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DU Men’s Basketball Ready to Take Next Step

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Justin Beach

Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

Program targets NCAA Tournament berth

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Back-to-back seasons with 16 wins is not good enough. Just ask head coach Rodney Billups, now in his second year with the Denver men’s basketball team.

“For us to expect the crowds that hockey gets, we have to win,” he says. “We struggled with accepting success last year. For whatever reason, we won six games in a row, and we became complacent. We won 16 games to match the season before, but then we got complacent. Hopefully that complacency doesn’t happen again.”

The goal this year: win around 20 regular season games, play well in the conference tournament and make the NCAA Tournament.

“We definitely want to see us winning the conference and making that NCAA berth,” says center Christian Mackey, one of three seniors on the team. “A .500 season last year (in conference) was okay, it wasn’t bad, but it definitely was not great as well.”

One thing that helps the team this year is knowing what to expect from Billups. Last season he brought in all new terminology and a completely different style of play.

“Knowing coach Billups for a year and knowing what his standpoints are and knowing how he feels the offense and defense should be run, I feel with that year of foundation down, we understand what he’s talking about more,” Mackey says. “A lot of his vocabulary on the court seems to click a lot faster.”

The Pioneers will need things to click a lot faster this year. The team opens the season at home on Sunday, Nov. 12, against UC Irvine. Having won more than 20 games each of the last five seasons, the Anteaters made the NCAA Tournament in 2015.

On Nov. 14, the Pioneers face the University of Colorado in Boulder. It will be a bit of a homecoming for Billups, who served as an assistant coach for the Buffaloes before taking the head coaching position at DU.

“I have not been to the city of Boulder since I left,” he says. “It will be a little surreal for me to be on the other bench, listen to the students heckle me for the whole game and play against that caliber of team and that caliber of coaching.”

Billups says his players are up for this challenge, and the program is ready to take the next step.

To watch a preview of the women's basketball team, please click here.