While the talent level is similar to last year after a solid offseason, a couple things stand in Duquesne’s way of matching their first .500 season under Jim Ferry. The Dukes have five new pieces and a transfer who they need build their rotation around. In all likelihood, a couple of the freshman guards won’t factor, but it will take time for this team to gel. This could lead to an early season hiccup or two and when I mean hiccup, I mean bad loss or tighter than expected wins. November could be a complete crap shoot, but the team might be better than last year’s by March. Second, the schedule should be considerably tougher. The A-10 sets up its strongest season since Xavier, Butler and Temple were poached by different conferences. Kenpom projects eight teams in the top 100 and only one league program to finish higher than 175 in RPI. The meat grinder is back and it might be even more exaggerated than in previous years. As Alex Stumpf pointed out, the Dukes are probably looking up at most of the league.
A step back in record is likely even if the team on paper doesn’t look too much worse. I’ll break down the season, the same way I do every year, by putting each game in the season into one of five categories based on “An Upset If They Lose” are games the Dukes should win 85% of the time. “Games The Dukes Should Win” are games Duquesne should come out on top between 84-55% of the time while “Tough But Winnable” should win between 54-40% of the time. Under “Longshots,” the Dukes have about a 39-15% to win and in the “An Upset If The Dukes Win,” I give Duquesne less than a 10% chance of winning. I’ll tab it all up at the end.
An Upset If The Dukes Lose
vs Loyola-Maryland, vs St Francis (PA), vs UMBC, vs CC St
The season kicks off with Loyola – Maryland and it should also kick off with a win. The Greyhounds haven’t been the same since Jimmy Pastos left for Siena. They return their top scorer in Andre Walker, but lost their next three. St Francis played the Dukes tough in Johnstown last year, but lost annual thorn in our side Ben Millaud-Meunier. They return Malik Harmon, but are otherwise depleted. UMBC return a good chunk of their 7 win team from last season including former VCU point guard Jarius Lyles.
Games the Dukes Should Win
vs. Canisius, vs UT-Martin, vs Cleveland St, @ (sort of) Robert Morris, vs Jackson St, vs Colgate, vs Saint Louis, vs UMass, vs Fordham
Canisius are returning a considerable amount of their 14 win team from last year, but not their coach. Jim Baron retired abruptly in May and the Golden Griffins replaced him with Reggie Witherspoon. UT – Martin have a large number of JUCO’s coming in, so they’re a bit of a crap shoot even if they won 20 games last year. Cleveland St struggled to score last year. While the roster hasn’t changed much, it’s difficult to fathom them keeping up with the Dukes. Rivalry aside, Robert Morris belongs in the upset category. However, they’ll give the Dukes everything they have. Jackson St. also won 20 games last year, but may not have the size to handle Duquesne. Colgate lost their leading scorer, but are an excellent three point shooting team. If the Dukes perimeter defensive woes continue in 2016-17, this will be a difficult game.
In conference, the pickings are a little more slim, but they have three home games they should win. Saint Louis is going to get to the top of the Atlantic 10 pretty fast under Travis Ford, but their best players are sitting out as transfers.The Dukes will have a chance to sweep the double. Fordham lost their two best players and brings in a ton of JUCOs. They return the bones of a decent squad and could be better. Of course, the Dukes should still beat them at home. UMass has a hell of a freshman class and a hell of a player in Donte Clark, but a number of players who haven’t lived up to their potential. If a couple of them, like Zach Coleman or CJ Anderson do, they’ll move out of this category.
Tough but Winnable
@ Penn St, @ La Salle, @ Fordham, vs St Bonaventure, @ St Louis, vs George Washington, @ George Mason, vs St. Joseph’s
Penn St has an extremely young, but talented team. Playing them as the second game in the season is a gift even if they have to go on the road. La Salle likewise will have considerable gelling to do as their new pieces get into the lineup. If this game were later in the season it would probably move to long shots. St Bonaventure returns Jalen Adams, but they lost a lot from the team that got the NCAA snub last year. George Washington has some top end returning players like Yuta Wantanabe and Tyler Cavanaugh returning and they have a couple of solid transfers in Jaren Sina and Patrick Steeves. George Mason has a solid young foundation and a couple of vets, but it’s still likely a year or so before Dave Paulsen rights the ship. They’ll rely heavily on their freshman class. St Joe’s might be the best team in this pool, but the Dukes beat a better Hawks team to close regular season. No reason why they can’t do it again.
vs Pitt, vs VCU, vs Dayton, @ George Washington, vs Rhode Island, @ Davidson, @ Richmond, @ St Bonaventure
Every year Pitt fans like to tell me this is Duquesne’s year and every year the Dukes end up losing. They could be onto something though this time with the coaching change and the 6’7” small forward they have running the point this year. VCU and Dayton are probably the two best teams in the conference, but home games against put these games within reach. Same goes for Rhode Island. Davidson and Richmond are a tier down from the top of the league. Wins against them on the road are unlikely, but I don’t think the world of sports would meltdown with shock if the Dukes won either.
Upset if the Dukes Win
@ Kentucky, @ Dayton
I’d be satisfied if they stayed within twenty points of Kentucky. I do think this is a game that will pay dividends to the program down the road. The Dukes are fortunate that the game against Dayton on the road is the only one against a top team on the road in the A-10.
So let’s add it all up. We’ll tally all of the “An Upset If The Dukes Lose” as wins and all of the “Upsets If The Dukes Win” as losses, so we’ll start at 4-2. Among the nine “Games the Dukes Should Win,” they’d take 5 on the 55% side of the range and 7.6 on the top end. Of the eight “Tough but Winnable” contests they should emerge victorious between 2.8 and 4.3. The “Longshots” should yield between 1 and 2.4 wins. Add it up and they should finish somewhere in the range of 13 and 18 wins. That’s a wide range of outcomes, but there are a lot of questions marks surrounding this team that can be answered in a number of ways.