#87 Northern Iowa Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Northern Iowa Panthers
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #87
Conference Rank: #3 Missouri Valley
Northern Iowa was supposed to have a bit of rebuilding year in 2015-2016; and that was partially the case. The Panthers finished 11-7 and tied for fourth in Missouri Valley play, but this was a very good team by February and March. On January 27th Northern Iowa beat Bradley to end a four game losing skid. That was also the start of a superb finish to the regular season where UNI won nine of their last ten games. And they kept that momentum going into Arch Madness, slipping past Southern Illinois, Wichita State and Evansville to reach the NCAA Tournament. And things were just starting to get interesting. At the NCAA Tournament, the Panthers upset Texas and then had one of the biggest collapses in college basketball history against Texas A&M. The Aggies overcame a ten point deficit with less than 30 second left to force overtime. It will take some time before people stop remembering Northern Iowa for that loss. But for Coach Ben Jacobson and the Panthers, it is already behind them and this is a team that can compete for another shot at the NCAA Tournament.
2015-16 Record: 23-13, 11-7
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Ben Jacobson
Coach Record: 220-117 at Northern Iowa, 220-117 overall
Who’s Out:
The Panthers lose three starters from that team, including Wes Washpun, who led the team with 14.2 points and 5.3 assists. He was not a great shooter, but Washpun would get to the basket and make things happen. Matt Bohannon was the team’s most prolific shooter and the team’s second leading scorer. He knocked down 40.1 percent of his 232 three-point attempts. Paul Jesperson was the big guard who could shoot the ball and attack the basket. Aarias Austin and Robert Knar are the only other losses and they barely played last season.
Who’s In:
UNI had a short bench last year and only ten players saw any action at all and only five of them are back. That leaves a lot of room for newcomers and the Panthers have nine guys who could make their Panther debut this year. The most important of them all could be incoming freshman Juwan McCloud. The 5-11 point guard could step right into the starting lineup. There will be some growing pains, but McCloud is certainly the point guard of the future and the future could be right now. Spencer Haldeman and Isaiah Brown are the other freshmen to watch in the backcourt. Haldeman, who redshirted last season, is a pure scorer. For now he should at least be able to provide an offensive spark off of the bench. Brown is a bigger 6-5 wing who can attack the basket and help out on the glass. Junior college transfer Hunter Rhodes will add some much needed experience and depth at the point guard spot. Tanner Lohaus and Rafael de Souza will look to add depth on the perimeter. The frontcourt adds walk-on Lincoln Conrey, Justin Dahl and Luke McDonnell. Dahl and McDonnell will both get the opportunity to compete for minutes off of the bench.
Who to Watch:
This team will be led by Jeremy Morgan. The 6-5 guard is the only senior on the roster and averaged 11.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists last season. Morgan is a very consistent outside shooter, but will also use his size and strength to get to the basket. He will be on the floor a lot for UNI and for now he will be the guy taking all of the big shots. Wyatt Lohaus is ready for a bigger role in the backcourt. The 6-2 junior is not going to score much, but he is a smart player who will be very valuable having next to the newcomers running the point. The frontcourt is in pretty good shape with returning starter Bennett Koch and sixth man Klint Carlson. Koch is the one guy who would stay in the paint last season. He could be better on the glass, but Koch has the size to battle in the paint on both ends of the floor. Carlson is ready to step into a starting job after averaging 7.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in 2015-2016. He is the big man who can stretch the floor with his outside shooting. Ted Friedman figures to provide frontcourt depth again this season.
Final Projection:
Northern Iowa lost a lot of talent and some very good scorers, but the Panthers will reload. This is a program that lost a lot last year too, but had little trouble filling the gaps. The difference this time around is that this group could actually have quite a bit of depth. On the surface that seems odd since only five players are back from last year’s team, but Coach Jacobson has the potential to go 11 or 12 deep this year. That will not happen and the Panthers will likely trim that number down to eight or nine relatively quickly, but the fact that there is competition out there for minutes at most positions is a very promising sign.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Juwan McCloud, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Wyatt Lohaus, Junior, Guard, 4.0 points per game
Jeremy Morgan, Senior, Guard, 11.3 points per game
Klint Carlson, Junior, Forward, 7.4 points per game
Bennett Koch, Junior, Forward, 7.6 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.8 (264th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 64.0 (19, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.6 (90, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.3 (105, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.3 (64, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.4 (45, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 75.7 (15, 1)
Rebound Margin: -4.1 (301, 9)
Assists Per Game: 11.9 (263, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 9.9 (9, 2)