By Steve DiMiceli
I'll be working backwards in height order this time around starting with the centers and moving towards the guard.
Last season, the Dukes got next to nothing at the center position offensively and honestly, they didn't they didn't get much defensively when Andre Marhold wasn't on the court. Depth was so bad behind him that Ron Everhart was forced to play 6'5'' BJ Monteiro at center when the team needed to boost offensively. Problem is nobody new will be added to the mix and the Dukes will need to rely on internal growth. Enter Coach John Rhodes, a desperately needed assistant dedicated to the big men. Optimistically speaking, Rhodes is able to help one of last year's depth players improve their rebounding technique and develop at least one side of the game, offensive or defensive, to play a serviceable 20 - 25 minutes a game. If they're able to do that there is the potential that more traditional center will emerge allowing the team to play a bigger lineup across the board. While I doubt one of the depth centers would be that much an improvement over Marhold last year, I still think it makes the overall lineup better and puts the team in a better position to get defensive stops. If this happens, I think the team could be one win better.
A true center would allow Andre Marhold to slide to a more natural power forward position. This should help him across the board giving him better defensive match ups, more room to work offensively and a better opportunity to slash in for rebounds rather than getting over matched on the box out of the opposition largest player. Again, we're looking at an overall better lineup but I don't see Marhold being a one for one improvement over BJ Montiero even if the overall lineup is better. I still see this as two fewer losses.
For those of you scoring along at home, I'm exactly where I was in my worst case scenario after looking at the interior, -1 wins. However, small forward is where I see the improvements beginning to shine through. With Marhold and a random big on the floor, Quevyn Winters moves to small forward where he also ends up at his more natural position although I think he could easily fill in at PF in a pinch. I think there is a chance for Winters to take the league by storm and I don't think it's out of the question that he emerges as a strong candidate for freshman player of the year. Jerry Jones and Kadeem Pantophlet provide elite depth.While Sean Johnson filled in well at the 3 last year, there is an opportunity to for a drastic improvement. I see the possibility of a 2 win improvement if Winters is able to play 3 and play it to the best of his current ability.
Here is another opportunity for improvement. In 2011-2012, Johnson ran wild through non conference play. I believe he is capable of this type of performance on a consistent basis. He struggled badly in the Pro-Am last year but has looked strong in his 2 appearances this summer. I know a lot of people won't agree with this, but I think the best of Johnson would earn him second team all conference or maybe even first team honors. Consistency is key but I don't think it would be unreasonable to think he finds it as a senior playing 32 minutes in a game. I could see the Dukes getting 3 more wins from the shooting guard if Johnson reaches his potential.
If we're talking bold, optimistic predictions, I have one for you. I don't think it's out of the question that Derrick Colter matches TJ McConnell freshman year assist numbers and surpasses his scoring. I would not be shocked if Colter scored 12 a game with 4.5 assists based on what I've seen of him so far. Of course, he could also turn the ball over 5 times a game. Marvin Binney could give the Dukes production somewhere between Mike Talley and Eric Evans. However, we're still probably looking at a step backwards overall even in the most optimistic projection. We had some of the best PG depth last year in the A-10 and I think the best this years crew will do is middle of the conference. This is not bad for a couple of newcomers, but it still amounts to a slight hit to the overall record. I see point guard even in the best scenario leading to a 1 additional loss.
In the best case scenario, better timeout management and late game coaching off set the adjustment to a new system and Jim Ferry does as much good as he does damage caused by changes his first year. I think his presence will be a push from last year in the best case scenario (and in reality), but in future years I could see him winning an additional game or two annually over what Ron was able to bring us off the bench. It will be difficult to justify the coaching change if he can't.
So in the best case scenario for the year, I envision the Dukes at 19 wins meaning I could see the team winning anywhere from 10-19 games in 2012-2013. This might seem like a wide range of wins and losses, but I doubt a 9 game swing is much different from the potential volatility we've seen under Everhart, particularly last season. The bottom line is that this team does not have NCAA upside, but could be a fringe NIT team if everything goes right. However at worst, I expect a similar strength of schedule meaning a 10 win season would still keep us in the top 200 RPI. Last year's George Washington team finished the regular season 10-21 with an RPI of 188 with a similar SOS. At best, we would compare to a Northern Iowa team that finished RPI 73 which would be a substantial improvement over last season. Bottom line, this team doesn't have much of a ceiling but a 10 loss worst case scenario is not devastating either.
Like anything else, the Dukes probably fall somewhere in the middle and I'll look at that next.