Meet the Atlantic 10: Duquesne Preview

Posted In News, The Reading List - By Alan Kelly On Saturday, February 8th, 2014 With 0 Comments

We’ve reached the halfway-point of the Atlantic 10 schedule, and George Mason is still looking for that illusive first league victory. There’s not a lot left to be said about the Patriots performance thus far. But we should get to know the Dukes (10-11, 2-6) of Duquesne University. This afternoon’s game at the Pittsburgh school (2pm, A10 Digital Network) offers a real chance for a Patriots (7-15, 0-8) win (40% according to KenPom), and, dare the losing continue that long, a second chance at home on March 8 (KenPom says 71%).

The Dukes are in the middle of a lengthy rebuilding process, having finished 1-15 and in last place in the A-10 a season ago, Jim Ferry’s first at the helm. But the Patriots aren’t in the position to underestimate anyone right now. They need to show up with the same poise that they displayed a week ago in St. Louis, rather than playing down to a “lesser” opponent and taking another loss.

The two teams played a home-and-home out of conference series in December 2010 and 2011, with Mason winning in Pittsburgh in double overtime in Jim Larrañaga’s final season, and Duquesne handing Paul Hewitt his first home defeat in Fairfax a season later.

To gain some more perspective on the Dukes, yesterday I asked Steven DiMiceli of We Wear The Ring to answer a few questions.

masonhoops.com: Who’s expected to be in the starting lineup on Saturday afternoon for the Dukes? Can you briefly describe each starter’s role on the team?

Steven: Ovie Soko is the straw that stirs the drink for Duquesne and he’ll start at power forward. He’s the second leading scorer in the conference and has really lived up to his all league potential. He can score in the paint but is at his best facing up his man and taking them off the dribble.

Dominique McKoy plays center. He doesn’t create as much for himself as Soko, but he has soft hands around the basket making most of the shots he takes. He’s developed into the Dukes most dependable rebounder at both ends of the floor.

Jeremiah Jones is a defensive specialist who can score when he’s on, but will go unnoticed on offense when he isn’t. He takes good care of the basketball and he’s gotten better at distributing.

Micah Mason leads the nation in the three point shooting hitting 60% (not a typo) from beyond the arc. He’s not just a catch and shoot player either as passes and handles the ball well. According to Stat Sheet, he’s also second in the country in assist to turnover ratio.

Point guard could be in flux as regular Derrick Colter was benched to begin the second half against GW. He’s played poorly for the last two games and Tra’Vaugh White could get the nod.

masonhoops.com: Who are the key bench players and what do they contribute to the team?

Steven: The Dukes will likely play ten on Wednesday. As I mentioned, White could start in place of the slumping Colter. After getting off to a rocky start in A-10 play, he has played better the last two. He led all of junior college in scoring last year. Jerry Jones backs up Jeremiah and provides some experience and defense off the bench while confusing opposing play by play guys. Desmond Ridenour has served as the primary back up to Colter but has also slumped badly and could see his minutes cut. One of the freshmen Isaiah Watkins or LG Gill will eat most of the minutes off the bench inside. No idea who it will be and it likely depends on Jim Ferry’s mood that morning.

masonhoops.com: What are the strengths of this year’s Duquesne team?

Steven: The Dukes are generally a strong offensive team with a number of weapons who can score. They share the ball well and don’t turn it over often. They have a number of players who have three point range and both starting post players can generate a lot of offense when they’re on.

masonhoops.com: What are the weaknesses of this year’s Duquesne team?

Steven: Defense and experience. The Dukes would have 3-4 more wins already this year if they played average Atlantic 10 defense. They have gotten better inside and out but they still aren’t good enough.

You can really tell this is a young team at times. If they get down early, everyone tries to bring the team back by themselves. At times, the shot selection is ill advised. If the team struggles in one area, they lose their composure and it carries over to the rest of their game. Most games they’ve played, they’ve completely broken down for extended stretches.

Finishing at the basket has been inconsistent as the Dukes miss a lot of easy baskets. They really don’t have a guard who consistently finishes in traffic on the dribble drive.

masonhoops.com: Are there any key statistics or trends we could watch for on Saturday, that might indicate whether the game is going well or poorly for the Dukes?

Steven: If the Dukes get to the free throw line with regularity and take care of the basketball, I like their chances to win. While not a statistic, I think they need to deny the lane to Sherrod Wright and defend the perimeter forcing the Patriots post players to score inside.

masonhoops.com: The Dukes were picked last in the preseason A-10 poll, and at 2-6 in the league, the only ones keeping them out of the basement are the winless Patriots. However, those six losses have all come to teams in the top half of the standings. Can Duquesne turn things around now that they’ve gotten to the easier part of their schedule?

Steven: When I read this question, I thought to myself “What is there to turn around?” The Dukes don’t have much of a chance at the meaningful post season. IMO, wins are gravy at this point as I see this as a transitional year for Duquesne who are in year two of a major rebuild. My only expectation for this team was that they finish the year better than they started it. The team they fielded against George Washington would beat New Hampshire 99 out of 100 times at home now where the team to start the season went 0 for 1. They’d have also picked up another win out of conference. They still have their warts but they’re undeniably better than they were in Novermber, but in my opinion, next year is when it counts.

Keep in mind, the Dukes do have a tie break against Fordham due to the head to head win and a more favorable schedule. It would take a pretty huge disaster for the Dukes to finish in last again especially if we split with Mason.

DuquesneRingmasonhoops.com: What’s the big deal with the Duquesne class rings? I’ve read about the history of the ring, and even your blog derives it’s name from the tradition, but what do the rings mean to alumni?

Steven:
The great irony is that I don’t even own one.

I think every school has it’s traditions that simply exist and this happens to be Duquesne’s. In my observation, it provides a means of networking and identification. Duquesne grads like to hire their own, so it’s a powerful accessory to wear on a job interview in Western Pennsylvania. It can also be an ice breaker. I’ve read many accounts of people striking up conversations at a conference or sporting event with strangers because someone noticed their ring.

masonhoops.com: Thanks for your time, Steven!

Meet the Atlantic 10: An introduction to each team in George Mason’s new conference
VCUSt. Joe’sUMassURIFordhamGWSLUDayton – Duq. – St. Bona – Rich. – La Salle

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About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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