#136 Milwaukee Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Milwaukee Panthers

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #136
Conference Rank: #3 Horizon

Milwaukee Team Page#136 Milwaukee Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Milwaukee Basketball Tickets

Although not universally recognized as a powerhouse in the Horizon League, the Panthers have been a rock solid DI program for around a decade now. The majority of that success should be attributed to 11th year coach Rob Jeter. Eight of the ten years he has been coaching at Milwaukee (disregarding 2006 and 2012 season) he has led the Panthers to double digit wins overall and a .500 or better record in the Horizon League. He’s also reached the NCAA Tournament twice (2005, 2013), brought the 2010 team to the NIT and the 2011 team to the CBI. Will he go down as a legendary college basketball coach? Most likely not. Is he getting it done at Milwaukee? 100%. This team isn’t as deep talent-wise as some of the other Horizon League schools entering 2015-16, but they should remain very much competitive with a couple key returners and Jeter at the helm.

2014-15 Record: 14-16, 9-7
2014-15 Postseason: none
Coach: Rob Jeter
Coach Record: 164-157 at Milwaukee, 164-157 overall

Who’s Out:
Overall, the Panthers really aren’t losing too much from last year’s team. This team played pretty deep into their bench last season, consistently playing 7-8 guys per contest. Out of the eight players that averaged double digit minutes per game last season, six of them are returning. The other two, Steve McWhorter and Trinson White, are gone. The best way to describe these two players from last year’s team would be by looking at the eight man rotation like a seesaw. The worst players of the rotation weighed down the seesaw while the best ones kept the other side in the air. Basically, the Panthers are losing their heaviest weight from the rotation (Trinson White) which isn’t bad, but are also losing their lightest (and best) player: Steve McWhorter. Let’s start with Trinson. In the first half of the season, it looked as though Trinson would be a borderline starter for Jeter’s club. He consistently played over 15 minutes per game and was a decent contributor on both sides of the ball. However, down the stretch, Jeter opted to go to different options off the bench. White played in just 4 of the team’s 14 final contests and never played over 10 minutes in any of those games. It may not seem all that bad to lose a guy that averaged just 2.8 points per game and shot just a little better than 30% from the field; but White was a solid defender with good size (6-5, 190 pounds) and athleticism. White transferred out of Milwaukee with one more year of eligibility. The other player leaving is the other side of the seesaw: last year’s Panthers MVP Steve McWhorter. There really wasn’t anything McWhorter didn’t do for this team last year. The leading scorer (14.2 ppg) passer (4.6 apg) and stealer (1.6 steals per game), McWhorter was the most valuable player on both sides of the ball. And although he wasn’t a four year player that worked his way up from the bottom, he was still the guy that the younger guys (and older guys) turned to both on the floor and in the locker room. Confident, smart, and most importantly: talented; replacing McWhorter isn’t going to be an easy task for Jeter and his team.

Who’s In:
Although Rob Jeter brought in a solid amount of talent in this year’s incoming class, he probably could’ve used a bit more balance. Out of the five incoming players, four of them are shooting guards and the other one is a point guard. Meanwhile, they don’t have a “true” center on their roster. Matt Tiby and JJ Panoske are big enough to play the position, but are both power forwards at heart. Anyways, let’s look at the recruits. The first is junior college transfer Jordan Johnson. Johnson is an interesting prospect to say the very least. Talent-wise, he’s very much ready to take on the DI world. He’s crafty, quick, and can extend his shooting range out to the three-point line pretty easily. However, when looking at Johnson’s 5-9, 170 pound frame it’s hard to not be a little worried. Small point guards aren’t doomed at the college level, but are definitely at a disadvantage, especially when facing some of the tougher competition (Big 12, ACC, etc.). With a couple older point guards set to return for one more year (JeVon Lyle, Jimmy Stamas), don’t be surprised if Johnson is mainly a bench guy (15-20 minutes per game) in his first year. Shifting the attention to the four incoming freshmen shooting guards; there is a solid amount of talent to be looked at here. On paper, this is a pretty poor class. Johnson is unranked, and all of these four also went unranked by both ESPN and maxpreps.com. And although Jeremy Johnson will most likely need a year or two to find his game, the other two (Brock Stull, JayQuan McCloud) could be different. Let’s start with Stull. Stull, a redshirt freshman from last season (forced to sit out the first year) definitely passes the eye test. He has good size (6-4) and a solid frame (180 pounds). Also, his game is pretty safe, meaning he has a low chance of completely busting. Stull’s a shooter, plain and simple. Whether it’s moving, spot-up or from the midrange, Stull can hit jumpers with ease. Unfortunately, that’s about all he has to offer. He’s not a very physical wing, is a decent defender at best, and doesn’t really like to attack the basket. He’ll definitely be a bench player in his first season, but that role could change moving forward if he can add more layers to his already dependable shooting game. The other player-incoming freshman JayQuan McCloud-has a higher change of busting then Stull, but also has a higher chance of being a 15+ point scorer at some point in his career. This guy is flat-out fun to watch. He’s athletic, plays with a ton of energy, and can shoot well from both the three point range and midrange. He’s also a rock solid, pesky defender who got plenty of steals in high school. However, his size is a huge question mark moving forward. He’s not all that tall (6-2) or strong (170 pounds) but spent all four years of high school playing shooting guard. Size doesn’t always translate to success at the next level, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have. I don’t see McCloud playing over 30 minutes per game in his freshman season, but that could change moving forward in his career if he puts on a little more weight.

Who to Watch:
Considering Rob Jeter consistently went to an eight man rotation last season and six of those guys are returning for another year, it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that these six guys (Cody Wichmann, JeVon Lyle, JJ Panoske, Akeem Springs, Matt Tiby, and Justin Jordan) are all going to see significant minutes yet again. Out of the six, rising sophomore guard Justin Jordan (21.4 mpg) played the least minutes last season. However, there is a lot to like about Jordan’s game. He’s a rock solid outside shooter (32.4% three point percentage), a capable midrange shooter and showed some good instincts on the defensive end of the ball as well last year. Still, consistency was a big issue for the enigmatic guard last season. He’d go from looking like one of the best players on the floor one night (17 points against Wright State on 1/20) to looking like a bench warmer the next (0 points, 28 minutes against Oakland on 1/22). If he can turn into a more consistent 25-27 mpg, 8-10 ppg guy by next season, he could see an even more increased role in his final two seasons. Another guy that’s going to see increased minutes is rising senior guard JeVon Lyle. He was mainly the backup for Steve McWhorter last season, playing just 23.1 minutes per game and scoring 6.3 points per game. And although his offensive game could use some improvement, his defense was actually one of the strongest on the team last season. He only averaged one steal per game, but was a tough on-ball defender who never made anything easy for the person he was guarding. For next season, Lyle is going to have to become a better sharer of the rock. He could very well be the starting point guard come opening day, and his 2.2 assists per 40 minutes simply isn’t going to cut it for Jeter and his club. Rising junior Cody Wichmann didn’t do a whole lot for his team on paper (6.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.1 apg) but his excellent three point stroke (40.2%) and solid perimeter defense will be relied on heavily for next season. The same could also be said about senior forward J.J. Panoske. His 7.7 points per game were solid, but his below average rebounding (3.7 per game) and unreliable field goal percentage (45.3%) left a lot to be desired. Still, seniors are the most valuable thing a team can have, and one can never have too many. The final two players (Akeem Springs, Matt Tiby) are going to be the big production guys for the Panthers next season. Springs seems like the best candidate to fill the scoring void at the guard position (10.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg last season) while Matt Tiby should lead this team in scoring with McWhorter gone (13.3 ppg last season). A dynamic inside-out threat isn’t easy to find in college hoops, but these two upperclassmen should provide Jeter with just that next year.

Final Projection:
A solid amount of incoming talent is going to help this team, but it’s no secret: the Panthers are going to live (and possibly die) with their decent returners from last season. Four of those guys (Wichmann, Panoske, Lyle, Jordan) weren’t double digit scorers last year, but will need to be this season. The other two, who were double digit scorers last year, are going to have to lead this group night in and night out. Having an experienced coach like Rob Jeter leading them makes everything a whole lot easier, but the facts are hard to look past: this isn’t the most talented team in the Horizon League for next season, and will need one of the lesser known guys (returner or recruit) to step up in a big way.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
JeVon Lyle, Senior, Guard, 6.3 points per game
Akeem Springs, Junior, Guard, 10.3 points per game
Austin Arians, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Matt Tiby, Forward, Senior, 13.3 points per game
J.J. Panoske, Senior, Forward, 7.7 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 65.4 (217th in the nation, 7th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.2 (252, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.1 (241, 8)
Field-Goal Defense: 45.1 (286, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.0 (99, 3)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.8 (193, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 73.7 (34, 2)
Rebound Margin: -0.8 (229, 7)
Assists Per Game: 12.9 (149, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.7 (197, 8)


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