Cleat Geeks

Panthers look for Pot o’ Gold

NCAA Basketball: Wis.-Milwaukee at Notre DameFresh off their title in the Cable Car Classic over the weekend, the Milwaukee Panthers will take a step up the completion ladder on Tuesday night as they take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It will be the Panthers’ first of three major shots in the non-conference schedule at picking up high-major wins if they hope to build any kind of at large resume consideration for the NCAA tournament come March. On the short term the Panthers will face a talented and experienced team Tuesday night as they close a brutal stretch of four games in five days.

Notre Dame had five players score in double figure averages last season on a team that lost to Kentucky in the regional final of last year’s NCAA tournament. Three of those five players return but the other two are both playing in the NBA. Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton provided the Irish with 29 points, 10 rebounds and over seven assists on average per game last season. In the season opening game, the Irish elevated senior forward VJ Beachem and junior guard Steve Vasturia to the starting line-up to fill the respective positions of Grant and Connaughton but they are not expecting them to necessary bridge the gap in the lost stats between them. Replacing the stats appears to be falling on two other starters who return off last year’s team.
The job of replacing the stats will likely be a combination of Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson. Auguste is a 6’10 senior forward. He averaged 12.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season. In the opening game he scored 15 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Demetrius Jackson averaged 12.4 points and 3.6 rebounds per game last season. He had a career high 27 points and eight rebounds in the first game for the Irish in the opener. Jackson was particular troublesome in the opener as he hit shots inside, from mid-range, and three from long range as well. Auguste and Jackson form a potent one-two punch from both the inside and outside and will provide a duel threat to the Panthers defense. Also, Auguste and Jackson appear to be ready to take increased roles on the Irish roster. They understand there are holes that need to be filled on their roster and the two of them as upperclassmen appear eager to fill them by their own contributions.
scoreThe Panthers put together three very good performances over the weekend but the deck is stacked against them Tuesday night on several fronts. The Irish are easily the most talented team the Panthers have seen so far. Secondly, the Panthers are going into a building the Irish are very comfortable playing in. Notre Dame went 17-2 on their home floor last season including 10-0 in non-conference games. So the Panthers will be going into hostile territory. Lastly the Panthers face a schedule disadvantage. The Panthers will be playing their fourth game in five days while the Irish have been idle since opening night blowout that they won by 30. The Panthers are not supposed to win this game. With that being said, the Panthers have the ability to keep this reasonable. One big thing they must guard against is prolonged Irish runs. The Irish used a 22-5 run to put the separation into their season opener. If the Panthers are going to stay in this thing and possibly steal it is essential for them to stay out of big runs by the Irish. A run equivalent to the run they put together in their opener could cause irreversible damage to the Panthers chances.
But Milwaukee has made its history doing things they are not supposed to do. Tonight we’ll see what gets added to that story. Unfortunately, as you can see from the score above they did not pull odd the win, but they did keep it close and made it respectful, and those two things can be looked at as wins for this program in the young season going forward.

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