Two Cents on the Tommies’ Year Two
The University of St. Thomas Tommies men’s basketball team in 21-22 had a fixed end date, this season it does not! They are going to parlay their experiences learned from their first year struggles, and apply lessons learned to this season. They have a new cast of characters to cheer for, and open their season on one of the biggest stages in this sport. In CHI Health Center Omaha in front of a national TV audience on Monday. UST was fortunate in the off-season to be arguably the least impacted SL program with no HC change or major transfer portal issues.
What did Summit Fans learn in year 1? Shooting+Ball Security does not care what division you play at. Height does though. The offseason has seen UST add some height. Experts have considered this the best recruiting class in the Summit League. We also should expect contributions this season from the transfers that the squad added before and during last season.
Key Returning Contributors
#10 G Riley Miller The 2021-22 MVP+Fans voted him the most significant returner. He was RED HOT in the month of November last season, averaging almost 19 points per game on 33 minutes played. He has “In The Arena” range, and this season’s addition of some legitimate inside scoring threats may mean his looks this season will be even better.
#5 F Parker Bjorklund 12.7 points per game, while shooting 55%. He is tricky to defend. Even at 6-6 he did not look out of place fighting the giants of the Summit League in the paint.
#14 F Brooks Allen The final member of the 2022-23 #D3Big3 replacing key departure PG Anders Nelson. He got some starts during the month of December, even off the bench later in the season could still score double digit points.
#32 G Dom Martinelli The departure of Anders Nelson leaves a wide opening for a guy who can distribute the ball, and is a mid range threat. We did not see much of Martinelli earlier in the season, but he joined the rotation later in January and made the most out of his minutes. He is entering his 3rd season, hoping to make a major impact with his scrappy scoring.
#20 F Courtney Brown Jr. John Tauer is following the “Coach Drew Baylor Model For Success” which involves 1.) Coaching MIAC players at the D1 Level (Freddie Gillespie-Carleton) and 2.) Coaching one of Courtney Brown Sr’s Sons (Kendall). We did not see any of CB2 last season, however those in the know say that his defensive play is going to be impressive, which is direly needed by this team
#2 G Ben Nau Voted by the Fans as the player they think will have the largest improvement. Last season he was a rotation player. He could be even more of a threat from deep, shot 44 of his 57 shots on the season from behind the arc.
Note: We will not see Drake Dobbs until the semester per Tim Hill of RTS
#3 G Andrew Rohde (Brookfield Central) Highly touted guard out of the State of Wisconsin, scoring 28.5 points per game, and led his team to a runner-up spot in Wisconsin HSBB. He was voted by the fans as the recruit they expect to have the biggest instant impact.
#6 G Kendall Blue (East Ridge) Another tall guard. He has been described as a playmaker, and an elite passer by his HS Coach. Another candidate for who can be the guy to take the ball up the court.
#13 F Ahjany Lee (Totino-Grace) 6-9 Forward. Four Star Recruit who picked the Toms over Ben Johnson and the Golden Gophers, among others in the P5. He is perhaps the freshman who will have the biggest impact at the rim with his offensive rebounding, and immediate ability to score inside.
#35 F Carter Bjerke (Wayzata) Mr Basketball finalist. He was known for shooting the 3 even at 6-9, which will also not be out of place in this league.
Predicted Starting 5-I was so wrong with this last year I wanted to try again.
Key November Games
Nov 7 at Creighton 7:30 FS1. If you were sick of “The Headband” before, get ready for another dose of Baylor Scheierman. Fantastic opportunity for UST to play a peer institution on a huge stage. This was voted by UST Fans as the most exciting game of the season, for good reason. A full preview is upcoming.
Nov 11 vs Chicago State Home Opener. St. Thomas failed to put away Chicago State last season in their first game, will be hoping to get their revenge this year at Schoenecker.
Nov 17-19 Zootown Classic Last year, UST turned some heads at the Youngstown MTE with their high scoring wins, I expect that to continue as they play Montana, Troy, and Merrimack in a three day span.
Storylines to Watch Out For
FINISHING GAMES–It felt like UST was in every game, and then at a certain moment the wheels would fall off the bus. The games that jump to mind are the Denver last second loss in Dec., and the eventual triumph of the Bison and Jackrabbits after being up at halftime. Whether it was conditioning or good Summit League coaches adjusting to their offense, I would hope UST will be able to win in ways other than wire-wire victories.
BALL SECURITY-UST had the fewest turnover’s per game (8.4), edging out Wisconsin (8.7), last year in all of Division 1. A notable feat. It kept them in a lot of games by not surrendering possessions to the elite scorers in the Summit League. With the influx of new and returning talent with more minutes, it will be fascinating to see if the guys are able to continue this tradition of holding onto the basketball.
SUMMIT LEAGUE TOURNAMENT-Last year UST only was able to play spoiler against other teams. This season they will be with the rest of the conference jockeying for the best position in Sioux Falls at “The Smaller Dance.” All 10 teams will be there, with their rabid fan bases, and it would be great if UST was able to make a run that weekend.
PLUS 3–Fan Expectations Poll Results
My Summit League Pre-Season Rankings
#1 ORU #2 SDSU #3 USD #4 DU #5 NDSU #6 UST #7 Omaha #8 WIU #9 UMKC #10 UND
ORU is going to be dominant as long as Max Abmas is around. SDSU is only a step behind, we will see how large the Lufile departure will impact them. NDSU is in a rebuilding phase, but has a good rotation of young talent. I am bearish on WIU, Massner could be a legitimate problem for teams, he certainly was for UST in their second game. UNO and UMKC have a lot of new faces on and off the court. UND was unfortunate that their freshman stud, left down I-29 to new pastures. UST was picked 8th in the pre-season poll, I think they do better than that.
How Many SUMMIT Games do the Tommie Faithful Expect?
7-9 59% of Respondents | 10-12 21% | 3-6 8% | 0-2 8% |
WHO DO UST FANS CONSIDER OUR BIGGEST RIVAL
North Dakota St. 46% | ORU 21% | UNO+SDSU 12.5% ea |
I am all aboard for cheering against NDSU this season as our biggest rival, I may have been compromised last season to a certain extent. I think that future games by UST Football with our Summit League counterparts will have a huge impact. The UST Faithful will have to show up in SF in the years to come for these rivalries to fullly form to the extent they do between other Summit League teams.
ROLL TOMS AND LETS HAVE A GREAT SEASON FOLKS.