Nov 30, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers forward Talib Zanna (right) shoots over Duquesne Dukes center Darius Lewis (54) during the first half at the CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Duquesne's Defending: Progress vs Regression

For my day job, I work as a consultant for families with children on the Autism spectrum to help equip them for the challenges of raising a developmentally delayed child and to teach both parent and child valuable skills that will improve the functioning of their relationship. While this might hold true for parents of typical developing children, mothers and fathers of kids with delays tend to get overly positive when they see signs of progress and overly negative when they struggle.  I’ve noticed professionally how ups and downs are normal, even nearly universal, and that progress is rarely linear.

In some ways though none of them nearly as serious, I’ve seen Duquesne fans responding like the parents I work with do when it comes to Duquesne’s defending. When the Dukes took steps forward in their own end against Albany and Pitt, I noticed some getting overly excited about the growth only to get slapped in the face by a weak performance down the stretch against poor shooting UMBC. I’d suggest folks try not to get as caught up in the ups and downs.

So where are the Dukes actually at on defense and have they made any progress? The answer, as it often does, probably lies somewhere in the middle. The Dukes likely can’t sustain the defense that they played in the first half against Albany, but they aren’t as bad as they were in the final ten minutes against the Retrievers either. Overall, the Dukes have probably gotten a little better defending even if it hasn’t shown up clear as day in the statistics. Of the 486 points the Dukes allowed so far this season, 255 came in the first three games with 231 scored in the more recent set in spite of the Dukes playing more difficult opponents. The much maligned perimeter defense went from 45.7% to 34.6% in those same three games splits, but it’s become slightly easier for opponents to score inside.

Rarely, do you have a straight line from your starting point to your goals be it a family dealing with Autism or a basketball team. More often that not it looks like a roller coaster. I’m not suggesting that Duquesne’s defense is better than we think it is or that it’s gotten appreciably better since the season started. However, I think it has gotten incrementally better in spite of what we saw against UMBC because the greater trend I’m seeing is drifting towards the positive. The Dukes still have hard work ahead of them to get to a point where they can compete with anyone in the A-10, and we’ll see a lot more bumps in the road before or if they get there. One bad performance doesn’t eliminate all the growth we’ve seen, but it probably indicates that they haven’t improved as much as we thought they did.

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