New year, new season, same coach. After putting up a 6-6 non-conference mark, the worst start to the year since the 2005-06 season, the Flyers head into A10 play with fettered expectations. Honestly I’m not sure what would constitute a decent conference record at this point. 9-9? 10-8? Take a deep breath, we will get through the next ten weeks together. After that, it will all seem like a really bad dream. The goodish news? The Atlantic Ten is a fridge full of spoiled milk. It stinks and it is irredeemable, but the cleanup is quick and painless. Rhode Island and Saint Bonaventure seem to be the class of the league right now, and after the Rams and Bonnies…pick your poison. The conference seems as wide open as ever simply due to the fact that the middle tier of the A10 is so expansive this year. The talent difference between the 3rd/4th team and the 10th/11th squad is minimal, and Dayton could finish anywhere in that gap.
So Dayton = bad, A10 = worse? We’re about to find out.
The Dukes had what I think was the best hire in the conference when they plucked Keith Dambrot out of Akron earlier this spring. After 13 successful seasons leading the Zips, Dambrot decided to take his talents to the Steel City (which is an odd place to play out the string until retirement until you consider that Anthony Grant is essentially doing the same thing in the Gem City).
The Dukes are off to a decent start, currently standing at 9-4 with the Dayton Flyers circled as their tenth win of the season. Duquesne is pretty much a carbon copy of what Dambrot stressed at Akron — the Dukes are methodical on offense, rarely turn the ball over and they crash the boards with glee. Duquesne gets to the line plenty and guards the perimeter like the SS. In short, Dambrot likes to drag things out, make you feel the pain. Duquesne has five players sitting out this season, Dambrot will hold off world domination for at least one more year.
Freshman Eric Williams, Jr. has been even better than advertised through Duquesne’s first thirteen games. Williams is a bit of a volume scorer, a kid who can score in a variety of ways. He scored a bucket telepathically against Pitt and will certainly be a candidate for the league’s Rookie of the Year award come March. Joining Williams in the three-guard starting lineup are Mike Lewis and Rene Castro-Caneddy. Lewis, a Third All-A10 Team preseason selection, leads the squad in scoring and is only a goddamn sophomore. Lewis staying at Duquesne after Jim Ferry was told to go home forever was the biggest news out of Pittsburgh since Striking Distance. Castro-Caneddy is finally getting major minutes as a senior (a senior graduate, mind you) and is making the most of it.
Freshman Tydus Verhoeven and Coppin State grad-transfer Chas Brown are the Dukes likely starting forwards. Verhoeven is out there swatting everything he can get his paws on and Brown is just happy to live in a dorm where his short pants won’t get stolen while he’s in the bathroom. Verhoeven, who is inexplicably from California, ranks seventh among D-1 freshmen with 2.23 blocks per game. Brown is working his body back into shape after missing a slew of games with a deep bruise in his foot.
Duquesne is a bit short-handed this year, with basically a trio of dudes helping off the pine. Tarin Smith is friendly face, a junior who gets starter minutes and is the Dukes’ best defender. 6’8″ forward Jordan Robinson helps the Dukes on the boards and around the basket. Kellon Taylor is a wide-receiver on the Dukes’ football team and pitches in where he gets in. For the record, Taylor had football offers from Boston College and Virginia Tech. Not sure he thought this whole thing through.
- Having recently been to the ER, I can make definitely make this statement: the emergency rooms at most American hospitals are basically weigh-stations for the nation’s homeless and mentally disturbed. In the NINE HOURS I was in the ER, handfuls of society’s mistakes were barging into the hospital, taking up time and resources. Now am I advocating for a special forces unit dedicated to murdering the homeless under the cover of night? What a weird suggestion.
- Kenny Pom has updated his Dayton conference record prognosis — he has the Flyers going 8-10/9-9 (depending on how you read the numbers).
- #Pizzagate has come and gone, resulting in a one-month suspension for one of the community’s most vocal members. This falls squarely on the shoulders of Eric Spina.
This should be a close one considering Duquesne has almost no presence in the frontcourt and the Flyers have Josh Cunningham. Of course, this would mean getting the ball to Cunningham on a consistent basis, which is something Grant has failed to emphasize this season (for whatever reason). Both teams play at a slow pace, which should keep the score close and low — make sure you tune in! In the end I will give the Dukes’ backcourt enough of an edge to take down the visiting Flyers. Dambrot takes down Grant, 63-60. You know I’m right.