Game #31: NIT First Round Denver (21-9) vs. Ohio (24-9)
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 • 7:15 p.m. MT
Magness Arena (7,200) • Denver, Colo.
TV: None • Radio: AM 1510 & FM 93.7 • Web: ESPN3 (video)/Pioneer Vision (audio)
About Denver: The Pioneers earned a No. 3 seed in the National Invitation Tournament after being upset by Texas State in the WAC Tournament. That loss snapped a 10-game winning streak, the longest Division I streak in DU history. Denver has won 17-of-their-last-19 and 20-of-their-last-24 games. Denver won a share of the WAC regular season championship with Louisiana Tech, as both finished with a 16-2 WAC record. The Pioneers rank fourth in the NCAA in assist/turnover ratio (1.47); eighth in scoring defense (55.7), assists per game (16.4) and turnover margin (4.8); 12th in field goal percentage (.481); 16th in steals per game (9.0); and 19th in three-pointers per game (8.2).
About Ohio: The No. 6-seeded Bobcats are 24-9 overall, 14-2 in the Mid-American Conference and 7-6 on the road, although Ohio was 0-5 on the road during nonconference games. The Bobcats shared the MAC regular season championship with Akron, which was also the only league team that beat them, including a 65-46 win in the MAC Tournament title game. The Bobcats rank first in the nation in assists per game (17.7), seventh in turnover margin (5.0), ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.41) and 11th in steals per game (9.1). Ohio is led by MAC Player of the Year D.J. Cooper, who is sixth in the nation in assists per game (7.2), 40th in steals per game (2.06) and 76th in assist/turnover ratio (2.07). Seniors Reggie Keely and Walter Offutt earned All-MAC Third Team honors, averaging 12.1 and 10.9 points per game, respectively. Last season, the Bobcats advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, where they were edged in overtime by top-seeded North Carolina.
The Matchup: The Pioneers and Bobcats are meeting for the first time.
Last Time Out: Sophomore Brett Olson scored 19 points, but the Pioneers fell in a 72-68 upset by Texas State in the quarterfinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament at the Orleans Arena on March 14. The loss eliminated Denver from the tournament. Freshman Jalen Love scored 17 points, while junior Chris Udofia finished with 12 points and three steals. Sophomore Royce O'Neale scored eight points to go along with eight rebounds, and senior Chase Hallam also tallied eight points and a pair of steals. The Bobcats shot 65.7 percent (23-of-35) in the contest, while Denver hit on 40.4 percent (21-of-52) of its shots from the floor and 35.7 percent (10-of-28) from three-point range.
National Invitation Tournament: This marks the third time the Pioneers have played in the NIT and the first time they have hosted a game. Denver fell 90-81 at New York University on March 14, 1959, and lost 69-67 at San Francisco on March 16, 2005.
Broadcast Info: Tuesday's game against Ohio University will be webcast live at ESPN3.com. Trey Bender (play-by-play) and Corey Williams (color) will call the action.
Postseason Honors: Junior Chris Udofia and senior Chase Hallam were named to the All-WAC First Team and Second Team, respectively, and both earned a spot on the WAC All-Defensive Team. Sophomores Brett Olson and Royce O'Neale were both voted to the All-WAC Third Team.
WAC Championship: Denver won a share of the WAC regular season title in DU's lone year in the conference, going 16-2 and tying Louisiana Tech for the crown. DU's only other league title since returning to NCAA Division I in 1999-00 came when the Pioneers won the 2005 Sun Belt Conference West Division and earned the No. 1 seed to the SBC Tournament, although the SBC did not officially recognize an overall regular season conference champion.
Call It the Preseason: Since starting the year 1-5, the Pioneers have been one of the best teams in the nation since Dec. 3. Denver has gone 20-4 (.833), the 16th-best winning percentage in the nation since that date. During that stretch the Pioneers have shot .508 from the field (second in the NCAA), allowed just 53.8 points per game (third) and dished out 17.3 assists per game (fourth). DU also led the nation in assist/turnover ratio (1.61) and turnover margin (+9.0).
New Year's Resolution: The Pioneers have gone 17-2 (.895) since New Year's Eve, the seventh best winning percentage during that stretch.
Magness Magic: The Pioneers have won 12-straight home games, improving to 74-15 (.831) at Magness Arena under head coach Joe Scott, including a 46-6 (.885) mark in conference games (Sun Belt/WAC). DU was 12-2 overall and 9-0 in WAC games 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.
Cut to the Chase: All-WAC Second Team selection Chase Hallam, has made 64 steals this season, the sixth most in DU history and just seven shy of the single-season record. Hallam broke DU's NCAA Division I single-game record and the Magness Arena record with eight steals against Seattle on Feb. 7. It also tied Denver's overall record and was the most by a player in the WAC this season. Hallam has 198 career steals, more than anyone in Denver's Division I history and second overall. Denver's lone senior, Hallam is also 15th on Denver's all-time scoring list (page 4) with 1,206 career points, fourth in three-point percentage (.431), tied for second in games played (120, all starts), eighth in three-pointers made (162) and ninth in assists (258). Hallam, who was named College Sports Madness WAC Player of the Week for Jan. 7-13, is second in the WAC and 32nd in the NCAA this season in steals (2.13). Hallam is also fifth in the WAC in three-point percentage (.408), eighth in field goal percentage (.478) and ninth in three-pointers made (1.63). Hallam returned to the starting lineup after missing the final three games of the 2011-12 season due to a back injury. 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.
National Rankings: Denver, which ranked No. 12 in the final regular season Mid-Major Top 25 (page 8), has an RPI of 65, but the Pioneers fare better in the other rankings. DU is No. 38 in the Pomeroy Ratings, No. 55 in ESPN's Basketball Power Index (BPI) and No. 60 in the Sagarin Index, as of Monday.
Postseason Sneak Preview: Of the 21 teams that Denver played this season, 12 of them are heading to postseason tournaments, including four to the NCAA Tournament and five to the NIT. Among DU's nonconference opponents, 8-of-11 are heading to postseason tournaments.
U-Tube: Junior Chris Udofia, who was voted All-WAC First Team and All-Defensive Team, is 26th on DU's all-time scoring list with 1,082 career points (page 4). The 6-foot-6 Udofia, who is second on DU's all-time career blocked shots list with 182, is third in the WAC and 33rd in the nation this season in blocked shots (2.37). Udofia, who was named WAC Player of the Week for Feb. 11-17, ranks second in the WAC in assist/turnover ratio (1.85); fourth in steals (1.63); fifth in field goal percentage (.507); seventh in assists (3.40);10th in scoring (12.9); and 14th in free throw percentage (.703). Udofia was selected as the 2012 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year and an All-SBC First Team member last season.
Been Caught Stealing: The Pioneers have 270 steals this season, already the third most in DU's single-season history, the most in DU's Division I history and the most since 1994-95. Denver is first in the WAC and No. 16 in the NCAA in steals per game (9.00). Additionally, DU ranks No. 3 in the NCAA in steal percentage, recording a steal on 15.0 percent of opponents' possessions, trailing only VCU (17.1 percent) and Louisville (15.8 percent). Conversely, opponents have recorded steals on only 8.0 percent of DU's possessions, which is the 19th best mark in the nation. Denver's 22 steals against Seattle on Feb. 7 shattered its single-game team record, which had been 18 against Rockmont on Feb. 10, 1982, and the mark was the most by a team in the WAC this season. Denver had not recorded more than 10 steals in a half since returning to NCAA Division I in 1999, but the Pioneers had 11 in each half against the Redhawks. DU is 8-0 this season when recording at least 10 steals.
Let's Go Streaking: Prior to the loss against Texas State on March 14, the Pioneers won 10-straight games, the longest winning streak over NCAA Division I opponents in DU history and tied for the fourth-longest winning streak in team history.
D-nial: The Pioneers are first in the WAC and No. 8 in the NCAA in scoring defense, holding opponents to 55.7 points per game. Denver also is third in the nation in turnover percentage, forcing opponents to turn the ball over on 26.5 percent of their possessions, according to KenPom.com.
Turning the Turnovers: DU is first in the WAC and fourth in the nation with a 1.47 assist/turnover ratio, and second in the WAC this season with a +4.77 turnover margin, the eighth best mark in the nation.
Royce Rolls: Sophomore guard and All-WAC Third Team selection Royce O'Neale is the only player to rank among the WAC's top 15 in scoring (14th - 11.4), rebounding (14th - 5.6), assists (sixth - 3.43) and steals (10th - 1.40). O'Neale actually ranks among the WAC leaders in 9-of-13 categories: also third in minutes played (35.03), fifth in free throw percentage (.765), sixth in assist/turnover ratio (1.51), seventh in defensive rebounds (4.67) and 14th in field goal percentage (.444). 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).
Three's Company: Sophomore point guard Brett Olson, who was voted All-WAC Third Team, is second in the WAC this season in both three-point percentage (.451) and three-pointers made (2.47), as well as seventh in both field goal percentage (.479) and minutes played (33.53), and 15th in both scoring (11.3) and steals (1.13). Olson, who earned WAC Player of the Week by College Sports Madness twice this season (Jan. 14-20 and Feb. 18-24), stepped up during conference games, ranking first in both three-point percentage (.473) and assist/turnover ratio (2.67), second in three-pointers made (2.39), seventh in both field goal percentage (.521) and minutes played (34.67), 11th in assists (3.11) and 13th in scoring (11.9).
The Long Ranger: The Pioneers are first in the WAC and 19th in the NCAA in three-pointers per game (8.17), and first in the WAC and 29th in the nation in three-point percentage (.380). DU has taken 44.4 percent of its field goal attempts this season from beyond the three-point arc (sixth-highest rate in the nation), while only 24.6 percent of opponents points have come from three-point range (also sixth in the NCAA), according to KenPom.com. 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 8-1 in 2012-13 and a combined 18-2 over the past two seasons when hitting 10 or more three-pointers, although the one loss this season was in DU's last game against Texas State on March 14. The Pioneers have at least one three-pointer in 222-straight games, dating back to Feb. 2, 2006.
A Little Help from Their Friends: The Pioneers had a season-high 26 assists on 28 field goals against UT Arlington on March 7, and now have 491 assists on 697 field goals (70.4 percent), the highest mark in the nation (one spot ahead of Ohio (67.5), according to KenPom.com. Royce O'Neale and Chris Udofia are sixth and seventh in the WAC with 3.43 and 3.40 assists per game, respectively. Last season, the Pioneers recorded an assist on 66.5 percent of their field goals (484 assists on 728 field goals), 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.
Further Assistance: With 491 assists this season, Denver has 88.1 percent more assists than their opponents (261), and every one of Denver's top nine players has a positive assist/turnover ratio. In WAC play, DU had more than twice as many assists as their opponents at 321-149 (115.4 percent).
Playing the Margins: During the current 12-game home winning streak, DU has outscored opponents by 22.0 points per game at Magness Arena, including a 78-54 victory over WAC co-champions Louisiana Tech on March 9. DU limited WAC opponents to 53.2 points per game, the best mark in the conference by 9.0 points.
Playing the Percentages: After shooting just 38.1 percent from the floor in the first six games, the Pioneers have raised their season average to 48.1 percent, tops in the WAC and 12th in the nation. According to KenPom.com, DU is fourth in the nation in two-point percentage (56.1 percent) and third in effective field goal percentage (56.5 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).
Half & Half: Denver's win over New Mexico State on March 2 marked just the second time this year the Pioneers overcame a halftime deficit to win. DU is a perfect 19-0 this season when leading at the half and 2-9 when trailing at the break. Since Joe Scott took over as head coach, the Pioneers are 87-25 (.777) when leading at half, and 13-55 (.191) when heading into the break with a deficit.
Sharing the Wealth: All five starters scored at least 10 points against Louisiana Tech on March 9 (Udofia 18, Olson 12, Love 11, Hallam 10, O'Neale 10), marking the first time that has happened since Feb. 7, 2008, against Troy (Joe Jackson 24, Nate Rohnert 19, Rob Lewis 14, Tanner 12, Kyle Lewis 11) .
Road Show: Denver won 8-of-its-final-9 road games, giving them an 8-6 road record. The eight wins are second-most in team history and match the most Division I road wins, set with an 8-6 record in 1942-43. This season is just the 10th in Denver's 89-year Division I history with a winning road record. Last year, DU went 7-6, marking the team's first Division I winning road record since 1970-71. From 2006-11, DU had a combined six road victories.
Extra Basketball: Denver's overtime win at Utah State on Feb. 14 snapped a five-game losing streak when DU plays extra time, dating back to a win over Florida International on Jan. 15, 2011. It was also the first time the Pioneers won a true road game in overtime since winning in double overtime at Northern Colorado on Dec. 12, 1989 - 11 months before Chase Hallam, this year's oldest player, was born (Nov. 17, 1990). Denver is 4-19 in overtime games since returning to NCAA Division I in 1998-99, and 3-11 in such games since head coach Joe Scott took over the program in 2006-07, including a 76-75 neutral-site win in Norman, Okla., against East Central University in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic on Nov. 8, 2008, in Scott's first game with the Pioneers.
Comeback Kids: Denver overcame a 14-point deficit at Northern Iowa on Feb. 23, the biggest deficit overcome by DU in a win since coming back from 16 down to beat Seattle 84-83 on Dec. 22, 2009. It was also the largest road deficit overcome by the Pioneers in a win since 2000.
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.
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 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.
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), 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. Northern Iowa advanced to the second round of the NIT.
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.