Miserable Stretch Could Get More Miserable and St Joe's Preview

By Steve DiMiceli

Since what felt like a truly uplifting win against the West Virginia Mountaineers, the Dukes  have proceeded to lose 4 out of their last 5 with all four losses coming away from the AJ Palumbo Center. Today, the Duquesne men return to their friendly home confines to take on a somewhat disappointing St Joe's team in a battle of the predicted first and last place teams in the preseason A-10 polls.

As I looked at the Dukes schedule shortly after it was released, I noted that the next 6 games looked deadly. The Dukes play 3 of what looked like the league's top 5 teams at home (St Joe's, St Louis, and VCU) and three tough road trips to UMass, Dayton and St Bonaventure. I thought that if the Dukes lost their first league game to Fordham that there would be a good chance that the Dukes would start 0-7 in conference play. That still looks like a very real possibility although this next 6 does not look nearly as daunting as it did in September.

The good news for Duquesne is that the talented St Joe's Hawks are not playing as well as expected. They sit 8-5 following a loss at home to Butler in their A-10 opener. St Joe's are 4-2 on the road including a win against Notre Dame in South Bend in their second game of the year.  For the most part, their road wins have come against bad teams and one of their losses came against a down Vilanova team in the Holy War.

St Joe's strengths are the same as they've been with CJ Aiken prowling the interior and the speedy Carl Jones playing guard. They are athletic with the ability to score the ball inside and out. They also play strong, clean post defense and are amongst the best in college basketball at blocking shots and keeping their opponents off the foul line. St Joe's will be without Junior forward Halil Kanacevic due to an extended bereavement leave. Without Kanacevic earlier this season as he served a one game suspension for flipping off the Vilanova student section,  St Joe's lost at home to Fairfield.

A Duquesne win seems more reasonable than it did just a few months ago but still looks like a long shot. The Hawks rely heavily on 6 men. Jones, Aiken, Kanacevic, Langston Galloway, Chris Wilson and Ronald Roberts all average more than 30 minutes a game. With Kanacevic out, Phil Martelli will be forced to use one of his less preferred options for a substantial portion of the game. The Dukes will need to hit threes at a 40% clip to have a shot. They must to take advantage of some second chance opportunities as St Joe's have struggling to rebound after the first miss. The longer the Dukes can keep this one close, the better I like our chances. If this game is within two possessions in the last 5 minutes, I would not be surprised if the Dukes wear the Hawks out and pull off the victory. While the Hawks are without a doubt more talented, the Dukes are deeper.

PJ Torres to transfer

Paul Zeise  reported yesterday that sophomore guard PJ Torres intended to leave the program. Torres talent has been greater than the playing time he's received the last two seasons so his departure should not be considered a surprise to anyone. Torres picked the Dukes over College of Charleston in the spring of 2011. He should not be lacking for interest and I suspect he could be a strong addition to a number of Am-East, NEC, MAAC or CAA programs. I wish Torres the best of luck and I hope he finds a better match.