By Steve DiMiceli
Nobody's perfect and this Duquesne team certainly isn't either. While I think there is a lot to be excited about, there is reason to be anxious as well.
6. Team defense
Last year, Duquesne's defense was awful to say the least and we won't be returning two of our stronger on ball defenders in Eric Evans and Mike Talley. Opposing point guards could have a field day against us the same way opposing big men did at times last year. Aside from an additional year of experience and development, the post players will be exactly the same. Let's hope John Rhodes can teach this group a thing or two or this group might be one of the worst defensive teams in the country.
5. Out of Conference road trap games
While the out of conference schedule looks easier than it did last year, the Dukes will travel to some unlikely places to take on teams that will not be pushovers. This year, they'll make non BCS road trips to Albany, Appalachian State, University of Louisiana and Robert Morris. On neutral turf, the Dukes should win at least 3 of those 4 games, but heading into enemy territory, going 2-2 or even 1-3 is a real possibility. A loss to any of those teams other than Robert Morris could be an RPI killer.
4. It will be difficult to just make the A-10 tournament
While I love the A-10 super-conference we'll be competing in this season, 4 teams will be left out of the inaugural tournament at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. Most years, I wouldn't worry much about getting sent home early. However, there aren't any doormats in the A-10 this season. Most years there would be at least one or two. I don't anticipate a single easy game in conference play and they will likely need to win 7 to assure themselves a spot in the conference dance.
3.Team Lacks Experience
While I'm excited about the class of 2012 in the long run, the team returning has very little experience. No returning player has averaged more than 30 minutes a game and no one beside Sean Johnson and Andre Marhold has ever averaged more than 20. Only Kadeem Panthophlet and Jerry Jones played key roles off the bench. The success of this team lies with a number talented but unknown commodities.
2. CBI is probable the ceiling
With the softer than expected out of conference schedule and the deep A-10, it's difficult to imagine the Dukes playing for any post season tournament but the CBI. Of course, there were points when I thought even this would be unlikely in 2012-13.
1. No TJ
I don't want to lament the loss of TJ McConnell anymore but let's be honest, we lost a big part of our brand when we lost TJ. He was a fiery competitor and a great play maker who had a star power beyond his actual talent level. He was a fun player to watch and as a local product, he'll be missed on the court and in the financial books. He energized casual fans around Pittsburgh and I suspect his loss will cut attendance by about 250-350 people per game and season ticket sales by 100-200.