Weird Formula – Denver Hoops

Lots of people like to argue whether DU plays the pure Princeton offense, a hybrid, or some other form of basketball unique to this planet. So, we looked at the stats for the entire NCAA field (351 teams) to see empirically what DU did on the floor this year.

Denver gets the ball on average 63.2 times per game (350/351) so it is not your imagination –  Denver does slow the game pace. This impacts DU’s high scoring defense standings(32/351) by only allowing their opponents 65 ppg.. Denver, in turn, only tallies 65.2 ppg. (318/351).

Where is DU in total rebounds per game? Yep, 351/351 with only 24.8 boards per game. Some of this is due to the slower pace but size and athleticism impact this figure as well. Opponents are snaring 30.6 boards (12/351) per game – a minus 5.8 differential (325/351) for DU. The Pioneers rebounding efficiency is slightly better at 222/351. So, clearly, not DU’s strong suit.

During games one ‘feels’ like DU usually makes up for the rebounding differential by winning the turnover battle and superior shooting, right?

DU is pretty good at stealing the ball per possession. They cop the rock 10% of the time (54/351) so the edge goes to DU. DU must win the turnover battle, right? Well, if you look at turnovers per possession, 20.1% for the Crimson & Gold, DU tumbles to 311/351. Things look a bit better with an 1.139 assist-to-turnover ratio (115/351). Some of this may fall to three freshman on the floor at nearly all times. But DU does not always protect the rock as well as they have in the past.

DU plays an aggressive brand of defense. DU fouls 30% of their opponents possessions- only 39 NCAA teams foul at a higher rate. Opponents also capitalize on DU’s aggression with 11.9 assists (78/351) and opponents field goal shooting averaging 45.8% places the Pioneers at 273 of 351 teams on defensive stops. Lots of this can be attributed to points in the paint. Opponents shoot relatively well against DU.

On offense, DU only hits 22.2 field goals per game (333/351) due to the pace. But, opponents 2-point plays from the field result in a puny 31.2 ppg. (30/351), too. DU doesn’t get fouled much, only 17 times per game (328/351).

DU dominates with 3-point shooting, Right?

Well, kind of. They hit 7.7 per game (104/351) but at 38.6% efficiency (26-351) when they take it, they often make it. And, DU is a top ten free throw team in the nation at 76.9% at the charity stripe (8/351). Also, DU has a proven  field goal shooting percentage 47.7%, which puts them close to the top (25/351) of the heap in the NCAA.

What did we learn? DU is deliberate. DU doesn’t win the rebound battle. DU is aggressive on defense. DU is not aggressive on offense. DU is a very good shooting team.

DU is probably a hybrid team. When opposing coaches say DU games are difficult to play because of their style, they are right. It’s a team that operates at the statistical edges.

4 thoughts on “Weird Formula – Denver Hoops”

  1. What does all of these boring statistics have to do with the question about DU’s style (and lack of) comparison with Princeton?


  2. The story’s use of stats paints a very a good illustration of DU’s playing style, which is based on the traditional Princeton offense, but varies a bit each year depending on the capabilities of the players. DU’s Princeton offenses have some years, been quite rigid, with fast ball movement, backdoor cuts and quite dependent on the three-point shot. This year, it seems that DU players have a bit more freedom to create and drive, but the tempo and base offense is still typically deliberate and selective of the best shot opportunity. The low rebound stats reflect the lack of size, and the fact that other teams try to attack DU inside, where we have trouble matching up with big players. The Princeton system, when it works, is a pretty good system for a school like DU, whose location, academic restrictions and basketball program limitations does limit the types of players that choose us.

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  3. DU basketball players rarely drive, which is why they get to the foul line so infrequently.

    Why keep making excuses for the players that are recruited. Other mid-majors throughout the country recruit better players, taller players, more athletic players. DU is pretty good academically but it’s not an elite college; B, B- and decent SAT’s gets you in. I know that for a fact. Location? You can’t get players to come to Denver because they’d rather go to North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming…….? Come on.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If you are a decent basketball player in North Dakota, South Dakota or Wyoming, you can stay in-state and play at the major public universities there as a first choice, some of which are Summit Schools. DU does not have that luxury, as the top players here in Colorado have bigger and more prestigious basketball programs to choose from at CU and CSU before they even consider DU. Other Summit League schools in Indiana and Illinois have deeper recruiting areas then Colorado. And then there are academic considerations: DU is probably not going to accept many C students with SAT scores under 1,000, and a lot of HS basketball players at other schools fit that bracket Also DU won’t take JUCO players, either since they won’t have enough time at DU to learn the Princeton system. Recruiting good basketball players to come here would be hard for most coaches, so they have to develop the guys they can get…

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