Panthers Track West, Look to Make Early Season Statement

West bound and down for the [Horizon] crown? Let's hope..

Ryan Allen will be dunkin' the Cell back to life in '10-'11

Both exhibition games went very well for the Panthers. They out-manned MSOE back to the lower east side with a 86-37 unintentional blowout. Seriously, the end of our bench (including Mitch Roelke- former Panther team manager now walk-on player) finished out the final 5-10 minutes.

It was a D-III opponent, and MSOE was clearly out-sized and out-depth'd. I am just glad to see us winning these games where the end result is really never in doubt from beginning to end.

The Panthers then took down Carrol University (also D-III) without much trouble, finishing up these rotation fine-tuning exhibitions with an 84-59 victory that didn't at first seem like a no-doubter... until the second half when our overall talent and depth advantage kicked in.

These Panthers did look slightly sloppy with the ball at times- for short stretches (no games with 10+ minutes sans Panther FG this season.. please!) and only when they seemed to start getting a big lead and in (wrong) turn, get ahead of themselves a little bit.

When matched against opponents who will seize any and nearly all Panther miscues and swing momentum in a minute or two (which MSOE and Carroll clearly did not have the firepower to do), I think this team can keep up the level of intensity throughout the season and throughout the entirety of each game.

This is Tone's senior season - he won't be leaving the Horizon quietly

Both games gave Coach Jeter the opportunity to determine the rotations he think will work best for the team this season. Assuming Mitch Carter is out for a few games with his hand injury, and based on the exhibition floor combinations, the 9-10 man rotation looks to be:

"Likely starting 5"
PF Anthony Hill
SF Tony Meier
PG Kaylon Williams
SG Tone Boyle
SG/PG Jerard Ajami

"Next 5 in no particular order"
SG Ryan Allen
SG/PG Ja'Rob McCallum
SG Lonnie Boga
PF Ryan Haggerty
PF Kyle Kelm

Ajami will probably begin the season as a starter, but I think he'd be a better defensive replacement and next PG in line behind Kaylon Williams. Ajami is not a big scorer- but he is smart with the basketball, relentless on defense, is able to run the offense efficiently.

Haggerty proved himself highly capable of serious minutes time and again last season down some important stretches when it really counted and we needed someone to step up. You can't keep Kyle Kelm off the floor- despite being a Freshman, he is already ready to play at this level. Big Mitch, Christian Wolf, Pat Souter, "Q" (Quinton Gustavson), and Evan Richard (if he has not been red-shirted) also will figure significantly into the rotation.

I don't think anyone will be on the floor much more than 30 minutes a game. But that's many additional minutes of fresh/energized (and quite capable) other bodies to keep the energy and level of focus as close as possible to 100% for all 40 minutes of each game.

K-Dub has his sights set on marshaling the troops to a slew of victories as the Panther floor general this season

So the season begins... or almost. The Panthers are headed to Portland, OR to kick off this '10-'11 season with the Athletes in Action Classic three game, round-robin style tournament which begins Friday at 3:30. The Panthers face off first against Tourney host Portland in what may figure to be the biggest challenge of the trip. Tune in to WISN 1130 for each one- Bill Johnson does a terrific college basketball game call.

Here is a quick fly-by... a sort of hackish (but somewhat informative) "Behind Enemy Lines" analysis of each opponent the Panthers will play this weekend:

Portland Pilots - Fri, 3:30pm CST
Last Season: 21-10 (10-4 in WCC)
Key Players: Seniors Luke Sikma (bruising PF) and  guard Jared Stohl (.474 3pt % last season..)
Strengths: 3pt Shooting (.407 last year as a team)- this is how they made noise early last season, remember? It is their game.
Weaknesses: They might get out-rebounded by the Panthers.... the offensive "reset" boards and post-play could decide this game.

Florida Atlantic Owls - Sat, 6:30pm CST
Last Season: 14-16 (10-8 in Sun Belt)
Key Players:  5'6" scoring machine Greg Gannt, guard Raymond Taylor and senior forward Brett Royster
Strengths: They seem to score a lot (73pts avg last season) and turn it over just a little (12 avg last season)
Weaknesses: Ill-advised shots had Raymond Taylor average just .385 FG % last season

UC Davis Aggies - Sun, 5:00pm CST
Last Season: 14-18 (8-8 in Big West)
Key Players: Guard Mark Payne (15.6) and Forward Joe Harden (14.5) are two returning 2x digit scorers
Strengths: Height- they have six guys 6'8" or taller and two are 'guards'. This will be a test for Tony and Ryan.
Weaknesses: Turnovers? They averaged 15 a game last season... hopefully that trend continues

This season is the culmination of a long rebuilding process that has taxed the loyalty of some Panther fans... but this thing that has become the new, post-Bruce Pearl, Milwaukee Basketball program is a beautiful monster you just can't afford to miss this '10-'11 NCAA Basketball season... and beyond.

Honest to everything- look at the recruiting coming in. Look at the talent we already have developing and tell me this foundation is not pretty solid heavy metal. This is not just the beginning of a new Panther basketball season, but a beginning of something much, much bigger and long-term. Somethin' is brewing in Milwaukee's East Side... I can smell those hops from my front porch.