Preview: Dukes at Oregon (CBI)

The University of Oregon’s football team had one of its most successful seasons in history, such has not been the case for the basketball team. Bankrolled by Nike founder Phil Knight, the school built a new basketball arena to help firmly entrench Oregon as a basketball power. After firing longtime coach Ernie Kent, the University’s financiers went on a search to find the right man to lead the program.

After being rejected by Tom Izzo and several other high profile coaches Oregon signed Creighton head man Dana Altman. Altman had much success with the Blue Jays turning the program from an also ran to a perennial power in the Missouri Valley. His tenure in Omaha boasted 11 consecutive 20 win seasons and seven NCAA Tournament appearances. This sustained success is what caused Oregon booster Pat Kilkenny end his search with Altman.

Altman has since learned that simply showing up on campus in the bright lights of a major conference program with a fancy new gym is not necessarily a cake walk. The Oregon program has seen many defections leaving the program without much of a direction. After four players transferred and one went to play professionally overseas, Altman had to try to pick up the pieces. What he thought was going to be an big team turned out to be one he is more accustomed to. Altman is known for having undersized teams dependent on shooting at the expense of rebounding. His 2-1-2 high post offense has been crafted to fit such personnel.

The prototypical example of Altman’s preferred brand of basketball is his only All-American Kyle Korver. Korver was a tall swing forward with a silky smooth shooting stroke whom the Blue Jays ran their offense through. That season he took nearly 20 percent of the teams shots and 39 percent of Creighton’s three point attempts. Altman’s offense will likely feature one player, typically a small/power forward. This season that role has been filled by 6’6” senior Joevan Catron, who is the 67th most used player in the nation. Catron does not fill the Korver prototype because he is not a proficient long distance shooter. He is more in that position because of his status as a senior leader rather than his skill set.

A more natural fit is found in Sophomore swing man E.J. Singler. Singler, the less homely little brother of Duke’s Kyle, is a 39 percent shooter from behind the arc and a 51 percent marksman from inside. Further he has a good handle for someone his size and is a decent passer and defender. Next year’s offense will likely feature the Beaver state native perhaps allowing him to recreate some of the younger sibling magic put forth by Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough this season.

Collectively Oregon will run Altman’s high post offense, which is similar to the scheme that Marquette employed to manhandle Xavier. Oregon is not as big as Marquette however so the offense will be run farther from the basket at the expense of rebounding. Unfortunately, for the Ducks there are not many shooters on the team which hinders Altman’s schemes to work properly. On the other hand, this Oregon team has met the high standards Altman sets for his ball handlers doing a good job of taking care of the ball.

On defense there has been a trend over Altman’s recent seasons of decline. The year’s Oregon club is no different. Particularly of note is the increased proficiency with which opponents are getting to the free throw line. Obviously this is not of benefit to a poor free throw shooting team like Duquesne. What is of benefit is the poor field goal defense. Oregon ranks 260th in effective field goal percentage which bodes well for the Dukes as I have explained before.

Duquesne is the superior team in this matchup, however Oregon has the superior coach. That could be the difference. A good game plan could end Duquesne’s season but if talent alone should decide this game the Dukes will likely prevail. Coach Ron Everhart would be wise to deploy the platoon strategy which was so effective in the Montana game. Keeping players fresh will allow the Dukes superior athleticism to shine through as well as allowing the offense to function properly with movement. Do not be fooled, just because Oregon is a BCS school does not make Duquesne an underdog. The Ducks are the inferior team and this game is one Duquesne should win, but playing on the road and a long lay off allowing Altman to devise a game plan could quite well tip this game in Oregon’s favor.

Statistic Duquesne Rk Oregon Rk
Points Per Possession 1.065 89 0.976 87
Effective Field Goal % 52.0% 49 51.0% 260
Turnover % 18.6% 84 22.2% 60
Offensive Rebound % 33.0% 148 33.0% 210
FT Attempts/ FG Attempts 43.3% 48 35.9% 127
Three Point FG % 35.2% 124 36.2% 262
Two Point FG % 51.5% 32 49.1% 233
Free Throw % 62.6% 326
Block % 10.4% 260 8.1% 220
Steal % 7.8% 28 11.6% 36
3P Attempts/ FG Attempts 36.6% 77 36.5% 282
Assists per Made FG 65.1% 8 55.9% 236
Statistic Oregon Rk Duquesne Rk
Points Per Possession 1.045 108 0.933 19
Effective Field Goal % 47.4% 244 47.9% 117
Turnover % 17.9% 49 28.1% 1
Offensive Rebound % 30.5% 241 38.0% 336
FT Attempts/ FG Attempts 31.1% 313 37.4% 163
Three Point FG % 33.7% 201 33.4% 109
Two Point FG % 45.7% 262 46.9% 134
Free Throw % 74.4% 34
Block % 10.5% 270 14.0% 17
Steal % 7.7% 20 13.8% 3
3P Attempts/ FG Attempts 35.1% 119 32.5% 171
Assists per Made FG 55.8% 115 53.8% 167

Preview: Dukes at Montana (CBI)

With a name like Wayne Tinkle he must be good. Tinkle is the coach of the Montana Grizzlies, whom the Dukes will face off against tonight in the first round of the College Basketball Insider Tournament. Montana is coming off a season in which they made the NCAA Tournament and hung with New Mexico in the first round before losing.

They lost their best player, Anthony Johnson, who goes by AJ much like a certain player who led Duquesne to its most success in recent years. The Grizzlies are led by Senior big man Brian Qvale and sophomore point guard Will Cherry. Qvale is of particular concern being a 6’11” 260 pound monster who can bang with the best of them. They also have a 7 footer but he is more of a European center that can stretch defenses and make threes. He is not much of an inside threat however.

Year eFG%
2007 52.4
2008 51.2
2009 47.8
2010 47.6
2011 44.1

It seems clear that Tinkle has focused his game plan on defense over his time in Missoula as the graph above indicates. Montana has improved every year on defense but has struggled on offense hanging around 1.000 point per possession. Furthermore, its a tough grind you out type of offense which is predicated on one of the best field goal defenses in the country (see table) ranking 11th in effective field goal percentage. The offense on the other hand is not that efficient even though it is one of the slowest offenses in division I. In this interview of a writer from Grizzly Journal on Yuku Dukes.

GJ: The Griz are a legitimate defensive machine, having held opponents to a 14th ranked NCAA Division 60.1 points allowed for 2020-11. Qvale became the all-time Big Sky leading shot-blocker with a 2020-11 average of 3.0 blocks per game, good enough for 14th best in Division 1, while Cherry’s 2.7 steals per game ranks him ninth nationally. But… well, yes… Montana has struggled against faster, quicker teams. Expect Montana to try to contain the Dukes’ uptempo game to the half court, both on offense and defense. Offensively they like to “feed the monster” (Qvale), but usually win when they get double-figured scoring balance.

This game will be all about tempo. As the same writer claims, “a combined score under 135 favors the Griz; anything else tilts toward the Dukes.” If Duquesne can outathlete the Griz it will be tough for them to compete, but if on the other hand it becomes a knockout-dragout type of affair it is likely Montana which advances. I am concerned but the good news is as was pointed out in the interview.

GJ: Missed free throws cost the Grizzlies two regular season wins, and one was season-wrenching… a 4-point, overtime loss at Eastern Washington in Montana’s final league road game that cost the Griz the Big Sky title and the host role. To add insult to injury, Montana clanked an icy 12-for-19 (63%) in their 65-60 Big Sky title loss at Northern Colorado last week.

Win or lose this could be one of the worst combined free throw shooting performances in the history of college basketball. Should be fun.

Scouting Report/Preview: Richmond

Efficiency, that is the name of the game for Chris Mooney’s Richmond Spiders. Both the offense and defense are built around maximizing results. Richmond ranks fifth in the Atlantic 10 in defensive efficiency and second in offensive efficiency. It does seem clear that Mooney builds his team around offense with a solid to good defense behind the offense. The interesting feature of Mooney’s clubs at Richmond is that it excels and lack in the same categories on both sides of the ball.

Over the past three seasons the Spiders have generally been good at avoiding turnovers on offense while creating them on defense. Similarly, Richmond teams will shoot well and contest shots at the other end. The table below gives the national ranks in effective field goal percentage (eFG) and Turnover rate (TO%). Now compare these data to the other table. Notice a difference? Where Richmond has been good in the first two areas, it has struggled with rebounding and getting to as well as preventing opponents getting to the line. (Oreb=offensive rebounding rate; Dreb=defensive rebounding rate; FTR=free throw rate FTA/FGA).

Off. Off. Def. Def.
Year eFG TO% eFG TO%
2008-09 67 32 139 84
2009-10 76 18 15 55
2010-11 10 11 30 147
Off. Off. Def. Def.
Year Oreb FTR Dreb FTR
2008-09 295 248 289 292
2009-10 331 297 274 141
2010-11 302 308 237 37

Those numbers are remarkably consistent and should look familiar to Duquesne fans being that Ron Everhart’s teams follow a similar pattern. There is a big difference however. Richmond tends to play slower and Duquesne tends to play a faster pace. Mooney, having played for Pete Carrill at Princeton has adopted Carrill’s famed offense. Look at it this way, Mooney’s offense is like Duquesne’s offense but better.

The Dukes give more of a motion look as opposed to Richmond’s set offense. Nonetheless, both teams are dependent on the three point shot and strong back cuts to the basket. The Princeton offense can be effective but it is troublesome to me because, as is evidenced by the numbers, offensive rebounding is lost. The best teams are able to adjust and teams dependent on long jumpers that don’t crash the boards are susceptible to losses when shots are not falling. Then again, I’m a back to the basket forward type. Needless to say, I like rebounding.

Every Spider shoots the ball, including player of the year candidate 6’10” center Justin Harper. Harper can play on the low block, flash for mid-range jump shots, shoots 49 percent from three and makes over 80 percent of his free throws. Did I mention he is 6’10”. The Dukes will have difficulty guarding him because of his height. They do not have anyone that can contest any jumpers. Combine Harper’s game with 2009-10 A-10 player of the year Kevin Anderson, a strong slasher who makes 42 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. Anderson has the ability to take over games with his scoring prowess. Richmond is tough offense to stop, so it is best to hope that they miss since they are such poor rebounders.

The best advice for the Dukes would be to take advantage of Spider misses by pushing the ball down the floor on all rebounds. Getting quick strikes will allow Duquesne to stay with Richmond if its offense is hitting on all cylinders. Unfortunately for the Dukes, Richmond does not turn the ball over often, but if they can force the Spiders to cough up the ball they will have a chance to pull off the upset. Duquesne controls its own destiny regarding getting the four seed and a bye for the league tournament. Doing so would place this season amongst the best in the history of the program. Also, a win tomorrow would help ease the sting of some of the tough losses this season including last week’s affair at St. Louis. One fortunate factor may be that Richmond does not foul much, so the Dukes’ deficiency at the line may not be exploited. For Everhart’s club, it’s a long haul but a win in Virginia is not inconceivable.

Peddling Hope for Weary Fans

It’s all doom and gloom on the bluff, an all to familiar feeling of what could have been has swept Dukes nation. I would be lying if I did not count myself amongst ranks of nervous nellies after seeing the score line of Saturday’s game at St. Louis. I was out at a friends party on that day and was not able to watch the game, and I’m glad I didn’t. As the days have gone by however I have grown more hopeful that the Dukes can salvage what may appear to be a lost season. There are tangible reasons why Duquesne fans should not be totally distraught.

As sports fans we are often drawn to the mystical and superstition. We believe in silly things like curses and destiny. Sports stands as a realm of illusion in a troublesome world that many of us are seeking escape from. It is for this reason that sports has such an appeal. For those of us fans of downtrodden teams, we should know better. There is no such thing as a curse or destiny, only management, execution and circumstances. In particular the fans of poor teams should understand bad management well. We have endured the likes of Scott Edgar, Darrelle Porter and the incomparable Danny Nee. Those are the faces of mismanagement. That is why the program has been down for so long.

Ron Everhart has done an excellent job in making the program relevant again. I get physically upset when the team loses, that did not happen during the Nee reign of terror because a loss was expected. With Everhart we expect to win, that is a huge sign of improvement, but it also makes it hurt more when the team does lose. I through my laptop that I was watching the game on after TJ McConnell turned the ball over in the URI game. I was angry because I felt the game was allowed to slip away. I was angry, not somber. I don’t believe in curses or “woe is me” attitudes. That has helped me get through tough losses.

To me there seem to be clear reasons for recent losses, like playing better field goal percentage teams as I have discussed. With all that being said, the team is exactly the same as the one that rolled off 11 consecutive victories. There may be a little more spark left for this team. A late season turnaround is not completely out of the question, as SI columnist Luke Winn notes,

3. Duquesne (RPI: 87, 17-10, projected A-10 No. 4 seed)

It wasn’t so long ago — on Feb. 2, actually — that the Dukes were the class of the A-10, sitting in a tie for first place with Xavier at 8-0. You could interpret their 1-5 stretch since as them falling apart … or look closer and see that one of the losses is to the Musketeers, and three others were by two points or fewer. I’m not giving up on Duquesne yet, mainly because it still has the league’s best per-possession defense. (emphasis: mine)

Winn is correct. The Dukes have not played all that poorly as of late with the exception of the SLU game. Maybe fortune has not been on their side. Problems do remain as we Duquesne fans know all too well. Duquesne has not been good in close games due largely to poor free throw shooting and a tight stagnant offense. The team does still has it in them to jump out on an opponent early as it did in the UMass game. There is little reason why that cannot happen tonight against the Bonnies. The ability is still there but can the Dukes actualize that potential. Consider this, if the Dukes take care of business on Senior night against Bona, and steal wins against Richmond and perhaps Xavier in the A-10 tournament all would be mended. Big wins like those would make up for all the tough losses of these past six games.

While it is largely understood also that Ron Everhart has had difficulty closing out seasons since he has been at Duquesne there are counterexamples. Below is a table comparing his records in the last eight games of the regular season (not including the league tournament) and his record in games proceeding the home stretch. Looking at the bottom line reveals that Everhart’s clubs have had serious difficulty winning at the end of the season. However, that analysis is a little skewed because of his performance in his first season in which he had a poor team and this season. The remaining three seasons place him with exactly a .500 winning percentage, close to his career mark.

Year W L Win% W L Win%
2007 1 7 .125 9 11 .450
2008 3 5 .375 14 7 .667
2009 4 4 .500 14 7 .667
2010 5 3 .625 9 11 .450
2011 1 5 .167 16 5 .762
Total 14 24 .368 62 41 .602

Consider this. Going into the Atlantic 10 Tournament in 2009 I expected the Dukes to lose in one of the first two rounds. When they beat UMass, I was sure they would fall to Rhode Island. When they triumphed against the Rams I was certain they could not beat Dayton. But they did. Why couldn’t it happen again? Thus, I remain hopeful going forward and considering Alan Robinson’s in depth report of the circumstances surrounding the SLU game on Saturday I am convinced that the Dukes came out flat simply because they were tired from the previous two days’ events. While I maintain this positive outlook, tonight’s game will be the true test. Will it go like the UMass game or the SLU game. We will know soon enough.

Preview: Dukes at St. Louis

 

Ken Pomeroy’s projection model expects this game to finish with a Duquesne five point victory 68-63. If this game is played in the 60s then St. Louis has a good chance of stealing this one. As I pointed out in yesterday’s scouting report Rick Majerus has been able to win the tempo war against Ron Everhart’s Dukes. The career series is now tied at 3-3 and this game will settle that. Despite the tendency to play slower Duquesne has been victorious in half of the contests including the previous affair which was played at a snail’s pace of 60 possessions. SLU played its worst game of the year at Duquesne turning the ball over often playing into the Dukes hands. Can Duquesne assert its will again?

When the Dukes Have the Ball

Statistic Duquesne Rk St. Louis Rk
Points Per Possession 1.081 72 0.954 62
Effective Field Goal % 53.0% 34 48.5% 135
Turnover % 18.6% 77 21.4% 108
Offensive Rebound % 33.1% 155 30.8% 104
FT Attempts/ FG Attempts 45.6% 34 40.3% 231
Three Point FG % 36.9% 66 35.9% 244
Two Point FG % 51.7% 36 47.0% 142
Free Throw % 62.3% 328
Block % 11.1% 292 8.6% 193
Steal % 7.3% 15 9.5% 160
3P Attempts/ FG Attempts 37.7% 56 21.5% 1
Assists per Made FG 66.9% 5 47.3% 37

I highly doubt that if this game is played at a pace of 60 that it will conclude in blowout fashion. Majerus is too good of a coach to let that happen again. The Dukes notched a solid effective field goal percentage of 51.0% in the game in Pittsburgh including a 6-16 performance from behind the arc. The numbers reveal that the Billikens are not particularly good at defending the three allowing a high 35.9 percent from long distance which ranks 244th nationally. That does not tell the whole story however. Despite the high percentage of makes, further analysis shows that SLU allows the smallest percentage of three point attempts to field goal attempts as a whole. Only a little under a fifth of opposing teams’ attempts are from behind the arc. This implies that they do a solid job of preventing three point opportunities and those they do let up are open shots. This means that Duquesne must not rest on their laurels and expect good opportunities they must create them with good offensive movement like was seen in the first 37 minutes of the Rhody game. That is if this game turns into a grind-it-out affair.

When the Billikens Have the Ball

Statistic St. Louis Rk Duquesne Rk
Points Per Possession 0.971 182 0.917 19
Effective Field Goal % 48.7% 195 46.9% 70
Turnover % 20.6% 196 28.4% 1
Offensive Rebound % 28.7% 287 38.6% 336
FT Attempts/ FG Attempts 33.2% 287 35.1% 117
Three Point FG % 31.7% 288 32.8% 75
Two Point FG % 49.3% 116 45.6% 82
Free Throw % 66.1% 266
Block % 10.4% 261 14.4% 17
Steal % 9.5% 183 13.6% 3
3P Attempts/ FG Attempts 32.7% 172 33.9% 224
Assists per Made FG 59.4% 64 54.4% 162

This game will likely be decided whether or not the Dukes can force turnovers like they did in Pittsburgh. In a 60 possession game, the Dukes forced 20 turnovers or in 33.3 percent of them. If Duquesne can force the Bills who rank 196th in turnover rate into a transition game the Dukes will win. If not, SLU has a shot because they will probably control the tempo if history holds. The Bills lack offensive play makers and are not particularly good at anything as the statistics show. The only positive to pull from the numbers is that Majerus’s club is good at making the extra pass ranking 64th in assists per made field goals. One can expect lots of passes on offense and running down the shot clock.

Final Thoughts

This is another game that Duquesne should win. Today’s contest is a pivotal determinant in where the Dukes will be seeded in the conference tournament. It is likely that URI will lose at least one of their games so the Dukes can maintain their edge on the Rams if they take care of business against St. Louis and St. Bonaventure. Further, this game will show whether or not the Dukes have been affected by their recent losses. It should become apparent pretty quickly much like the UMass game. If the Dukes come out hot they will cruise to a victory. A slow start will likely lead to a close loss. The key is to prove to themselves that they are good team and should win this game and not feel sorry for themselves. We shall see.

Preview: Dukes vs. Rhode Island

Hammer, meet nail. Such has been the relationship between Jim Baron’s Rhode Island Rams and Ron Everhart’s Dukes. Baron’s program has managed to play well against Duquesne in recent years as reported by Paul Kenyon of the Providence Journal.

URI has been able to handle the Dukes in the past. The Rams, in fact, have won the last six regular-season games between the teams, although Duquesne did upset URI in the A-10 Tournament two years ago.

So, of the past seven meetings between these two schools Rhody is 6-1. I have always liked watching the Rams play, their style is appealing to me. URI plays similarly to the Dukes, by trying to speed up the game and forcing opposing teams to make mistakes. As is mentioned in yesterday’s scouting report, Rhody’s defense has improved greatly over the past five seasons mostly due to forcing more turnovers. Baron has relied on full court pressure as the Dukes have but it has always seemed his teams have the edge because the Rams are the superior offensive unit.

That’s not so this season. Duquesne has the more efficient offense while maintaining arguably the best defense in the Atlantic 10. That would imply that Duquesne should be able to handle URI, however there is worry that Baron’s superior offensive mind will allow him to pull a few tricks out of his sleeve leaving the contest for the 4th seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and a first round bye open.

When the Dukes Have The Ball

“Even though URI has backed off much of its own pressure defense, the Rams are still second in the A-10 in turnover margin, at plus 2.85. Duquesne is the leader at a whopping plus 7.36,” reports Kenyon. That seems to be a wise decision considering how well Rhody’s defense has played. What should concern the Dukes the most is the team’s overall size. The Rams run an eight man rotation with 6 players being listed at 6’7” or taller. The only player listed at 6’7” in the Dukes’ rotation is Damian Saunders.

My concern is that the URI defenders will be able, because of their height advantage, to prevent quality shots for Duquesne. If the Dukes having problems shooting they will likely lose this affair considering that when the Dukes don’t shoot well they generally lose. Adding to this trepidation is that the Rams rank 35th in three point shooting defense, so the Dukes cannot simply count on getting open shots.

Fortunately for Duquesne, URI is not a good defensive rebounding club despite their height ranking 240th in defensive rebounding rate. Since there is a good chance that shots will not fall easily Duquesne will need a team effort to crash the offensive boards to make up for any lost shooting efficiency. It will also be critical that the Dukes not just stand around on offense and instead actually run an offense. Rhody has played solid half court defense all season, that is probably not going to change tonight.

When the Rams Have the Ball

If I had my wish I would combine Ron Everhart and Jim Baron into one coach: Rom Bahart. I love Baron’s offense but it seems he focuses too much on that end of the floor. Conversely, Everhart gets his kids to play a high effort defense but he fails to communicate any coherent offensive game plan. If we could take the strengths of both and dismiss the weaknesses we would have one hell of a coach. Chances are however that if Rom Bahart did exist he already would be at a big time BCS program. Such is the life for a mid-major program.

Nevertheless, Baron’s team has struggled on the offensive end. Rhody, which usually runs an efficient up tempo set pattern offense gets several scorers involved, relies heavily on small forward Delroy James who is used in 30.6 percent of offensive possessions ranking him 29th nationally. The Rams have not depended on one player in that way since Will Daniels graduated in 2008. Overall, this year’s team does not have much going for it on this end of the floor. The team is not a good shooting team nor a good rebounding team. Inability to make shots has placed the burden on James to create for himself and everyone else. Such does not spell out success for URI.

Final Thoughts

Rhody’s offense is middling and its defense is good but will that be enough to beat the Dukes. If past experience is any indicator, URI will put forth a good game plan to beat the Duquesne and keep themselves in the hunt for a first round bye. My theory as to why Rhode Island performs so well against Duquesne’s pressure is that since they normally press they know how it works and thus how to beat it. It could easily happen again. The magnitude of his game for Everhart’s team and program is enormous as it would mark the most wins a Duquesne team has ever had in the Atlantic 10 along with it implications regarding conference tournament seeding.

Preview: Dukes at UMass

This game is by no means in the bag for Duquesne. The Dukes clearly are the better team by a large margin but UMass might just have enough to give them problems. UMass has struggled as of late and if guard Freddie Riley cannot play it leaves an already shorthanded minutemen team even more so. Duquesne, which has struggled needs to get this win to prevent another late season swoon that has been so common under Ron Everhart.

A victory in Amherst would greatly help the Dukes cause, briefly moving them into second place in the Atlantic 10 ahead of Temple and Richmond who face off tomorrow. All games from here on out are critical to a Duquesne club that is looking finish in the top four in order to punch a first round bye ticket to Atlantic City for the conference tournament. The Dukes currently hold a two game lead over leading competitor for such a bye Rhode Island. Dropping any contest from now until next Wednesday’s contest with the Rams opens the door for Rhody or any other team looking for a top four finish.

When the Dukes Have the Ball

Statistc Duquesne Rk UMass Rk
Points Per Possession 1.084 65 0.990 117
Effective Field Goal % 53.2% 31 46.8% 84
Turnover % 18.7% 82 20.2% 182
Offensive Rebound % 34.4% 104 34.1% 245
FT Attempts/ FG Attempts 46.9% 26 42.1% 255
Three Point FG % 37.2% 58 32.6% 80
Two Point FG % 51.6% 39 45.6% 88
Free Throw % 62.7% 323
Block % 11.5% 302 10.2% 114
Steal % 7.3% 17 9.4% 169
3P Attempts/ FG Attempts 37.2% 67 37.3% 298
Assists per Made FG 67.5% 4 58.1% 280

The Minutemen possess a much better defense than offense allowing only .990 points per possession ranking them 117th nationally. Their defense is built around forcing tough shots in which they only allow 32.6 percent from beyond the arc (80th) and merely 45.6 percent inside it (88th). The percentage allowed from long range should worry Duquesne, who puts up a high 37.6 percent of attempts from three point distance.

One area where the Dukes seem to have an advantage is in offensive rebounding where despite being small they crash the offensive boards well. Duquesne ranks 104th in offensive rebounding rate compared to UMass which ranks 245th in defensive rebounding.

Another distinct potential advantage is in drawing fouls where UMass ranks 255th in free throw rate compared to Duquesne’s offense which comes in at 26th. Obviously, many teams strategically foul the Dukes due to their pathetic 62.7 percent mark. According to Tribune Review writer Dave Mackall, free throw shooting has been stressed at practice this week following the Xavier game, in which the Dukes felt a poor performance from the line sunk their chances. A better performance from the charity stripe will likely give Duquesne the victory no matter how poorly they play.

One good sign for the Dukes is that UMass also has given up a high assist rate (assists per field goal made) which corresponds with Duquesne’s offense which ranks 4th in the country in that department. However, if the Dukes offense plays like it did in the second half of the Xavier game with players standing around and waiting for the play to come to them another sub-par offensive performance may be in store.

When the Minutemen Have the Ball

Statistc UMass Rk Duquesne Rk
Points Per Possession 0.987 220 0.912 28
Effective Field Goal % 45.1% 317 47.0% 91
Turnover % 19.5% 121 28.5% 1
Offensive Rebound % 35.6% 63 38.0% 332
FT Attempts/ FG Attempts 38.4% 161 35.2% 119
Three Point FG % 28.9% 334 32.7% 81
Two Point FG % 45.9% 249 46.0% 103
Free Throw % 67.1% 225
Block % 11.0% 287 14.9% 15
Steal % 8.5% 78 13.6% 5
3P Attempts/ FG Attempts 31.8% 195 35.4% 252
Assists per Made FG 47.5% 313 54.7% 196

This is the true mismatch of this game. UMass ranks 220th in offensive efficiency compared to Duquesne’s defense which ranks 28th. However, there is room for concern for the Dukes. The Duquesne defense is designed around forcing turnovers as evidenced by its number one ranking in turnover rate. The Minutemen are relatively good caretakers of the ball ranking a respectable 121st in turnover percentage. The Dukes have had little trouble turning over other teams, even those that rank higher than UMass which could curtail any benefit for the Minutemen.

A more tangible threat is the offensive glass. Duquesne is a terrible defensive rebounding team, although they did better than usual in the Xavier game. A quick sidebar. Contrary to popular belief, lack of size did not cost Duquesne the game on Sunday. What killed the Dukes on Sunday was poor defense of the three point line, particularly of Dante Jackson, bad free throw shooting and too much standing around on offense. As I mentioned yesterday in the scouting report, I expect Sean Carter (who is not Jay Z) to have at least a double-double if not a bigger game due to his offensive rebounding prowess.

The Minutemen may be wise to work Carter into the offense more but as I discussed yesterday that is not the way Derek Kellogg’s defense works. The offense will run through Anthony Gurley as it always does. He will take most of the shots and be featured in most Minutemen possessions. UMass simply does not have the personnel to run a John Calipari inspired dribble drive offense. There is no point guard who serves as an affluent passer nor is there a good passer that can be a primary offensive option. UMass will struggle until they find someone who can fill that role. This year they do not have that guy and thus the offense has sputtered.

Final Thoughts

I fully expect Duquesne to have a good showing. I really like what I’m hearing out of the Dukes’ locker room, especially from Bill Clark. Bill Brink at the P-G gives a good synopsis of the mood amongst the team.

“Don’t let one loss turn into another one,” was one point made by Clark, said freshman Mike Talley.

Duquesne, which has lost two games in a row, can test that principle tonight against Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass. The Minutemen, losers of their past three games, face a similar challenge.

“You know how the great teams, like [Duke], after they lose a game they take it out on the next team,” Talley said. “That’s just what we’ve got to do, come out and play our game and show them why we’re number one — or were number one.”

Do the Dukes have it in them to fight off two straight tough losses. It will be seen tonight in a game that the Dukes should win handily but easily, due to matchup concerns could go awry. Lets hope Ron Everhart’s club gets back to its winning ways.