So Rhode Island lost last night at home to La Salle and the Rams are already steadily falling out of top three in the league, falling to 2-2 in conference play. The next three weeks are naturally going produce some separation – it’s unclear whether anyone is capable of distancing itself from the rest of the A10, we are about to find out.
Things are starting to take shape in the league, outside of Rhode Island sitting at .500 there aren’t many surprises. I’m curious as to how bad Saint Louis actually is. Although I’m certanly not an expert when it comes to seasons/teams past in the Atlantic Ten, I’m hard-pressed to think of a worst team I’ve seen play since UD joined the league. There were some pretty horrid Fordham clubs, but I can’t recall having a physical reaction to their play, it’s a different story with this season’s Billiken squad.
Quick, rapid-fire thoughts:
- La Salle is showing some life, racking up the most surprising W in league play so far at Rhodey. It will be interesting to see how far Dr. John’s squad can ride their offense in a league that, outside of Dayton, VCU and UMass, seems indifferent to playing defense.
- Dayton NEEDS a win this weekend; a loss to the Dukes would be calamitous. 3-2 going into a game against what could be a decent Richmond team makes me feel queasy.
- VCU has a winnable, yet intriguing, game at Davidson on Saturday. I’d expect a win for the Rams, exerting more pressure on the rest of the league to keep up. Virginia Commonwealth should be 7-0 when it hosts Dayton in a few weeks.
- I’m not buying Richmond until they are cutting down the nets in Pittsburgh. Sorry.
- Someone has to emerge from the Rhody, Bonnie, Mason, St. Joe’s, Duquesne dog pile of mediocrity. The smart money is still giving the nod to URI. It appears that George Mason is falling back to earth and St. Bonaventure simply doesn’t have enough horses to stay in the race.
- The rest of the league is an insult to human decency.
The sad reality is I think we are watching a league race that could result in two bids at most. There has never been as little room for error in the A10 than there is this season. Silver lining, I think this makes any game UD plays, be it against Fordham or VCU, an important matchup.
It’s another season of consistent mediocrity for Jim Ferry and the Duquesne Dukes. Currently 9-8 on the year, 2-2 in the Atlantic Ten, the Dukes came into this season with more questions than answers. Three of their losses have come with under fifteen seconds on the clock. Would that have changed the complexion of their season? Why even think about it?
Duquesne lost 70% of its scoring from last year, where would they make that up? The majority of the Dukes minutes were going to underclassmen, how would the young bucks gel before conference play? UD will take on Duquesne in PPG Paints Arena, how does a paint company afford to sponsor an arena in a major sports city? Why would a paint company sponsor an arena? Why didn’t I get into the paint game? Do people even paint anymore, are there apps for that?
Duquesne beat Pitt earlier this season, which is pretty much the only thing any Dukes fan will remember when this year mercifully comes to an end. This is not to downplay their play as of late, as Ferry’s club has rolled off five wins over their last seven games. Duquesne took down Saint Louis on Wednesday night, a 73-66 victory that helped solidify the Billikens as the worst team in the conference. The rest of January could be painful for the Dukes: your Dayton Flyers (essentially a road game), at GW, Rhode Island, and visits to Davidson and Richmond close out the month. The Dukes are wandering towards the deep end and aren’t good swimmers, someone call the ambulance.
Duquense likes to push the pace offensively and have scored over 70 points in its past seven games, averaging around 75 points per contest. The Dukes don’t excel in any particular offensive category, they are slightly below-average in just about every metric you can think of. 13% of their shots get blocked, which seems like an absurdly high rate given their lackluster competition.
As mentioned earlier, Duquesne is an extremely young ball club. The Dukes lost three starters from last year’s tenth-place squad and brought in eight newcomers to the fold, including two graduate transfers who have been solid contributors (when Archie goes on the free-agent market after Sam Miller is asked to leave I hope he can snag a grad transfer that can come in next season and contribute right away).
Here’s something that absolutely floored me — Duquesne doesn’t have a single player on scholarship that hails from the state of Pennsylvania. This would be like having an engineering program with not a single student from India, unfathomable.
Like damn near all college basketball teams, Duquesne is led by its backcourt. Mike Lewis II, I’m sure you guys remember Mike Lewis I, has had an impressive freshman season for Duquesne. Lewis has been named Rookie of the Week three times this season, currently putting up 16.3 points per game in A10 play. He’s a solid, not yet consistent, perimeter shooter who ball on or off the ball. The impressive start to his career only increases the odds that he will transfer out of the program.
The other starting guard spots are occupied by Tarin Smith, a transfer from Nebraska, and Emile Blackman. Smith is 6’2″ sophomore, he leads the Dukes with 50 assists and 18 steals on the year. Smith takes over for Derrick Colter, who has finally exhausted all of his eligibility. As long as you keep Smith in front of you defensively, he can’t hurt you. Blackman is a graduate transfer from Niagara whose only purpose in Pittsburgh is to score points for Jim Ferry. The 6’3″ guard is scoring 12.7 points per game, 18 a contest in Atlantic Ten play.
Up front, the Dukes start 6’8″ forwards Isiaha Mike and Nakye Sanders. Mike is a freshman with a ton of potential. Rated the third-best player out of Canada, Mike is averaging ten points and five boards per game. His shot-selection, particularly from the perimeter, is oftentimes questionable at best — but what’s Ferry gonna do? Sanders is a physical player who leads the Dukes in rebounds. He won’t stray very far from the basket and is appalling from the charity stripe, shooting just 43% on the year.
The Duquesne bench is not as bad as you’d expect. 6’11” center Darius Lewis started nine games this season, he’s the team’s best shot-blocker and doesn’t mind doing work on the glass. Guard Rene Castro is a solid perimeter shooter averaging 8.5 points per game. More of was expected out of grad transfer Kale Abrahamson, a 6’8″ forward who played at Drake last season. He was banged up earlier this year and hasn’t provided the scoring output Ferry likely expected when signing him as a free-agent last summer. Spencer Littleson fancies himself a three-point marksman but is only hitting 29% of his attempts from behind the arc. This is fine.
We all know, see, date or are even married to, the basic white girl. Starbs, Uggs, North Face, yoga pants, brunch and Insta blend what could easily be 10 million people into one person. Duquesne is the basic bitch of college basketball.
The Dukes are ranked 196th out of 351 teams, so right about average in every capacity. Even if you’re average as a whole, at least suck or be remarkable at one thing. Rebounding, free-throw defense, offensive rebounding, something. Nope, not Duquesne.
When you look at their profile, they don’t do anything remarkably well and they don’t do anything unusually poor. They show up at 8:15am, Starbs in hand, to their digital marketing brand management job and clock out at 5:10pm to hit a happy hour full of vodka sodas. They hit yoga on Saturday morning and then Insta the shit out of their brunch. You could argue from time to time they complete a solid Facebook ad for a client or have a slightly above average two-point percentage defense. But they follow it up by falling flat somewhere else, in Duquesne’s case getting the shit blocked out of them (337th ranked), but that’s about it.
I apologize I don’t have any further insight on this game, but in fairness, this is probably the least interesting game on the calendar. Yes, Dayton plays SLU later in the year, but the Arch Baron Cup is on the line. Fordham sucks but they have a turnover rate on defense that’s second only to West Virginia. Archie needs to get the squad right after the disaster in Amherst and add this basic girl to the notches on the bed post.
Tomorrow’s game will not feel like a contest on the road. There will be plenty of Sweaters and even Donnie Donoher will be in attendance (and he rarely watches anything that is not in syndication). I’ll stop short of calling it a home game for UD, let’s label it a neutral-site game.
The last time UD and Duquesne got together at PPG Paints Arena it was a shitshow. The Flyers won a close low-scoring contest in a NBA-sized arena that was about a third full. I’d expect another sloppy encounter this time around, Dayton wins, 63-55. Kyle Davis will not lead the Flyers in scoring this time around.