Good news and bad for Drake and UNI moving forward…
Roster retention tends to prompt two different reactions.
Some will look at the potential returners for Drake and Northern Iowa, and see reasons for optimism – Another season for De’Antae McMurray to settle in as the Bulldogs’ point guard, or one more year with Bennett Koch being the Panthers’ primary option in the post.
Others will shrug, seeing a group of players who failed to make a splash beyond February and may have a limited upside when it comes to future results.
As the old joke goes; the good news is, everybody’s back, and the bad news is… everybody’s back.
Drake could have 10 of 11 players return from this season’s 7-24 squad, which ended on a 10-game losing skid after showing signs of hope by winning five in a row at the Knapp Center.
The Bulldogs are currently in the middle of a coaching search that will define the program for at least the next half-decade.
Whoever is hired will have two scholarships available and limited time to find the right fits for a team that needs an influx of athleticism, plus more scoring in the paint.
It’s a decision that requires long-term thinking, and to some extent, downplaying the possible short-term benefits in 2017-18.
Northern Iowa should bring back more than a dozen players after finishing 14-16, with Jeremy Morgan (14.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists) being the most notable departure.
The Panthers can also put stock in the stability of coach Ben Jacobson – and nobody should be more relieved by Minnesota’s success under Richard Pitino than UNI fans.
Jacobson has already orchestrated a couple of bounce-back seasons during his 11 years on the job, and his current freshmen class has shown flashes.
The consistency of Koch and fellow forward Klint Carlson will be key. They will be seniors next winter, and the duo will be expected to duplicate the performances they gave against Arizona State and Oklahoma, while avoiding the lapses that contributed to seven straight losses and a 5-11 record in mid-January.
If you’re looking for silver linings, you don’t need a metal detector. Drake could be better. Northern Iowa should be better.
Just don’t spend too much time combing the Wichita State roster.
The Shockers romped their way to the Missouri Valley Conference’s tournament title last weekend, and pretty much their entire lineup is set to be back in the fall.
That’s not necessarily good for the league, and if you believe the whispers about Wichita State drawing interest from the American Athletic Conference, things might go from bad to worse.
At this point, nobody within the Valley seems poised to end the Shockers’ dominance. Regular-season co-champion Illinois State loses conference player of the year Paris Lee and star forward MiKyle McIntosh.
When it comes to the Valley overall, 12 of the top 20 scorers will return, as well as 14 of the top 20 rebounders.
So, perhaps, Drake and UNI can find a little wiggle room in the standings, but Wichita State is a safe bet to continue its reign.
That is, if the Shockers stick around.