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Duquesne Preview: Q and A with Steve DiMiceli

To prep you for the Bonnies Wednesday night game against Duquesne at home, we chatted with Dukes’ blogger and the founder of ThepointofPittsburgh.com Steve DiMiceli. Steve fills us in on all things Dukes below. 

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1. We’ve seen the Dukes once this year back on Feb. the 3rd. Since then, Duquesne has lost three in a row, four in a row total and six of their last seven. What’s gone wrong during this span?

The Dukes have limited offensive options this year, really they’re confined to four guards (Mike Lewis II, Tarin Smith, Eric Williams Jr and Rene Castro-Caneddy) with bursts here and there from others. When the Dukes hot shooters cool off as they have, they can’t keep up as they don’t have enough secondary options to fall back on. The team either haven’t defended as consistently as they need to to keep games low scoring or opponents shots are just falling at a higher rate than they weren’t before. I honestly couldn’t tell you which it is, but it’s probably a little of both.

2. Duquesne started out 12-4 and expectations seemed to be raised around the Burg for Dambrot’s club. Looking back on that start, did fans get too excited about this team who at the team was really just beaten up on some really bad teams?

This is a tough question to answer. Despite the overall level of competition, the Dukes did look the part of a fringe top 100 team. They did beat Dayton soundly at home and San Francisco on a neutral court. While neither team is great shakes this year, neither matches the definition of cupcake either. In the end, you’re never as good as your hottest streak, just like you’re not as bad as your coldest.

Of course, I had people ask me regularly what they needed to do to make the dance during the hot streak and my answer was win the conference tournament. They never had a chance at an at large bid and even at their best, they weren’t playing much better than the NIT bubble. So I think the Dukes were not as good as their record at 12-4, but I do think they’re better than their RPI and their current record. Certainly, they’re at least capable of more.

3. Speaking of Dambrot, what has been the biggest changes you’ve seen thus far in the team under his watch? Give us your early impressions of the new coach.

Defense and the desire to win immediately. Jim Ferry, as many coaches are, was philosophically offense first. He didn’t have the administrative support for the seven or eight years he needed to rebuild the program after his second and third recruiting classes basically flopped. Ferry always seemed to focus on a theoretical future where the Dukes competed, but ultimately, his clock ran out before that time came.

Dambrot changed culture immediately. He taught defense and worked on the mental side of the game. He took his lumps early with a man defense that will provide the foundation for the defense moving forward. He also focused on winning now. When a coach brings in 5 transfers his first season and tells people they’re not taking a punt year, I instantly think they’re lying. However, his intensity seems to match his words and clearly he had visions of the team taking steps forward immediately.

4. The Palumbo Center has undergone a nice face lift and there seems to be more energy surrounding the program. Tell us how the average fan feels about the direction of the program today under yet another new coach.

Generally, Duquesne gets a kinder treatment from the national press than we do locally. With Pitt struggling, they’ve become the darling in town even during the recent struggles. I think most people are buying what Dambrot is selling and the false narrative that Duquesne doesn’t support athletics is dying away. Fans appreciate the effort and commitment from the coach and despite their glaring lack of understanding of how a realistic rebuilding process normally would look, they’ve gotten enough positive results this year to respect that things could get very interesting, very fast with 10 newcomers joining the party next year.

5. If the Dukes are going to pull the upset on Wednesday night in the Reilly Center, what things need to happen on their end? Give us some keys to the game.

I literally don’t know if their is much they can do if Jalen Adams and Matt Mobley continue playing like they have the last few weeks. They’re almost impossible to guard at the moment.

So my keys are:

– Hope one of those guys has a bad day
– Get an efficient shooting performance from Mike Lewis II or Eric Williams, Jr
– Have one or two interior players perform above his norm.

6. What three programs are Dukes’ fans most likely to say the have a rivalry with?

I think good Duquesne fans understand that our rivalries are Pitt, Robert Morris and St Bonaventure, the first two due to proximity, the later due to conference affiliation and long history.

Give us a one sentence scouting report on each player…

Tarin Smith- More a combo than point, but he’s the best equipped guard to run the offense.
Eric Williams- His stock has fallen a little, but he’s one of only two players in the conversation for conference freshman of the year in my opinion.
Rene Castro-Caneddy- He’s gone through a lot in his college career and has finally reached his potential. I’m proud of him.
Jordan Robinson- The Dukes most polished interior offensive weapon who I’m shocked hasn’t done more this year.

Game Prediction:

If this game were at Duquesne, I’d call it the classic trap, but since it’s north of the border I think St Bonaventure wins. I do think the Dukes hang around long enough to give some heartburn of that resume killing 200+ RPI loss.

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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.