Behind Enemy Lines: The Denver Pioneers

The Maryland Terrapins will face the Denver Pioneers Thursday night in the second round of the NIT. Find out what you need to know about Maryland's opponent here...

Maryland is playing its fifth game in eight days, but the grueling schedule has resulted in some best basketball of the season. Dez Wells has started to emerge as a leader for this young Maryland team averaging over 18 points per game over the last eight games, including a career-high 30-point performance in Maryland's win over No.2 Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. Alongside Wells, is Nick Faust who is coming off of his first career double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against Niagara and is averaging over 13 points per game in the last nine games.

Denver (22-9, 16-2 WAC) topped Ohio 61-57 in the opening round of the NIT Tuesday night. The Pioneers earned a No. 3 seed in the NIT after falling to Texas State in the quarterfinals of the WAC Tournament on March 14 and have now won 11-of-their-last-12 games. The Pioneers also won a share of the WAC regular season championship with Louisiana Tech.

Make sure to get your caffeine in before this game, as Denver will s…l…o…w the game down (yes, that slow), maximizing each possession on offense. The Pioneers shoot the ball well and are extremely efficient on the offensive end (third in the country in field goal efficiency). The biggest area of concern for Maryland could be Denver's defense, which averages nine steals per game. Even scarier was watching the Pioneers force two dozen turnovers and 10 steals against a backcourt containing the likes of D.J. Cooper, who had four turnovers alone.

Where Maryland does have an advantage is size. Denver is a small team so Maryland must take advantage of its size on the boards. Limiting second chance points and forcing one-and-done possessions will be essential to the Terps' success.

Against Niagara, Maryland lost offensive possessions with sloppy passes or by throwing the ball away. If they repeat those mistakes Thursday they will have to pay the piper. This will be a true test of Maryland's maturity. Has this young group finally learned to value the ball? We will find out tomorrow night.

#34 Chris Udofia. Ask DJ Cooper about him…he blocked Cooper's attempt at a go-ahead layup with less than 30 seconds to go Tuesday night. He averages 2.38 blocks per game and will make the Terps pay for going up soft. His presence in the lane could cause problems for more than just Alex Len, Maryland's guards must be aware of his shot-blocking ability as they attack the hoop. He is also the Pioneers leading scorer averaging 12.9 points per game.

Tip-off at 7:00 pm from the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.

* The game will also be on ESPNU for those who cannot make it down to College Park.

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