'08-'09 Season Begins: Looking Into the Crystal Ball

The Panthers officially kicked off the new season today, and with that, we can begin chattering about what we love most- UWM Hoops. The players have been practicing together all summer in what are known as "workouts"; players have an understanding with coaches that they will organize their own workouts and practices until teams are officially allowed to practice.

UWM opted to skip the annual "Panther Madness" celebration of "Midnight Madness"- the first day college teams are eligible to practicing under their coaches direction. Maybe this is a good thing- the dunk contest last year was rather uneventful and the event injured Joe Allen for the entire '07-'08 season- Joe could have been a huge help in the wake of everything else bad that happened (esp. to forwards) last year.

On the other hand, Athletic Dept. organizers cited a "lack of student participation" as a major reason for skipping the event. I'll admit (I was there last year) , it seemed to me there were a few hundred (maybe 500?) fans that looked to be largely alums and younger casual city fans at the Klotsche- students (other than the men's and women's team players) were almost non-existent. It is amazing how just one horrible year can completely sap school spirit when you have a young and largely "fair-weather" fan base.

Make it two horrible years. Last year's 14-16 record wasn't near as bad as the 9-22 posted in Jeter's second year. But with the excitement that surrounded the team in the lead-up to last year's campaign (the continued dominance of Avery Smith, the heralded Simeon recruits, Torre Johnson, prospects of Roman Gentry coming into his own, etc.), that 14-16 record might as well have been 1-29. A losing season is a losing season; it is that much more painful to endure when you think you have a good shot at making a run at some real success though.

As the title of this post points out, this season is largely a mystery. There will be no more bold predictions on this blog (last year, especially early on, readers could sense my naive optimism; I still try to see th glass half-full, but I have become more reasoned watching the Panthers struggle over the past two seasons (and writing about one of those seasons)).

I will however, for the sake of entertainment, offer up some questions which you the reader, hopefully can shed some insight on. I don't have any answers, just pure opinionated speculation. I'd be interested to know what some of you think about the following big questions facing the team coming into this season:

1). Will Avo be as good as he was two seasons ago and will he stay on the coaching staff's good side all season? 
2). Can James Earyes (6'6" 330lbs) handle the fast pace of D-I college basketball and will he be effective in the post? 
3). Will a reliable 3pt threat emerge from this group? (Avo? Ricky? Deion? Charlie? Tone? Eayres? Anyone?) 
4). Will Deonte Roberts be more disciplined at the point and decrease turnovers? (esp. all the "palming" calls he was called for last season) 
5). Will Riley Walker get any playing time? 
6). Will any of the freshman emerge as great players? 
7). Will the JuCo's (Eayres, Porte, Boyle) pan out? 
8). Will Kaylan Anderson put his athleticism to use? 
9). Will UWM have an outside chance of reaching the Horizon League Championship or winning the league this season? 
10). Will Deonte Roberts find a reliable jump shot and improve his free throw shooting?
11). Can Ricky Franklin prove that he is dangerous and clutch (even when there is more than .007 seconds on the clock)? 
12). Will Burleigh Porte hold down the paint for UWM? 
13). Will UWM start another home court winning streak? (make 'em fear the CELL once again!!!) 
14). What will be the longest winning streak this season? 
15). If UWM takes care of their end of the bargain (starts winning basketball games- lots of basketball games), will we the fans make good on our part and make the Cell rock for home games? 
16). Does UWM have any chance in h%^* of beating either Marquette or Wisconsin this year? 
17). Will UWM make Milwaukee proud once again?

I'd love to know what some of you think about these questions and others that I may have failed to mention. All of the answers will come in due time. The first exhibition game is at home vs. MSOE; I cannot wait for the season to start. When I look into the crystal ball I see a multitude of possibilities, and most, but not all of them look very encouraging. Let's hope Avery Smith wasn't jpking when he said this summer between team workouts, "We're trying to get back to the NCAAs". Considering this is his last year to do so- I think he is going to do everything he can to make that a real possibility. Stay tuned....