Yesterday, I looked at why I think the Dukes are better than St Bonaventure. Today, I compare Duquesne basketball to Fordham. I thought the Dukes were slightly better than the Rams heading into last season. They beat the Dukes at home during one of the rare appearances by senior forward Chris Gaston. They won’t have Gaston in 2013-14, but that isn’t the main difference I see between the two teams or why I think the Dukes will be better.
The Dukes’ Incoming Players Improve the Team More Than the Rams’ Incoming Players
This might be a somewhat controversial stance because Fordham landed the highly sought after and much hyped shooting guard Jon Severe. I think he will be a very good player in the league from day one, and he’ll make them better at the two. That said, I’m not sure if there is another incoming Ram who jumps directly into the starting lineup. The Dukes will have two. Tra’Vaughn White has JUCO experience under his belt and could provide a greater immediate upgrade at shooting guard for the Dukes than Severe will for Fordham. Duquesne added three post players who will allow them to utilize a more traditional lineup. Of course, there’s also Ovie Soko.
While the Dukes improved externally, the Rams have a chance to grow from the inside. Travion Leonard and Ryan Canty were very efficient as underclassmen last year and should only get better. While Gaston is gone, his injury riddled senior season provided a snapshot of what life after him would look like. Honestly, it’s not as scary as I would have expected. Trying to force him half healed into the lineup over Canty or Leonard may have hurt as much as it helped. Fordham still has a reasonably large hole to fill at the three. If Mandell Thomas, who I’m not as high on as others, can step up, that would be another internal boost for the Rams.
The Dukes Have Three of the Four Best Players
I made a similar comment in the St. Bonaventure post where I point out that the Dukes have three guys, White, Soko and Derrick Colter with all league upside this year. The difference between Fordham and the Bonnies is that Fordham also has one in Branden Frazier. He’s just as good as the Dukes top three. Like Colter, Frazier is a high volume point guard, but he is a few inches taller and is entering his senior year. Frazier had a better A:TO and has the ability to take over a game. Unlike the Dukes though, I don’t think the Rams have an above average complement for Frazier.
I think it’s going to be close between the Dukes and Fordham at the end of the year. So close that I think the winner of the head to head might have the advantage in a tie breaker. So close that I would give a slight edge for the entire season to the team with home court advantage in that head to head. The game will be played in Pittsburgh this year and as a result, I think the Dukes will be the favorites in that game and in the standings. I wouldn’t underestimate how important that match up could be.
Fordham has been up and coming since Tom Pecora took over as head coach. Problem for them is so has the rest of the league. The overall talent is getting better but I feel like they’ve only added one significant player from each recruiting class during his tenure. That one player keeps getting better but when you throw player turnover into the mix, you’re playing with fire without depth. I think their class of 2013 could be a turning point, but it will take a few years until they can fully contribute. I see a small but strong core moving forward, but Pecora will need to do a better job supplementing that core if he hopes to get out of the bottom three let alone the next level. Two or three good players is not enough anymore in the Atlantic 10 as the Dukes may find out for themselves.