Men’s Basketball Are Who We Thought They Were
Duquesne fans are losing their damn minds. They lost an exhibition to a D-II side that meant nothing, but have dropped two that count against middling teams from below-average conferences at the buzzer against Canisius and UT-Martin. Jim Ferry has naturally been taken to task. Zachary Weiss shredded him for making excuses and I got this number in my twitter feed on Sunday.
— J.J. (@JJYoungDrums) November 27, 2016
After a couple of underachieving seasons following Ferry’s slow start, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those fans still on the bridge are thinking about jumping. However, should we really be surprised about the start ? Just before the season began, I broke down the Dukes schedule and predicted between 13-18 wins. In the piece, I noted:
While the talent level is similar to last year after a solid offseason, a couple things stand in Duquesne’s way of matching their first .500 season under Jim Ferry. The Dukes have five new pieces and a transfer who they need build their rotation around. In all likelihood, a couple of the freshman guards won’t factor, but it will take time for this team to gel. This could lead to an early season hiccup or two and when I mean hiccup, I mean bad loss or tighter than expected wins. November could be a complete crap shoot, but the team might be better than last year’s by March.
I was wrong about the freshman guards. Both Mike Lewis II and Spencer Littleson have featured prominently into Ferry’s plans early. This is a positive sign for the future, but a new challenge in the short run when dealing with the inconsistencies of freshmen. Lewis dropped a 20 spot on Cleveland St. and 19 on Penn St., but he put up a goose egg against St. Francis and two against UT-Martin.
The rest of the quote holds up. They dropped a couple of close games to teams they should have beaten because in large part, its taken the team a while to come together as evidenced by the turnovers and the assist to field goal made ratio under .5. The team has looked like a complete mess at times, but they’ve also looked dominant at others. To me, this is all part of the process.
To Weiss’ column, I think it’s worth noting that there are excuses and there are hard truths. While I’d like to hear Ferry take a little more accountability for the team’s failings, it has also been easy to see this start coming. The reality of the situations is that the team is young, the players are completely new to the system and they haven’t had much time to work on the things they need to work on. Like it or not, this team is inexperienced and flawed. Fixing the problems won’t happen overnight and the new guys have basically had to learn on the job. The freshmen had a whopping four games of real experience heading into the tough losses. They need to learn how to win and sometimes we have to fail in order to learn.
Still, Ferry seems to be coaching for a theoretical future that may not come for him if he continues to neglect the rest of his non-conference schedule. The way I see it, his safe number to keep his job is 14. I don’t get excited about another crappy season, but I think Duquesne fans don’t need too vivid an imagination to see this team improving considerably next season. They have a talented and deep core and while they’ll lose some important players to graduation, they have enough returning that they should quickly build. Isiaha Mike is a star in the making and Tarin Smith has flashed some high end upside despite sitting out a year. There are a number of complementary players like Nakye Sanders, Josh Steel, Littleson, and Lewis II all with at least two years of eligibility remaining beyond this one. It may not look like it now, but this group could win 20 games and play in an NIT if they stay together next season.
There is a long way to go in 2016-17 and I still believe this team could play its best basketball in March. If they are, it will have made the lumps worth it. There is talent, but they need time to grow and mature. At the same time, Ferry can’t afford to lose too many more like this one.
How times have changed for Duquesne women’s basketball! The Dukes went on a two game road trip in New York against likely top 100 RPI teams and took both. St. John’s could flirt with the top 50 and an NCAA at-large bid. Iona should compete for the MAAC’s automatic bid. They quietly started the foundation for another solid resume. Buffalo and California losses will likely be more missed opportunities than damaging.
Here’s the kicker. This was supposed to be a transition year with the departure of April Robinson and the rest of their starting back court. The Dukes have only one senior playing a major role in Amadea Szamosi, so not only are they off to a great start, they’re off to a great start with a young team. With four of five starters returning, this could just be the beginning of a special run.
Football / Robert Morris Comparisons
I haven’t paid much attention to Duquesne football this year, but they just did what they keep doing, sharing the NEC title. They ended up finishing a late touchdown at St. Francis short of their second straight outright title and back to back FCS tournament appearances.
At the other end of the conference was Robert Morris and while the Dukes have been racking up title shares, the Colonials have fought to avoid last place. For me, it’s time to put to bed any argument that Bobby Mo has a better athletic department than Duquesne. Sure, men’s basketball is still suspect, but Andy Toole’s team has slipped since their last NCAA appearance due to extreme roster turnover. This year’s men’s game is meaningless to the season series since Duquesne has already clinched the better all sports record. Sure, Robert Morris competes nationally in hockey with a top 30 program, but that’s out of 60 teams. Meanwhile, Duquesne has a top 50 women’s program out of 346 teams. To me, the later is more impressive. The Dukes could use some separation in men’s hoops, but just because Robert Morris may have an edge in one sport doesn’t mean they’re better, or even competitive, overall.