We’ve seen plenty of ups and downs for the Dukes so far this season which makes grading Duquesne more difficult. They’ve played both brilliantly and terribly in all facets of the game at times. The team sits 5-5 but the line separating them from 8-2 looks pretty thin in hindsight. Consistency between and within games has troubled the Dukes almost from the opening tip of the season. Looking at the entire body of work, here’s how I’d grade the team.
Offense B -
If I look at eight of the ten games this season, the Dukes’ offense ranks among the top teams in the Atlantic 10 and depending on the statistic, all of college basketball. That said, the offense cost them two games, and those contests have skewed the overall numbers down. I think the Dukes have an above average offensive unit but they have enough weapons that they should very rarely get shut down completely. They’ve struggled to execute (and I emphasize execute) against the 2-3 zone at times. If I take a look at only those eight normal games, I give them an A-, but those two bad ones take it down an entire letter grade.
Defense – F
The Dukes have failed both the eyeball and statistical test on defense this year. They flat out haven’t protected their basket well. According to Ken Pomeroy, the Dukes own the 330th best defense in college basketball allowing over 111 points per one hundred possessions. Effective shooting defense looks better but not by much as they still fall in the 290’s. The Dukes have trended in the right direction having played nice games against Penn St and eventually at St Francis, but even at their somewhat better than the early season awful, the Dukes still need to get better before the Atlantic 10. They’ve played good defense in bursts, but they have yet to play a truly complete defensive game.
Coaching – D
I still think it’s too early to call Jim Ferry a good or bad coach, but I haven’t loved what I’ve seen from him so far this season. His team’s looked unprepared for some games and while I expected it to take a while for his players to learn his system, I just feel like they should have been a little further along by now. Though the offense has mostly been effective, I haven’t seen any of the half courts plays and sets we saw towards the end of last year. Defense has improved a bit, but either they’re not learning or he’s not teaching them well. Some of the issues revolve around execution, but if execution remains a concern, I’ll have to put it on the guys in suits.
That said, I’ve generally liked the in game adjustments the staff have made. They seem to change defenses at the right time and they’ve balance teaching and giving their team a chance to win over the last week. The Dukes also seem to come out of timeouts with a decent offensive plays.
We haven’t seen the worst case scenario for the Dukes, but we’re pretty close. A failed comeback against St Francis would have left the season a disaster to this point. Thankfully, they came out on top, but the breaks, literal and figurative, haven’t gone Duquesne’s way. From the injury to Micah Mason to the unavailability of their two top prep recruits to the untimely shooting slump against Robert Morris and Penn St that still casts a pall over early seasons, the Dukes are due a little luck to go their way.
This team is a difficult one to get a grasp of. The great irony of the season so far is that the defense has been largely terrible but it’s cost the Dukes fewer games than the offense has. Moving forward, I don’t expect the offense to remain an issue and I still believe that if the defense can just play slightly below average level, this 2013-14 Duquesne team could turn into a pretty dangerous ball club. Their streaky nature thus far leads me to think they can play with any of their remaining opponents when everything clicks while they could lose to anyone when it doesn’t. I can give the team snapshot grades now, but I certainly can’t predict where they’re going.