PantherU

Why Not: The Incredible Turnaround

Be honest, Milwaukee Panthers fans. How many of you predicted this kind of season back in October?

How many of you expected the Panthers to go from a dismal 8-24 record last year, where the Panthers won only one game on the road all season, to now be 20-13 and only one win away from joining the Big Dance?

In all practicalities, this has been a turnaround season that would’ve had Nostradamus shocked in disbelief.

Even the most optimistic Milwaukee fan couldn’t have pictured this kind of season; this kind of rebound that, regardless of whether the Panthers win on Tuesday or not, will most likely go down as the greatest turnaround season in Milwaukee Panthers history, as well as probably one of the greatest in Horizon League history.

For most of Panther Nation, the best outlook seemed to be a 4-6 win improvement, with maybe a win in the Horizon League tournament, something to give the younger players and the fan base something to look forward to in coming seasons. Instead, the Panthers roared out of the gate, matching and then beating their previous season win total even before conference play began.

And the key contributors to this amazing season? Might as well toss the whole deck and you will find one worthy of the label. There was Jordan Aaron, who flourished at the move to shooting guard. There was Kyle Kelm, who wasn’t even a starter at the beginning of the season, and then returned to the player he was his sophomore season, becoming a dominating presence on the offensive paint. There was Steve McWhorter, who became the steady lynchpin at point guard that had been needed. There was Matt Tiby, who brought energy and attitude that the team had desperately missed. And there was Austin Arians, who brought extra perimeter shooting and another scoring threat.

Or how about Malcolm Moore, who developed into a powerful inside force and became the Panthers’ sixth man. Or JeVon Lyle, who came on late after battling injuries early in the season, to become a spark off the bench. Even freshman Cody Wichmann, who came in a couple key games to contribute, as well as Mitch Roelke and JJ Panoske; all of whom brought their share into games.

With that big of a list of pieces to the Panthers lineup, it’s no surprise that the team had game after game where there was no huge scorer, but multitudes of scorers instead. The Panthers had 12 games where four players scored in double digit points, 7 games where five players did double digits. Showing the scoring diversity, the Panthers had 4 of their starters (Aaron, Kelm, Tiby, and Arians) average double-digit points per game all season, with McWhorter not far behind averaging 8 points. With that kind of scoring diversity, this made the team that much harder to defend, with no one key player to focus on.

Even more than that, beyond the box scores, this team has also shown a tenacity and drive that has kept them competing, even when situations looked bleak. From coming back from double-digit deficits, to holding off late rallies, to somehow summoning the grit to make a run in the Horizon League tournament, the Panthers have done things this season that asked the question, Why not?

Beat perennial NCAA tournament participant Davidson on the road, the Wildcats first home opener loss since 1991? Why not.

Go 8-6 on the road after winning only one road game the previous year? Why not.

Give rival Green Bay one of its only two conference losses, at their home court? Why not.

Dominate Valparasio in the conference tournament after being swept by them in the regular season? Why not.

Upset 12-point favorite Green Bay at a rocking Resch Center to play in the Horizon League championship? WHY…NOT.

With the chance to beat Wright State, who the Panthers have split the season series with, and the chance to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005-06, the Panthers have a chance to make this memorable season even greater when all is said and done.

Win or lose, the Milwaukee Panthers have had a season to remember, and one that the program can be able to build upon and grow, with many talented young players coming back in the coming seasons.

But even if the Panthers lose on Tuesday, this shouldn’t tarnish the season this team has had. They’ve already accomplished more than expected, and then some.

But hey, why stop now? With a nothing-to-lose mentality and the momentum of a coach bus rolling downhill non-stop, this team has the intangibles to not only win the Horizon League title, but also to possibly make some noise in the NCAA tournament. After all that has happened this season, anything is now possible.

Win at the Nutter Center, where the Panthers have not won since 2005, win the Horizon League Championship, and return to the NCAA Tournament?

Well…you can finish the rest of that sentence.

2 Comments

  1. Dan

    March 9, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Jimmy, I couldn’t agree with you more…….

    “Win or lose, the Milwaukee Panthers have had a season to remember, and one that the program can be able to build upon and grow, with many talented young players coming back in the coming seasons.

    But even if the Panthers lose on Tuesday, this shouldn’t tarnish the season this team has had. They’ve already accomplished more than expected, and then some.”

    I really believe that the Panthers will win on Tuesday. They are streaky, and the Panthers are playing well. This run reminds me a lot of the beginning of the season. Go Panthers!!

    • Tyler Peters

      March 9, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      I wrote this, Dan. But thanks anyway!

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