Tonight the men’s basketball team visits Brookings, South Dakota for a crucial conference matchup against Mike Daum and South Dakota State (SDSU).
The Jackrabbits currently sit tied for first in the Summit League with a 5-1 conference record and a 17-6 overall record. The Mavericks, on the other hand, are near the bottom with a 2-5 conference record and 7-16 overall.
The good news about Omaha is that they’ve played the entire season without their best scorer and overall player, Mitch Hahn. Hahn appeared for the first time last week against North Dakota State since separating his shoulder in an early season loss to UC Santa Barbara. Surprisingly, and maybe because of the desperateness of the Mavs to win games, he didn’t have a minutes restriction. He played 28 minutes and scored nine points while pulling in seven rebounds.
One can only assume that with the return of Hahn, the Maverick’s young team has gained valuable experience, in particular, freshman Ayo Akinwole and Matt Pile. With the return of Hahn, Omaha will look to try and find its identity as the conference tournament approaches. If the Mavericks get hot, they can be a scary team that can make a run.
All that really needs to be said here is one word: Daum. The senior is an animal. Essentially, he’s a little less athletic version of LeBron James at the college basketball level. He can shoot, drive, rebound, pass and create his own shot. He can play four positions and is just as dangerous open as he is with a man in his face. He has tortured Summit League opponents for four years, and this year his play (22 PPG) has propelled the Jackrabbits to a perfect 10-0 home record.
Jackson suffered an ankle sprain in the loss to North Dakota State last Thursday. He’s been arguably the Mavericks biggest playmaker this season without Hahn. He’s a threat on the fast break and can always drive and make plays at the rim. Being the most athletic player on the team, his defensive play matches his offensive prowess. The timetable for his return is not known.
Brookings is a tough place to play for any conference opponent. Their 10-0 home record is something in which they take pride. Daum is nearly unstoppable, and without Zach Jackson, who has the length and ability to guard him, he will be able to impose his will on the Mavericks. If Hahn gets hot from three and Daniel Norl can create shots from the point, Omaha can keep it close.
Omaha: 77, SDSU: 94