Denver men’s basketball (9-17, 5-8) is heading into the final five regular conference games of the season. The goal at this point is simple – achieve double-digit wins and earn a trip to the Summit League Tournament. Considering all the optimism the team has created so far this season, a swoon at the end of conference play could wash away much of the hard-earned respect this team has earned from opponents and fans alike.
Denver may have their strongest trio of freshmen in school history. Tevin Smith, Coban Porter, and Touko Tainamo have shown immediate impact on the court – a rarity in DI basketball. The trio is averaging 27.9 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. Sophomore Jordan Johnson has proven to be a steady ball-handler and scorer from both the inside and the outside. Senior Mikey Henn has added a solid presence around the basket and junior KJ Hunt has shown the ability to take over games. All these players were recruited and put together in short order by head coach Jeff Wulbrun and his assistants Brandon Dunston and Rob Zewe.
Before Denver fans get too giddy, Denver is ranked 292 out of 358 DI programs in College Basketballs’ new NET Rankings. DU is still in the lower 20% of DI schools in the land. There is plenty of room for improvement remaining in the final five games of the regular season.
Scoring early and late in games has to be a focus for the team that often falls behind early while closing out games in the final five minutes is another area that needs improvement. Overall, roster depth and size on the perimeter and upfront have been season-long issues for the Pioneers that must be addressed over the summer.
What should we expect in their five remaining regular-season games and what does a good finish look like? At this point, one win would give Denver double-digit wins on their overall record but a 1-4 finish would send the team staggering into the Summit League Tournament. Two wins would signal ongoing progress while three or more wins would be a stunning result for a team that only won two games all last season. At this point, they seem nearly assured to earn one of the eight seeds to the Summit League playoffs in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Denver faces first-place South Dakota State and fifth-place South Dakota this week at Hamilton Gym before finishing with three games on the road against eighth-place Omaha, ninth-place St. Thomas, and sixth-place Western Illinois.
The home stretch for 2021-2022 men’s hoops begins Thursday at Hamilton Gym against Summit League power South Dakota State (21-4, 12-0) at 7:00 pm MT. The Jackrabbits are undefeated in conference play this season.