Game #22: Denver (13-8, 9-2 WAC) vs. Seattle (7-14, 2-9 WAC)
Thursday, February 7, 2013 • 7 p.m. MT
Magness Arena (7,200) • Denver, Colo.
TV: ROOT Sports • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: Pioneer Vision (audio)
About Denver: The Pioneers have won nine-of-the-last-10 and 11-of-the-last-14 games. With an 9-2 WAC record, Denver is tied with New Mexico State and is 1.5 games behind Louisiana Tech (10-0) for first place. The Pioneers lead the WAC in scoring defense (55.2 ppg), assists (15.71), assists/turnover ratio (1.35) and three-pointers made (8.24); are second in scoring margin (+8.3), free throw percentage (.730) and turnover margin (+3.86); and are third in field goal percentage (.472), three-point percentage (.370), rebounding defense (31.0), blocked shots (4.43) and steals (8.14). Denver returns 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-WAC First Team member Chris Udofia, who was voted 2011-12 SBC Defensive Player of the Year and All-SBC First Team last season. In their lone year in the WAC, the Pioneers were picked to finish third in the WAC's Preseason Polls by both the coaches and the media.
About Seattle: The Redhawks are 7-14 overall, 2-9 in the WAC and 2-5 on the road this season. SU has lost four-of-its-last-five games, including a 68-46 home loss to Utah State on Feb. 2. Seattle is led by Clarence Trent (11.1 ppg and 6.1 rpg) and Deshaun Sunderhaus (10.1 ppg and 6.9 rpg). Prince Obasi is second in the WAC in assists (4.76) and assist/turnover ratio (1.82), and D'Vonne Pickett is fifth in assists (3.38) and steals (1.67). The Redhawks lead the WAC in offensive rebounding (14.67), defensive rebounds (26.43) and steals (8.81), and second in assists (15.14) behind DU. However, they are last in free throw percentage (.592), which ranks 340 out of 345 Division I teams, and their 18.5 turnovers per game are more than all but two teams. Seattle was picked to finish eighth by the media and coaches in the WAC preseason polls.
The Matchup: DU is 3-4 all-time against the Redhawks with a 2-1 mark in Denver. The last time the Redhawks visited Magness Arena was on Dec. 22, 2009, when Andrew Hooper hit a buzzer beater to give DU an 84-83 victory.
Broadcast Info: Thursday's game vs. Seattle and Saturday's game vs. Idaho will be broadcast live on ROOT SPORTS. Marc Stout (play-by-play), Greg Lackey (color) and Jenny Cavnar (sideline) will call the action. ROOT SPORTS is available on Comcast (Ch. 26 or 665HD), DirecTV (Ch. 683) or Dish Network (Ch. 414).
Last Time Out: Sophomore guard Brett Olson set career highs with 22 points and seven assists, leading the Pioneers to a 79-64 victory over Texas State at the Strahan Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. Junior forward Chris Udofia tallied 12 points, six rebounds, four blocks and three steals for the Pioneers. Sophomore Royce O'Neale added 14 points and five assists, and freshman Jalen Love set a career-best with 12 points. Denver shot 55.3 percent (26-of-47) from the field, 46.7 percent (7-of-15) from three-point range and 80.0 percent (20-of-25) from the free throw line. The Bobcats stayed in the game by going 23-for-28 (82.1 percent) from the free throw line, and Joel Wright had a double-double with 33 points and 12 rebounds.
D-nial: The Pioneers are first in the WAC and No. 7 in the NCAA in scoring defense, holding opponents to 55.2 points per game. Denver also ranks seventh in the nation in turnover percentage, forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 25.7 percent of their possessions, according to KenPom.com.
Been Caught Stealing: Seven of the eight Pioneers that played against Texas State on Feb. 2 recorded at least one steal. Denver ranks 17th in the NCAA in steal percentage, recording a steal on 13.5 percent of opponents' possessions. Conversely, opponents have recorded steals on only 8.1 percent of DU's possessions, which is also the 27th best mark in the nation.
Turning the Turnovers: Denver is first in the WAC and 19th in the nation with a 1.35 assist/turnover ratio, and second in the WAC this season with a +3.86 turnover margin, the 16th best mark in the nation. The Pioneers committed only three turnovers against Utah State on Jan. 19 in their last home game, the lowest since DU returned to NCAA Division I in 1998-99. In the first half of the game, Denver did not commit a single turnover, the first time the team has gone a half without a turnover since the second half at Montana State on Dec. 20, 2003. Denver is averaging just 9.4 turnovers per home game this season, including 4.0 in the past two games at Magness Arena.
Further Assistance: With 330 assists this season, Denver has 82.3 percent more assists than their opponents (181), and every one of Denver's top nine players has a positive assist/turnover ratio. In WAC play, the Pioneers have 125.9 percent more assists as their opponents at 183-81.
Playing the Margins: The Pioneers have outscored WAC opponents by a margin of +11.5, the best mark in the conference. Denver's 36-point winning margin over San Jose State on Jan. 17 was the team's highest since beating Arkansas State by 38 points in a 74-36 rout on Jan. 20, 2011. During the current seven-game home winning streak, DU has outscored opponents by 24.6 points per game at Magness Arena. The Pioneers have limited WAC opponents to 52.2 points per game, the best mark in the conference by 8.8 points.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers have won seven-straight home games, improving to 69-15 (.821) at Magness Arena under head coach Joe Scott. The Pioneers are 7-2 at home this year after going 15-2 at home last season. In February 2012, ESPN.com's Ken Pomeroy wrote that Magness Arena was one of the top two home-court advantages in the nation.
Three's Company: Sophomore point guard Brett Olson hit four three-pointers in each of DU's road wins last week in Texas. In the previous game at New Mexico State on Jan. 23, Olson was held without a three-pointer for the first time this season and only the seventh time in 50 career games that Olson did not hit a three. Olson, who earned WAC Player of the Week by both the conference and College Sports Madness for Jan. 14-20, is second in the WAC this season in three-pointers made (2.52) and third in three-point percentage (.424).
The Long Ranger: Although DU hit just seven three-pointers at Texas State on Feb. 2, the team is first in the WAC and 22nd in the NCAA in three-pointers per game (8.24). DU has taken 46.2 percent of their field goal attempts this season from beyond the three-point arc (third-highest rate in the nation), while only 25.2 percent of opponents points have come from three-point range (seventh in the NCAA), according to KenPom.com. The Pioneers hit a dozen three-pointers at UTSA on Jan. 31, giving them 26 in two games against the Roadrunners this season. DU is also third in the WAC with a .370 three-point percentage. Last season, Denver was 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 Conference. Denver is 7-0 in 2012-13 and a combined 17-1 over the past two seasons when hitting 10 or more three-pointers. The Pioneers have at least one three-pointer in 213-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006.
A Little Help from Their Friends: Denver has dished out 330 assists on 477 field goals (69.2 percent) this season, the third-highest mark in the nation, according to KenPom.com. Royce O'Neale and Chris Udofia are seventh and eighth in the WAC with 3.29 and 3.19 assists per game, respectively. 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 NCAA. 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.
Playing the Percentages: After making just 38.1 percent from the floor in the first six games, the Pioneers have shot a WAC-best 49.1 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range (second best) in conference games, raising their season average to 47.2 percent, third-best in the WAC and 29th in the nation. According to KenPom.com DU is ranked No. 5 in the nation in two-point percentage (55.9 percent) and No. 11 in effective field goal percentage (55.7 percent), which gives added weight to three-pointers to determine overall offensive effectiveness. Last season, DU was tied for eighth in the nation with a .478 field goal percentage. KenPom.com had Denver ranked third in the nation last season in both effective field goal percentage (57.3) and two-point field goals (55.3 percent).
BracketBuster: Denver will travel to Northern Iowa to take on the Panthers as part of the Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters on Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. MT. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3. The Pioneers have played the Panthers twice with UNI edging DU 61-56 in their only meeting in Cedar Falls on Nov. 15, 2008. Denver opened the following season against Northern Iowa at Magness Arena on Nov. 13, 2009, and again UNI edged DU 71-65. The Panthers ultimately went 30-5 that season, upsetting No. 1 Kansas to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
Royce Rolls: Sophomore guard Royce O'Neale is one of only two players to rank among the WAC's top 15 in scoring (12th - 11.9), rebounding (13th - 5.9) and assists (seventh - 3.29). O'Neale actually ranks among the WAC leaders in 11-of-13 categories: also fourth in both free throw percentage (.795) and minutes played (34.95), sixth in defensive rebounds (4.95), seventh in both assist/turnover ratio (1.41) and steals (1.57), 11th in three-point percentage (.349), 13th in three-pointers made (1.43), and 14th in field goal percentage (.449). O'Neale, who earned WAC Player of the Week honors for Dec. 10-16, recorded double-doubles against Nebraska Omaha (Dec. 15) and UTSA (Jan. 6).
National Rankings: Denver, which is receiving votes in the Mid-Major Top 25 (page 6), has an RPI of 106, but the Pioneers fare better in the other rankings. DU is No. 50 in the Pomeroy Ratings, No. 74 in ESPN's Basketball Power Index and No. 83 in the Sagarin Index.
Youth Movement: With an average of only 0.85 years of experience per player, Denver has the eighth youngest team in the nation. DU has only one senior and two juniors among their scholarship athletes, while sporting six freshmen.
Cut to the Chase: Denver's lone senior, Chase Hallam, who was named College Sports Madness WAC Player of the Week for Jan. 7-13, is climbing Denver's all-time record lists. Hallam is currently second on DU's all-time career steals list (174), third in three-point percentage (.430), ninth in three-pointers made with (148) and 21st on DU's all-time scoring list (1,114), 18 points behind Alonzo Weatherly (1979-81) for 20th place. Hallam is ranked fourth in the WAC this season in steals (1.90), sixth in three-point percentage (.398), eighth in three-pointers made (1.67) and 10th in field goal percentage (.475). Hallam returned to the starting lineup after missing the final three games of the 2011-12 season due to a back injury. Aside from those three games, Hallam has started all 111 games during his DU career. A 2010-11 All-Sun Belt Second Team selection, Hallam averaged 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals in his first three seasons.
Academic All-District: Senior guard Chase Hallam was voted to the Capital One Academic All-District 7 Team for the third-straight year. Hallam, an accounting major with a 3.9 cumulative GPA, has earned Academic All-District every year he has been eligible. The Mesquite, Texas, native is on the ballot for Academic All-American, which will be announced later this month. Hallam earned a spot on the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner's List each of his first three seasons, compiling a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better every year.
Feeling Charitable: Denver hit 82.1 percent (23-of-28) of its free throws at Texas State on Feb. 2. The Pioneers are second in the WAC with a 73.0 free throw percentage. Strangely, though, DU is 8-2 this season when shooting less than 70 percent from the charity stripe, and 5-6 when hitting 70 percent or better from the free throw line, with four of those five wins coming during WAC play. On Jan. 17, the Pioneers hit all 11 free throw attempts against San Jose State, marking the first time the Pioneers were perfect from the free throw line with at least 10 attempts since going 14-of-14 against Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 30, 2010. Denver was tied for 12th in the nation last season, hitting 76.2 percent from the charity stripe.
Half & Half: At Idaho on Jan. 10, the Pioneers won their first game this season when they have trailed at the half. Denver is a perfect 12-0 this season when leading at the half and 1-8 when trailing at the break. Since Joe Scott took over as head coach, the Pioneers are 80-25 (.762) when leading at half, and 12-54 (.182) when heading into the break with a deficit.
Road Show: The Pioneers have won five of their last six road games, giving DU a 5-6 mark on the road this season. DU was 7-6 on the road last year, marking the team's first Division I winning road record since 1970-71 and only the ninth time in Denver's 89-year Division I history. In the previous five years, Denver had a combined six road victories.
Reaching the Summit: The University of Denver has accepted an invitation to join The Summit League, moving all athletics programs currently participating in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) after completion of the 2012-13 season. Denver plans to participate in 11-of-the-19 championship sports The Summit League currently offers. Denver teams scheduled to compete for conference championships include men's and women's basketball, men's and women's golf, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, and volleyball. The Pioneers will officially begin league play during the 2013-14 school year. The University of Denver becomes the 10th member of The Summit League, joining IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne), University of Missouri-Kansas City (Kansas City), North Dakota State University, Oakland University, University of Nebraska-Omaha (Omaha), University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University. The conference, in existence since 1982, changed its name to The Summit League in 2007 from the Mid-Continent Conference. The University's remaining sports - hockey, gymnastics, men's and women's lacrosse, and men's and women's skiing - will continue in their respective conferences.
Out of the Gate: Seven of Denver's first nine opponents played in the postseason last year, including Iona, California, Colorado State and Southern Miss, which were in the 2012 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 twice against three WAC teams that played in the postseason - New Mexico State played in the NCAA Tournament, UT-Arlington was in the NIT, and Utah State was the CIT runner-up.
Preseason Honors: Junior forward Chris Udofia was voted to the 2012-13 Preseason All-WAC First Team by both the league coaches and media.
National Letter of Intent: Denver signed Drick Bernstine to a National Letter of Intent to join the Pioneers in 2013-14. A 6-foot-6 forward from Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, Colo., Bernstine averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds as a junior, earning All-League First Team honors. Bernstine also played AAU basketball for the Colorado Miners.