It’s too early to determine a simple fix for what ails DU men’s basketball (1-3) heading into tonight’s game against Northern Colorado (2-1) at Hamilton Gym. However, digging into the statistics, you will see several major issues facing this season’s team.
A disappointing 7+ point average loss margin over the past three seasons has fans and coaches looking for answers. So, we took a look at the past four seasons and this season to identify several key problem areas.
Denver is connecting on 3% less of their shots from beyond the arc while this season’s opponents have scored 18 more threes on 43 more shots from downtown than Denver for an additional 54 points over four games. That means opponents are getting 13.5 more points per game than Denver from three-point territory in this season’s first four games.
Dig deeper and you see that 3-point shooting quantity and effectiveness along with turnovers are factors in Denver’s -7.3 losing margin on this season’s games. You might be surprised to learn that Denver is outshooting opponents from the field this season (45.8% vs 45.1%). In fact, the average field goal percentage in the NCAA so far this season is 44.18%. So, Denver is performing slightly above average in this category.
Add a massive turnover deficit this season of -4.8 per give-aways per game and the Pioneers face a huge hole. Taking into account the extra point awarded to a 3-point shot and the total of 13.5 points, treys contribute an extra 4.5 points per game. And, if we assume turnovers lead to opponent scoring, we credit a point per turnover as well. That means DU has to make-up 9.3 points per game (4.8 turnovers + 4.5 three-point shots/1 point each) which makes for a difficult path to victory. Turnovers have been an issue for each of the past five years.
The past three seasons show opponents shooting and hitting three-point shots against Denver and there is no reason for them to stop. That is, until Denver proves that they can stop shooters outside the line. Opponents made more three-point shots than DU (+39, +17 and +78) in 2017, 2018, 2019. They also attempted the three-point shot more than Denver (+220, +33 and +49) during that same period. All that, despite Denver trailing during most games.
Until Denver defends the arc or matches their opponents’ efforts from the outside, expect Denver’s opponents to bomb away. In fact, the Summit League has one of the highest 3-point shooting conference in the country over the past several years.
DU must also bring their turnovers down to the low teens (10-12 per game) to match their opponents. And, if they can reduce giveaways to single digits they can actually create additional offensive possessions.
Watch for three-point shooting and turnovers as key barometers during tonight’s game against Northern Colorado. Furthermore, can DU show improvement in these areas to be competitive later this season during Summit League play?
Top photo courtesy of Denver Athletics