College basketball practice officially kicks off across the country this weekend.
The Panther men will have some 2 1/2 weeks of practice before opening the exhibition season Nov. 5 against MSOE.
To note the start of practice, we'll have a full preview of the men's season on the main site tomorrow. But, a few points of emphasis, if you will, that came out of my conversation with Rob Jeter.
First, there is the lesson of "team" learned a season ago. “When all of the dust settled last year, we had a team” ... that is perhaps my favorite dead-on quote from Rob that came out of our discussion.
Next, there is the hope of a better start. Last season, a 3-7 start overall and an 0-2 start in the league made for a huge early hole. While you can often point to a lot of ifs and buts during a season, just think of what a win over Northern Iowa or Sam Houston and a league win over Loyola - all in the first four weeks - might have meant in the long run. To be sure, the fact nearly every Horizon League team will play two league games on the first weekend of December means teams must find their way to a high level early on.
Rob also made mention of a stronger finish. Certainly, the injury to Marcus Skinner, a general lack of depth by the end and a very, very busy finish to the schedule were all extreme factors a season ago. But, the Panthers want to see the arrow pointing up during February.
Finally, I think everyone knows the Panthers have to shoot the ball better. As Rob notes, they have been able to go out and recruit players specifically to fill needs like shooting, and the hope is that will pay off. While you never really know how a new player will perform in a game, it would be fairly surprising if the Panthers didn't improve their field goal percentage - perhaps even substantially.
Again, the full preview will be on the main site tomorrow. Charles Gardner will also have an early look at the Panthers in Saturday's Journal Sentinel. And, the first public look at the Panthers comes Oct. 28 at the Full Court Club Intrasquad Scrimmage.