Game #1: Denver (0-0) vs. Iona (0-0)
Friday, November 9, 2012 • 7 p.m. MT
Hynes Athletic Center (2,611) • New Rochelle, NY
TV: None • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: ESPN3.com
About Denver: The Pioneers return seven players, including four of the top five scorers, from last year's squad that won a team-record 22 Division I games and finished second in the Sun Belt Conference West Division. Denver returns Preseason All-SBC First Team member Chris Udofia, who was voted 2011-12 SBC Defensive Player of the Year and All-SBC First Team last season. Udofia was tied for fourth in the Sun Belt in scoring (14.5 ppg) last year, and led the team in field goal percentage (.534), assists (2.6 per game) and blocked shots (2.3 per game). Additionally, Royce O'Neale is back after leading the team in rebounding (5.8 per game), Brett Olson, who was second in the SBC in three-point percentage (.456), and 2010-11 All-SBC Second Team selection Chase Hallam. DU welcomes five newcomers to the roster. In their first year in the WAC, the Pioneers were picked to finish third in the WAC Preseason Polls by both the coaches and the media.
About Iona College: The Gaels went 25-8 last season, earning an at-large bid and No. 14 seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, where Iona fell to BYU in the first round. Senior Lamont "MoMo" Jones and junior Sean Armand were named Preseason All-MAAC by the league's coaches. Jones and Armand are the Gaels' top returning scorers for 2012-13, finishing second on the team in scoring (15.7 ppg) and fourth (9.5 ppg), respectively. Armand hit 46.2 percent (79-of-171) of his three-point field goal attempts.
The Match-up: Iona edged DU 80-78 on a buzzer beater in overtime last season in the only previous meetings between the teams.
For Starters: The Pioneers are 60-48 all-time in season openers, 6-8 since returning to NCAA Division I and 2-3 under head coach Joe Scott. DU is 3-11 in road openers since returning to DI, including a 65-58 win at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last season.
Preseason Honors: Junior forward Chris Udofia was voted to the 2012-13 Preseason All-WAC First Team by both the league coaches and media.
U-Tube: Junior Chris Udofia was selected as the 2012 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year and an All-SBC First Team member last season. Udofia was fourth in the Sun Belt in scoring (14.5 ppg) and 12th in assists (2.3 per game). The 6-foot-6 Udofia ranked 30th in the NCAA in blocked shots (2.3 per game) and 35th in field goal percentage (.534), which were third and sixth in the Sun Belt Conference, respectively. Udofia's 72 blocks were the fourth most in a single season at DU, and his 111 career blocks rank fifth.
Winning Ways: The Pioneers' 22 victories in 2011-12 were the most in DU's 89-year Division I history. The previous record was 20 wins in 2004-05.
Royce Rolls: Sophomore forward Royce O'Neale finished last season ranked 31st in the nation in free throw percentage (.865), which also led the Sun Belt. During conference play, O'Neale was first in the SBC in free throw percentage (.904); third in steals (1.8 per game); fifth in defensive rebounds (5.1 per game); seventh in rebounding (6.5 per game); eighth in field goal percentage (.526); 15th in assists (2.3 per game); and 18th in scoring (11.4 per game).
The Long Rangers: Sophomore Brett Olson led the Sun Belt last season in three-point percentage (.462). Overall, the Pioneers were ranked No. 8 in the nation in three-point shooting at 39.8 percent (255-of-641), which was also the best mark in the Sun Belt. DU averaged 8.2 three-pointers made per game, second most in the SBC and 24th in the NCAA. The Pioneers were 10-1 last season when hitting 10 or more three-pointers. Denver also broke the team's single season record of 251 three-pointers, set in 2009-10. The Pioneers have at least one three-pointer in 180-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006.
Cut to the Chase: Denver's lone senior, Chase Hallam, returns to the lineup after missing the final three games of the 2011-12 season due to injury. Prior to that, Hallam started all 90 of DU's games during his career. A 2010-11 All-Sun Belt Second Team selection, Hallam averaged 10.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals during his first three seasons.
Out of the Gate: Seven of Denver's first nine opponents played in the postseason last year, including Iona, California, Colorado State and Southern Mississippi (three of the first four opponents), which were in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford (NIT) and Mercer (CIT) both won their respective tournaments, while Wyoming reached the CBI quarterfinals. Those seven teams won an average of 24 games last season. Additionally, DU will play home-and-homes with three WAC teams that played in the postseason - New Mexico State played in the NCAA Tournament, Texas Arlington was in the NIT, and Utah State was the CIT runner-up.
Playing the Percentages: The Pioneers were tied for eighth in the nation with a .478 field goal percentage last season. According to ESPN.com, DU was third in the nation in adjusted field goal percentage (57.3 percent), which gives added weight to three-pointers to determine overall offensive effectiveness. Likewise, KenPom.com has Denver ranked third in the nation in both effective field goal percentage at 57.3 percent and two-point field goals at 55.3 percent.
A Little Help from Their Friends: The Pioneers recorded an assist on 66.5 percent of their field goals (484 assists on 728 field goals) last season, the highest mark in the nation, according to KenPom.com. DU had seven players averaging 1.65 assists per game or better, including Chris Udofia who was 12th in the SBC with 2.3 assists per game. In Joe Scott's first five seasons at DU, the Pioneers recorded an assist on 65.7 percent of their field goals (2,120 assists on 3,228 field goals made), ranking among the top six highest percentages in the nation every year. Only Northwestern - coached by Bill Carmody, who Joe Scott served as assistant coach for at Princeton - has a longer such streak.
Can't Drive 65: The Pioneers were 22-1 last season when holding opponents to 65 or fewer points and 0-8 when the opponent scored more than 65 points.
OhSoClose: Denver lost in the final 1.1 seconds of four games last season, including an overtime buzzer beater against Iona (12/7/11). The Pioneers lost on free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining in overtime at ULL on Feb. 2 and with 1.1 seconds left at Florida Atlantic on Feb. 9, as well as on another buzzer beater in overtime against North Texas (1/21/12). DU is 4-19 in overtime games since returning to NCAA Division I in 1998-99. Denver's last eight losses last season came by an average of 3.4 points and none by more than seven points.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers went 14-2 record at Magness Arena last season, improving DU's record to 61-13 (.824) at home in head coach Joe Scott's first five years. During that stretch, the Pioneers were 37-6 (.860) against Sun Belt opponents at Magness Arena. In February 2012, ESPN.com's Ken Pomeroy wrote that Magness Arena was one of the top two home-court advantages in the nation.
Road Show: The Pioneers went 7-6 on the road last season, marking DU's first Division I winning road record since 1970-71 and only the ninth time in Denver's 89-year Division I history (see chart). In the previous five years, Denver had a combined six road victories.