By Steve DiMiceli
If you want to bring a friend who likes basketball, but doesn't know a ton about the tactical side of the game to the AJP, this might be the one to do as the two highest scoring teams in the Atlantic 10 face each other tomorrow. It's not often that I've gotten to say this over the past couple of years but Duquesne will need to slow UMass down to play at a pace the Dukes are accustomed. The Minutemen come to Pittsburgh with a bloated
14-4 (3-1) record on the back of the 130th most challenging schedule in the country. They currently are #60 in RPI. Their most impressive win came in their last outing when they successfully closed out St Joe's at home. They also have a very respectable win against Davidson, but their best road win of the season comes against #183 East Carolina. The Dukes are #101 in RPI and their SOS is 90th due in large part to having just played URI and Pitt forgetting how to play basketball.
UMass leads the Dukes in both steals and turnovers forced, a difficult thing. As one might expect given their fast paced style of play, UMass is prone to turning the ball over themselves. They are fairly strong defensively, but they are vulnerable to good passing and rank 241st in assists conceded. They rank 6th in the nation in rebounding at slightly over 40 boards a game, but this is likely a product of their fast paced play. Their opponents rebounding ranks them just ahead of the Dukes and their margin is only around +2. UMass does not shoot the ball particularly well, but they get a ton of chances. Transfer Sophomore Chaz Williams could serve as TJ McConnell's new foil now that Juwan Staten transfered to WVU. He appears to be another emerging star in the league. 6'9'' Sean Carter was contained well last year by the Dukes but could give this year's version a little bit more trouble. Terrell Vinson will also be one to watch having scored 12 against Duquesne last year. Raphaiel Putney and Jesse Morgan round out their starting lineup which unfortunately no longer includes Freddie Riley.
Eric Evans will be key for the Dukes tomorrow night. We will need the experienced point guard to break down the pressure and to find open players quickly on the break out. Smart passing is important for Duquesne. They will need to be careful with the ball on dribble penetration. If either of Duquesne's big men feel the need to put the ball on the floor, they ought to think twice. The Dukes need to keep moving on offense and not settle for 3's. With the defensive focus on TJ McConnell the past few games and BJ Monteiro returning, Sean Johnson might have a little more room to work than normal. UMass can get themselves into foul trouble, and the Dukes should be aware of it. Each of their starters has fouled out at least once and Carter has seen limited action in several games due to cheating. This is one of the few A-10 contests where I expect Ron Everhart to be the better coach in game. How he and his team respond to the chaos they're so used to creating will be an important factor tomorrow. I'm very curious to see how they counter when the other guys try to push the pace.