There is a renewed sense of optimism and purpose percolating within Milwaukee’s basketball program now that the one-year postseason ban and reduced practice time have been lifted by the NCAA for falling below the APR threshold. Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter returns ten veterans, including four starters who recorded a combined 113 starts last season. The Panthers finished last college basketball season strong, winning seven of their final nine games, including the final four and are primed for a breakout campaign in 2015-2016.
Milwaukee’s emotional leader on the floor is Second Team All-Horizon League big man Matt Tiby, who averaged 15.6 points and 8.5 rebounds in the Panthers’ final fifteen games last year. The 2015-2016 Preseason First Team All-Horizon League selection ranked third in the conference with 7.8 rebounds per game last season, while being one of five players to rank among the top 12 in the League in both scoring and rebounding .
Tiby is joined by senior J.J. Panoske, who leads the team in blocked shots and will present a significant matchup issue for an undersized Denver squad. Panoske averaged 12.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in the final five games last season, and the 6-10 senior also led the team in free throw percentage (.857).
Coach Jeter returns four starters from last year’s squad, together with junior Austin Arians, who established himself as one of the Horizon League’s best shooters in 2013-2014 before missing last season due to an ankle injury. Junior Jordan Johnson assumes the point guard duties following the departure of senior Steve McWhorter, and the transfer from John Wood Community College turned heads in the Panthers’ exhibition win over Parkside. In 32 minutes of action, Johnson compiled 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
In short, Milwaukee enters the 2015-2016 college basketball season with tremendous experience and depth, together with a genuine desire to return to postseason play. In contrast, Santa Clara has to replace two of its top three scorers from last season and are gangerously thin in the backcourt.
The Broncos’ roster consists of ten freshmen and sophomores, and the only senior is a walk-on. With Milwaukee standing at 5-0 ATS in its lasdt five games versus teams with a losing record and 5-1 ATS in its last six roas games, take the undefeated Panthers to improve to 3-0 on the season and invest with confidence.
Oskeim Sports’ Free College Basketball Pick: Wisconsin Milwaukee (-3.5)