This week, I’ll present a series of posts meant to dispel some of what I see as myths, misunderstandings and false assumptions surrounding Jim Ferry, his system and the current state of the Duquesne basketball. This is the second piece in that series and I wanted to point out some areas where the team might struggle or in general, irritate people. This isn’t meant to be a critical piece or a blast. Every team has its foibles. I just want to paint a realistic picture of where the Dukes stand, some odd things they might do and how their defects make sense in the Jim Ferry system.
1. The Dukes Will Turn It Over…. a Lot
Nothing is more frustrating than a turnover especially when it seems like momentum was shifting in your favor. I can’t tell you how many losses I’ve seen where I’ve dwelt on the Dukes failure to take care of the ball on one key possession. However, turnovers are a part of the Ferry system and we’re going to have to live with it. In LIU’s two NCAA tournament runs, Ferry’s teamed turned it over 15.1 and 15.8 times per game which ranked them 330th in the country in 2011-12. Let me reiterate, those teams won their conference tournament and went to the dance. If that formula worked at Duquesne, I could live it. Of course, looking at raw turnovers is a little deceptive. While LIU was 330th two years ago in raw give aways, they were 251th in turnovers per possession and 196th in A:TO ratio. That’s not great but it demonstrates how tempo distorts the totals to make the LIU teams look sloppier than they actually were.
What makes the turnover rate so high in the Ferry system? For one thing, Ferry teams take a lot of risks in transition. The risk will lead to some turnovers, but it will lead to easy scoring opportunities as well. Ferry also asks big men to handle the ball. This allows for more outlets in transition and in the half court, but it also puts the ball in the hands of presumably the worst dribbler on the floor. Ferry teams also pass frequently giving them more opportunities to cough it up.
2. The Defense Will Be Mediocre At Best
This is a genuine concern and I will address it in more depth later in the week.
3. No Average Increase In Size
If you count Kadeem Pantophlet as the regular at the power forward last year, the average head height of the 2013-14 lineup is exactly the same as 2012-13. That said, I think the height is more usefully distributed this year with two true post players at 6’8. I’d rather give up size at the two than at the four or five and it’s not as if Tra’vaughn White is a little dude. He’s a cannonball in the lane. The bench this year is probably about the same size given Martins Abele skewing last year’s average way up.
4. There are No Easy Outs In the A-10
Common conception suggests that the A-10 has gotten substantially worse with the loss of Xavier, Charlotte, Butler and Temple. I think the conference could match its difficulty from previous years given the improvement of the bottom of the league. A stronger Fordham, Rhode Island, Dayton, LaSalle and George Washington limits the number of easy opportunities for Duquesne wins. For the first time that I can recall, we’ll enjoy a doormat free league.
5. The CBI Is Likely The Ceiling.
I cover this extensively in my first entry in this series. 15 or 16 wins looks like the best case scenario for the team to me . That could net them a CBI appearance, but more likely than not, they would have to pay their way in.
6. The Chances of Finishing above .500 are Only About 50/50
Again, this was covered Saturday and to reiterate my key point, this probably isn’t even that important. We need to set the goal higher than this and the team and staff should focus on getting closer to achieving the bigger long term goal.
7. The Team Has Only Played Together For Two Months
While I noted quite a bit more chemistry than I expected between the players on the top unit at the open practice, they’re still getting to know one another. If the Dukes can begin to gel around the time conference play starts like GW did last year, I think we can call the season something of a success.
8. The Team is Relatively Inexperienced
While I project no freshman in the starting lineup, only Ovie Soko has played multiple years of D-I basketball. I think people overrate the value of experience, but it certainly still helps.
9. Ovie Soko Will Shoot Three’s
I’ve noticed over the years that Duquesne fans dislike when players taller than 6’6” shoots the three. Damian Saunders comes to mind even though he hit better than 30% as a senior and knocked down clutch treys in his career. Ovie Soko will shoot threes, too. He’ll hit about a third of them and make the team better for it. A big man who can knock down threes spreads the defense out. Expect a lot of players like Soko in a Duquesne uniform under Ferry.
10. The Dukes Aren’t Going To Use a Traditional Lineup This Year or Probably Ever Under Ferry
Ferry will use the players who fit his system not who fit the traditional 1-5 basketball lineup. He’s going to trot out two forwards (not likely a true center), two wings and a point guard. The Dukes will remain somewhat undersized though ideally they will have two true post option. After Tra’vaughn White graduates we should see more size in the wings.
We’ve seen teams have success with unconventional lineups recently in the league. LaSalle took a four guard set all the way to the Sweet 16. VCU played with two point guards while St Joe’s played with none. Hardly anyone in the league starts a true center. While Ferry might use weird personal combos, so does just about everyone else.