2011-2012: The year of the inconsistency

By Steve DiMiceli

I'm having a very difficult time putting a finger on who the real 2011-2012 Duquesne team is. Is it the one that has more wins over top 100 RPI schools than any other Ron Everhart coached team? Is it the team that takes control of games in the first half and keeps it up in the second? Is it the solid road team that beat Akron on a neutral court and Dayton and George Mason in their own buildings? Is it the team that was top 30 in 2 point scoring percentage at one point this season? Or is it the team that gets blown out on the road by good teams? Is it the team that loses big second half leads at home? Is it the team that looks lifeless at times against talented opponents? Is it the team that missing ten lay ups in a game?

The answer to that question is pretty simply. The Dukes are both because they are about as inconsistent a basketball team as I've ever laid eyes on. That's not an entirely bad thing as they've spent a more time on the good side than the bad side, but it's alarming just how powerful the swing really are. While we've been spoiled the last couple of years by the relative lack of blow outs, our opponents crushed us on six occasions this year and made this team look as hapless as a Danny Nee offering. But it hasn't been all bad on the road. When you can claim wins in Dayton and Fairfax and game against Arizona that could have gone either way, it's hard to write them off as simply a bad road team. Still, you never know what kind of a game you're going to get.

But the 2011-2012's are not just inconsistent between games; they're inconsistent within games, too. Now, I understand that there is a certain ebb and flow to basketball games where teams go back and forth on runs. I know you rarely get a perfect 40 minutes from even the best teams. However, I've seen contests this year where the Dukes could put together only one half's worth of top notch performance. Some like St Bonaventure at home and Tennessee  Tech have resulted in wins. Others like St. Joe's, they lost. In other instances, Duquesne was able to hang for the better part of a half and then got blown away the rest of the game like in St Louis.

Why is this team getting blown out in some games while beating good teams in others? I think it comes back to this team's inability to defend and get stops particularly when trailing. Once the Dukes get behind, it's very difficult for them to comeback and very easy for our opponents to pile on. They play better when the opponent is pressing and taking risks, because that leads to turnovers which has been this teams safety valve for a stop. When the Dukes press offensively, they force quick 3 pointers and difficult lay ups while their adversary can take their time, move the ball and eventually break down the Duquesne D. When they miss,  the Dukes give up a second chance points too often. The Dukes are 13-3 when leading at the half.  When trailing heading into the locker room, the Dukes are 1-7. Three quarters of those games ended up as blowouts.

When it comes to inconsistency, you can't put all the blame on the players. The record when leading at half time tells me that when the coaching staff come in with the right game plan, they are very good at making the minor adjustments to secure victory. Thankfully, they've come in with the right game plan more often than not Still, they've been inconsistent and they have trouble adjusting when their game plan is not working. Not only have Dukes lost all but once when trailing at the half, they were only able to out score their opponents in the second in one of the those games. While the players have not played the way they need to consistently, the coaching staff  has planned inconsistently and were unable to make up for their mistakes with adjustments. To me, this is the biggest factor contributing to the up and downs of this season.

This doesn't let the players off the hook. Ron Everhart doesn't shoot FT's, box out or miss lay ups. They need to execute at a higher level for this program to get to a higher level. I also don't want this to be seen as an Everhart slam piece. I actually see it as his best season overall and he's probably come in with the right strategy in at least 17 games so far. However, he still needs to get better at developing a plan B and C and having the players prepared if plan A fails. Of course, there is a lack of punch/counter punch by Everhart in game, but that's another entry for another day. When Everhart's been on, the team has been exceptional. Take UMass as an example. When he's been off, Duquesne looks bad and he's done very little to help them get up out of it.