Moving Forward: Omaha Men’s Basketball Season Preview

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Jack Hoover
SPORTS EDITOR

Matt Pile dunks on the opposition. Photo by Andre Sessions.

The 2019-2020 basketball season didn’t end the way anyone wanted it to.

Before the March Madness field could even be announced, the whole season was shut down. There would be no madness for that season.

Even before the season was canceled, the Omaha men’s basketball team was preparing for their offseason. The Mavericks already had their season ended at the hands of the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in the first round of the Summit League championship.

Overall, the 2019-2020 season could be classified as a disappointment for Omaha. After coming off an appearance in the Summit League title game in the 2018-2019 season, the Mavericks followed up by going 9-7 in league play and finishing fifth overall.

If past trends are to be believed though, then last year’s dismal finish can only mean good things for the Mavericks this season. Before the Mavericks went to the Summit League title game in 2018-2019, they finished 4-10 in the Summit League the previous year.  And in the season before Omaha went to the Summit League title game for the first time in 2016-2017, they were knocked out in the first round of the tournament the year before. It seems that every Omaha placement in the title game is preceded by a disappointing season the year before.

However, trends are not the only reason to assume that the Mavs could be in for another successful season this year. A quick look at the roster suggests big things ahead for Omaha this season.

The two names that stand out the most for Omaha this season belong to a pair of seniors: Ayo Akinwole and Matt Pile. These two players have been important contributors for the Mavericks since they were freshmen and both played heavily into the Maverick’s run to the title game in 2019.

Both players bring different skill sets to this Maverick team. Pile, who stands at 6-8, brings an intimidating presence near the hoop that can dominate on the offensive or defensive end of the floor. Last season, Pile was recognized for being the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year.

Akinwole stands at a modest 6-0. What he might lack in height, he makes up for in intelligence and leadership. In 2019, Akinwole averaged 7.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 points, serving mainly as the point guard. While the numbers don’t stand out in any extreme way, Akinwole’s play is largely exemplified by the extra effort he makes to win his team the ball back or set up his teammates for success.

In preseason Summit League poll, the Mavericks were picked to finish fourth, behind South Dakota State, North Dakota State and Oral Roberts. Omaha will have every intention and every chance of exceeding those expectations this season.

Omaha’s season will open on Nov. 25 when the team travels to Estero, Florida to take on Austin Peay in the Gulf Coast Showcase tournament.

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