Yesterday, I had a look at the teams that have played well and poorly on the Dukes’ remaining schedule and concluded that there are opportunities to make up for the less than exciting start. The A-10 looks deeper at the top but other teams that I expected to do well like LaSalle and Rhode Island have struggled. I like the way Duquesne’s home schedule sets up as a lot of the Dukes’ toughest one time opponents come on the road.
I suspect I’ve written this piece prematurely and I’ll tag it with “way to early to be talking about this crap.” However, I said before the season that the ceiling for this year’s Dukes was the CBI and I think Duquesne has about 30-40% chance of making it thanks to a weaker than expected conference schedule and their steady offensive output. A few of things stand in their way.
After two games where the Dukes look improved defensively, they really struggled against a team with a bad offensive track record so far. Once again, the offense did their part, but the Dukes allowed 54 second half points to a team averaging 70.6 on the season.
We’ve seen sparks on the defensive end but rarely sustained success. Of the twelve halves the Dukes have played, they defended decently in only four. In general they’ve done a better job in the first half compared to the second allowing roughly 34 points in the first period and a near NCAA worst 46 in the next. Further of the 486 points they’ve allowed this season, roughly 30% have come in the final ten minutes of games.
It’s difficult for me to believe that the team that played in the first half against a mediocre offensive team like Albany is the same one that came out in the final ten minutes against a bad shooting team like UMBC. I didn’t think the Dukes respected the Retrievers, dared them to take long range shots and got burnt. Same thing happened against UNH. Maybe, they still need time to gel and maybe the defense will improve when Isaiah Watkins can eat 15 – 20 minutes a game taking the pressure off Ovie Soko and Dominique McKoy to consume a larger portion of the minutes than their fitness allows. If the Dukes can defend the way they do in the first half for the entire game, every game they’ll win more than they lose the rest of the way. That’ll be good enough for a potential CBI bid.
Take Advantage of the Home Schedule
As I mentioned yesterday, the Dukes should have a chance to win all of their home games except UMass. St Louis looks like a long shot, but if the Billikens come into Pittsburgh and play the way they did last year, they’ll lose. Duquesne won’t win every game, but if they can go 7-4 in the eleven remaining at home, hold serve as the solid favorite in the remaining OOC road games and steal one away in the A-10, they’ll sit 15-14 heading to Brooklyn. It’s a daunting task and again, I’m not confident it will happen, but with improved defense, they have a shot.
Not the exciting way in but if the Dukes get to fifteen wins or even the fourteen I predict, they’ll still probably need to buy their ticket.
At the moment, every predictive model gives the Dukes worse odds to make the CBI than I do. Assuming the ability to buy a home game at 14 wins, the Dukes have about a 23% chance according to Team Rankings’ Prediction and an even worse 14.1% from RPI Forecast. Why the difference? I factor in the likelihood that the team gels and gets better over time where they look at the team from a snapshot taken yesterday. If the team’s performance stays in line with what we’ve seen so far, they’ll win the 10-12 games the models suggest, but some teams are better candidates to get outperform the computer than others. The Dukes have clear areas where they can improve and I like their chances to overachieve better than most.