2015-16 College Basketball Previews: Northern Colorado Bears

Heading into 2015-16, the Northern Colorado Bears will turn to the likes of Cameron Michael to lead the team on the offensive end after losing five of their top seven scorers from their 2014-15 roster. (Source: Rob Trubla)
Heading into 2015-16, the Northern Colorado Bears will lean on the likes of junior guard Cameron Michael to lead the team on the offensive end of the floor after losing five of their top seven scorers from their 2014-15 roster. (Source: Rob Trubla)

It was just two seasons ago when the Northern Colorado Bears put together an 18 – 14 record overall, an 11 – 9 record in conference play, and took part in the CIT. The Bears opened the season with a big road win over Kansas State, and were able to translate their early-season success into a post-season berth. While they lost to the Texas A&M-CC Islanders in the opening round, a post-season berth capped off a strong showing for the Bears.

Heading into 2015-16, the Northern Colorado Bears face a bit of a rebuild. Several of their key contributors and starters are gone from last year’s team, and the program has no seniors on their roster.

What can we expect from a younger Northern Colorado Bears team this season? Take a scroll down and see what they’ll bring to the hardwood in 2015-16.

Who’s Missing

Last season, the Northern Colorado Bears had the look of two different teams when comparing offense to defense. They ranked 31st in points per game on offense (74.7 ppg), but ranked a dreadful 323rd in points per game allowed on defense (73.4 ppg). Heading into the 2015-16 season, the Bears will be without five of their top seven scorers from a season ago, leading to question marks across the starting lineup.

Among those individuals leaving, three of the top four scorers are gone, all of whom averaged double-digit points per game a year ago. All five players played in at least 29 games, with three playing in all 30 for the Bears.

Headlining the list of departures is leading scorer Tevin Svihovec. The 6’2” guard out of Kingwood, Texas made 29 starts last season, leading the team in scoring with 13.5 points per contest. He also chipped in with 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest. The senior presence that Svihovec brought to the court each night will be surely missed. Svihovec was a durable, reliable player, as he averaged over 30 minutes per game and appeared in all 30 contests. Finding someone who can contribute at the clip he did, plus play the number of minutes he did on a nightly basis will be tough to find.

Tim Huskisson (10.7 ppg) and Dominique Lee (10.3 ppg) are both gone from last season’s team. Both were efficient scorers on the offensive end as both shot better than 50% from the floor. Huskisson finished the year with a field goal percentage of 57.7%, while Lee finished with an impressive 60.2% from the floor. Lee was also the team’s top rebounder, pulling down 7.4 rebounds per contest while appearing in all 30 games.

Cody McDavis (5.9 ppg) and Corey Spence (4.9 ppg) are the last of the main scorers to leave from last season’s roster. Both players saw limited action a season ago, but were key pieces to the Bears’ rotation. Their departures will impact the amount of depth the team has, both in the starting lineup and coming off the bench.

Who’s Returning

With a lot of their production gone from their 2014-15 roster, an emphasis will be put on the players who are returning, and an equal amount of pressure placed squarely on the newcomers to perform right away. The Bears return two starters from last year’s team, plus two key reserves who could very well slide into the starting five this season.

With no seniors on their roster for the 2015-16 season, Northern Colorado will be led by returning juniors Cameron Michael and Jordan Wilson in the back court, as well as sophomore big man Jeremy Verhagen.

The leaders of the offense this season can be found in the back court, starting with Cameron Michael. The junior was the team’s second-leading scorer a season ago, pouring in 12.9 points per contest. He added in 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists per contest, shooting 43.4% from the field and 39.3% from three point range in the process. As the team’s top returning offensive threat, look for Michael to keep up his offensive production and become the team’s go-to option on the offensive end. If he can improve things on the defensive end of the floor, he can become a dual-threat and further help his team.

Joining Michael in the back court is fellow junior Jordan Wilson. The 5’7” guard may be short in stature, but he plays a big game and will be a big piece of the puzzle for the Bears this season. Last season, he averaged 8.8 points and 2.3 assists per contest, while appearing in all 30 games. With the departures of several key contributors from last season, Wilson has the chance to be in the starting lineup on a consistent basis, and will see an increase in production because of the increased playing time.

The biggest question mark in the starting lineup will be around sophomore big man Jeremy Verhagen. Last season, he appeared in all 30 games,averaging 3.1 points and 2.0 rebounds in 13.9 minutes per contest. This season, he is in position to take on a bigger role with the team. If Verhagen can develop over the course of the season and become an imposing big man in the paint on both ends of the floor, the Bears could surprise some people. The physical size is there for Verhagen (6’10”, 220 pounds), but he needs to develop his skills for the Bears to realize his full potential.

In addition to the returnees from last year’s roster, the Bears bring in a slew of JUCO transfers and a talented Canadian freshman to bolster their roster and bench. With the likes of Jamal Evans and Tanner Morgan coming to the Bears from various junior colleges, the front line has received a much-needed dose of talent and size moving forwards.

The key addition may very well be Canadian shooting guard Miles Seward. The 6’3” Seward played his high school basketball at the Athlete Institute, which is also where the likes of Thon Maker, Jalen Poyser, Jelani Mofford, and Jamal Murray have or currently play. The sharp-shooting guard has the offensive game and the shooting range to step in and be a big contributor right away as a freshman.

Throw Southern Mississippi-transfer Dallas Anglin into the mix, who is eligible this season, and the Bears have a talented crew of guards in the back court that may surprise a few people along the way.

Projected Starting Five

Guard: Jordan Wilson (JR)

Guard: Miles Seward (FR)

Guard: Cameron Michael (JR)

Forward: Tanner Morgan (JR)

Forward: Jeremy Verhagen (SO)

Schedule Notes

To open their 2015-16 campaign, the Northern Colorado Bears couldn’t have scheduled a tougher opponent to celebrate the new season starting. The Bears travel to Allen Fieldhouse to take on the Kansas Jayhawks. With or without Cheick Diallo, the Jayhawks will be a massive test to open the season for the Bears.

From there, the Bears return home to Greeley, CO for four straight contests, two of which are regional contests as a part of the Maui Invitational. The Bears welcome Colorado Christian University to town, followed by the UMBC Retrievers to open up the Maui Invitational. Depending on their result against the Retrievers, they will take on either Cal Poly or Austin Peay. A home date with the Omaha Mavericks rounds out the home stand. There’s no reason the Bears can’t go 4 – 0 over the home stand, with their toughest opponents being the Mavericks and Cal Poly, if the two match up.

A road date to take on instate rival Colorado is up next for the Bears, in what should be another stern test for the young Bears. In December, Northern Colorado has a mini three-game home stand, highlighted by games against instate rivals Colorado State and Denver. If the Bears can score a win over any of their instate rivals, that victory will go a long way in terms of instilling confidence in the team moving forwards.

Two road contests against Jacksonville State and an improved Mississippi State team cap off a tough non-conference slate for the Bears. With a younger team in 2015-16, don’t expect an undefeated record heading into Big Sky play. A .500 showing would be a good showing heading into the daily grind of conference action.

Heading into the 2015-16 season, there are a few question marks and some uncertainties surrounding the Northern Colorado Bears. Losing five of the top seven scorers from a season ago will do that to a team, but don’t count out the Bears before the season has even started.

The team has its fair share of talent, but their performance will depend on how well their returnees step up and take on the brunt of the offensive load, and how well their front court can develop and adapt to life in the NCAA. Keep an eye on their newcomers, as they will play a key part in how this season turns out for the team. One can expect another middle-of-the-pack showing from Northern Colorado in the Big Sky standings this season.

– T.B.