Shootout 13: Checking out the slow-burning Denver Pioneers

SHOOTOUT_LOGO_CMYKThe Great Alaska Shootout has transitioned from showcasing major powers like Duke and Kentucky to mid-major powers like Murray State and Belmont.

This year’s field is made up of low-key potential Madness disruptors, with one of them being the Denver Pioneers.

The Pioneers finished their final season in the WAC on a low note. After a 16-2 run in conference play, they were upset in the first round of the WAC tournament by 2012 Shootout participants, Texas State.

Rather than capturing a bid in the NCAAs, Denver was sent east where they lost to Maryland in the second round of the NIT.

The end result doesn’t reflect the journey. The Pioneers were top 20 in three pointers made per game and steals per game in 2012-13. They were also eighth in assists per game and 13th in field goal percentage.

What head coach Joe Scott does to opposing teams is comparable to water boarding. His brand of basketball is extremely measured and gradual. They break down the opposition with volume punches, as opposed to lunging haymakers.

The Pioneers pretty much play the way everyone thought the San Antonio Spurs played before that myth was busted in the NBA Finals.

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By stat wizard Ken Pomery’s calculations, Scott has coached the slowest team in the nation five times. Casual fans aren’t flocking to see the Pioneers’ methodical attack, but it’s an effective system.

Denver’s window for success is far from shut. They’ll lose a veteran sharpshooter in Chase Hallam; however, junior Chris Udofia, and sophomore’s Brett Olson and Royce O’Neale are slated to return.

The Udofia/Olson/O’Neale trio made up the top three in points (all three were double-digit scorers) and assists on the team.

Udofia stands out as the most intriguing Pioneer. He’s a versatile forward who plays every inch of the floor. His fast hands swiped 1.6 steals per game and swatted 2.3 blocks per game over the course of last season.

The Pioneers have drawn a first round clash with Harvard in the 2013 Shootout. It’s questionable seeding, as those are two of the three strongest teams coming to Anchorage.

On the bright side, it guarantees a great Thanksgiving matchup.

And don’t get it confused: the Denver Pioneers can beat Harvard. They can also be the team Shootout attendees learn about in November before the rest of the nation realizes them in March.