The City Game: 2012 Edition

By Steve DiMiceli

Most years, City Game day is like Christmas. Actually, as I reached my 30's,  City Game day is better than Christmas. It's all the hope, joy and festivities a Duquesne fan could desire and really it's the only day we are celebrated each year. It comes complete with a bunch of fans we won't see again until next year just like Midnight Mass. For many Duquesne fans, it's the high point on the calender even if they end up with a big lump of coal in our stocking. Sadly, I'm a scrooge or a grinch this season, but I only wish I could completely say "Bah humbug" to the city game just this once.

 I just have a hard time getting up for it in 2012-13. We're losing tomorrow. I'm about 95% sure of that. There certainly is a positive outlook surrounding this year's Duquesne team, but it likely won't matter this season in the City Game At the end of the day, Pitt's team is better than I expected and a lot better than the Dukes. Talib Zanna has gone from bum to beast. Travon Woodall is healthy. Players like JJ Moore, Lamar Patterson and Cameron Wright are stepping up.  Pitt's ball movement is outstanding, and they currently rank #2 in assists and #1 in A:TO. They rebound well and they're playing Jamie Dixon style defense. The Dukes are deep. The Panthers are deeper even without Trey Zeigler.

 I think this Duquesne team is pretty good, better than a lot of people expected. They're getting better game over game and we're seeing Jim Ferry's system begin to emerge. So how does that 5% chance of winning happen? At some point this season, the Dukes will play one game that would be good enough to beat Pitt. A game where all the breaks go their way and every shot seems to fall and if they want to win the City Game, it'll have to come tomorrow. I've seen a lot of people suggest that getting Zanna into foul trouble is key to the Dukes winning. Pitt has enough depth that losing Zanna won't make much of a difference. No matter who Pitt puts in the post, their front court trumps Duquesne's. On the other hand, the Dukes will need to stay out of foul trouble. Marhold and Abele must take the floor together for a decent portion of the game. Abele can't match up with Zanna and Marhold can't match up with Steven Adams. Jim Ferry should prepare Derrick Martin to play . In terms of raw numbers, the Dukes are going to need to hit 40% of their three's and close to 50% from the field. They're going to need to keep the rebounding margin reasonably close, probably within 5, but they will have to do it without selling out for boards. If Duquesne's perimeter defense sags looking to crash the glass off dribble penetration, Pitt will find the open man every time.  Pitt hardly turns the ball over and thankfully this year's Duquesne team won't need to rely on creating chaos on defense. Ferry's philosophical change could be a key to future Duquense victories. Offensively, the Duke's will need to push the ball when they can to keep Pitt from getting their defense organized. Finally, if the Dukes have the lead late, Ferry will need to coach his pants off. If all that happens, the Dukes have a shot.

I'm not too excited about tomorrow but a picture of the court at the CEC taken by Coach Brian Nash got me smiling. After all, the build up to the City Game is great in and of itself. Let's face it, this is our Super Bowl, the only three days a year we matter to the Pittsburgh media except, of course, when we fire a coach. As always, tomorrow will be a great day for Duquesne even without a win. It will be a greater day when we storm the court again. Sadly, that day is probably not tomorrow. The rivalry won't stay uncompetitive for long. I truly believe that and as long as we believe, the city game will stay magical just like Christmas as a kid.