So, what are the biggest questions facing University of Denver athletics over the next year? After such a successful run in 2015-2016, can the Pioneers make the moves necessary to keep the best non-football school in the land advancing forward?
Issue 1: Two big capital athletics projects remain – the men’s hockey locker room upgrade and Peter Barton expansion. First, can DU generate the funds necessary to begin work on expanding and upgrading the current hockey locker room? Second, will a preliminary plan be put together for more permanent additional seating at Peter Barton stadium next year? In the interim, how will DU manage visits by premier programs next year? Will they have to move games – like the rumored DU vs Duke matchup next year – to larger venues to accommodate demand? Will DU pilot temporary seating on the north side of the field to accommodate demand?
Will DU finally make desperately needed upgrades to the press box?
Our Guess: The DU hockey locker room upgrade will secure funding next year when final plans are completed. DU understandably only undertakes fully funded projects. Then, construction will be initiated after the end of the 2016-2017 season.
DU lacrosse will move at least one game (probably Duke when this rumor is confirmed) to
___________ Field at Mile High next year. Also, DU will pilot temporary bleachers on the north side of the field, behind the players benches for several high-profile home games. A formal plan will emerge after this upcoming year to add permanent seating at the north side of Peter Barton Stadium. If Bill Tierney wants it done, it will get done.
Issue 2: How will the men’s basketball team perform under the new leadership of Rodney Billups playing an up-tempo style with largely the same players? What are fair expectations for the 2016-2017 season?
Our Guess: It’s difficult to predict without seeing their nonconference schedule. Rumors are flying that they are going to have some tough games before conference play. They need at least one more new starter and my guess is that player will be Ade Murkey. LetsGoDU will put together an in-depth look at their schedule once it is released, but at this point, a .500 record would appear to be a solid target for year one – especially considering they will be adapting to a new system and new coaches.
Issue 3: Can Pioneer hockey replace the scoring loss of Danton Heinen and the leadership loss of Captain Grant Arnold and return to the Frozen Four in Chicago?
Our Guess: DU has a solid incoming freshman class but losing these two guys is difficult. Add the NCHC meat grinder and any unexpected injuries, DU was nearly injury-free this year and anything can happen. Still, the boys got a taste of the good life in Tampa – and they want more. Expect to see Monty and the boys in the Windy City.
We are currently putting together an in-depth 2016-17 recruiting rundown. That will give a good sense of how Montgomery and his staff are going to replace Heinen’s scoring touch and build some size on the blue line.
Issue 4: How will men’s lacrosse respond to season-ending shock and heartbreak? Can they rebound and make another run at Championship Weekend next year with what is sure to be one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the land?
Our Guess: With a likely tough preseason schedule and Big East competitors smelling blood, their overall record and ranking may not be as strong as this past season. A reinvigorated Pioneer squad will have their eyes set on the prize but parity is starting to rock the lacrosse world. The Pioneers strong RPI and the development of an outstanding freshman class during the year will still put them on course for another run to Philadelphia on Memorial Day.
The 2017 Pioneers are a tough bunch to evaluate at the moment. With just one main offensive contributor graduating in Jack Bobzien, there is no reason why the 2017 squad shouldn’t make a run at the 2017 title. The much-too-early look at 2017 indicates that they might even be better than the 2015 National Champions. We will have much more on this in the 2016 season review soon.
Issue 5: Women’s Lacrosse finished the year strong in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. How will they perform in the Big East next season with a reported bumper crop of recruits? Will Nicole Martindale become DU’s first female Tewaaraton finalist?
Our Guess: DU will be competitive in the Big East with the exception of Florida – yes, it does sound funny to have Florida and Denver in the same conference. Expect a 2nd or 3rd place finish at worst in their first year in the conference. Nicole Martindale will make noise in the Big East but she will have to wait until her senior year when she will be a Teewaraton finalist. In the interim, we will have to be satisfied with Martindale and, then, senior Layne Vorhees to be selected as All-Big East players.
Give us your thoughts. Did we miss some big questions for DU athletics next year or do you have a different opinion or view on our ‘guesses’?