Against the odds – Denver to face Jackrabbits in Sioux Falls again

Illustration: We used this same illustration last year and it still applies.

The DU men’s basketball team (16-13, 8-8 Summit) are facing an uphill battle in Sioux Falls, South Dakota when they face the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits (16-18, 8-8 Summit) on March 5th at 5:00 pm MT. While Team Rankings is giving DU an 11.13%  statistical chance of winning three games and the championship, most prognosticators would say that is optimistic for Denver’s youthful squad. Few expect them to make it out of the first round.

So far, the Pioneers are 0-for-59 when it comes to Division I league championships.

There are, however, five reasons for hope:

The Case for DU

  • The Pioneers are playing with house money. Since the Pioneers faded down the stretch, losing 4 out of 5, expectations are low. DU has nothing to lose and they can play loose. That is to Denver’s advantage.
  • Every team in the Summit League can beat every other team. Sure, the odds shift even more to the teams from the Dakotas because they have a home court advantage in Sioux Falls. But DU has beaten South Dakota once already this season. They can do it again.
  • The Pioneers played their worst game of the season this past Saturday against SDSU. What are the odds that Denver will have the worst game of the season again and miss 50% of their free throws? Shoot 41.7% from the field? Allow 56.9% shooting? Give up 50% of opponents 3-point shots for 42 points? It isn’t going to happen – even if the Pioneers come up on the short end. The game will be close.
  • If Daniel Amigo can hold his own against Mike Daum (<25 pts., <10 rebounds), that will give Joe Rosga a chance to take over the game. Rosga can do it – and don’t think he doesn’t remember last year’s game ending missed free throw in the Summit League Tournament semifinals – on that same floor against that same team. He is a competitor – he wants to go back and redeem himself – against the same SDSU team.

The final reason for rooting for the Pioneers is karma. SDSU is playing with two rent-a-graduate seniors transfers,  A.J. Hess and Michael Orris.  DU has a longstanding policy of developing their own players over 4-years. The Denver squad is comprised of 100% DU recruited and developed players. Cut Denver players and they bleed crimson and gold. Cut South Dakota players and they bleed blue, yellow, scarlet, white, black and cardinal – what a mess.

Below are the stats. Pretty even.

   Points per game  77.5  75.9 
   Scoring margin  -0.3  +1.6 
FIELD GOALS-ATT  783-1707  785-1625
   Field goal pct  .459  .483 
3 POINT FG-ATT  294-798  217-540 
   3-point FG pct  .368  .402 
   3-pt FG made per game  9.5  7.5 
FREE THROWS-ATT  541-701  413-563
   Free throw pct  .772  .734 
   F-Throws made per game  17.5  14.2
REBOUNDS  1070  1027
   Rebounds per game  34.5  35.4
   Rebounding margin  +0.5  +4.5 
ASSISTS  421  443 
   Assists per game  13.6  15.3 
TURNOVERS  399  391 
   Turnovers per game  12.9  13.5 
   Turnover margin  -1.3  – 2.7
   Assist/turnover ratio  1.1  1.1 
STEALS  164  145
   Steals per game  5.3  5.0
BLOCKS  72  61 
   Blocks per game  2.3  2.1
ATTENDANCE  30173  21182
   Home games-Avg/Game  13-2321  13-1629 
   Neutral site-Avg/Game  – 

The winner of this first round game will be the team that executes best down the stretch and make the fewest mistakes. Groundbreaking stuff, no? Either way, this is going to be a fun matchup and counting Denver out now would be a huge mistake.