UNI Hoops Pre-Season Pulse – 3 Keys for 2014-15

courtesy UNIPanthers.com

Last season for UNI men’s hoops was one of mediocrity. A 16-15 overall record for the Panthers men’s basketball team signaled a need for more talent. Fortunately it appears that there has been a rejuvenation of talent on the Panther’s roster headed into 2014-15.

Virginia transfer Paul Jesperson is eligible after sitting out last season. Bennett Koch, Klint Carlson and Robert Knar are all eligible after red-shirting as true freshman. And true freshman Wyatt Lohaus looks set to contribute as well after an admirable performance this summer in the Prime Time League.

With all this new talent available on the roster here are three keys to a successful UNI hoops season….

1. Defensive Consistency

Paul Jesperson, Wes Washpun, Seth Tuttle and Jeremy Morgan are Ben Jacobson’s best one-on-one defenders. Washpun should benefit from being in the second year of the program/playbook — as well should Morgan. Jesperson was a “3 and D” guy at Virginia, which should make him more than ready to wreak havoc on Missouri Valley backcourt and front court players.

courtesy UNIPanthers.com

courtesy UNIPanthers.com

Tuttle, barring any injuries, should bring his usual above-average d to the interior — he should only stand to benefit with the presences of Klint Carlson and Bennett Koch. Koch and Carlson appear to have the offensive capabilities to help keep Tuttle’s minutes down and his energy up.

Coach Jacobson and his staff will have an excess of lineup possibilities this season. Who they choose to go with should signal the severity in which the Panthers are re-focusing on defense.

Coach Jacobson hinted at times late last season that his staff’s shift to coaching more offensive actions in pre-season practices, partly as a result of the block/charge rule changes, may have been a mistake.

A small lineup that features Paul Jesperson at the 4 could play well against foes like Illinois State. Against the size and strength of Wichita State, Jacobson could opt for his best, and biggest, 4 or 5. This lineup could include Bennett Koch, Ted Friedman, Marvin Singleton or Klint Carlson. Whomever is putting the best defense on tape in season will likely stand to benefit and grab starts against the Missouri Valley’s bigger and more physical teams.

2. Avoiding offensive droughts

It seemed as though, while the defense was certainly poor at times last season for the Panthers, that the offense had the same tendency to go on hiatus for extended periods of time.

If the ball couldn’t find its way to Tuttle, wasn’t getting shot from an open Matt Bohannon or penetrated by Wes

courtesy Jeff Backer & UNIPanthers.com

courtesy Jeff Backer & UNIPanthers.com

Washpun or Deon Mitchell the Panthers were prone to suffering offensive droughts.

Paul Jesperson and Wyatt Lohaus are the newcomers poised to help the Panthers offense most. Year two of Wes Washpun and Jeremy Morgan should also provide a spark to UNI’s offense.

The amount of competition in the front court should create at least one more offensive contributor, whether it be Koch, Carlson or Friedman. That competition will play itself out through the non-conference schedule.

Of those three Koch impressed most at the Prime Time League this summer. He flashed an ability to get his shot within 7 feet, along with the skills to shoot set jumpers out to 15 feet.

Despite everything that Jesperson, Lohaus, Koch, Carlson or Friedman could potentially bring to the Panthers offense, it will still rely on Deon Mitchell, Wes Washpun, Seth Tuttle and Matt Bohannon.

However, those ancillary players will be the x-factor to the Panthers offense in 2014-15. Much like it was when the Panthers beat Kansas to advance to the Sweet 16 in 2010. That year’s offense was at its best when scoring contributions came from throughout the roster.

Should Mitchell, Washpun, Tuttle or Bohannon not perform, or go down with injury, there will be a sizable void to be filled. It appears this year’s roster has the depth to absorb such an unfortunate injury. After having a glimpse of this season’s newcomers at the Prime Time League it seems there may be enough talent to avoid the extended scoring droughts that plagued the Panthers in 2013-14.

3. Roster Progression

This key is obvious. If expectations of a NCAA tournament appearance or a deep run in the NIT are to actually happen, Ben Jacobson and his staff will have continue developing their players.

There isn’t a player on UNI’s team that wouldn’t acknowledge that they spent their summers working to improve an aspect of their game’s.

Paul Jesperson said at the Prime Time League he worked a ton on his off-the-bounce game and his shooting off screens.

courtesy www.DailyProgress.com

courtesy www.DailyProgress.com

Matt Bohannon appeared to be making a concerted effort at the PTL to drive to the hoop and finish at the rim. Nate Buss said he was working on his rebounds and defense. Seth Tuttle seemed to be working on his high-post actions and passing. And Jeremy Morgan was focusing on his handles, running the point for his PTL squad.

So by now, it’s obvious. All the players on UNI’s roster were doing what they could to progress as players this off-season. What will be most important is which players can take these new skills and apply them in-season at regular game speed.

Look for Jesperson’s shooting, Morgan’s handles and Tuttle’s high-post work to find its way into regular season games.

Jesperson averaged 20 points per game and shot 46 percent during the Prime Time League.

Morgan appeared more comfortable in a dribble-drive slasher role at the PTL than he did as a perimeter and baseline running wing for the Panthers last season. Jeremy averaged 19 points and shot 39 more 2-point shots than Jesperson – evidence of his dribble-drive emphasis.

Tuttle averaged a healthy 19 points during the PTL despite not playing with a team of 3-point shooters that he’s accustomed to.  Coached by Kevin Lehman, Tuttle often found himself operating from the high-post in a slash and back-cut offense. Should Ted Friedman or Bennett Koch gain solid playing time the high-post reps from the PTL can do nothing but help Tuttle with adjusting to playing alongside another big.