#53 Northern Iowa Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Northern Iowa Panthers

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #53
Conference Rank: #3 Missouri Valley

Northern Iowa Team Page#53 Northern Iowa Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Northern Iowa Basketball Tickets

Northern Iowa and Wichita State gave us a very entertaining battle in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Panthers ended up falling just short in the conference pecking order, but they still finished the regular season with just three losses. Loss number four came in the third round of the NCAA Tournament against Louisville. But Coach Ben Jacobson and UNI have some rebuilding to do this time around. Three starters are gone and there are some big holes to fill. The Panthers have the talent to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, but it will not seem nearly as easy in 2015-2016.

2014-15 Record: 31-4, 16-2
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Ben Jacobson
Coach Record: 197-105 at Northern Iowa, 197-105 overall

Who’s Out:
Seth Tuttle is a huge loss. Not often does Northern Iowa get an All-American caliber player and Tuttle was just that. Last year he led the team with 15.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. The big man could knock down mid-range jumpers and could take on anybody in the paint. Also gone is his frontcourt mate Marvin Singleton. Singleton was not a scorer, but he was tough on the glass. Nate Buss, a 6-9 forward, was actually the second best scorer on the team with 7.7 points per contest, but he never started last season. Starting or not, Buss was a big time shooting threat who could stretch the defense. The backcourt lost starter Deon Mitchell, who averaged 7.5 points and 2.5 assists during his senior season. Little used Max Martino is the only other departure, but losing four key contributors will be tough for Coach Jacobson to get past.

Who’s In:
The biggest need is in the frontcourt where UNI brings in Luke McDonnell, Lincoln Conrey and Justin Dahl. McDonnell is the most highly regarded of the bunch and he will be given every opportunity to contribute quite a bit. Dahl, at 6-11 and 250 pounds, has a bit more size and could crack the regular rotation as well. The backcourt adds a bit more experience with junior college transfers Aarias Austin and Taylor Olson and incoming freshman Spencer Haldeman. Austin is the one who is expected to add experienced depth to an already experienced backcourt.

Who to Watch:
With so many questions in the frontcourt, Northern Iowa could run a four guard offense for long stretches of time this season. The key to that is Paul Jesperson, a 6-6 guard who has the versatility to play the power forward spot against certain opponents. Jesperson is not a particularly strong rebounder and that may be an issue, but Coach Jacobson will find the right rotation for his team. Jeremy Morgan, a 6-5 guard adds some size and rebounding ability on the wing. Morgan averaged 5.6 points and 3.1 rebounds as a sophomore and should see those numbers drastically increase now that he will shoulder more of the scoring load. Matt Bohannon and Wes Washpun will do plenty of scoring too. Bohannon had a bit of a junior slump, averaging just 5.7 points per game. He still managed to shoot 39.1 percent from beyond the arc and now he just needs to take more shots. Washpun dished out 2.6 assists per game last year and will have to take on more of the ball handling duties. He is a decent shooter who can also attack the basket and either finish or find his teammates. Sophomore Wyatt Lohaus showed potential as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points per game in just 13.3 minutes.

Final Projection:
Northern Iowa will have a good team just because of their perimeter. But to get to the NCAA Tournament, the frontcourt needs to find a playmaker or two. Ted Friedman played a little as a freshman before redshirting last season. At 6-9 and 245 pounds, he is the biggest returning player on the roster. UNI will also need to get some production from Klint Carlson and Bennett Koch. Koch, a 6-9 sophomore, comes from a long line of talented UNI forwards and seems like sooner or later he will start looking a bit like his brothers Jake and Adam. Even if this team stays small with Jesperson at the four spot, Coach Jacobson needs to find a couple big men to at least fill in all 40 minutes at the center position. Finding an option to play big when needed would be nice too. Eventually that may happen, but it will take some time before the big guys are going to be ready to play that many minutes. And that will be what keeps Northern Iowa on the wrong side of the bubble.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:
Wes Washpun, Senior, Guard, 7.6 points per game
Matt Bohannon, Senior, Guard, 5.7 points per game
Jeremy Morgan, Junior, Guard, 5.6 points per game
Paul Jesperson, Senior, Guard, 5.9 points per game
Ted Friedman, Sophomore, Center, DNP last season

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 65.2 (228th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 54.6 (4, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.0 (19, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.5 (29, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (68, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 39.8 (11, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 73.3 (43, 3)
Rebound Margin: 2.3 (96, 3)
Assists Per Game: 11.8 (232, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.4 (16, 2)


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