– Battle 4 Atlantis first round
Ok Cards fans here we go. The team will be in the Bahamas this week but it will not be a vacation. Our 3-0 Cards will take the next step up in level of competition Thursday as they face a very formidable foe in 3-0 Northern Iowa from the Missouri Valley.
UNI won 20 games for the fourth straight season last year and they appear set on making it five. Like our Cards they are a team that is known for their hard nosed defense. But this year they have a new quality that may define the season for them. This is the deepest UNI squad coach Ben Jacobson has had and they are the only team in the Missouri Valley without any incoming recruits. To go along with their depth they are very athletic, experienced and will play either a nine- or 10-man rotation. They return the top four scorers from last year and lost just one starter. They have solid size, especially for a mid-major, bringing four players off the bench who are 6-foot-6 or bigger.
The Panthers were the slowest-paced team in MVC play, and a three-point shot is typically their first offensive option. They will try to play their brand of basketball and avoid an up-and-down game.
In-conference offense: 1.03 points per possession (5th)
In-conference defense: 1.01 points allowed per possession (4th)
Coach Ben Jacobson: “We want to put together a schedule that if we do well against it, when we start Valley play, we’ve positioned ourselves to get an at-large bid if we finish in the top three or the top four in our league,” “This year’s schedule is as difficult as any we’ve had in the time I’ve been here.”
The Panther players:
Deon Mitchell SOPH (17.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg), 6-1 PG was a MVC all-freshman team member, He started 24 games, including the last 11 last year. He has scored 53 pts this season and played 84 min.
Chip Rank JR (6.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg), 6-6 F “He’s got a toughness to him, and he’s got a real passion for playing,” I wouldn’t be surprised to see him shoot low-to-mid 40 percent from the 3-point line” Jacobson said of Rank. He has scored 18 pts this season and played 44 min.
Matt Bohannon FR (9.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg), 6-4 G the best perimeter shooter on a good perimeter shooting team, he redshirted last year. He has scored 29 pts this season and played 81 min.
Seth Tuttle SOPH (12 ppg, 7.0 rpg), 6-8 F made two All-MVC teams All-Newcomer and All-Freshman, became the first freshman to ever lead the Valley in field goal percentage, excels at drawing fouls; he made 66 percent of his twos and nearly two-thirds of his attempts are the result of cuts, put backs, or paint touches. Of all D-I freshmen, only Tuttle and Cody Zeller had usage rates of 20 percent or more while also notching offensive ratings over 120. He has 36 pts this season and played 69 min
Marvin Singleton SOPH (5.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg), 6-6 F one of several players figures in the mix at forward, He has scored 17 pts this season and played 38 min.
Nate Buss SOPH (8.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg), 6-9 F gives UNI a taller look than usual from the forward position, added 20 pounds to his 6-9 frame in off season, and his outside shot and speed will cause match-up problems. He has scored 24 pts this season and played 39 min.
Jake Koch SR (11.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg), 6-9 F led the team in blocks and assists and finished second in free-throw percentage last season, “He led us in assists; he led us in blocks. He made 30-some 3s; he gets to the free-throw line. He does a little bit of everything” Jacobson said. He has scored 35 pts this season and played 75 min.
Matt Morrison JR (4.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg), 6-0 G averaged nearly 12 minutes a game and played in 30 contests last year. “He was able to have some big games for us,” Jacobson said. He has scored 14 pts this season and played 41 min.
Marc Sonnen SR (7.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg), 6-3 G will reprise his off-the-ball role, started at least 21 games last year and averaged more than 28 minutes a game. He has scored 23 pts this season and played 91 min.
Max Martino SOPH (1.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg), 6-5 G vying for a key role on the perimeter, He has scored 3 pts this season and played 38 min.
Chris Olivier FR (5.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg), 6-8 F suffered a broken foot last fall and redshirted, “Olivier is big and left-handed but needs to gain strength and improve his conditioning to impact the club,” Jacobson said. He has scored 5 pts this season and played 16 min.
Matt MacDougall FR 6-4 G Has not played this season.
Austin Pehl SR (2.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg), 6-10 C averaged 7.4 minutes a game last season, He has scored 2 pts this season and played 9 min.
Tyler Lange JR 6-6 F has not played this season.
Anthony James SR 6-0 G was an honorable mention All-MVC pick for the second straight season and led the Panthers in scoring. He scored in double digits 21 times despite coming off the bench for UNI’s final 10 games. He was suspended for the first 3 games of this season but will play against the Cards.
Three questions going into this game:
Peyton Siva was the key to the runs in the post season tourneys at the end of last season. His speed and athletic ability define his game, but that same speed that allows Peyton to blow by opposing defenders has also triggered trouble. By his own admission he knows that he needs to learn to harness some of that ability. When he’s playing well, he’s as good as any point guard in America. But he hasn’t been the most consistent player in the country and he can be prone to turnovers. Still, he has been mentioned all off season in the All-American conversation. He is the key to this whole season and the Battle 4 Atlantis. This is his first chance to shine. Will he?
Wayne Blackshear now looks physically strong and his timing is good as he is now ready for battle. He can provide perimeter firepower as a big guard type who can also post up and create fouls on defenders. He seems to be coming into his zone. He is another key factor this week. Will he continue to do his thing?
I love the run and gun style of basketball. When it is working its the most exciting brand of basketball there is. But when those 3 point shots aren’t falling it can get real ugly real fast as we found out at Providence last year. Those 3 point shots falling like they did against Miami(OH) can be fools gold. And if the Cards have an off shooting night can they take advantage of one of the top Frontcourts in the country?
With UNI’s talent now boasting experience, coupled with a deep bench and a renowned dogged defense, the Panthers should give our Cards a tough challenge. And we don’t have to wait for the second round of this tournament to find out where our team stands. We will find out Thursday. I think we get this one but it will be far from easy.
The Beak Prediction:
Louisville 80 Northern Iowa 73