TV: CBS Sports Network
Virginia Tech’s young basketball team will face their toughest test of the season thus far when they play Northern Iowa in Cancun tonight.
Ben Jacobson has been Northern Iowa’s head coach since the 2006-07 season. He has compiled a record of 170-101 (.627) overall and 87-57 (.604) in the Missouri Valley conference. Jacobson has led the Panthers to two NCAA Tournaments – including a Sweet 16 – as well as two CITs and an NIT. He has a very good resume, and is still only 43.
Jacobson’s 2013-14 team only went 16-15, but they did beat VCU and they return five players with starting experience. They also added UVA transfer Paul Jesperson, who started 33 games for Tony Bennett two years ago. While they might not boast the overall talent of an ACC team, they are a very good mid-major, they are very experienced, and they are well-coached.
G Deon Mitchell (6-1, 196, Sr.): Mitchell is in his fourth year as a starter, and he already ranks #10 on Northern Iowa’s all-time assist list.
G Matt Bohannon (6-4, 195, Jr.): Bohannon started all 31 games a year ago and made 77 three-pointers. He’s had a tough start to 2014-15, but he’s a very capable shooter from the outside.
G Jeremy Morgan (6-5, 192, So.): Morgan made the All-Freshman team in the Missouri Valley conference last season.
F Marvin Singleton (6-6, 237, Sr.): Singleton is a tough, undersized power forward who averages 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He could be a tough matchup for Justin Bibbs.
F Seth Tuttle (6-8, 240, Sr.): Seth Tuttle averages 17 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, Joey van Zegeren will draw Tech’s toughest defensive assignment, and foul trouble has been an issue for van Zegeren in two of the first three games.
Northern Iowa also has threats off their bench.
G Wes Washpun (6-1, 175, r-Jr.): Washpun is averaging 12 points per game off the bench, while shooting 76.2% from the field. Though he doesn’t start this season, he started 29 games a year ago. He is a transfer from Tennessee
G Paul Jesperson (6-6, 206, r-Jr.): The UVA transfer is averaging over 24 minutes per game. He started 33 games for the Hoos two years ago.
Northern Iowa will go with a smaller lineup for much of the game, so size shouldn’t be as much of a factor in this game. However, the Panthers are a very experienced basketball team and they bring two starting caliber players off the bench.
Here’s a look at their first four games:
North Dakota: 64-52 W
Stephen F. Austin: 79-77 W (OT)
Morgan State: 73-53 W
North Florida: 66-49 W
Finally, some statistical comparisons…
Offensive efficiency: VT #109, Northern Iowa #51
Defensive efficiency: VT #66, Northern Iowa #104
Rebounding %:: VT #302, Northern Iowa #112
This is a pretty evenly matched game, with one major exception: rebounding. The Hokies have been crushed on the boards thus far, despite playing UMES, Liberty and Appalachian State. That wasn’t unexpected, but it does serve as a sign of things to come as the schedule toughens up later in the season. To have a chance to beat Northern Iowa, Tech has to compete on the glass.
Tonight’s game is part of the Cancun Challenge. Tech will play either Northwestern or Miami (OH) on Wednesday night, pending tonight’s outcomes.