If I had to label the average Duquesne fan this off-season based on their hopes for this upcoming season, I would call them ‘cautiously optimistic’. If I had to rate their expectations for even modest success, I would say they’re high. It’s evident from reading the message boards and following the usual suspects on Twitter that they’d be crushed by anything less than an otherwise meaningless .500 season. But do they have what it takes?
I’ve already looked at how much the defense needs to improve for them to take big steps forward. If we want to assess if the Dukes can have a winning season in another way, it would be fair compare them to the last team to post one, 2011-12. I’ll break both squads down position by projected position and come up with concluding thoughts.
PG – Derrick Colter vs TJ McConnell
At a quick glance, this battle seems like a no brainer and ultimately, I concluded that McConnell was the better option. However, it’s closer than I thought initially. A couple of things to consider before jumping to conclusions:
1) We’re comparing Colter to McConnell as a sophomore, not as the red shirt senior who was one of the best PG’s in the country. McConnell had huge upside at Duquesne, but a lot of that was not realized before he transferred.
2) TJ was a 3rd team all conference Atlantic 10 as a sophomore. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think Colter could match that.
When you look up and down the list, Colter’s offensive numbers last season were comparable to TJ’s second year and better in a number of ways. DC took better care of the basketball, scored more points and got to the free throw line with much greater frequency. McConnell was without question the better passer and defender with the latter being the real difference maker. While McConnell’s gaudy steal numbers inflated his overall defensive perception, there is little chance Colter will even be in the conversation for the all league defensive team.
Rating: Advantage ’11-12
SG – Micah Mason vs Eric Evans
You’ll notice a theme starting with Evans for the ’11-12 team. While the Detroit guard enjoyed his finest season as a Duke, in my opinion, he played out of his element at the two to make way for McConnell at the point. That said, he made the most of it and quietly added value to the team.
Mason will also play something of a combo guard but he’s a better fit for the position. He provides a scoring upside Evans couldn’t touch. Mason returns with the two best three point shooting seasons in school history under his belt and a developing ability to drive and create his own shots. He got off to a rough start last season, but by the end he was looking like a nightmare for any coach squaring up against Duquesne. With all due respect to Eric Evans, he wasn’t the kind of player you build an offense around.
Rating: Big Advantage ’15-16
SF – Jeremiah Jones vs Sean Johnson
At SF, we have two non-traditional players. One of them, Jones, grew a couple inches short of what is ideal for his skill set. Johnson, on the other hand, was forced out of position just to get the best five players on the court. Johnson is without question the better scorer and it’s not even close. On top of that, Johnson turned the ball over less. The rest of the package favors Jones. Jones is tougher, the better rebounder and passer or should I say, he’s more apt to pass. While Jones struggled at times to defend in the 2-3, Johnson gave up playing defense entirely for Lent that year and never really started playing it again. I won’t put much stock into it, but there are also the rumored locker room chemistry issues that Johnson created. On the other hand, Jones was taking on a more visible leadership role by the end of last season. Despite the scoring difference, I’m not sure I would trade Jones for Johnson.
PF – LG Gill vs BJ Monteiro
’11-12 had a lot of players glaringly out of position, but there were none more obvious than at the four. Thankfully, Monteiro, a true swingman, made lemonade out of lemons and had a great year. He scored like a maniac and passed well on top of that. A bit of a tweener in his own rights, Gill is a better straight up shooter, but lacks the prowess and body control to finish around the net the way Monteiro could. As a sophomore, Gill was a slightly better rebounder than Monteiro as a senior and he will likely only get better in that department.
Monteiro was an all conference honorable mention. Gill would need to take huge steps forward just to be considered in that conversation.
Rating: Big Advantage ’11-12
C – Darius Lewis vs Andre Marhold
You don’t have to look much past the tale of the tape to feel better about Lewis here. Though Marhold’s length and athleticism allowed him to play bigger than his 6’6” head height and his skill set fit better at center than anywhere else, at the four was notably undersized, like Monteiro at the four. As a result, rebounding suffered mightily for the Dukes of ’11-12. Lewis didn’t have a great season, but he he showed flashes of promise and better rebounding than Marhold.
Lewis needs to get more consistent and if he does, the ’15-16 team will be considerably better off inside than their ’11-12 counterpart. Still, he’s more about projection than results at this time. In the end, he’s the better option by virtue of experience and fit.
Rating: Slight Advantage ’15-16
’11-12 featured a couple of the better reserves under Ron Everhart, but fell off pretty quickly after that. Mike Talley was a dangerous point guard, but was also used precariously at the two to spell Evans. Jerry Jones broke out to begin to fill the “always the brides maid, never the bride role” he became accustomed to as a solid bench option. While he was ever inconsistent on offense, he offered a solid defensive alternative to Johnson. Kadeem Pantophlet showed the only signs of life from the incoming 2011 class. Really, he was the only player taller than 6’7” to show anything. After that, it got pretty miserable. The Dukes had no depth inside though they got flashes from Mamadou Datt. Martins Abele never adapted and finished the year on academic probation.
If some of the younger players develop, Jim Ferry may have a difficult time finding minutes for his bench. It starts with Rene Castro, who should serve as the team’s sixth man backing up the one and two. The front court is also considerably deeper with Ty’Sean Powell having the ability to finish and pass inside and Jordan Robinson showing more polished offensive chops than Lewis. Both could sneak into the starting lineup eventually and offer more upside than the players ahead of them if they can iron out their defensive warts. You couldn’t say that for any interior players in ’11-12. On the wing, you have Eric James, who probably deserved more minutes than he got last year, and Mar’Qywell Jackson both poised to steal minutes from Jones. That’s not even considering the potential impact of freshmen Nakye Sanders and Josh Steel who may both provide insurance in the event that more experienced players struggle.
Rating: Advatage ’15-16
When I break down the two teams, it becomes clear that both were oddly constructed and guard heavy. Both teams had a fringy all conference player at point guard, but neither had a player with the immediate upside of Mason in that particular season. While he hasn’t shown it over an entire season, Mason has first team all conference potential in my opinion. They both ran three guard sets but Jones is likely a better teammate and fit than Johnson even if Johnson was a better scoring threat. Neither team had clarity inside, but the ’15-16 team seems better equipped to deal with the question marks and has more options in the event that the primary choice isn’t working out. I suspect that will be the difference between these two squads.
It’s difficult to trust Duquesne right now, but I think if the ’11-12 Dukes could find a way to win more than they lost, so can ’15-16. If Ferry can solve this group’s defensive woes, I think they have the chance to be considerably better.