Eight games, at most, to go until the Atlantic Ten tournament, you guys. While the embarrassing blowout at VCU is still fresh in many of our minds, there has been plenty to remain positive about since the loss to Fordham. The Flyers have won five of their last six, Jalen Crutcher is evolving into an actual killer and, dare I say, some recent improvement from Mr. Chimichanga. On the negative side, no one is sure what is up with RJ Blakney –the freshman has been persona non grata since the VCU game. While it is true that Elijah Weaver has provided some much needed cover at the point, it’s not abundantly clear what exactly he does well (perimeter shooting is definitely not his forte at this point of his career).
In addition, there are uncertainties surrounding the rest of the conference schedule. The Richmond/SLU game last Friday night was called off, the circumstances of that cancellation still remain murky. GW looks like it has no interest in playing again this season, and why should they? Fordham is milking COVID for everything it is worth, and UD’s game Friday night has about a 50/50 chance of occurring as of this writing.
If I was Bernadette McGlade, and thanks to modern medicine that possibility is now real, I would subtly urge Fordham, George Washington, La Salle, George Mason and St. Joseph’s to shut down the rest of their season under the guise of “protecting the student-athletes.” This would (a) eliminate some landmines from the schedule and (b) give the *better* teams in the league a chance to rack up some quality dubs. Don’t question the morality aspects of such a maneuver. The past few weeks have established that everything in our society is rigged, why can’t a mid-major basketball conference follow suit?
Since we last saw the Dukes, back on January 13th, an eleven-point Flyer win, Duquesne has managed to craft a .500 record in league play. Two losses to St. Bona, and wins over Rhody, Fordham and SJU have DU (the real DU?) currently sitting at 5-5 in the Atlantic Ten. What we learned the first time around is that the Dukes can shoot themselves out of a game. Duquesne has been one of the worst three-point shooting clubs in the nation this year, and their 3-for-17 performance from deep against Dayton was certainly a major factor in their loss (Keith Dambrot’s freakout didn’t help matters either).
Marcus Weathers remains the Dukes’ main cog on both ends of the floor. Weathers is averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds over his past two outings, and, as you probably recall, scored the first ten points in his first meeting against Dayton (Weathers finished the game at UD with 19 points and 8 boards). Tavian Dunn-Martin, the little guy, will pull up from thirty feet on a fast break, he will drive into the lane against an entire team, he will attempt to steal the ball from his own teammate. In short, he is one of the more beguiling players in the Atlantic Ten. He will do things you have never seen before, things you didn’t even know were possible on the court. Michael Hughes has averaged a double-double since the Dayton game, he’s a 6’8″ banger that has become more and more active on offense as the season unfolds. That being said, he was a complete non-factor against the Flyers the first time around, the Dukes are going to want production from him tonight.
Duquesne has reason to be optimistic going into tonight. Offensively, the Dukes didn’t get much from anyone not named Marcus Weathers. Weathers was the only Duke to score in double figures, the team shot 17% from three and was abysmal at the line, going 8-for-17 from the charity stripe. Duquesne was able to snag plenty of offensive boards against the Flyers (a solid 31% offensive rebounding percentage), not a big deaf if we are being honest, but simply could not get it going offensively. Dambrot’s club has had a few weeks of Sincere Carry-less basketball, and I’d expect to see a more finished product this time around.
Since we’re finishing our two-game obligation against Duquesne and there’s not a ton of new Dukes data to parse through, I first wanted to dive quickly into our Flyers of the U of D. On the personal account on twitter dot com, I have been updating a table showing how the Gem City Cagers have fared in each 10-minute quarter of the game. The Flyers this season have a positive points differential of 25 in the first “quarter”, -14 in the second, 31 in the third, and -17 in the fourth. In short, Dayton have not finished halves well this season.
Going either further than that, I found the difference in the Flyers win probability as the game went on for those same time periods, i.e., the difference between the Flyers win probability at the start of the game and after ten-minutes of play in the first half, halftime and with ten-minutes remaining in the first half etc. This allows us to see how much closer or further away Dayton comes to winning the game in each of these periods. We see in the chart that UD has added more net win probability in three of the four quarters. The lone quarter the Flyers have a net negative win probability added is the ”second”, or the last ten minutes of the first half.
Though Anthony Grant and them boyz have righted the ship since the La Salle and Fordham debacles, it certainly hasn’t been perfect for our Flyers. In this “second quarter” period, Dayton has outscored their Atlantic 10 foes three times, been outscored five times and tied once. This final portion of the first half has seen the Flyers hemorrhaging points for the most part and their trouble here is worth deeper analysis. We must move onto Duquesne but how UD performs in the last portion of the first half is certainly something to keep an eye out for on Tuesday.
Duquesne seemed to be on shaky ground after losing Sincere Carry to the transfer portal, but they have been able to turn things around a bit. Statistically there isn’t much different for Duquesne from the first time they matched up with Dayton. The Dukes still aren’t a fluent offense, who compound things by taking way too many attempts from three. They have remained a consistently tough defending and rebounding side, with their 44.9% effective field goal rate conceded 8th best in the country. Like it was three weeks ago, Duquesne’s success will come down to how far Michael Hughes and Marcus Weathers take them.
Weathers has chugged along with consistency, flirting with a double-double seemingly every time he takes the court. When both sides met at a sparsely filled UD Arena however, Michael Hughes seemed a shell of the player we had seen in previous years at Duquesne. Hughes had another stinker against the Flyers, scoring only 4 points and pulling down 3 rebounds. Perhaps the sight of the Great Miami River pulled the Dukes big man out of whatever funk he was in, as he seems the Michael Hughes of old since.
Since losing to the Flyers, Hughes has averaged 13.8 points and 8.6 rebounds. His effective field goal percentage has improved by over 6% to 53.6% in these last five games. Coming into the first game against UD, Hughes was averaging a pitiful 0.93 points per possession on attempts to the rim. Since then, he has averaged 1.33 points per possession on his attempts at the rim. Couple these improved offensive metrics with his impressive 7.1% block rate, 8.7% offensive rebound rate, and 22.9% defensive rebound rate and we see signs of the return of the two way player that was a candidate to make an all A10 team at the beginning of the season.
While Michael Hughes seems to be back to his best and Marcus Weathers continues to be a consistent contributor for Duquesne, Tavian Dunn-Martin still seems intent on calling #0’s number as much as possible. Since Sincere Carry left the program, TDM has had to inherit the starting point guard duties for the Dukes and a narrative has begun to develop that his shoot-first tendencies have been curbed. I can’t say I agree. To be fair, his assist number have gone up a bit since Carry left the Dukes. However, Dunn-Martin still has the second highest number of field goal attempts on Duquesne, only behind Weathers. His opinion of his perimeter shooting abilities remains unaffected by his actual ability apparently, only hitting 31% of his attempts from three despite taking 62% of his shots there. TDM isn’t much better scoring at the rim or from the midrange, averaging 1.05 and 0.75 points per possession on those shots respectively. If Tavian Dunn-Martin is taking most of the shots against the Flyers instead of the consistent Marcus Weathers and revitalized Michael Hughes, I like the Flyers chances.
The first game in the new arena for the Dukes, you kinda want them to win, admit it. As just another tune-up for the Atlantic Ten tournament, this game clearly would “mean more” for Duquesne. The Dukes are certainly good enough defensively to make a game of this, and they simply cannot shoot the basketball worse than they did at the Sweater Centre. Vegas essentially has this one as a pick-em, and UD is due for a letdown on the road. I think the Dukes open up their new place with a victory, and we should be pleased for them.
Duquesne 68, Dayton 63. #LOWD