Updated Tue, Mar 19, 2013 10:43 am
Ohio travels to Denver on Tuesday night for the first round of the NIT, looking to bounce back from a disappointing MAC Tournament run to face the Pioneers (21-9, 16-2 WAC).
Denver relies on their leading scorer Chris Udofia to do everything. The athletic forward averages 12.9 points per game on 50.7% field goal percentage. Udofia also averages 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists, and his defensive numbers are big time for a 6-foot-6 forward, with 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals.
Udofia and Royce O’Neale have very similar statistics, as the 6-foot-5 forward averages 11.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists. O’Neal and Udofia are in the top two for points, rebounds, and assists categories on the team.
The issue Denver has is their lack of height and rebounding. They are the worst team, in terms of numbers, in NCAA Division I with 25.0 rebounds a game. The reason they were able to win many games this season was the style of offense they run.
The Princeton offense allows teams to utilize great ball movement and gives several players opportunities to score on the team. Although they are last in rebounds, the Pioneers are eighth in the nation in assists with 16.4 a game. It’s this ball movement that makes teams like Denver and Ohio (ranked first in nation with 17.7 assists) dangerous, which coach Jim Christian recognizes.
“They're a Princeton team and there's a lot of concepts that they do all year, regardless on how you play them, so it's a lot to try to learn in one day both offensively and defense,” Christian said. “They play matchup zone, which we haven't seen all year.”
Christian explained they saw a form of the Denver zone in Richmond, but not nearly performed as well. The Pioneers run their Princeton offense and zone defense and hardly ever change out of it. For any team, why fix something that isn’t broken?
“Obviously they're very good at it,” Christian said. “They haven't lost a home game since November.”
The two home losses Denver had this season came in November against California and Colorado State in back-to-back games. They lost by a combined 18 points in the two games, and both of their opponents are now playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“It's a tough place. They're good at home,” said Christian, who also commented on how the high Denver altitude will change his substitution pattern. “And the way they play, you're not defending individual players. It's easier in a short turnaround to get ready for a couple guys that have a couple strengths.”
With several Denver players capable of scoring, every Ohio player will have to be ready to play. Players like Walter Offutt were still upset with the Akron loss, but claimed they will be ready for the game.
The Bobcats will tipoff the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night at 9:15 p.m. in Denver, Co. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN3.