Northern Iowa Panthers
2012-2013 Overall Rank: #47
Conference Rank: #2 Missouri Valley
Northern Iowa Team Page
Northern Iowa had to settle for the NIT last season, but that was a nice stepping stone for a young team. With only one player gone from a team that won 20 games and tied for third in the Missouri Valley Conference, the expectations should be higher this time around. With a frontcourt of Jake Koch and Seth Tuttle, UNI is extremely difficult to defend. This is not your typical frontcourt. Koch led the team in blocked shots and assists last season. The versatile 6-9 senior can score and rebound too. Tuttle had a great freshman campaign and proved to be an extremely efficient interior scorer. Finding a way to stop those two will give Missouri Valley coaches nightmares…again.
2011-12 Record: 20-14, 9-9
2011-12 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Ben Jacobson
Coach Record: 129-71 at Northern Iowa, 129-71 overall
Johnny Moran is the only loss for Coach Ben Jacobson. Moran was a four year starter who could do some scoring and was a major defensive presence. Moran was an obvious senior leader last season and averaged 7.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals. However, it is difficult to dwell on the loss too much when there is so much returning talent.
Some of the returning talent did not even play last year. Matt Bohannon and Chris Oliver both redshirted as true freshmen in 2011-2012 and will see their first action this season. Bohannon is a big 6-4 shooting guard who can knock down the long ball with consistency. Oliver added some muscle to his 6-8 frame and is ready to contribute as a bruiser in the frontcourt now. Both Bohannon and Oliver are good players who will work for the opportunity to see quality minutes. The talent in front of them may be too much though for either to see a big chunk of playing time right away. Matt MacDougall, a 6-5 shooting guard, is the lone incoming freshman.
Who to Watch:
The backcourt will be led by seniors Anthony James and Marc Sonnen. James was the only player on Northern Iowa’s balanced squad that averaged over ten points per game. James is a great all-around scorer who can handle the ball as well. He is not the most consistent outside shooter on the Panthers, but he is certainly dangerous enough from beyond the arc to warrant the opposition coming out to defend him. That is when he can blow by them and attack the basket. Sonnen is the more efficient and consistent long range shooter, connecting on 44.3 percent of his attempts from long range last season. Deon Mitchell will join them in the starting lineup and could be in for a huge sophomore season. Mitchell worked his way into the starting lineup for 24 games and was playing great basketball at the end of the season. If he keeps getting better, Northern Iowa will have an extremely dynamic and talented backcourt. Matt Morrison will likely be the first guard off of the bench and he can provide some instant offense with his ability to shoot. Max Martino will compete with players like Bohannon for minutes.
The key for this team could turn out to be frontcourt depth. Tuttle and Koch are a superb duo, but they cannot be on the floor all of the time. That is where Chip Rank comes into the equation. Rank is a bit undersized at 6-6 and he does more shooting off of the bench than Morrison, but he will have to fill in many of the minutes at the four spot. Rank does provide another great scoring option, but the rebounding takes a hit when either Tuttle or Koch is out of the game. Austin Pehl is the big body who really needs to step up and help out on the glass and defensive end at the five spot. Pehl is an experienced senior, but has really been very productive for the Panthers. Nate Buss redshirted last season after breaking his arm. At 6-9 he is another big body, but he does lack experience. At the least there are plenty of frontcourt options and with Oliver and a healthy Buss there are more options than the Panthers had last season. That extra year of experience, even if it was on the sidelines, will be very important for Northern Iowa and it should be enough for them not to have to settle for the NIT again in 2013.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Anthony James, Senior, Guard, 12.5 points per game
Deon Mitchell, Sophomore, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Marc Sonnen, Senior, Guard, 8.6 points per game
Seth Tuttle, Sophomore, Forward, 9.6 points per game
Jake Koch, Senior, Forward, 8.5 points per game