Dukes Impose Will on Dayton at Consol

The telling quote from Dayton coach Brian Gregory describing his team’s turnover problems in Sunday’s game, “We don’t’ turn the ball over. They’re doing it to everybody. Duquesne could play anybody in the country and they’re going to give them a game, and they’re going to win a lot of them.” Gregory’s team is the best in the country at avoiding turnovers but against the Dukes the Flyers turned the ball over 20 times. Duquesne was able to control the game forcing Dayton in to a 75 possession game, about 10 more than the typical Dayton affair. The Dukes played smart and Dayton did not. Duquesne got Dayon in foul trouble, including swing man Chris Johnson who has traditionally proved to be a tough matchup for the Dukes. On the offensive end, the Flyers would routinely get switches with the big man on a small guard and instead of giving the post man the ball the Dayton guards would drive to the basket creating an even two on two as opposed to the overmatched guard defending a much taller player. This happened nearly every time down the floor and the Flyers absolutely refused to accept that advantage (reason number 374 why guards suck). Overall the Dukes scored 1.089 PPP as compared to Dayton’s 0.850 PPP. If that is not total domination, I don’t know what is. The Dukes have now dominated Temple and Dayton. Bring on Xavier, Atlantic 10 beware.

McConnell Named A-10 Rookie of the Week Again

Freshman point guard T.J. McConnell has been honored once again as the Atlantic 10’s top freshman. This is his fourth straight award, but what else is new.

For the fourth week in a row and fifth time this year, McConnell was named A-10 Rookie of the Week. The freshman guard averaged 14.5 points, 7.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals as Duquesne extended its win streak to 10 with home wins over Fordham and Dayton. McConnell, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., opened the week with his second double-double of the season and first in league play as he scored 14 points and registered 10 assists against Fordham. He became just the third freshman in school history, and first since 1993, to hand out 10 assists in a game. McConnell became the fifth student-athlete in the A-10 this year to perform the point-assist double-double. He followed that performance with 15 rebounds, five rebounds, four assists and two steals in a win over Dayton. McConnell shot 61.1 percent from the floor, while dishing out 14 assists and not committing a single turnover. He improved his assist-to-turnover ratio in league play to a conference best 14.7.

Preview: Dukes vs. Dayton

The Dukes go for their tenth consecutive victory today at the Consol Energy Center. Their opponent is perennial conference power Dayton. Dayton has had some trouble this season but they remain one of the most talented teams in the Atlantic 10. The Dukes have played well since the return of Junior guard Eric Evans and this will be the team’s toughest test of his return since the game against Temple. What further complicates matters is that the game will be held at Consol in hopes to make more money. The issue is that Dayton fans travel well and will be visible today. A storm could be brewing for the Dukes, but there has been no sight of an albatross yet.

When the Dukes Have the Ball

Statistc Duquesne Rk Dayton Rk
Points Per Possession 1.097 51 0.971 94
Effective Field Goal % 54.1% 25 45.6% 50
Turnover % 18.9% 86 18.7% 269
Offensive Rebound % 33.5% 141 27.8% 19
FT Attempts/ FG Attempts 47.1% 22 38.5% 187
Three Point FG % 38.0% 45 31.1% 48
Two Point FG % 52.4% 34 45.0% 73
Free Throw % 65.4% 272
Block % 10.7% 266 8.1% 213
Steal % 7.4% 22 7.4% 307
3P Attempts/ FG Attempts 37.0% 72 36.4% 281
Assists per Made FG 68.3% 4 58.2% 279

Duquesne scores an efficient 1.097 PPP as compared to a less impressive 0.971 PPP given up by Dayton. This does not tell the whole story though. Dayton does certain things on defense which should provide some discomfort for the Dukes. The two best areas for the Flyers on defense are rebounding and defending the perimeter. Dayton ranks 19th nationally in defensive rebounding allowing its opponents only 27.8 percent of their second chances. This compares to Duquesne which only ranks 141st in the country in that respect. Since Dayton is so good at cleaning up the defensive glass the Dukes will have to be more efficient in its shot selection. This is another area of concern considering Dayton only allows a 31.1 percent three point shooting percentage, which is a large part of Duquesne’s game in which they have knocked down 38 percent of its attempts. The Dukes can take solace though because Dayton’s opponents have been able to get an assist on over 58 percent of their attempts. This should mean the passing lanes should be open which should allow good shot opportunities. If the Dukes cash in on those opportunities they should be successful on the offensive end.

When the Flyers Have the Ball

Statistc Dayton Rk Duquesne Rk
Points Per Possession 1.055 95 0.912 36
Effective Field Goal % 46.0% 281 46.0% 60
Turnover % 18.0% 46 28.1% 1
Offensive Rebound % 36.6% 42 38.5% 329
FT Attempts/ FG Attempts 36.2% 209 34.8% 115
Three Point FG % 33.6% 196 31.1% 47
Two Point FG % 43.6% 304 45.7% 100
Free Throw % 68.1% 196
Block % 8.9% 153 15.1% 14
Steal % 6.2% 1 13.9% 5
3P Attempts/ FG Attempts 35.9% 96 35.4% 249
Assists per Made FG 66.4% 7 54.0% 175

Duquesne has one of the better defenses in the nation but there is one particular area in which it is deficient. That area is defensive rebounding in which the Dukes rank 329th nationally. Unfortunately for Duquesne, Dayton is one of the best teams on the offensive glass ranking 42nd. That could be a serious problem for the undersized Dukes. Also, the area in which Duquesne is best, forcing turnovers, the Flyers take good care of the ball. Also, like the Dukes Dayton is good at making the extra pass as demonstrated by its rank of 7th in assist rate. Nonetheless, Dayton is a poor shooting team, especially inside the arc where it has made only 43.6 percent of its tries. This is likely because its two most prolific shooters, Chris Wright and Josh Parker are not good marksmen. This team is best when Juwan Staten, the freshman point guard out of the prestigious Oak Hill Academy, is running the show where he can use his court vision to find open shots for others. Staten’s name is first on the national assist rate leader board. If the Flyers depend on Wright to dominate the ball and drive from the wing it will likely not end well for Dayton considering the best defense on that is to foul him since he is only 59 percent from the charity stripe.

Final Thoughts

Dayton possesses the kind of team, with good size and quality rebounding, that can give Duquesne fits but it comes down to whether the Flyers are mentally tough enough to not fall into the tempo trap they have recently not been able to avoid against the Dukes. If Staten is the main option on offense the Flyers can use their height and control the boards, if not there could be trouble. What will also be telling is whether Gregory will play his big men more who should have favorable matchups with the Dukes. I don’t trust Gregory to recognize this advantage and expect him to allow Wright to take his bad shots which will cost him the game. Increased use of Staten and getting big men Josh Benson and Devin Searcy involved more is imperative for the Flyers. The line on this game is 7.5 which is a bit high, due likely to the Dukes continual toasting of the spread. I have a bad feeling about this affair. The Dukes are due for a loss and I wouldn’t be shocked if it turns out to be today.

Scouting Report: Dayton

This has been a down year for the Flyers. So far, Dayton, who was touted by many at the beginning of the season as the Atlantic 10’s top team. However, this perception was based on several false conclusions. The first of these is that  Brian Gregory is a good coach. Gregory drew much interest after his team took home the NIT title. Gregory said no to major conference programs such as Boston College, Iowa and Rutgers. This interest is misguided because these athletic directors do not have as much intimate knowledge of the Dayton program as those of us who follow the Atlantic 10. Dayton has largely underperformed in each of his seasons despite grabbing big time recruits.

In seven seasons, Dayton has made the big dance only twice, one of which being the year Gregory inherited the program from Oliver Purnell. Gregory has largely succeeded in getting highly touted recruits to come to the gem city.The only problem is that most of these players never actualize their potential. The usual reason is because the players are not mentally tough, for example SENIOR point guard Rob Lowery punching Tu Holloway in the arm right in front of an official in the Atlantic 10 tournament costing the Flyers the game.

Case in point is senior power forward Chris Wright. Wright is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder but lacks the leadership and consistency to be a truly great player. The big man has the body of an athletic bruising four but plays like he is a two-guard. On offense he tries to drive to the basket like he is LeBron James but he does not have the ball handling skills to pull it off regularly. On the defensive end his game suffers with Wright’s constant desire to produce highlight reel blocks which prevents him from playing solid man on man defense. Despite this he is an excellent rebounder on that end as opposed to on offense where usually Wright is too far from the basket to make a difference.

His unwillingness to post up on offense costs his team greatly considering the quality guard play of freshman Juwan Staten. Staten sees the floor well and is among the nation’s leaders in assist rate. He already is the Flyers’ best player and has provided a T.J. McConnell like spark to the team.  The second best player is swing man Chris Johnson does everything well but is not particularly good at any one aspect of the game. He extends the defense with his capable three point shooting and has been troublesome to Duquesne in the past.

Tomorrow’s game will likely be decided by which team plays smarter. If the Dukes can play their game, force turnovers and apply pressure they should be able to win. That’s because Dayton tends to fall into the run and gun game of Duquesne when they play. The reason for that, as seems to be a trend, is that Dayton is not a smart team whereas Duquesne can be a smart team. Duquesne should have won both contests against the Flyers last season, and hopefully the Dukes can sweep these clowns this year.

Dukes Getting National Hype (I’m Concerned)

All one needs to know of the Duquesne program is one number: .421. That number represents the winning percentage for the Dukes since the golden years of the program under coach Red Manning. Eight men strolled the sideline at the Civic Arena and Palumbo, of which only two have had a winning record. The last trip to the Tournament occurred under Mike Rice, one of those winning coaches, in 1977 under arguably the best player in the program’s history Norm Nixon. Over the past several decades the Dukes have been chasing ghosts of past success. This road paving the way has been dark contructed with losses. Now, it appears as if the Dukes are emerging from the shadows, or so we are being told.

Winning nine games in a row brings attention, but it is the kind of attention the Dukes are getting which is disconcerting to this particular fan. The primary focus of the hype is the narrative suitable for some mediocre Disney sports film. Obviously Ron Everhart’s first season was marked by five players getting shot, but that is not what I remember. Everhart, in that transitional year instituted his 1040 system. 10 men – 40 minutes. Everhart took a squad that won three games the previous season and won five conference games in a row. The community was buzzing culminating in a sell out against Rhode Island at Palumbo. That afternoon, the efficient Rams torched the Dukes breaking the press at will and drilling open three point attempts. The Dukes lost the rest of their games that season.

This season’s club is much better than that transitional group resemblant of the island of misfit toys. But the streak reminds me previous heartbreak, so when I read a guy I trust in John Gasaway (subscription only) make the tournament case for the Dukes I cringe a little bit. I only wish these strories would come after ten consecutive wins instead of nine. Dayton has struggled but they still might be the second most talented team in the Atlantic 10 and with how their fans travel there is concern that Sunday’s game will seem more like a contest at U.S. Bank Arena than the Consol Energy Center. Much more needs to be done before the Dukes punch a ticket to the dance for the first time in 24 years. This season could still go awry and familiar visions flood my subconscious. Let’s win a few more before we start to get too excited about March fantasies. My biggest suggestion to fans who want to see Duquesne’s name called on Selection Sunday is to buy tickets to the Atlantic 10 tournament because that is the most likely invitation to the ball.

Fordham Overmatched by Dukes

The deficit after the first half for the Rams was only nine points but that didn’t really demonstrate the dominance the Dukes showed the entire game. The Dukes never trailed and ended up winning by 19 (covering the 14.5 point spread). TJ McConnell and Damian Saunders both put up double-doubles and Bill Clark scored 23 in this contest. Nevertheless much of the Dukes’ play was sloppy including several missed layups and free throws. This effort will not be good enough to beat Dayton on Sunday. Hopefully, the practices from now until then focus on finishing lay ins and making foul shots or the Dukes will see another game slip away from them.

Fordham Scouting Report

Looking at the Fordham program is all to eerily familiar to that of the Duquesne program in Ron Everhart’s first year. Fordham, along with Duquesne have been near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 standings for most of its existence. The  Dukes only came out of that slump after the hiring of Everhart. The Dukes were stuck in a rut under coach Danny Nee, who had no visible strengths in his ability to be a Division I head basketball coach. Nee, was neither a good recruiter, nor a developer of talent, nor a brilliant tactician. One would think that in order to be a successful coach, he or she must fulfill at least one of these characteristics. Unfortunately, for Duquesne fans Nee’s reign of terror lasted six years leaving a program without identity or direction.

Athletic Director Greg Amodio turned to Morgantown, West Virginia native Ron Everhart who had some success at McNeese State and Northeastern. Everhart brought with him a vision of a team that can compete in the Atlantic 10 based on a running style with tenacious defense. Over time his view has been implemented for better or worse. This task of instilling a plan  is what Tom Pecora is charged with in taking over the Rams.

Fordham is by far the poorest team in the league giving up 1.06 PPP and only scoring .933 PPP, but that is not Pecora’s fault. He has inherited a team of inadequate players that do not give him much opportunity for improvement. Despite this fact, I am not sure of Pecora’s plan. Looking back on his teams at Hofstra, there is no clear identity. Earlier in his tenure the teams were based on offense, but more recently Pecora’s Pride have been built around defense. Pecora’s style seems to be to prevent good shots rather than gamble for steals. For the past three seasons, Hofstra under Pecora finished under 50th in effective field goal percentage allowed.

Even this paltry Fordham team gives up an above average 48.1 percent effective field goal percentage. Nevertheless the defense is not good. Its worst attribute is its turnover rate, only turning the opposing team over 16.8 percent of possessions. On offense, the Rams are inefficient nearly across the board only being decent at three point shooting (177th) and in offensive rebounding rate (166th). The Rams’ bench is only six deep which should make it difficult for Fordham to run with the Dukes making even more likely the result of a Duquesne victory.