Dukes Notch First Post Season Win in 16 Years

Brilliant. Simply brilliant. Yesterday’s win over Montana illuminated the very best of what Duquesne under Ron Everhart can accomplish. It has been 17 years since the Dukes last pulled off a victory in the post season. Even if it came in an inferior tournament it does not make the accomplishment insignificant. The way in which the game was won was even more uplifting for a once moribund program. The win over Montana serves as Everhart’s magnum opus thus far as Duquesne’s head coach. The Coach explains.

“We knew we had a tremendous challenge coming into this game,” said Duquesne coach Ron Everhart, who notched his first career post-conference tournament win. “[Damian] Saunders has been really sick, so we decided to go with a platoon system to utilize our depth and maybe wear them down a little bit. We thought it would help if we could make it an up-and-down game.

Also from Bob Meseroll of the Missoulian.

The Dukes also wore the Griz down with superior depth. Ten players logged 10 or more minutes for coach Ron Everhart, who used wholesale substitutions to keep his players fresh. Everhart said he hit on the strategy by accident. Starting post Damian Saunders was sick, prompting him to substitute more frequently.

“What we did is we went with a platoon system, play more like a hockey line and try to utilize our depth,” Everhart said. “We felt that from a depth perspective we could maybe wear these guys down a little bit if we could make it an up-and-down game.”

At the heart of Everhart’s system is a requirement of depth. Having many warm bodies that can play productive minutes is central to the team’s success. Over the past several years as Everhart has accrued more talented players he has moved away from the 10-40 paradigm that he employed early in his tenure on the bluff. The rationale for the switch is sound. As a coach, one wants to get his best players the most minutes as possible. This may not be the best plan for Everhart’s scheme however.

I spent much ink complaining about Duquesne’s offense. While I still think there are fundamental problems that must be resolved, it could be that much of the inaction on offense has to do with fatigue stemming from the maximum effort required to run Everhart’s defense. Perhaps, the offensive torpor can be corrected if simply more players play.

There is a point of diminishing returns as there is with most things. The players must be able to log useful minutes not just minutes. The team must still be able to play its game, so in terms of Duquesne pressure the ball and quickly rotate to help on defense and dribble and pass in circles 30 feet from the basket on offense (I kid).

It does seem though that the bench players this season are capable of doing just that. For much of the season, Everhart was employing a seven man rotation, that simply is not enough to expect max effort while maintaining intelligent play. It has seemed in the minutes they have played, Joel Wright and Andre Marhold have held their own while on the floor and have often managed to be more productive offensive players than Saunders. Similarly, last season Sean Johnson was buried on the bench in favor of the less talented Jason Duty. In those cases it seems that more is better.

Last night’s effort culminated in 1.150 points per possession on offense. That is the best mark for the Dukes in over a month. The defense was not spectacular but it did what it is supposed to do, create turnovers and fast break points. The Dukes managed to turn 19 turnovers into 21 points. Duquesne was motivated and for stretches put on a clinic of how to run an up tempo style.

What does the future hold? Oregon defeated Weber State, so the Dukes will head to Eugene on Monday to face Dana Altman’s Ducks. A loss to a BCS school would be understandable, it would feel better than a loss to a Big Sky program. It will likely be tough game to win. Altman, of Creighton fame, runs an intelligent highly efficient offense and has major conference talent. That’s a deadly combination. However, considering Oregon’s poor field goal defense it is possible that the Dukes can capitalize on offense. Win or lose, the players, coaches and fans can go out of of this season with a smile. Ending on a loss to St. Joe’s would have been awful. Thank Allah for the CBI.


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.

Dukes Make Early Exit in Atlantic City

Alas, I get to writing the much belated Atlantic 10 tournament recap. While I was in AC I was staying at the Hilton which generously provides Internet access at the rate of $15 a day. Needless to say I did not partake in their offer. Further, I had to travel back home to Pittsburgh and then to school in Cleveland where I am returning after spring break. Deciding to be a dedicated student, at least temporarily, I put my studies before the blog.

I was hoping to write this yesterday but fatigue and pain got in the way. It took me a long time to convince myself to write this post simply because it hurts too much. With these words I lacerate the scab protecting myself from emotional torment and allow the puss to seep out on the Duquesne men’s basketball season.

As you may know, the Dukes fell in their first game in Atlantic City to 12th seeded Saint Joe’s who barely made their way into the tournament. It was not unlike any other loss that the Dukes have fell victim to this season with the exceptions of the defeats at the hands of Pitt and Saint Louis. Pure and simply, free throw shooting lost the game.

A team cannot expect to win many games in which its efficacy from the charity stripe is less than 53 percent. Going along with the free throws there were a host of missed lay ups as well and an offensive meltdown in the final minutes. After the Dukes took the lead with 1:29 remaining in regulation the squad only managed two shot attempts—both layups—both missed. A dunk by the Hawks’ Ronald Roberts sent the game to overtime where SJU took control of the game.

Once again, there was no lack of motivation only lack of intelligence. Until Duquesne can make the shots it is supposed to and playing consistently smart basketball will the Dukes firmly establish themselves as an A-10 power. As for this season, its off to the CBI tournament in which hopefully the Dukes can win a game or two. Better luck next year.

Scouting Report: St. Joseph’s

Its been a tough year for Saint Joe’s and head coach Phil Martelli. Martelli’s Hawks have put forth the worst season of his career on Hawk Hill. Following the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons in which SJU made the elite eight and NIT Finals respectively the program has been on the wane. Is Martelli losing his fastball? A better explanation is that he never had a fastball or rather that his max 90 mph heat was not being supplemented by the right secondary offerings. Those other pitches are the talent he has.

Martelli is not good enough of a coach to schematically break teams down, but very few coaches are. When he has excelled is when the coach has convinced top level talent to spend some time on Hawk Hill. In the early part of the previous decade when St. Joe’s had its most success players like Marvin O’Connor, Jameer Nelson, Delonte West and Pat Carroll dawned the crimson and gray. Since those years Martelli has not been able to get that type of player to come to St. Joe’s and consequently it has not been able to match the success of the apex of the program.

Things are changing however. Martelli put together one of the best recruiting classes in Atlantic 10 history this season getting coveted prospects Langston Galloway, C.J. Aiken, Daryeus Quarles, and the red shirted Papa Samba Ndao. They combined with sophomore Carl Jones comprise a solid core of players of which the Hawks can build around. The influx of talent has come with a price this season. The youth of the club has led to more losses in the short term. Martelli’s inability to mold his players into a cohesive half court unit has held back the Hawks this year, but the future remains bright.

Ideally, Martelli’s offense is a drive-and-kick penetration game where the point guard is featured prominently. It is no wonder that the years when the Hawks had Jameer Nelson mark the most successful in the recent history of the program. The team goes as its point guard goes. This year there was no true point guard with Jones and Galloway doing the bulk of the ball handling. Neither has an elite handle but both do a solid job of taking care of the ball with both ranking in the top 500 players in turnover rate. Such is expected from a Martelli coached team. The Hawks are generally going to have ball handlers who are good decision makers that can find an open shooter. The shooters will then knock the shots down. That’s what happens when everything goes right, but that was not this year. Fortunately, Martelli has already signed a highly touted point guard Chris Wilson.

On defense, Martelli seems to focus on staying in the half court and preventing open shots. St. Joe’s will not pressure often and will play a good bit of zone. This season it has seemed that the Hawks has not put together consistent effort on defense. The athleticism of the players has not manifested itself when the other team has the ball. This condition, again, may go back to Martelli’s inability to game plan well.

St Joe’s is clearly a poorer team when compared to George Washington however it has won three of its last four games and is playing the best basketball it has all season. A flat effort from Duquesne will open the door for the youthful Hawks looking to make a statement. Nevertheless, this is a game the Dukes should win and SJU fans can look forward to next season when the Hawks are my favorite to be the sleeper team.

Atlantic 10 Awards Announced

First Team

My First Team
Pos Player School
Pos Player School
G Tu Holloway* Xavier G Tu Holloway* Xavier
G Kevin Anderson Richmond G Kevin Anderson Richmond
F Justin Harper Richmond F Justin Harper Richmond
F Lavoy Allen Temple F Bill Clark Duquesne
C Andrew Nicholson St. Bonaventure C Andrew Nicholson St. Bonaventure

(* denotes Atlantic 10 Player of the Year)

The first team is almost perfect with one glaring exception, Lavoy Allen. Allen must have been selected because of his reputation. Allen is a good enough player. He’s a solid rebounder, quality passer, decent shooter and stout defender. Some rave about his defense, but I am not so sure. I think he’s good but Allen’s defense does not equate to an elite skill. Taken altogether Allen is not deserving of a first team all league selection. Nobody forms a game plan around stopping him. To fill his spot I was torn between Bill Clark and Delroy James. James, as I have stated previously, is a better version of Chris Wright. Initiallly I wanted to give him the nod, but then I thought about it. Rhody has better offensive weapons than I thought. Marquis Jones is one of the better true point guards in the league and Nikola Malesavic is an elite shooter who move well off the ball. Maybe, James did not need to dominate the ball as much as he did. Maybe his need for the ball has held back URI’s offense. That’s why I went with Bill Clark.

Second Team My Second Team
Pos Player School
Pos Player School
G Ramone Moore Temple G Ramone Moore Temple
G Tony Taylor GW G Tony Taylor GW
F Bill Clark Duquesne F Delroy James Rhode Island
F Delroy James Rhode Island F Damian Saunders** Duquesne
F Damian Saunders** Duquesne F Jamel McLean Xavier

(** denotes Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year)

The opening on my second team is filled by Xavier big man Jamel McLean. McLean has the kind of game that makes me swoon. He has a legitimate back-to-the-basket game and is the best rebounder in the Atlantic 10. The Xavier big man thrives in playing in the trenches and is one of the better post defenders in the league. When I play video games and I design myself as a basketball player the prototype is McLean.

Third Team My Third Team
Pos Player School
Pos Player School
G Juan Fernandez Temple G Scootie Randall Temple
G Anthony Gurley UMass G TJ McConnell*** Duquesne
G Mark Lyons Xavier F Nikola Malesevic Rhode Island
F Chris Wright Dayton F Chris Johnson Dayton
F Jamel McLean Xavier F Lavoy Allen Temple

(*** denotes Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year)

Now here is where the list gets thrown off. It seems that the voters were busy looking at the stats for some of these guys and plain reputation for others. Juan Fernandez does not to deserve to be on this list let alone anyone’s list. Fernandez is my favorite player in the league. As a high awareness guard with a smooth stroke and deft passing flare, he is my favorite for player of the year next season. This year the Temple guard never hit his stride and was further hindered by a knee injury. He’ll be back next year with a vengeance but 2010-11 was not his season.

Part time basketball player, full time circus freak Chris Wright joins Fernandez in getting on this list because of reputation. However, unlike Fernandez, he does not deserve the reputation that precedes him. Sometimes I wonder if the voters ever watch the games. How many games has Wright figured in prominently over his four years at Dayton? My guess is that one can count them with his or her fingers which is fortunate for Wright considering his basketball IQ. If his court smarts are any indication of his math skills he may have difficulty counting above ten. Gurley and Lyons are fine players and I don’t mean to denigrate them. I just like my guys better.

Randall is the most transcendent scorer in the league and Malesevic is my new man crush. I must have a thing for foreign guys. Perhaps I watch too much soccer. Malesevic is a nightmare for any team to guard. As a 6’7” swing forward, his height and shooting touch make him a fun sized Dirk Nowitzki. He is the second best shooter (Behind Harper) in the league making 47 percent of his threes. League be warned. Similarly, I always have had a soft spot for Chris Johnson. Johnson, I have always felt, has been underrated trapped behind the hulking shadow of fellow Chris and teammate Chris Wright. Johnson puts in much more effort, plays smarter and does more things than Wright. To me, that makes him the better player, but what do I know.

Finally I was torn once again between a Duke and someone else. Because I’m a homer I chose T.J. McConnell over Langston Galloway. While I have been impressed with Galloway’s performance as a rookie I agree with McConnell’s selection as freshman of the year. I like McConnell’s overall game, especially his defensive impact, when compared to Galloway’s superior offensive output. Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing these players grow, with McConnell having the better career of course.

Official Dukes Hoops A10 Tournament Contest

So, who is the smartest follower of the Atlantic 10 in Dukes nation? I have put together a predictable bracket with bracketmaker.com. It will allow you to predict the outcomes of the games with its “Predict It” function. I will keep track of the standings here. I will get some kind of prize for the winner. I am not sure yet what, but it will likely be Atlantic City related because I’ll be there at the tournament.

Directions on how to join

Click here to go to the bracket.

Register and log in

Go back to the bracket page

Click on “Predict It”

Fill out the bracket and click “Enter”

It will be registered on the site

I will update the standings this weekend

Dukes Close Regular Season with Loss at Richmond

Yesterday, I was anxious to watch the Duquesne game on TV because, since the Atlantic 10 sucks and no Pittsburgh stations are willing to broadcast games which limits opportunities to see the Dukes. My cable went out yesterday morning through the length of the game including my Internet access, so I listened to the game on the radio. Good thing I did. Had I watched the game something probably would have been broken.

Yesterday’s game was a perfect encapsulation of everything that is wrong with Duquesne. Poor free throw shooting, missed layups and contested shots. Generally the Dukes are average at grabbing offensive boards. Not yesterday. Duquesne managed to corral only 25.5 percent of misses. That is not enough for a team that like Richmond that is so good at preventing open shots and is so poor at cleaning up the glass. Saturday marked another poor performance from the charity stripe resulting in 61 percent effort. Most importantly, and most frustratingly 12 missed layups.

Missed layups have been secretly a problem for Duquesne over Everhart’s tenure. Why can’t anyone finish a layup in traffic. Other teams do it all the time, even those that are undersized. I have come up with a few potential explanations for this phenomena. It always seems that the layups are rushed which would seem to indicate that the Dukes are afraid of contact. This could be because of a general fear of going against a bigger guy, but I think it is that they are afraid to shoot free throws, particularly Damian Saunders.

This apprehension could explain all of this. If foul shooting is the root cause, then fix the foul shooting and the layup problem will take care of itself. When players are not confident in making free throws it limits their desire to drive hard to the basket since when there is ca foul, they don’t think they can make the freebies. This needs to change. If I am right, then that could make Duquesne’s offense no longer suck, because the source of the timidity that has marked the offense will be eliminated.

In better news, Rhode Island lost to St. Bonaventure which gives Duquesne a first round bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Even better news is that George Washington beat Dayton which makes them the five seed, and the likely quarterfinal matchup for the Dukes. GW is the preferred opponent because, unlike Rhody, it is a poor field goal defense team. We saw what Richmond, an excellent field goal defense team do against Duquesne, we don’t want to see that again with URI. Yesterday was not all doom and gloom because of these events and this season still is one of the best in the history of the program.