November 14, 2016 by Daniel Appel
The last four seasons, the UNW men’s basketball team has experienced immense success. 4 NCAA tournament appearances, a Sweet 16 birth, and a national ranking for the first time. The Eagles will have a chance to extend that legacy, as three starters remain from their Sweet 16 run.
The guard spots are the strongest for UNW. Cody Sprenger, Porter Morrell, and Anderson Bazile Jr. will receive the most minutes at the 1 and 2 spots. Sprenger and Morrell will look to carry a guard heavy team as 2 of the 3 starters remaining on the team from 2014’s NCAA tournament run (Will Gisler being the third).
Bazile Jr. was electric as a freshman, showing an ability to score from all over the court in his first season. Anderson will get looks as the 3 and should start, but it’s better to view him as a third guard than playing small forward. He gives the Eagles a little bit of everything when on the court, with the smarts to know when he’s hot, and when to distribute the ball.
Rounding out the backcourt are Caleb Hageman, Isaiah Rahier, and Mitchell Weege. Hageman got plenty of time early on last year but rarely saw the court as the season drove on, and Rahier took most of his limited minutes. Weege didn’t play outside of garbage time minutes in 2015-16. Look for Hageman to expand his role and for Rahier to get plenty of minutes in the backup PG spot.
Things get a whole lot more difficult when you move to the forward spots. Will Gisler is heading into his senior season looking to have a huge impact. Unfortunately, after the team’s trip to Spain this summer, Gisler returned with a medical condition that nearly look his life. He’s taken the long road back to recovery, and has decided to forego a redshirt season and play. Gisler is the key to the Eagles’ success as a passer, scorer, and rebounder and he assumes the role of whatever Northwestern needs at the time.
Junior Clay Elrod is stretch 3 that UNW will expect pure scoring from. Elrod can fill it up when he’s hot, and defend most of the time. Elrod was a pleasant surprise transfer for the Eagles, putting up 9.8 points per game off the bench.
Aaron Youngberg is one of the most interesting players this year for the Eagles. He can play the 3 or the 4 equally well, can handle the ball, spot up 3’s, and rebound with the best of them (in the UMAC). He’ll get a load of minutes at the 3 and 4 spelling Bazile,Gisler, and sometimes Maring.
Peter Maring rounds out the starting five for UNW. An anchor defensively, Maring brings a solid drop step in the post, and a willing jump shot. While only taking 82 shots last season, he posted an astronomical 72% from the field.
Maring is on the small end of things for a post at 6’5, but can easily hold his own amongst the trees. The senior was tasked with slowing down Bethel’s 6’7 Division II transfer, Derek Magnuson last season after Kyle Ooms couldn’t. Maring held Magnuson to 4 points and blocked the center twice in the second half.
Projected Starting Five
PG: Sprenger (Rahier)
SG: Morrell (Bazile, Hageman, Weege)
SF: Bazile Jr. (Elrod, Youngberg)
PF: Gisler (Youngberg, Elrod)
C: Maring (Simmer, Bellefeuille)
Record Prediction: 22-3 Regular season UMAC champions.
UMAC tournament prediction: Defeat Morris and Scholastica, UMAC tournament champions, NCAA tournament automatic bid.
NCAA tournament: Eagles lose close game in the first round. They have tons of experience at the 1-3 spots but simply not enough post presence to hold up against a top team.