Denver Men’s Basketball Picked to Finish 8th in Summit League

College basketball is set to begin a month from now, November 25th, and DU men’s basketball finds themselves ranked 8th out of 9 teams in the Summit League preseason poll. This is a familiar spot for Denver, picked 9th and finishing 8th in the nine-team Summit League last season.

Denver has a number of returning faces with Roscoe Eastmond, Jase Townsend, Taelyr Gaitlin, Tristan Green, Javonni Bickham, and up-and-coming big man Robert Jones who could spoil the poll if they play to their potential.  Two interesting additions to DU are Colorado transfer 6’10” Frank Ryder who should strengthen the post depth and another back-court scorer in 6’4″ shooting guard Eric Moenkhaus.

Denver finished 7-24 last season and 3/13 in the Summit League and has gone 14-32 in conference play over the last three years. DU’s Jase Townsend (16.9 ppg/5.3 rpg/2.2 apg), a junior, was selected to the Summit League Second Team in the poll. Denver has not released their final schedule yet but we expect fewer non-conference games and home-home schedules which will cut travel in half (see details here).

As is usually the case, perennial league power South Dakota sits at the top of the poll followed by an improving Oral Roberts team. League newcomer, UMKC, was slotted 7th in the Poll. Only perennial bottomfeeder Western Illinois was pegged below DU.

Graphic courtesy of The Summit League

Top photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

8 thoughts on “Denver Men’s Basketball Picked to Finish 8th in Summit League”

  1. Talent-wise, there are only two players on this DU team that would start for other Summit League teams – Townsend and Jones. After that, the talent drop-off is fairly pronounced. Gatlin and Eastmond have shown flashes of quality here and there, but not consistently yet at this level, and the others are essentially unproven as D-I players. I don’t think there is enough talent in Denver to finish in the upper half of this league this year.

    I hope they prove me wrong, but I think that prediction for eighth isn’t far off. You need more than two proven D-I players to get anywhere as a D-I team.

    And don’t sleep on Western – They have two rare three-star recruits this year out their three incoming freshmen, so if they play well, DU could be the bottom feeder.

  2. new year, same story. A few departures over the summer adds to this picture…loss of skills and experience due to lack of leadership and mentoring.

  3. Of the five players who left the DU team this summer, three did so for D-II programs – Lanzi, Kurnaz and McGlashan. These guys could not really crack the DU starting lineup of a pretty poor DU team, and D-II is the level where they are now. All three were recruiting busts at the D-I level, and all three remain unwanted by other D-I schools.

    The fourth departing player, Ray Kowalski, as far as I know, is likely done with college basketball after making little impact at the D-I level.

    And David Nzekwesi, who is certainly D-I talented, has a questionable work ethic, and played much of his DU career overweight and tired. I know DU’s coaching staff did all they could to help him, but at the end of the day, the player has to do his part. He is Weber State’s project now.

    After losing three players to D-II programs the year before (Krafka, Rodriguez and Carlisle), it is becoming clear that the program has had more recent recruiting misfires than hits, and that recruiting issue is big reason why DU struggles, even in an era where transfers are very common in D-I basketball. With all the talent and years of effort that it takes to be recruited to a D-I program, most players want to play in games somewhere, and not ride the bench. So much of the bottom half of the roster of many teams does not stay around, hoping for playing time somewhere else. The waves of departing players hurt continuity and team cohesion, as Jucos and transfers from other places are needed to fill out the roster.

    Townsend and Jones are very good D-I level players. Unfortunately, the rest of the DU roster is either inconsistent or unproven at this level, and you need 6-7 solid D-I players to win consistently at this level. Until DU can bring in more talented players who play at this level, the program will continue to struggle.

  4. Who’s responsible for bringing in these “D2” players? Obviously the head coach, who approves all recruits. The buck stops with him. Poor recruiting, awful records, playoffs(?!). But he’s still around and there really are no prospects for this men’s program to improve.

  5. I am always an optimist and rooting for DU hoops but it seems to be an uphill climb every season. CBS sports ranked all the D-1 programs heading into this season and here is what they had to say: “Rank: 321. Denver: Good school in a great city without a ton of geographic D-I competition. Why isn’t Denver a lot better more regularly?”

  6. OK…321st…in a school that values and achieves excellence in athletics…in a large city that presents many recruiting advantages. Clearly Mr. Billups is getting a huge “benefit of the doubt.” Which is OK, I am rooting for him, too. But the failure (not just lack of success…but failure) of the program will leave the school with no choice. 1-2 more years of this will lead to the change that nobody at DU wants to do, but that DU will have no choice BUT to do.

  7. He is going into the last year of his 5-year contract. I think Billups is going to need to show some real progress this year in order to save his job.

    He has likely used up his Mulligans…

    If he can make some real progress this year, I could definitely see him getting extended, since so many of us alums want to see him succeed. But with a the pretty low-grade roster he has recruited this year (at least on paper), if he makes real progress with these guys, he will show us all that he can actually coach at this level, with his own recruits.

    But if the program stays as cannon-fodder and mired in the 300s in RPI, I just can’t see DU extending him, and that will be the end of the Billups era. DU doesn’t even need to technically fire him – the’ll just say his contract expired and was “not renewed” and they will need find a new coach.

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