The Next Trip to South Dakota, in March, will be better!
The conference schedule is well underway for the University of St. Thomas Men’s Basketball team. The Tommies are coming off a rough trip to South Dakota playing two teams who have established themselves as rivaling this squad in the top half of the league. The Tommies got ran over by Matt Dentlinger of South Dakota State, and the three headed USD monster of KPH-AJP-and Tazos Kamateros.
South Dakota schools have become UST’s Achilles heal, they are good battles, however they seem to find the right weakness in order to put UST away. In the South Dakota game, UST took the lead with under 5 to go, before USD turned on the gas spurred on by a key 3 pointer from AJ Plituzweit. Then on Saturday, beating SDSU in Frost Arena was a big ask, but looked immediately promising with UST up 9 early. Dentlinger took control in the paint in the second half en route to scoring 22. The highlight of the trip was Brooks Allen’s 30 point effort, which garnered him an RTS Weekly Honor. UST last season showed an inability to compete in the second half of games, this season that does not look to be the case
Thursday Jan 5, 2023 vs Denver
Denver is the perfect conference matchup for UST, a team that allows a lot of three point shooting against, and that does not shoot many of their own. Denver has allowed teams to shoot as many as 39 three pointers in a game against them. I would not predict that UST will shoot as many, probably in the 25 range, and making about 10. Denver’s best player is UST rival, the infamous Finnish Freak–Touko Tainamo, who last season denied UST the chance to go 2-0 in the conference with a buzzer beater. Denver’s lone conference win is a 3OT thriller vs UMKC last Thursday. They won 85-83, before getting rolled at home by ORU 80-62. The player to watch out for is Tommy Bruner, who in his 24 point effort vs ORU, demonstrated even at 6-1 he has good game in the paint.
Saturday Jan 7 vs University of Nebraska-Omaha
UNO turned heads in the SL going down to the wire vs ORU. They scored a whopping 89 points in regulation against the consensus number one team in the conference. It took a vintage Max Abmas 32 point game in order to put UNO away. The studs for Omaha is the returning Frankie Fidler, and newcomer JUCO transfer Marquel Sutton. Chris Crutchfield, UNO’s first season head coach, was a former two sport athlete at UNO, and got his coaching start there in the 1990’s. A University of Nebraska school bringing back a former player to coach a program to greatness has not worked in football, with Coach Crutchfield it will be less frosty for basketball, ideally. If this game becomes a shootout, advantage UST, with league leading 3 point shooting talent.
Tale of two ends of the court
Similar to last season, UST is one of the nation’s premier scoring teams. Efficency on the offensive end is elite from both long and short range. However on the defensive end, UST is an outlier by being among the bottom 15 teams in the country for defense, and yet somehow still having 11 wins. UST will finally turn the corner when they do not have to decide whether to trade off scoring for competent defense. Given that this is a down year in the SL, I do not think that it will be a major problem this season. However, UST’s recipe for future success means UST should make more than marginal improvements in their defense this season especially compared to last season when they were in the bottom 5 defenses in the nation.
Ryan Dufault-Is He Over Praised?
I truly appreciate the fact that in every away radio or TV broadcast the announcer will take time to give compliments to Ryan Dufault. The reason why is because in addition to making more shots than he misses, he plays the game with 100% hustle for every minute he is in. He leads the team in steal percentage, is second in assist percentage, and he is not going to be overlooked by opponents for much longer. Not that I think it will bother Ryan, who will continue playing 100% on both ends of the court for every minute he is out there.
Kendall Blue-Quietly Consistent
For as much praise as Rohde gets around the league, Kendall Blue as a freshman has emerged as one of the most consistent players on the team. He is a force at the rim by being a great complimentary player to Brooks, Parker, and Rohde. Similar to Brooks last season, he can get sneaky points over the course of a game. In the conference season, the best ability is availability, followed closely by reliability, Kendall Blue this season has demonstrated he has both.
Final 3 Thoughts
1.) Ahjany Lee is going to develop into being the tremendous defender that UST needs. UST in the D1 era needs somebody who can block, and get every board, and Ahjany Lee is going to be that guy
2.) We will see Dobbs enter the rotation shortly, however for the guys who came last year but had to wait, expectations are high especially considering CB2’s play so far this season. Ten points in the W vs NDSU is among the best play off the bench we have seen this season. Dobbs, if he can take over a playmaking role, will allow UST’s elite scorers to be in a better position to make plays.
3.) 22 wins, and playing on Saturday in Sioux Falls as the two seed should be the goal at this point, and is doable given the talent at JT’s disposal.
#RollToms 58 Days til the Tourney