Anthony Grant is a moron, that’s the only takeaway from UD’s overtime win at Davidson. Up three with just twelve seconds on the clock, AND WITH A FOUL TO GIVE, our slow-witted coach opted not to foul on Davidson’s last possession. As you’ll recall, Kellan Grady got a good look and knocked down a three-pointer to send the game into an absolutely unnecessary overtime period. This is literal coaching malpractice. Grant should be indicted by the NABC.
This isn’t rocket science, it’s literally one of the most established coaching strategies in existence. First and foremost, you apply pressure full-court forcing the opposition to actually expend time and energy advancing the ball up the floor. Once the ball crosses half-court, you foul (using your freebie in this case) to stop the action and regroup. Next, you simply foul whoever receives the inbounds pass after maybe a dribble or two. This leaves the opponent with basically nothing left to do except miss the second foul-shot and pray for an offensive rebound. It’s been done countless times, and it’s downright frightening that Grant couldn’t find the mental spark to implement what should have been an obvious coaching decision. We knew two things when Grant was hired: (1) that he would get players, and (2) that he would be a detriment on gamedays. The shame of it all is that the players were good enough to win that game in regulation, their head coach just stood in their way.
Lastly, I want to admonish Grant for getting me so heated during a game that was meaningless. I watched thirty-nine minutes and forty-five seconds of UD basketball without having a single reaction, calm as a cucumber. I didn’t really care if Dayton lost in an embarrassing fashion or won with triumphant grace. I sat emotionless and mute, content to melt into the couch watching mid-major basketball. And then the last fifteen seconds of regulation occurred and I was once again transformed into a sweaty-toothed madman.
I can’t wait to see what tricks Grant will pull tonight against Duquesne, his coaching failures have become almost more entertaining than the game itself.
This was supposed to be a year of ascension for the Duquesne basketball program. With four starters back from a year ago, Keith Dambrot’s team was poised to compete with the top of the conference — the Dukes were picked fifth in the league’s preseason poll. However, the Kung Flu had different ideas. COVID ravaged the Dukes’ season, Duquesne played just one game in all of December and didn’t even hold a team practice from December 3rd to the 26th. As a result, the Dukes were forced to play three games in four days to being their conference season. Duquesne split a pair of games with GW, lost to Davidson and beat Fordham over the weekend.
While the win over the Rams was a positive, the aftermath was significantly negative. Sincere Carry was moved to shooting guard this season, a move precipitated by Tavian Dunn-Martin’s natural fit at the point. This did not make Mr. Carry happy. After the Fordham game, Carry decided that life in the Steel City was not in his future plans. Coach Dambrot had a fairly concise assessment of the situation:
“I think Sincere is straight unhappy, is just not very happy. We all choose to be happy or unhappy. When you are on the 50 yard line you can go to work and you can be happy or you can go to work and be unhappy. We all control our own happiness to some extent. I know I’m on that crossroad a bunch. Ultimately it can’t be playing time and it can’t be role for him, he basically had keys to the car and could do anything he wanted for the most part. It must be unhappiness with me or the team or the circumstances.”
Carry is the second player to leave the program this season, starting guard Lamar Norman hit the portal earlier this month. Further compounding matters is the fact that Maceo Austin, yet another guard, is not currently with the team — opting to “figure things out” while the Dukes are melting.
Still, not all is lost. Marcus Weathers (13.2 ppg/6.2 rpg), Michael Hughes (8.3 ppg/7.5 rpg) and Dunn-Martin (12.0 ppg) form a formidable trio capable of leading the Dukes to victory. Defensively, Duquesne is one of the better teams in the league, that has remained true since Dambrot’s arrival. Unfortunately, the Dukes continue to be one of the worst perimeter-shooting teams in the nation. Duquesne is shooting just 28.9% from three — which wouldn’t be a complete detriment if they didn’t attempt 41% of the shot attempts from behind the arc. The question with Duquesne has been constant: why do they put such an emphasis on something they clearly don’t excel at? I don’t get it.
Matt, help me understand.
Life comes at you fast. This preseason, Duquesne had some of the loftiest expectations I can remember for the program. Multiple Covid shutdowns, players leaving the program, and barely edging out Fordham (who doesn’t blow them out, right???) has the Duquesne season on precarious ground.
Last season Keith Dambrot’s squad seemed a stone’s throw from serious Atlantic 10 contention, with most key contributors returning to an above average offense and defense. While the Dukes’ defensive numbers have remained solid, the offensive metrics have gone down quicker than the Duquesne Incline. Last season, the Dukes were one of the better teams in the A10 when it came to scoring at the basket but they have really struggled repeating that this season. Thus far, Duquesne have averaged 1.10 points per shot for field goal attempts at the rim, 12th among all A10 teams. This is a gigantic drop off compared to last season where they averaged 1.31 points per possession, only behind our Obi Toppin led Dayton Flyers in the Atlantic 10. It’s not for a lack of trying, as Duquesne has increased the percentage of field goal attempts at the rim by 7% compared to last year, but the Dukes simply have not been able to cash in on the shots at the rim.
The decline in Duquesne’s scoring both at the rim and overall is strongly correlated to the inefficient play from the literal and figurative big two in Michael Hughes and Marcus Weathers. The two seniors have anchored the Dukes interior presence but haven’t made the last step to first team All A10 performances that some expected before their final season. Weathers has been decent, scoring in double figures every game except the last travesty against basketball against Fordham (I say that fully admitting Dayton’s loss to the Rams also falls under that category), but has the lowest offensive rating (100.4) and effective field goal percentage (49.2%) of his career. Hughes has seen his effective field goal percentage drop this season by 11.1% to 47.4%. Both were dominant at the rim last season, with Weathers averaging 1.40 points per possession on those shots and Hughes averaging 1.44. This season, Weathers has seen that average decline to 1.23 points per possession and Hughes has dropped to an alarming 0.93.
The decline in interior scoring should be alarming for Duquesne fans, but the Dukes thinking they are a team that should shoot a high volume of perimeter shots might be even more troubling for fans. Despite only hitting 28.9% of their three point attempts this season, Dambrot’s side have taken 41% of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. It is not as if this is a sudden regression this season, as the Dukes only hit 31.8% of their threes last season while those shots made up 43.1% of their total field goal attempts. Insert George Costanza joke about chucking here.
Speaking of chuckers, junior guard Sincere Carry has announced he will be heading for pastures less hilly than Pittsburgh after 5 games this season. The Northeastern Ohio native was the playmaker for the Dukes in his three years, averaging a 31.3% assist rate in his time at all the various tiny gyms Duquesne has called home. Carry did seem to lean into the Dukes chucker tendencies though, taking 43% of all his field goal attempts from three-point range despite being an average shooter from deep. It is interesting that Carry announced his intentions to leave Pittsburgh five games into a season that saw his percentage of shots in the Dukes offense reduced while Weathers and Tavian Dunn-Martin’s share of shots has gone up.
With Carry no longer in the way, the green light Dunn-Martin sees when he’s on the court must look like St. Patrick’s Day now. TDM has taken the second most field goal attempts of any player on Duquesne so far with 71.7% of those attempts coming from the perimeter. You’ve got to admire that type of confidence from the 33% shooter to keep throwing them up with little evidence thus far that he’s particularly proficient at hitting them.
“A team of athletic players struggling to score so far this season, where do their strengths lie,” I hear you ask, dear reader, with a worried tone in your voice. Yes, your fears were correct. Duquesne can be added to the list of Dayton opponents that play ferocious defense and rebound the shit out of the ball. The Dukes have above average steal and block rates at 9% and 10% respectively. They have pulled down offensive rebounds on 30.3% of their possessions, a number that certainly should worry you given UD’s continued issues locking down the boards. Teams are only putting up a 96.5 offensive rating against the Dukes, far below the national average. The under certainly seems like a distinct possibility given both team’s offensive woes and defensive strengths.
Duquesne is in a freefall and the Flyers seemed to have realized that the offense must consistently run through Jalen Crutcher to win games. Sincere Carry’s departure from Duquesne means the Dukes lack a scoring option from an offense that desperately needs offensive firepower. This is not good news for Dambrot and Co. Obviously the Flyers are the pick tonight. However, UD hasn’t be able to put a single team away this season, not Eastern Illinois, not Northern Kentucky and certainly not Fordham. That being said, don’t be shocked if this is a tight battle going into the under four. Flyers 67, Dukes 61.