ReconU. Dayton BasketballRecon: Duquesne

The Flyers close out the regular season in Pittsburgh

We once again welcome an old friend of the blog, who chooses to remain nameless, to give us the lowdown on the Dukes. He’s a Duquesne alum who deserves our respect and attention:

Fortunately or not, everything that I know about advanced physics can fit on the pages of a crappy mid-major basketball blog. Most of this was learned in a hangover haze while watching a documentary on the science channel a few years ago. I could have done some more research or asked the Google, but why throw things like facts around here when you guys are just clicking to see how high Obi’s gonna be drafted this summer?  So here goes…

Newtonian physics did a pretty good job of explaining observable physical properties through the nineteenth century. Apples fall down. Bodies at rest stay at rest. “Bodies in Motion” (great theory, bad Cinemax movie) stay in motion. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And gravity has a predictable pull. Larger bodies have a greater gravitational pull.

Then Einstein comes along with his Theory of General Relativity. Among other things, he predicts that gravity can have an influence on light. But how to prove it? Einstein figures that the greatest observable gravitational force that we can pinpoint and predict is our sun. So any object whose sight line is reaaaalllly close to the sun could be influenced by its gravitational pull. Unfortunately, the sun is so fucking bright (his words, not mine), that it impedes our ability to see objects around it. The solution? Total solar eclipse. Brilliant! (That’s why they called him Einstein.) So he gets a photographer to set up his camera in Africa or some other obscure outpost like Montgomery County, Ohio in preparation for the eclipse. Will a star with a sight line in close proximity to the sun have its light wave “deflected” and appear out of position? Sorry, Albert…. It’s overcast, no observation, you’re screwed. Now you have to wait another couple years for the next total solar eclipse. So a few years later he gets the photographer all set up again.

Suddenly, a woman’s pro-beach volleyball contest breaks out between Brazil and Sweden. Now the Brazilians are known for their great asses but the tall girl from Sweden has a nice boobies and four-pack abs. The fine, white sand clings to her ass and outer thigh after that last dig and she squirms to the right as she repositions her shorts. Oh, Shit! I just clicked on that during a commercial break and then my kids came downstairs. Back to Einstein…

Anyway, the photographer captured the both the eclipse and the star under investigation. Lo and behold, the light traveling from the star to earth was bent or deflected or refracted by the gravitational influence of the sun. Even apparently straight lines are relative. This contradicted Newton’s theory and confirmed Einstein’s. Suck it, Newton!

How is this relevant here? College basketball also conforms to the theory of general relativity. If it were based on Newtonian physics, Kentucky and those insufferable pricks from Duke would be national champs every single year. The bigger and better teams would predictably win every single game. Dayton would pull an o-fer against teams like Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi State, Auburn, and Tulsa. But in the universe of college basketball relativity, Loyola-Chicago makes the Final Four, Virginia loses as a number one seed, and Dayton beats Duquesne in their first match up.

More germane to the eclipse episode though, there are no straight lines in college basketball. There are other forces that bend and pull expected forces out of whack. Some forces are observable, like the sun or Miz Angie on the Twitters. And some are unexplainable, like black holes and white poison. Particularly at the mid-major level, there are no straight lines in the development of a college basketball program. So cut Coach Grant a little slack. Every team loses to a dog-shit opponent from time to time. Every program has recruits that don’t live up to expectations. Every team plays great one night and shitty the next. Happens. Obviously the coach wants to minimize this and institute course corrections, but it happens. Davidson lost to both UMass and La Salle this season. Happens.

Could be a number of reasons for a bad night. I would imagine that these guys are pulling full course loads. They might need to take a time out during a game to gather notes for their “Advanced Principles of Basic Communications” course the next morning. [As a side note, the percentage of college basketball players who major in communications is astronomical. Makes me think that in ten years we’ll all be buying cell phones from 6’8” salesmen with left arm tattoos of the Virgin Mary praying over a picture of their dead baby cousin and back neck tattoos that read “Baller 4 Life.”]

So relax, Francis. The trend line is looking pretty positive for Dayton (and Duquesne). AG hasn’t yet stooped to giving a scholarship to an alleged rapist who was allegedly suspended for a year from an allegedly decent Midwestern allegedly Catholic university. Yes, you totally shit the bed against Rhode Island, but please don’t tell me that Landers’ tip in/off attempt at the buzzer wasn’t refracted by a relatively greater gravitational force. As that ball fell away, Einstein and Xavier fans with nothing better to do on a Friday night all laughed their asses off. Grant may be a good or a mediocre coach, but at least let him get to season three before drawing conclusions. Or wait for the next total solar eclipse in North America (April 8, 2024).

You already got a very brief overview of Duquesne prior to their putrid performance in the Pit of Prostate Cancer in February. The Dukes ran out to a fourteen-point first half lead only to go cold and lose by four. A few interesting things have happened since then.

Injuries: On Wednesday night, freshman forward Amari Kelly went down with a knee injury. No more definitive reports as of this writing but he is the second freshman forward to be lost. That leaves the Dukes super-thin up front. And when we say super-thin, that means that freshman Gavin Bizeau is the first and only frontline sub off the bench. Gavin looks like Geppetto tried to carve Luke Fabrizius out of #2 pencils. While he can peel off some three pointers, Gavin sometimes gets caught in the strings while trying to play defense. Both Mike Hughes and Marcus Weathers are consistent up front on both sides of the ball, but now have to temper their defense and rebounding in order to stay out of foul trouble.

One of the curious things about the Dukes guards is that they have all gone off at one point this season. Freshman guard Sincere Carry dropped 32 points in his second college game ever, and is just now back after having his knee scoped two weeks ago. Tavian Dunn-Martin ran the point (while Carry was out) and dropped 30 in a Duquesne win vs. UMass, including 7 of 9 from behind the arc. Lamar Norman typically gets around 10 minutes, but got 20 points at the Bonnies. Frankie Hughes has scored 20 points three different times, and Eric Williams Jr. just put up 40 against SLU, including 7-9 from deep. Unfortunately for Duquesne, there is zero overlap among these performances.  If Williams’ performance against SLU indicates that he is getting his swerve back, then things might be looking up.

Williams’ performance vs. SLU turned into a contest of can-you-top-this between him and SLU guard Tremaine Isabell. The Billikens were holding on to a steady 7-10 point lead in the second half and the Dukes couldn’t close the gap. Both Williams and Isabell kept firing away and kept hitting one shot after the next. At some point, some scoreboard watching must have been going on as Isabell set the SLU scoring record in Chaifetz. Then Williams took the scoring lead. Then Isabell went in front. Then Williams hit another ridiculous three. With seen seconds left, Isabell was dribbling out the clock with a ten point lead and Duquesne gave up any defensive resistance. Sensing that the point record would surely be his alone, Isabell drove from the wing to the open lane for an uncontested – Holy Shit, Eric Williams just came out of nowhere and blocked his shot! Then he contested the rebound and forced another miss as the horn sounded. Suck it Isabell! You and Newton are going down tonight! Total dick move to drive the lane with a ten point lead and Williams deals out a cold, hard, cock-slap of justice to the face. This is as good as it gets in the A10 this year, fellas.

On a final note. This will be the last game played at the Palumbo Center. Under the leadership of former Dayton athletic department employee Dave Harper (who has been at Duquesne for less than four years), Duquesne will be financing a $45 million renovation and rebranding. There will be no crying, no tears for the shitty old gym. Only some hope that the slightly less shitty new gym will drive a straight line from mid-major despair to mid-major mediocrity plus. One of the advantages of being located in a major city (besides culture, dental care, and a net-positive literacy rate), is that Duquesne will likely being playing many of their home games next year across the street in the PPG Paints arena.

Just as sure as the President whispers the name “Ivanka” every time he bangs FLOTUS or a b-level porn skank, someone has to win this game. My head tells me that Dayton should win according to Newtonian physics, but the Dukes put together their shots and the game unfolds according to general relativity. The Flyers position in Brooklyn is solid at the 3, and Duquesne could end up anywhere from 5 to 7 based out the outcomes of this and other games. A 6 or 7 seed has them go through some combination of Dayton/Davidson in the quarters and semis, while a 5 has them taking on the Bonnies and VCU, which are both worse matchups.

Tom Blackburn

Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.

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