We’ve made it one-quarter the way through DU Men’s Hoops’ season and there’s been some good, some bad, and some ok. But there is plenty to be encouraged about going forward. Here’s what has happened so far this season and what it might mean for the rest of the season:
Wins & Losses
Denver finished the first quarter of their schedule 3-4. They played 2 games at home and 5 games on the road. Both home games were losses. Rodney Billups has emphasized the importance of developing a home-court advantage at Magness.
- *Jacksonville L, 92-84
- San Jose State W 76-69
- *Utah Valley L 88-85
- Eastern Washington OTL 85-80
- Sacramento State W 72-61
- Wyoming L 82-70
- Weber State W 57-55
Some fans would argue that DU should have two more wins – against Utah Valley (the Pioneers gave up a 27 point lead) and Eastern Washington (the Pioneers lost a close one in overtime). Overall, their 3-4 record is a fair representation of Denver’s performance to date, but there are still a number of reasons for optimism for this season and beyond.
Biggest Team Surprise
The Pioneers came into the season with one of the worst rebounding margins in Division I basketball over the past several years. They did not add size through recruiting this offseason and playing fast looked like it might exacerbate this shortcoming but DU has actually out-rebounded their opponents at a 37.2 vs. 31.8 per game clip, even against much larger opponents. DU is holding the advantage on both offensive and defensive boards. This is a huge improvement compared to seasons past.
Biggest Individual Surprise
When Rodney Billups said Daniel Amigo was an impact player for his squad, there were skeptics. But Billups’ faith has paid off. Amigo is averaging 14.3 points per game and is pulling down nearly 8 rebounds per game. The two areas he most needs to improve are free throw shooting (50.0%) and reducing personal fouls. He leads the team with 26 fouls – averaging nearly 4 fouls (3.7) per contest. Oftentimes, DU needs his size and free throws in the waning moments of contests but fouls and free throw efficiency limit his role.
The Pioneers are turnover prone. Flat out, they need to improve. The Pioneers have chucked the ball away 116 times while their opponents have committed nearly 40% fewer than the Pioneers. 16.5 turnovers per game is too large a number and Billups has set a target of 10 turnovers or fewer per game for his squad. Turnovers need to be reduced before Summit League play begins.
Of course, the most disappointing stat is the -1.4 scoring margin. The Pioneers are scoring 74.6 ppg. while giving up 76. On almost all other measures, Denver either leads or is even with their opponents. FG%, 3 point %, and field goals attempted and made. However, DU must improve their free throw shooting of .664. Opponents are hitting .774 from the line and DU should be up around .750, closer to their historical average. This is a major problem, especially when DU’s front line misses free throws in the second half of games when intentionally fouled. DU is also committing too many fouls. As the game speeds up, they need to move their feet, avoid reach-ins or sloppy transition fouls.
DU’s iron man? Joe Rosga of course. Playing 34.3 minutes per game, he leads the Pioneers in scoring with 16.1 ppg. A bit of a surprise is Jake Pemberton, one of DU’s best perimeter defenders. He is averaging 33.4 minutes, 9.6 points and leads the team in steals.
C.J. Bobbitt is averaging 27.6 minutes per game, 11.7 points and is second on the team with personal fouls (20). Daniel Amigo is averaging 25.0 minutes, scoring 14.3 pg., and leads the team with personal fouls (26).
Thomas Neff is playing 23.4 minutes, scoring 5.0 ppg., and has chipped in with 20 rebounds. Duke Douglas, Bradley George, and Christian Mackey are getting most of the rest of the minutes while prize freshman Ade Murkey is seeing less time on the floor as he makes the transition from high school to the collegiate level.
Rosga continues to be the go-to guy for Denver. The Pioneers do not necessarily need a huge number of points each game from Rosga to win, but he’s the guy DU goes to in the clutch when they need a critical bucket. He has a high motor and the rest of the team responds well to his high energy level.
5 Individual Keys for improvement
- Get turnovers down to 10 or fewer per game (Currently: 16.5)
- Hold opponents to under 40% FG% shooting (Currently: 43.3)
- Daniel Amigo needs to reduce his personal fouls, more minutes (Currently: 3.6 pf, 25.0 min.)
- Give Bradley George more minutes as a 1 guard – taking pressure and wear-and-tear off Rosga handling the ball and free him up to score and defend (Currently: 12.1 Minutes per game)
- Get free throw shooting up to 75% (Currently: 66.4%)
Denver is playing with a razor-thin margin for error. Until they can address these five areas, their results will continue to be inconsistent. However, their performances and record are about where we thought they would be at this time of the season with a new coaching staff and playing system.
Next Report Card
The next report card will be issued at the conclusion of DU’s non-conference schedule.