As we near the beginning of Summit League conference play December 30th, the schedule begins to look more daunting with the Summit League ranked as the 13th best conference in the land (out of 31). The Summit is ranked ahead of the West Coast Conference, the Big Sky, the Big West, Conference USA and a host of similarly sized mid-major conferences.
Denver (5-8) needs to make some quick fixes to make noise in the Summit League this season. The three areas of concern are turnovers (346 out of 351 NCAA Schools), free throws (68% – 247 out of 351 NCAA Schools), and fouls (344th out of 351 NCAA Schools).
These are all signs of a tired squad.
Our recommendation is that this year’s squad take a page out of Simon & Garfunkle’s 1966 blockbuster, Feelin’ Groovy, by following this advice, “slow down you move too fast”. All these statistics are telltale signs of fatigue. While the ‘play fast mantra’ is where DU wants to go, up-tempo basketball is not going to work with this particular team’s strengths. Last year, Denver slowed down in league play and got some solid results. With two-thirds of the squad holdovers from the Joe Scott era, it may take several years to get the right mix of go-fast talent.
Our advice to DU basketball is to keep the DU culture you are building – “the strength of the team is the team”. It is not time for DU basketball to abandon their core beliefs but rather a time to play to their strengths. South Dakota State beat Iowa and took Colorado the distance in an overtime loss in Boulder. They put 103 points on the Buffs – sure you want to run with them? Lowly Oral Roberts University scored 83 points in a win at Dunk City (FGCU) in Fort Meyers, a team DU lost to in the same building. Omaha gets off the bus running and gunning – want to play their game now? South Dakota laid 80 points on Duke in a loss but belted an excellent Southern Mississippi program 84-71.
Again – slowing down the pace and more set plays this season may be the answer – with ‘up-tempo’ in the future. That does not mean the return of the ‘Princeton offense’ – just a more opportunistic approach on offense.
- If there is not a quick, easy shot on offense, slow down the half-court offense and milk the clock on offense – especially on the road. Jake Pemberton and Joe Rosga spent their first several years at DU playing that way and they are triggering the current offense. Use more set plays and pics to free up players for open passes and shots.
- Of DU’s 233 turnovers, 20% are Daniel Amigo (49). Joe Rosga (30) and Jake Pemberton (20) who handle the ball at the top of the key have another 50. Add in Ade Murkey’s 30 and you have half of the team’s overall turnovers – and yes, these guys are on the floor a lot. The game needs to slow down for them and players need to receive the ball in open spots that give them escape options and passing lanes. This solution falls to coaching. And, the dribbling and dangerous passing in traffic can be fixed.
- We would expect that a steady stream of free throw practice has been added to the Pioneer practice schedule. That being said, just slowing players down will allow them to not be so tired when they do make it to the line.
- Just by giving ‘permission’ to players to slow down may allow them to relax – even if the change is imperceptible on the court. Their current pace of play is actually not that fast but, clearly, players are outside their comfort zone.
DU is a decent shooting team and they are a top 50 team in rebound differential. They have players that were recruited to play a deliberate style of basketball that plays to smart players who may lack elite athletic talent but have basketball smarts.