I’ve messed around with predictions all off – season. I’ve given you ranges, broke down the schedule and talked about how they can achieve a certain record, but I’ve never given a concrete estimate of how many games I think the 2013 – 2014 Duquesne Dukes will win.
Last year, the Dukes won eight games, and I’ll use that as a baseline for this year’s team. I’ll look at a number of different personnel and intangible factors to determine how differences in each between seasons will impact wins.
The Dukes haven’t had a starting point guard running the show with more than one year of D-I experience since Aaron Jackson left. They’ll have to wait at least another year to break that trend. Derrick Colter returns for his sophomore year after doing it all in the Duquesne offense last year. He’ll have a redefined role and I would expect him to become more efficient even if he doesn’t score as much.
Change: +.5 wins
Senior two Sean Johnson graduated following a season where he lost his starting spot midway through the year. He was an average Atlantic 10 shooting guard offensively, but in general, a poor defender. JUCO transfer Tra’vaughn White replaces him and should provide a boost in terms of ball handling and all around shooting. Jeremiah Jones returns older and stronger. He clearly practiced his free throw shooting over the summer and looks more capable of finishing off the bounce. I look for big things from him this year and moving forward.
Change: + 1.5 wins
A lot of people look at the post and see a huge improvement. While he was always a below average all around player, the Dukes will miss Andre Marhold on defense. Other than that the unit’s better with the addition of Ovie Soko and JUCO transfer Dominique McKoy. The Dukes have two players 6’8” or taller rooming the interior for the first time in a long time and both should provide substantially better rebounding and scoring.
Change: + 1.5 wins
At the moment, the Dukes are dangerously thin on the bench. Jerry Jones should provide a veteran presence and defensive help to preserve a late lead. Desmond Ridenour looks like he could handle the back up point guard duties rather than having White shift over. LG Gill will likely play inside and Darius Lewis should skip his redshirt. Isaiah Watkins remains injured while the NCAA hasn’t cleared Jordan Robinson to practice or Micah Mason to play. The Dukes had Quevyn Winters coming off the bench for much of last year and plenty of warm bodies.
Change: Push for now
I don’t think Jim Ferry will be a better coach this year compared to last year, but I do think he’ll have better players to play the way he wants. Even before they truly gel as a unit, the new look team fits his system better.
Change: +1 wins
Duquesne has a much easier non conference schedule this year. They play six teams likely to finish the year with an RPI of 300 or higher. Even if two of those games come on the road, the Dukes should take them cleanly. They didn’t have many games like these last year.
The conference schedule is another story and in spite of the Atlantic 10 losing four teams, it may have actually gotten more difficult for Duquesne in league play. A down Xavier team, Butler, Charlotte and Temple are replaced by a second game with NCAA tournament caliber LaSalle and St. Louis and likely NIT bound George Mason. The Dukes could go 1-3 in the second legs of each of these series, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Add the changes up and we get 14.5 wins for the Dukes. I’m going to round down and say 14 for now. If Jordan Robinson and Micah Mason both get cleared to play, I’ll bump it to 15. I know a sub .500 record might disappoint some, but you shouldn’t overlook a six game improvement if my prediction comes true. The Dukes must dig themselves out of a hole deeper than any of us imagined. They have talent and an easier schedule so expect improvement. Just don’t get greedy and expect too much.