It’s easy to see faults three games into a season following a slow start and blemishes get magnified early as they don’t have anything to balance them out. Currently, Duquesne men’s basketball finds itself deep into a slump defending the three. Don’t get me wrong they look bad at it and the numbers back that bad up at the moment. However, I’d caution people not to rush to judgement three games in as we’ve seen a very small sample size. It would be illogical to think they’ll defend this poorly or better stated to have this poor of results defending over the entire season.
When you’ve played three games, two terrible outings can really skew both the numbers and perception. Hidden behind the two recent losses where Duquesne’s defense allowed WVU and New Hampshire to hit at roughly 55%, Duquesne mostly defended the perimeter against Abilene Christian very well. While you might say “it’s just ACU,” I’d note that they’ve performed slightly better beyond the arc since playing the Dukes.
Opponents shooting 55% is unsustainably high over the course of a season as is the 45.7% they’ve allowed from three so far. The defense won’t stay this bad because opponents simply won’t continue to shoot at that rate even if the defense stinks. Last season, the worst team in the country defending the perimeter allowed 41.1% and only one other team allowed opponents to shoot better than 40%. Over the last five years, no team has allowed more than 44% of opposing 3 pointers to fall. The Dukes currently rank 338th in three point defense. Last year’s 338th place team, Cornell allowed 38.7% on the season.
Even bad three point defense isn’t as bad as what we’ve seen so far. More likely than not, Duquesne’s season number will fall under 40% even if they don’t improve their all around defense. Of course, the new officiating focused on eliminating hand checks could lead to overall better shooting beyond the arc, but proportionately, that wouldn’t impact Duquesne as everyone has to deal with it. Regression is likely on the horizon for Duquesne’s defense, because the current rate is unsustainable relative to past outcomes. I think we’ve seen a small sample size that’s overburdened with outliers in both directions. I wouldn’t expect them to defend as well as they did against Abilene Christian all the time. Likewise, I wouldn’t expect opponents to keep hitting at the rate they have against West Virginia and New Hampshire even if they continue to yield open looks. I don’t want to give the impression that ranking 338th in the nation is acceptable to me. It’s not, but as they say, there’s no place to go but up.
As I wrote this entry, Stephen Nesbitt posted an outstanding piece where he asked Jim Ferry to break down Duquesne’s defense. The team has employed a 3-2 zone at times to help secure the perimeter. While unfamiliar to me, Ferry explains that 3-2 allows the open corner three and the responsibility to close on the shooter falls on the forwards. Those shots amount to a calculated risk as the staff view them as a low percentage look. Unfortunately, opponents have hit along the baseline consistently and the top of the zone has allowed for penetration. Hopefully, they tighten it up tonight.