Ohio (24-9) at Denver (21-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 19, 9:15 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Magness Arena (7,200) -- Denver, Colorado. Television: ESPN3.com. NIT Record: Ohio 4-4, Denver 0-2. Series Record: First- ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Ohio Bobcats and Denver Pioneers both look to begin a run through the 2013 Postseason NIT as they square off in the first round at Magness Arena.
This will be the first meeting in history between these teams. The winner will advance to face the victor of the Maryland/Niagara matchup in the next round.
Ohio came up just one game short of returning to the NCAA Tournament as it fell, 65-46, to Akron in the MAC Tournament Championship. The Bobcats are led by Jim Christian, who is nearing the conclusion of his first year at the helm of the program. Ohio actually held a 29-26 lead at halftime versus Akron before scoring just 17 points on 18.5 percent shooting from the floor after the break. Reggie Keely paced the squad with 19 points, while star senior point guard D.J. Cooper netted just three points after going 0-of-8 from the field.
The poor showing in the MAC Championship was quite disheartening considering Ohio has one of the most productive offenses in the nation with a scoring average of 72.9 ppg. The team also leads all Division I programs in assists with 17.7 per tilt. The Bobcats won seven MAC road games this year to set a new school record. Cooper earned First Team All-MAC honors for the third straight season, while fellow seniors Keely and Walter Offutt were named to the All- MAC Third Team. Cooper, who paces the squad with 14.1 points and 7.2 assists per outing, played an instrumental role in the Bobcats' surprising run through the 2012 MAC Tournament into the Sweet 16. The senior floor general has some nice weapons surrounding him in Keely (12.1 ppg), Offutt (10.9 ppg) and Nick Kellogg (8.1 ppg), who is the son of former Ohio State great, Clark Kellogg.
Denver was granted the No. 3 seed in the NIT after being upset by Texas State in the WAC Tournament. The loss to the Bobcats snapped the Pioneers' 10-game game winning streak and spoiled their share of the WAC regular season championship. Brett Olson led the team with 19 points, while Jalen Love and Chris Udofia provided 17 and 12 points, respectively.
Udofia (12.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.4 bpg) and Chase Hallam (9.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.1 spg) were named to the All-WAC First and Second Team, respectively, and both were named to the league's All-Defensive Team as well. Denver is 17-2 since New Year's Eve, giving it the seventh best winning percentage in the nation during that stretch. The strong record came after a tough schedule. Of the 21 teams that Denver played this season, 12 of them are heading to postseason tournaments, including four to the NCAA Tournament and five to the NIT. Coach Joe Scott will hope his team can match Ohio's assist tally as it is eighth in the nation with 16.4 per contest.
This one could go either way. Ohio is the better team on paper, but it has not performed well in true road games this season and may not be motivated after coming up short of its goal. Denver was caught by a Texas State squad it was clearly better than in the WAC Tournament. The Pioneers will need to regain their footing to avoid an end to their 2012-13 season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Denver 72, Ohio 67
03/19 10:36:39 ET