1 Sustain intensity. Verlin has seen his young team play at a high level at practice and scrimmages, but only for brief stretches. Part of the issue, he said, is fighting through fatigue. “That’s part of youth,” the sixth-year coach said. It’s also to be expected with so many new faces. Still, maintaining intensity throughout the season is Verlin’s top key for the season – and it’s perhaps his top concern, too.
2 Rebounding. The WAC’s top rebounder last year, Kyle Barone, is no longer at Idaho. In his place is a group of unproven post players. The Vandals have talented guards, but will they be able to rebound against bigger teams? Verlin sees promise in Paulin Mpawe, a 6-foot-10 junior-college transfer, and wing Stephen Madison, who averaged 4.8 rebounds per game last season.
3 Limit turnovers. Idaho was uncharacteristically sloppy last season, when it averaged 13.5 turnovers (and just 13.1 assists). Verlin has emphasized taking care of the ball and playing sound fundamentally. The addition of transfer Glen Dean at point guard should help stabilize the Vandals’ backcourt, but they’ll also have several newcomers – and freshmen, potentially – in their guard rotation.
4 Production in the paint. The only post player with D-I experience is redshirt senior Joe Kammerer, but he’s played sparingly. UI will need solid minutes from Mpawe, Ty Egbert and Robert Asencio. All three have yet to play at the Division I level, although Egbert was with the team last year as a redshirt and impressed Verlin at times during the preseason. “It’s still a wildcard,” Verlin said of UI’s rotation in the post. “They’re still battling like crazy. I’ve got about four or five guys down there that are battling for minutes; one guy is good one day, one guy is good the next.”
5 Stephen Madison. He’s the Vandals’ best all-around player and top returning scorer, but he struggled last season with his outside shooting. In his first two seasons, Madison hit 38 percent of his 3-point attempts before dropping to 28 percent last season. The senior wing will need to be more consistent with his stroke, and this will be the first time he tries to carry the load without Barone as a complement down low. Though Dean and Madison have yet to play a game together, Dean has been impressed with Madison’s versatility. “(He) just knows how to play the game,” Dean said. “Has a great feel for it. Can do so many different things.”
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