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Recon: Duquesne Dukes (w Blogger Q and A)

Mason led the nation in 3PT shooting last season. Even at 42% this year he could be a major issue.

The Opponent: The 6-10 (1-4) Duquesne Dukes. Duquesne may only have one A10 win but they’ve nearly beaten both VCU and URI at home. They’ve also played Dayton so three of their four losses have come against the upper third of the league. This team is not as bad as their record and this game will be a nice road test.

The Rundown: The Duquesne game in Pittsburgh is always a tough one, not just for our Bonnies but for most A10 teams. I’m not going to go back and track some of the big wins they’ve scored in the Steel City but I believe they got SLU last year (or maybe the year before) and before that they got Xavier when they were awesome and the Dukes stunk. Like I stated above this year’s version of the Dukes lost to URI by 1 (and should have won) and lost to VCU by 6 and were right there with a minute to play. So, this game is by NO means a likely win for the Brown and White. Duquesne’s club this year is much like year’s before- they play faster, they score, they are somewhat deep, they don’t rebound really well and they don’t defend really well. With SBU being on a two game road trip (URI next this weekend) this would be a very nice win to send the Schmidt Heads to 4-2. If that happens even a loss at URI puts us over .500 through seven games which is solid ground.
What They Do Well: Score and shoot it from 3PT and 2PT. Duquesne scores 70.9 points (107th) and do so via shooting 35.8% from three (104th) and 50.1% from 2PT (85th). They’ve always been a team capable of getting really hot and filling it up. Micah Mason led the nation in 3PT shooting last year and is shooting 42% this season. Not impressed?  Fellow guard Derrick Colter is shooting an absurd 52% from deep.   Duquesne’s guards can shoot them to wins or shoot them out of it on any game. I’d say I’m a little worried about this but maybe I’m not…we give up tons of three pointers anyway, so this game will be nothing new if Duquesne hits 10 three balls. We had to overcome that against St. Joe’s. Bottom line, expect Duquesne to shoot the ball well and expect us to have to win in spite of that happening. Holding them to say 33% shooting from three would be a win but if they get up 30 three pointers (possible) that’s still roughly 30 points off deep balls and that’s a lot to overcome.
What They Don’t Do Well: For as solid as they are at making shots they cannot make their FTs (59.9%, 347th worst) and that’s killed them. If we’re trailing late I’d hope and expect us to hack their players and force them to make FTs. Shooting under 60% from the line is abomination. If we’re in a nip and tuck game with them in the last few minutes you can expect Duquesne to leave the door open for some baskets. They’re also 283rd nationally in defending the three point line so they’ll give Posley and Jay all the looks they need, it’s just a matter of our guards knocking them down. If you could make say one three pointer for every one and a half they make you’d be in good shape. They’re 286th in points allowed so as you’d expect scoring against them is not the issue it’s outscoring them.
What I Fear: Obviously I fear Bonas making the Dukes an even better three point shooting team than they are and losing this one. We can win if we give up three pointers but defending like we did against St. Joe’s would be playing with fire. If we knock down more of our tries from deep, it will help neutralize their strength. Remember they like to push the pace in a BIG way (21st fastest possessions nationally) so making shots is the best way to get back on defense. Transition defense and stopping the ball will be critical.
Win Trends of Bonnies and Dukes: These teams are nearly one and the same 
2013 - 2014 18 15 13 17
2012 - 2013 14 15 8 22
2011 - 2012 21 12 16 15
2010 - 2011 16 15 19 13
2009 - 2010 15 16 16 16
2008 - 2009 15 15 21 14
2007 - 2008 8 22 17 13
107 110 110 110
Three Keys to Victory: 
1. Keep the made three pointers number within four.
2. Win the rebounding battle and clean up the defensive glass issues from the SJU game (16 offensive boards).
3. Play great transition defense, limiting fast-break points and runouts off missed shots.
Because we we were able to do a Blogger Q and A with Steve DiMiceli a Dukes Blogger we’ll cut the preview there and leave you with this conversation. 

1. Duquesne is 1-4 but has played some quality teams already and nearly beat VCU and URI. So, at 6-10 is this team a lot better than their record or something else?

One the most overused sports cliches is “this team plays down to their opponents.” I hate using it personally, but I do think it aptly describes the 2014-15 Dukes. They’ve given themselves a chance to beat some opponents that teams who lose to NJIT, a down Robert Morris and UMES in the same season should not. The Dukes can be dangerous if they are knocking down their jumpers. They just haven’t been consistent enough.

2. We know the Dukes shoot it from 3 well and can score in spurts, but what else do they do well?

The Dukes have been very inconsistent from three, but it’s not too far above their ability to get hot and go off for better than 50%. I don’t need to tell many A-10 fans at this point that Micah Mason led the country in three point shooting last season, but they may not know that Derrick Colter is right up there this year as well.

I don’t know if there is anything else that the team does particularly well, but there are some areas where they’re getting better. They look decent in transition and I think they’re getting closer to the way Ferry wants them to play on the break. They’ve been getting to the free throw line more and more even if they haven’t been making their shots. They’re getting better on the defensive glass and the 2-3 zone they’ve employed has gone from awful to simply bad.

3. What do the Dukes NEED to do to win Thursday night against the Bonnies?

They need to make their shots, attack the rim and get the Bonnies front line in foul trouble. They also need to clear the defensive glass. The Bonnies will get their makes. It’s the nature of the beast for this Duquesne team, but if the Dukes are defending well enough to stop the first shot, they need to grab the rebound and get running.

4. Duquesne is really deep (10 guys play at least nine minutes a game) and the Bonnies are as thin as it gets. Would you expect this to be a major factor having watching all the Dukes games?

Ferry hasn’t been great at Duquesne but people say he’s a very solid coach. Eventually he needs to start winning games in Pitt.

The Dukes have gone with a more veteran lineup and shorter bench of late playing three junior guards and a senior Dominique McKoy for 30 plus minutes a game barring foul trouble. They started the year running out a ton of players but really only 7 have played more than 10 minutes consistently the last few weeks.

I don’t think Duquesne will run the Bonnies ragged. Where the Dukes depth might come into play is with fouls. If we see a tight game like we did the last time  St Bonaventure came to Pittsburgh, we should see a similar result.

5. Duquesne is a program much like the Bonnies (In my mind anyway) but have lagged behind in terms of improvements even with Ferry. How confident are you in him as head coach and what’s the light at the end of the tunnel with this team? Are you optimistic or not?

I don’t actually think Duquesne is much like St. Bonaventure at all. It’s an urban campus with twice the undergraduate population, four times the total number of students, triple the endowment and a 75% larger operating budget for basketball. While the main basketball gyms are comparable, the Dukes have an NBA - caliber arena in their back pocket as well as training facilities and locker rooms that have all been upgraded in the last five years. The only things they have in common is the conference, religion, their history together, and that they’ve mostly been miserable for the last 30 years. Truthfully, Duquesne is in a much better position to be successful athletically than St. Bonaventure, yet they haven’t been recently, at least not in men’s basketball.

I’m not as down on Ferry as many are, but I wouldn’t call myself optimistic or pessimistic. I’d call myself patient.  Truth is, the Dukes best chances of winning in the short-run are statistically with Ferry at the helm. I don’t think they can cut bait with him right now, but if the team struggles again next year, he and AD Greg Amodio could be on the chopping block. That said, his teams’ have struggled to defend and have looked woefully unprepared to start the season each of the last two years. He seems to play for the future until the season is lost and then makes short term adjustments to win  games now that no longer mean much. There are some concerning trends, but I do think he has decent at worst coaching chops and a good staff. He’s also beaten a few teams his team had no business even playing with, like West Virginia and Temple his first year and St Louis last season.
6. What is Duquesne’s Achilles heel?
Jim Ferry’s transition system is based on the team taking down defensive rebounds and getting out on the break. Problem is, the Dukes poor defense leads to more made baskets by the opponents and fewer opportunities to rebound and run. I’ve never read Catch - 22, but I don’t feel badly referencing it here.

7. Prediction for the game?

I don’t make predictions with this season’s team anymore, but they have looked a lot better at home. I do think the Dukes will split the season series as I don’t think the Bonnies are that much better overall. Whether they win at home or make it difficult for themselves on the road, I do think the Dukes take one.
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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.


  1. Duquesne Sucks

    Too bad Duquesne is an absolute joke of a program.

    No one cares about the program, so you can keep that “NBA-caliber arena” and I’ll take two NCAA tourney bids since the last time you sniffed March Madness…When was that again?

    Can’t wait for the game tomorrow. There’ll probably be 1800 in the stand with more cheering for the Bonnies than the Dukes.

    Let’s talk when Duquesne can draw more than 1800 for a home game….So Much for that big student body.

    • Ian Nolan Post author

      A quick check- SBU’s avg. home attendance is 2.9069 this year vs. 1,9110 for the Dukes….so your comment is accurate esp. considering their student body size and being located within a major city. I would agree that Duquesne basketball is something very few people care about in Pittsburg. Only Fordham and La Salle have a worst home crowd this year and Fordham’s gym likely doesn’t support much more than 2K fans anyway.

      • Paul Dzielinski

        Not to mention that most games at Rose Hill arguably draw more visiting team fans than Fordham fans.

  2. Jonathan May

    Great insight into the Dukes but the tenor our visiting blogger took sounded like he covers Joes or Dayton.

    Honest question regarding facilities, does Bona have a long term plan to upgrade the RC or is this what we get for generations to come? Piggybacking on that, does Bona have any intention of finding a broadcast partner for home games other than the internet? If the facility can’t be a tool to recruit perhaps broadcasting games in better quality both visually and production wise can help sell recruits to play in front of family from afar.

    Clearly very specific questions but wondering what you guys think or have picked up.