2007-2008 Northern Iowa Panthers Basketball Preview
Northern Iowa Panthers - Missouri Valley
2006-07: 18-13, 9-9, 5th
2006-07 postseason: none
Northern Iowa will not be mentioned with the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference heading into the fall, but they might be by the time we reach March. The team is relatively young and inexperienced, but if they can grow up quickly, the Panthers will be in the mix for a postseason berth.
The graduations of Grant Stout and Brooks McKowen are a big deal. Stout was a dynamic forward who would do a little bit of everything. Stout averaged 12.6 points and 9.0 rebounds as a senior and his ability to bang inside and hit the outside jumper provided something that will be difficult to replace. McKowen put up some great numbers of his own, averaging 10.6 points and 5.8 assists. Normally replacing a quality big man and a point guard is a lot to ask, but UNI has become a team that reloads, not that rebuilds. Seldom used Stephen Jones and Tyler Grifin will not be suiting up for the Panthers in the 2007-2008 season.
Along with the returning players who were down the depth chart a ways, many of the newcomers will battle for starting jobs and important roles off the bench. Josh Molstead, Drew Lundberg and Matt Culliver will compete for minutes running the point. Culliver, a transfer from Iowa Western Community College, is the likely candidate to see the most minutes. He is a decent scorer to go along with his playmaking abilities and, as a solid defender, Culliver has all the skills necessary to make an impact this year. The talent level gets a little more exciting on the wing. Carlton Reed is eligible after transferring from Iowa. The former Hawkeye saw limited action in Iowa City, but is a good athlete who could displace one of the starting wings. The same can be said for Kerwin Dunham. At 6-6, the redshirt freshman has great size for a perimeter player. He is a consistent shooter and proved to be a prolific scorer in high school and is expected to be an impact player this year. The addition of Jonathan Montgomery adds a logjam of talent on the wings and the talented freshman might be the odd man out…for now. Montgomery, a 6-4 Chicago product, has a nice mid-range game and can finish around the basket, but he will need a little time to polish the rest of his game. Lucas O’Rear and Brent Barz will add depth up front. At times O’Rear will look like a point forward. At 6-6 and 240 pounds, he looks like a forward and he will spend plenty of time in the paint, but he has some ballhandling and passing skills that will make it difficult for the opposition to handle. Barz, at 6-10 and 220 pounds, will bring more size to the lineup. He is not as polished as O’Rear, but can also step outside and hit the outside shot.
Who to Watch:
Without McKowen, there is no star in the backcourt. Jared Josten and Travis Brown did a decent job stepping into the starting roles last year, but neither developed into stars. Josten is a great shooter and has the potential to be more than just a shooter if he gains enough confidence to get to the basket a little more. Brown may be relegated to the bench, where he finished last season, after averaging 7.9 points per game. It is a good sign of the talent coming in when a returning starter might be relegated to the bench. Adam Viet will join the perimeter group off the bench and take his fair share of long balls, and occasionally a shot from within the arc, but not many. The big question in the backcourt is obviously replacing McKowen at the point. Kwadzo Ahelegbe will get the first shot. The 6-2 sophomore earned four starts last year, but will be seeing a lot more action this year. If he can handle running the show, UNI will be in good shape. Even if he cannot, the Panthers have other options with the newcomers.
Final Northern Iowa Projection:
There is a star on this team somewhere and that is Eric Coleman who led the team with 13.1 points and 9.1 rebounds. The 6-6 senior may be a little undersized, but he has never played that way and has proven time and time again that his size is not an issue. Adam Koch had a productive freshman campaign and is expected to take over the power forward duties. With a little more beefing up, Koch will help UNI fans forget about Stout. Jordan Eglseder, a 7-1 center, had a decent freshman season. He may have to spend another year coming off the bench until Coleman wraps up his collegiate career, but it is feasible that Coleman could move to the four if Eglseder developed enough between his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Sophomore, Guard, 2.6 points per game
Jared Josten, Senior, Guard, 7.8 points per game
Carlton Reed, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Adam Koch, Sophomore, Forward, 2.8 points per game
Eric Coleman, Senior, Center, 13.1 points per game
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