Milwaukee Panther Hoops – Part Two
Editor: Jimmy Lemke (@PantherU) is a long time Milwaukee Panther basketball reporter. His site PantherU.com covers UWM hoops. This part two of his introduction of Panther basketball to Missouri Valley Conference fans.
A New Day
While there hasn’t been much fans have agreed upon for years, one thing is for sure: the fans love LaVall Jordan. Carrying a strikingly similar resume to Jeter and a perpetual positive demeanor, Coach Jordan seems to be all upside. He’s the squeaky clean, congenial coach that fans want at the head of the bench. He is the archetype of the Butler Way, the program philosophy built at BU by Barry Collier. He was Jordan’s first coach at Butler and now the AD, and very nearly picked Jordan to be head coach of the Bulldogs when Brad Stevens left for Butler.
Their loss, our gain. Chancellor Mark Mone was blown away by Jordan in on-campus interviews, picking him to build up the program over Braun’s alleged choice, T.J. Otzelberger (who has since taken over South Dakota State).
Every person who comes across Jordan has been impressed, and he’s been just as impressive with his players. Senior Cody Wichmann had been a defensive liability prior to Jordan’s influence and became one of the better defensive wings in the conference. Junior Brett Praha struggled to find playing time, but under Jordan, he had become a strong post presence, showing off a bevy of post moves and becoming a deeply important defensive player.
The 2016-17 Milwaukee Panthers were one of the youngest teams in Division I – despite this, they rattled off three late season victories out of nowhere and came within two possessions of going to the NCAA Tournament.
Many fans will want to look at the surface and say that the Panthers don’t have enough recent success to warrant the addition to the MVC. But if they keep in mind that the Panthers have only been Division I for just over 25 years, they can see demonstrated success over a long period of time – 2003 to 2014 – that led to four NCAA Tournaments, four Horizon League championships and two NIT berths.
Our guys have also won in the Big Dance when they’ve gotten there – three victories, including a Sweet Sixteen, in those four appearances. If you take every current Valley program except for UNI and SIU, and add up their NCAA Tournament resume since 2002, it’s exactly the same. Best finish? Bradley’s Sweet 16 in 2006. Three NCAA Tournament victories. Four appearances. That’s from seven schools. Why look down your noses at a program that’s got the same resume as nearly the entire MVC?
If you think Milwaukee is going to accept a losing basketball program, you need only look at the fact that its last head coach won 19 or more games in five of his last seven years and got fired anyway. There’s a standard that’s been set.
The MVC has agonizingly difficult decisions to make in the next couple weeks. I believe all four of the programs visited by Valley officials last week would be assets to the MVC. I believe that Milwaukee brings a unique blend of benefits that will make the MVC happy they brought the Panthers on board after the next 25 years.
What are those benefits? How else are we gonna get you to come back