It just wouldn’t be Duquesne vs St Bonaventure if the weather wasn’t terrible.
Before I get into the meat of breaking down today’s match up, I want to apologize to Mark Schmidt, the St Bonaventure players and their fans. Entering the season, I saw a team that lost its offensive core and one without any obvious replacements. I thought maybe defense and home court advantage would help them steal a few wins, but I saw them as the worst team in the league. In the best case scenario, they could become a decent Atlantic 10 team but a lot would need to go right.
Of course, everything has gone right and I would have never imagined that their offense would carry them. Charlon Kloof has proven himself as a capable Atlantic 10 point guard. When on, Matthew Wright is as dangerous as any shooting guard in the league. Youssou N’doye has taken steps forward from his defense first sophomore season. Marquise Simmons doesn’t play big minutes but he makes the most of what he gets. Dion Wright and Jordan Gathers provide unexpected depth. Andal Cumberbach has met my expectations, but he’s about the only player who plays regularly and hasn’t exceeded them.
Heading into the season, I saw this one as a game the Dukes should win, but it could be difficult to defend home court this evening. The Bonnies begin the day as a three point favorite with the predictive services giving them about a 55-65% chance of winning. However, the match up could favor the Dukes in some ways. The Bonnies tend to foul at a higher rate than the rest of the Atlantic 10 playing right into Jim Ferry’s offense. They also rely on turnovers to boost their defense and the Dukes don’t give it away much. While it hasn’t stopped many teams from getting comfortable beyond the arc at the AJ Palumbo Center, St Bonaventure are not a strong three point shooting team. Most importantly, the Bonnies have struggled on the road this season. Their best win outside of the Reilly Center came against #136 Iona but they had to scrap by for their second road victory against #300 Niagara. They have shown some signs of life recently losing away by a combined eleven points to St Louis and UMass.
In Stephen Nesbitt’s St Bonaventure preview, Jim Ferry seems concerned about his team’s ability to bounce back from their heart breaking loss to St Louis and I tend to agree. It’s difficult for young teams to win close games against more experienced opponents but it’s difficult in a different way to lose them. Hopefully, the loss acts a flint rather than an albatross.
There is no such thing as a must win game for the Dukes this season, but this one would feel good. Ultimately, it would help keep the Dukes out of the cellar and double their league win total from last season before game seven. It never hurts to win a rivalry game either. Still, the Dukes are playing for little this season aside from positioning themselves to get better next year and maybe to win a game in Brooklyn. I’ll hope for a win, but it won’t kill the program if they don’t.