IPFW took a significant step forward a year ago within its men's basketball program, as the Mastodons increased their number of victories from 11 under first-year coach Tony Jasick to last season's 16 wins in the coach's second season.
Jasick and his group are hoping for another notch upward this season, and IPFW takes the first step on that journey today, as it travels to Dayton (2 p.m., ESPN 1380-AM).
Here are the story lines leading into the match-up with the Flyers:
New faces in new places
Jasick will be able to utilize essentially six new players this season that – for the most part – weren't available a year ago.
Post players Steve Forbes and Brent Calhoun spent last season as redshirts, as did guard Will Dunn. Former Cathedral High School standout Mo Evans is the team's lone true freshman on scholarship, while guards Herbert Graham and Kevin Harden were limited to a dozen games a piece last year due to injury.
The Mastodon coaching staff has taken advantage of the extended preseason by working with a full complement of players and trying to figure out where each piece fits and how best to utilize each player.
“We have good depth at just about every spot,” Jasick said. “It will be significantly different heading into the first game with the new rules and how games will be played now (with tighter officiating on the perimeter). You better be deep at multiple positions because it could be a free throw contest.”
In Dayton's exhibition game with NCAA Division II Findlay, Jasick pointed out that there were 70 fouls called.
Talent spread out
Jasick believes that not only is this the deepest team that he has had in his tree seasons, but also the most versatile. After graduating the program's all-time leading scorer (Frank Gaines) last spring, this is a group that could be led offensively by a different player on any given night.
“We have a pretty versatile lineup in terms of us having some guys on the inside that can score,” Jasick explained, “we have a couple of guys on the perimeter that can shoot it, and we have a couple of guys that can get into the lane and create (offense) for themselves and for others.”
Of the 13 players on the 2013-14 roster, 12 of them signed on under Jasick's guidance to play for this program. That feeling of ownership by the current coaching staff, particularly Jasick, has created a different feel for Jasick.
“(Senior forward Mike Kibiloski) was signed by (former coach Dane Fife), but he's a guy that could play for anybody,” Jasick said. “I don't think you can put your finger on what it is or what it means, but I do think that there is a little bit of a different comfort level when everybody that signed to play for IPFW this is what they signed up for.”
Enjoying the experience
The Mastodons are required to play games like the one today because it helps the athletic department financially, and Jasick believes that his players benefit from games in bigger arenas and competing against more nationally-renowned programs – to a point.
“We're going to go play in (Dayton Arena), which has hosted more NCAA Tournament games than any other arena in the country,” Jasick explained, “I think that there is something, in terms of the student-athlete experience, that is kind of neat about that.
“From our players' perspective, getting to go play at some of the schools that we have, and seeing where you are (as an athlete), is a unique aspect of our student-athlete experience. But we look at it more so, as we've got Iowa (a previous opponent), how are we going to beat them?”