Was this season a...?

By Steve DiMiceli

As the CBI bracket is released and Duquesne's name is absent as expected, it's natural to reflect on the season as there is a real finality to it now. I'd be a liar if I said something in the back of my mind wasn't hoping something would come up and Greg Amodio would change his mind. Based on the traffic the message board, I get the feeling I wasn't the only one. With the CBI printed clearly in black and white, I can completely move on disappointed, but how disappointed should we be with the season? Should we be disappointed at all?

It's difficult for me to classify Duquesne's season and how successful it really is. I suppose it comes down to the measure with which you qualify success. If you go back and look at our preseason expectations, the outcome is not too far off. The Dukes finished one game worse than the board preseason schedule polls predicted. There were a lot of questions heading into this season including how will the team respond to losing two all conference players and how it will defend the post. To a certain extent, I think there is some relief knowing this team won more games than it lost. With our difficult schedule in mind, a sub .500 season seemed a real possibility before the season began. I didn't see much upside for this team beyond getting an A-10 home game and playing in the CBI. They did enough to get the later but fell short of the 8 seed. Still given how deep I thought the pit could go, I say the results met my preseason expectations and that I was relieved that it didn't get any worse.

If you base your judgement on how they were playing in the middle of the season, let's say a the end of the out of conference, I would say it was a little more disappointing. The questions were answered and Andre Marhold proved at least a serviceable defender inside. The team was deeper and more talented than I thought they would be. Even if the Dukes  rebounded poorly,they created enough turnovers to make up for it. Defense was questionable but offensively, we were doing a better job penetrating, passing and scoring down low than I think anyone could have anticipated. Their Assists to Turnover and Turnover deferential were elite. The doomsday scenario of a losing season was no longer in my mind at 4 games over .500. Now I could concentrate on more positive scenarios. Even then, I did not anticipate an NIT berth, but an 8-8 or 9-7 record in conference seemed like a possibility as some of those tough road games looked a lot more winnable.

Now, if I look back at the whole the body of work based on what I know this team is capable of  ignoring my expectations at the beginning or middle of the season, I can't help but be disappointed. Really, my disappointment doesn't come down to wins and losses, but rather how the team lost at times. The same problems of closing out games persists and the Dukes blew three games this year and were not able to reciprocate. Realistically, you're going to drop one or two like that in season, but the fact that they didn't steal any is disappointing. This team was capable of winning 18 games and a low 90's RPI giving them the best in the city. Minus two wins is not that great of an underachievement, but not many of their other losses were even close. After last season and to a lesser extent the season before, I'm not used to getting blown out anymore. If the Dukes lost, they lost big for the most part. Poor defense, lack of rebounding and bad offensive decisions in the second half allowed some games that were competitive for most of the first to slip into grotesque beat downs. Not being in games was disappointing.

Overall, I try not to judge a season based on preseason expectations as my primary evaluation , because even teams we think we know a lot about can really surprise us. Look at Pitt this year or us in 2007-2008. I didn't expect Pitt to miss the NIT  just like I didn't expect the Dukes to make it heading into either season. When there is an extreme divergence of what you thought the team could be before the season began and what they became, I think that measurement matters more. For the most part, I tend to judge on a hybrid of midseason performance and full season hindsight to determine how pleased I am. Based on that, I would say the year was frustrating and a disappointment because of how inconsistent the team was, how many second halves were not even competitive and how often wins that turned into losses. I think their overall record is fairly true to their talent level, but I think their talent level was not represented in the final scores of a number of games. I'm disappointed that we're not still playing, but that's not the team's fault. This was not an NIT team. However, they certainly should have sat firmly on the bubble and they were capable of playing to single digit losses against some of the big players in the conference this year. They didn't do either and therefore I'm disappointed.