Non-Conference Play has not been Kind to DU or the Summit League

Photo:  Courtesy of USA Today. Stephen F. Austin shocks #1 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium last week

Every season we see it – the big upset. #1 Duke upset by Stephen F. Austin, Kentucky falls to Evansville, and the University of Kansas taken into overtime by Dayton. But the reality is that most of the games are essentially predetermined before the tip-off. This is especially true if you are a lower mid-major program, like DU, taking on a Power-5 program or playing a ‘near Power 5’ program from the Big East, Atlantic 10, or American Conference.

So, how is the Summit League doing against Power-5 programs in the first half of this season’s non-conference schedule?

Power Team Score Summit League Score Diff
KS. State 67 NDSU 54 -13
OK. State 80 ORU 75 -5
Indiana 98 W. Ill. 65 -33
USC 84 SDSU 66 -18
*Gonzaga 97 UND 66 -21
USC 84 SDSU 66 -18
NEB 90 SDSU 73 -17
Wash. St 77 Omaha 85 8
Minnesota 79 NDSU 56 -33
Iowa 87 ORU 74 -13

*Gonzaga is a ‘de facto’ Power-5 program

With only one win in ten tries, the Summit League has struggled against Power-5 programs in the first half of the non-conference schedule. And, when looking at Conference Rankings by RPI, the Summit League is ranked 31st out of 32 conferences, leading only the WAC at #32. The top conferences in order are BIG 12, SEC, ACC, Big EAST, Atlantic 10, PC 12 and American. So, in hoops, some conferences and teams are showing that it is possible for ‘non-power’ conferences and teams to mix it up in non-conference contests. But, despite the headline grabbing upsets, for most smaller conferences and mid-major teams these wins are extremely rare.

So, how is the Summit League doing against ‘near power’ opponents – teams from conferences that are ranked among the better non-Power-5 conferences?

Near Power Score Summit League Score Diff
Wichita St. 68 Omaha 54 -14
Utah St. 97 Den 56 -41
Colo. St. 80 Omaha 65 -15
Colo. St. 74 DU 63 -11
UNLV 86 Fort Wayne 71 -15
Wichita St. 68 ORU 59 9
Valpo 74 UND 60 -14
Dayton 93 Omaha 68 -25

Of the nine Summit League games against ‘near power’ programs, the Summit League is 0-8.

This season, Denver men’s basketball, 2-4, has dropped games to Colorado State (Mountain West), Utah State (Mountain West), UC Riverside (Big West) and Santa Clara (WCC). Wins came against Utah Valley (WAC) and Western State (RMAC).

Denver (2-4) is about to start the second half of their non-conference schedule today with eight games remaining before conference play. They play their second game at the Cable Car Classic today at 5:15 pm MT against Cal State Fullerton and finish with Missouri State on Saturday. Their next home game at Magness Arena is December 3rd against Jackson State. Their only Power-5 scheduled contest is December 8th against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.

7 thoughts on “Non-Conference Play has not been Kind to DU or the Summit League”

  1. Denver’s Basketball success was doomed the day the University dropped Football. You can thank Chester Alter for screwing that up.

  2. I’m not going to blame DU’s hoops woes on Chester Alter. Plenty of other DU-sized private schools that either don’t have football or play small-time football do pretty well in basketball – Villanova, Butler, Georgetown, Creighton, Loyola, Gonzaga, etc.

    DU basketball was never great before DU dropped football, either. DU has no NCAA tournament appearances and had no NIT wins (until 2013 for the lone one), and exactly five lifetime wins over top 20-ranked teams, three of which came after DU dropped football, and none in the last 53 years:

    When DU had football:
    1956-57 over #16 ranked W Kentucky
    1957-58 over #17 ranked Utah

    After DU dropped football:
    1964 over #4 ranked Arizona
    1965 over #10 New Mexico
    1967 over # 3 New Mexico

    The reality is the Colorado is poor basketball state for several reasons:

    – Little hoops tradition here (what other Colorado university has great hoops tradition?) – none of them.

    – Player development is bad here. The state of Colorado has produced only 27 all time players who made it to the NBA or ABA. The state of Utah, which has about half our population (and is even whiter than Colorado), has produced 25. Louisiana, with about 2/3rds of Colorado’s population, has produced 97. That’s ugly.

    – A small population of African-American players here (which not only makes for a smaller recruiting talent pool, but also makes it harder to attract great African-American players to come here from other places).

    -A general population that isn’t all that interested in basketball due to other winter diversions, such as skiing and other mountain recreation. This is not Indiana with nothing to do in the winter except for hoops.

    I could go on, but it’s pretty clear to me that for DU to ever be a real powerhouse in basketball, the only way to get there is to hire a proven coach who has won at the D-I level and can recruit 3 or 4 star players nationally. That’s going to cost DU seven figures minimum per season, and until DU decides it can afford to go that route, I think we get what we pay for…

  3. I think anonymous is correct , all Chester Alter’s fault. Seriously though, when basketball was taking off in the late 70’s, DU ceased being D1. Maybe AD Ron Oyer’s fault. We missed out on the gold rush FYI Dr. Puck, in the 70-71 season, DU beat 2 ranked teams; Oregon on the road led by Kevin Love’s father Stan, and Ut St at home by 19.

  4. Dunker would destroy me. He’s forgotten more hoops then I’ve ever known. 🙂

    That said, we’ve both seen a lot of bad and mediocre men’s basketball from this Pioneer program over the years, with a few wonderful moments sprinkled in here and there.

    Bottom line is that DU doesn’t invest enough money in hoops to be nationally relevant – but they do invest enough to be Summit League relevant, and that’s what the fans should expect of them.

    Perhaps someday, we will see DU make it to the NCAA tournament, but I am beginning to think it may not happen in my lifetime…

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