Providence Journal Beat Writer Paul Kenyon Previews Duquesne Game

By Michael Weber

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Ryan Center - Site of the 2011 - 5 v. 12 First Round A10 Tournament Game
It's time to move on as this Duquesne team still has a shot to finish near the top of the Atlantic 10.  Up next for the Dukes is a critical showdown with the URI Rams.  With Duquesne sitting at 9-3 and the Rhode Island Rams trailing at 7-5, this game becomes critical for the race to a bye in Atlantic City.  Joining me to talk about all things related to Rams basketball is Providence Journal Beat Writer, Paul Kenyon.  Paul was nice enough to answer some of my questions about the upcoming game in Pittsburgh.  I think you guys will appreciate some of things he has to say, including his perspective on the future of the A10 Tournament and the "hex" Jim Baron has on Ron Everhart.  If anyone out there knows of a website that shows how coaches perform against each other(career records wise) please forward that link to yukudukes@gmail.com.  Thanks!  Enjoy...

1 - UMASS came into Kingston riding a 4 game losing streak and was beaten down in the first half, yet managed to storm back into the game by outscoring URI 43-29 in the 2nd half.  What happended to URI that concerns you going forward?

PAUL:  URI played backwards in the UMass game. The Rams have had terrible problems getting started, but have finished strong. They trailed at the half in 10 of their first 11 A-10 games. The only lead they had was 27-26 at Saint Louis. They are averaging 26 points in the first half, 36 in the second.  

Against UMass, they simply reversed it. They were fine in the first half, bad in the second. Going 1-for-19 on 3-pointers, which they did, makes a team look bad.

2 - Nikola Malesivic literally scored 15 points all of last year.  This year, he is averaging 11PPG.  Could anyone have seen this one coming?

PAUL:  Malesevic has been a bright spot in a disappointing season.

He was thought to be a permanent back-up. As you mention, he was a non-factor as a freshman. The team's personnel problems _ it lost five players because of transfers, injuries and/or academic problems _ left URI with eight scholarship players.

So Malesevic had to play. He has turned out to be a very nice contributor. He is a terrific shooter, among the national 3-point leaders. At 6-7 he is a decent rebounder, too, to help a weak area.

3 - How is Jim Baron perceived in and around the state of Rhode Island?  The guy has never taken the URI program to the "next level" by qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.  Fans have to be getting restless, right?

PAUL:  I finished my game story on the loss to UMass by noting that as the game was ending, some in the student section that sit behind the visiting team bench were screaming ``Fire Baron'' and pointing toward the coach.

It is a fascinating situation. The team has set records for most victories in a four-year period _ 89 wins in the last four years. There have been zero off-court problems. The players all graduate. They are nice kids to work with. But the team has never made it to the NCAA Tournament under Baron so there is a definite segment of the fan base that is unhappy.

The fact that Baron is a blue-collar guy who does not promote himself does not help the issue.

4 - It looks like Delroy James is having a nice little senior season.  Has his increase in stats been a result of other players graduating, or has his game gone to another level from last year?

PAUL:  James is a fifth-year senior. He has been a good player. With the graduation of Keith Cothran and Lamonte Ulmer, he was expected to become the team leader and he has.

He has had an excellent season, although the UMass game might have been his worst all season. He is fun to watch with all his spins and twists to the hoop. He is going to have to help handle the ball against the Duquesne pressure since URI is very thin in the backcourt. It should be fun watching him go with Saunders and Clark. 

5 - Given Duquesne's lack of size, do you expect to see a lot of Will Martell on Wednesday night or do you think the Dukes' pressure defense will force him to the bench in favor of another ball-handler/faster player?

PAUL:  Martell is one reason URI is not playing as well as it hoped.  He is playing through ankle and knee injuries. He was never fast, but he is very slow now. He is not playing as well as he did last season.

Typically this season, he has played a lot when the team has the lead and can control the tempo, but sat when the team was behind. WIth all the personnel losses, URI no longer wants to play uptempo, the way Duquesne does. The Rams will not go slow, but they do want to go slower than Duquesne.

6 - How do you see the All-A10 first team shaking down at this point?  Tu Holloway has to be player of the year, right?

PAUL:  I was not a big Holloway fan entering the season, but he has won me over. He has to be the man right now.

Justin Harper would be the second choice at this point,  followed by Andrew Nicholson. I've long been a Saunders fan, but judging from the outside I'm guessing that Clark would be Duquesne's guy on the first team. 

7 - Obviously if this one is won by Duquesne, they have the inside(and almost virtual lock) track for a bye in Atlantic City.  If the Rams can pull of the "W", they will likely set their eyes on the number 4 seed.  Can they get there if they beat Duquesne?

PAUL:  Sure they can.

It is likely the fourth-place team will finish with five losses, so if URI wins out it would be involved. It already has beaten Richmond, so it would have tiebreakers in its favor with both the Spiders and the Dukes.

The bad news for URI is that it would have to win four striaght to do that. It has not won four in a row all season, testimony to how inconsistent it has been.

8 - A lot of talk has been made of Chris Mack's comments about the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh hosting the A10 Tournament when Atlantic City's contract is up.  Do you like the idea of Atlantic City's "neutrality" or would you be in favor of trying a different location, including Consol Energy Center?

PAUL:  For me, Philadelphia is still the logical home for the tournament.

The tournament was fine in Cincinnati and Dayton, but not a true championship test. It would be the same in Pittsburgh. I'm sure the city and the school would do all it could. But it simply would not be in keeping with providing a fair test for everyone, especially if the Dukes stay good.

Atlantic City actually has worked out fine as a second-choice to Philly. I actually kind of like Atlantic City as the site. 

9 - I don't want to force you into a prediction, but maybe a few keys to this game...as you see it would be?

PAUL:  Let me give you two scenarios:

URI has to hope that it maintains its hex. If I count correctly, it has beaten the Dukes six years in a row in regular-season meetings. Baron also has success against Everhart when Everhart was at Northeastern. Rhody fans have to  hope Baron has some kind of hex on Everthart.

Duquesne has to hope that history does not mean anything and the form the two teams have had all season holds. URI simply is not as good as it has been the last several years. It has not had anyone pressure it all season the way the Dukes do. Based on form, Duquesne simply looks like the better team.