Dukes Release Schedule

On Tuesday, the Dukes released their schedule for the 2010-11 season. It possesses many familiar opponents but stands out in regard to the overall strength of opponent. Duquesne has faced a relatively poor schedule the last few seasons in a effort to bolster the team’s confidence going into conference play. This would seem to be a sign of confidence by head coach Ron Everhart and his staff that the Dukes are ready to take the next step towards becoming a perennial Atlantic 10 contender.

Familiar conference opponents include Pitt and West Virginia, two Big East powers that should compete for their league’s title again.¬† Similarly, the Dukes will face cross town rival Robert Morris, coming off a tough loss in NCAA Tournament to the 2 seed Villanova. Also, the second legs of home-and-home series will be concluded in Pitsburgh with quality mid major programs IUPUI and George Mason. Added to that list are Green Bay and Bowling Green, members of higher level mid major conferences. Softer competition includes UMBC, Northwestern State and Norfolk State and Houston Baptist.

As far as the Atlantic 10 schedule goes, it is more favorable than it otherwise could have been. The Dukes will face off twice against Dayton, Saint Louis and Saint Bonaventure. Duquesne traditionally plays well against Dayton, but many prognosticators are touting them to win the league after their NIT championship run (note: I’m not among them). Saint Louis is a tough opponent for the Dukes with their slow pace and fantastic coach. Saint Bonaventure is similarly a difficult matchup due to Sophmore big man Andrew Nicholson, who gave the Dukes fits due to the lack of quality size in the front court.

Duquesne does catch a few breaks in getting to play top league opponents, Temple, Xavier, Rhode Island and Charlotte at home. The remaining A-10 games will be on the road with a date at Richmond appearing  as the most difficult contest. Overall, the quality of opponent for the 2010-11 season should be stronger and this season will demonstrate much about the program going forward. If the team is successful (20 wins or so) it should mark the shift to a full time A-10 contender. If not, it might mean more bottom feeders on the schedule and limited potential in regards to post season appearances.


Duquesne’s Season Ends at St. Bonaventure

A disappointing season ends in a 83-71 loss to St. Bonaventure. The Dukes were hopeful that they could potentially relive the magic created in Atlantic City in last year’s Atlantic 10 Conference Championship but it was not meant to be. The game remained close until the 14:34 minute mark when the Bonnies went on a 14-0 run to take a 59-45 lead. The lead proved to be insurmountable for the Dukes with the final deficit sitting at 12.

St. Bonaventure earned the right to host an opening round game of the Atlantic 10 Conference championship notching the 7th seed after defeating Duquesne last Thursday and George Washington lost to St. Joseph’s. Thus they hosted Duquesne in a rematch from last week’s contest. In that contest the Bonnies won at home posting a 92-80 final score. In that game St. Bonaventure made nine three pointers and sophmore big man Andrew Nicholson along with senior shooting guard Chris Matthews scored 21 points each.

As Tuesday’s game progressed it appeared a continuation of last week’s affair. Nicholson and Matthews scored even more points notching 25 and 28 respectively. Also, the Bonnies shot a better percentage from three point range boasting a 75 percent 9-12 performance with Matthews going 6-8. The three point shooting performance is not surprising considering it has followed the trend that the Dukes have given up at least eight threes to their last five games. Duquesne’s zone has been attacked effectively from behind the arc the past several games. Consequently, the Dukes Defensive points per Possession has averaged out to a paltry 1.078 PPP. The defense has simply given up too many open shots which have in turn created more open lanes for offenses to attack.¬† The same occured in last night’s game and the Dukes went down.

Recently the Duke’s offense has been firing well posting 1.062 PPP. However, that still equates for a -.016 margin which does not spell out success. The problem the offense had on Tuesday was the same problem it has been having for the entire season. Going into the game, the Dukes were last in all of Division I basketball in three point shooting percentage with a 26.4 percent mark. In this game the Dukes put up 21 attempts from long range and made 5 or 23.8 percent of their attempts. Simply put, that is too many attempts for a team that shoots so poorly from behind the arc. However, it is difficult with the lack of a true post pressence to run an offense not based around the perimeter. If a team is going to run a four guard offense there better be some guys who can shoot. This is a warning for next season. If this system is going to work guards are going to have to make their shots.

Altogether, the loss last night displayed several of the flaws of a team that finished the year one game over .500. It still felt as if the Dukes were better than their record. Ron Everhart and his club underachieved in a year when they were slotted to finish fifth in the Atlantic 10. Hopefully, there were lessons learned that will carry over to next season with only one departure (Jason Duty) and the arrival of exciting recruits T.J. McConnell and Mike Talley. Duquesne may not have relived the magic of last year’s Atlantic 10 tournament but there’s much to look forward to next season.