CEDAR FALLS — Adversity is unavoidable for college basketball teams this season.
Disruptions due to COVID-19 have and will continue to challenge teams. However, recent developments have presented the Northern Iowa men’s basketball team with an unprecedented amount of misfortune.
Reigning Missouri Valley Conference player of the year AJ Green is out indefinitely as he seeks the best path forward to heal a hip injury.
Sophomore guard Antwan Kimmons has taken a leave of absence from the team to return home to Minnesota to assist his family with challenges that have arisen from the pandemic.
Senior forward Goanar Mar had his transfer waiver appeal denied by the NCAA and freshman guard Tytan Anderson still is multiple weeks away from returning from a knee injury.
So, asked Monday if this is the most adversity a team he’s coached has faced, Ben Jacobson could only recall a few seasons that come close.
“(Pandemic) included, nothing has come close or even compared,” he said. “Aside from it we’ve had a couple times — Kwadzo (Ahelegbe) had back-to-back shoulder surgeries. Carlton Reed had just gotten back and was playing his best and had a knee injury shortly after.
“We’ve had some of the injury stuff come up before, but when you add it all up, certainly not the situation we’re in right now when you bring everything back into the equation.”
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Having had some time since last week’s adversity to regroup and move forward, Jacobson and his staff have been focused on how to alter their offense without its primary decision-maker and shot-maker in Green.
The 15th-year coach stressed whether Green and Kimmons are available or not, it was always going to take time for an inexperienced roster to understand and execute the best opportunities that come from within their “flow” offense.
“Noah (Carter’s) ability to score, really on all parts of the floor, but inside,” he said. “James (Betz) has shown that he can score it inside. (Austin) Phyfe shot 69 percent from the field last year. So, there’s some things you can do schematically to pound that ball inside a little bit more.”
After a comfortable win over NAIA opponent St. Ambrose last Friday night, the Panthers are set to play another NCAA Tournament hopeful this week when they travel to Virginia to take on No. 19 Richmond (3-0).
“Watching them play at Kentucky (a 76-64 win last Sunday) you can just feel the experience coming through the TV screen,” Jacobson said. “When you think about breaking down the film, breaking down the personnel and breaking down what they’re doing on offense and defense, not only are they older and have a ton of experience, but they’re just really good.
“Those two guards (Jacob Gilyard and Blake Francis) aren’t very big, but there’s not a lot better backcourts in the country. Then, they’ve got a lot of size after that.”