’s course

Photo courtesy of 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?”