Where did I go wrong?

By Steve DiMiceli

I took some time to reflect back on my 2012-2013 season preview this week. In it, I projected the Dukes to win 13 games with the worst case scenario being 12 wins. In the early going, my projection was looking good but as the season progressed, the odds of being on the Brooklyn bubble regressed. Now with 3 games to go, I think it's unlikely that the Dukes even pull off one more win. So I'll ask the title question, where did I go wrong?

Not a lot went right for the Dukes this year. Really, the only thing that did was Derrick Colter emerging as a solid A-10 point guard with the potential to quickly move into the top tier. They started the season with vastly improved rebounding numbers that have fallen to a level more indicative of the team's talent and size since the Western Michigan game. Over the last two months, they have looked more like last year's team on the glass than the one at the beginning of the season. While the Dukes have been looking a little better since Jim Ferry started giving more minutes to his freshman, the their youth has shown at times. There have been a few occasions where sloppy play late in games has cost them when they could not put their foot on an opponent's throat or get over the hump when coming from behind. Other times, the team looked like it forgot how to play basketball and it got buried by long lopsided runs. We've see a fair amount of poor decision making like a rushed three after a defensive stop or poor spacing or lack of support in transition. I feel like the young players have lacked composure at times but at other times have done quite well with the pressure on. Overtime against James Madison comes to mind as do Colter's game sealing FT's against Temple. Overall, the inexperience has hurt more than it has been overcome.

Part of the problem is that the more experienced players never stepped up or stepped up too late. For the Dukes to win 13 games, we needed Sean Johnson to play at an all conference or near all conference level. He's fallen well short and even lost his starting job. Initially, I thought he was struggling with the extra attention he was getting from opposing defenses, but when teams started focusing on Colter, he just never got better. Defense has been a problem for him and he is still troubled by the same consistency issues that have confronted him his entire career. Since the GW game, Andre Marhold has played his best basketball in a Duquesne uniform making me ask "Where was this player before?" Kadeem Pantophlet and Jerry Jones both failed to impress in more key roles. Pantophlet has been a boost defensively, but hasn't gotten involved on the other end while Jones too has struggled with consistency.

Prior to the season, I suggested that the Dukes wouldn't lose a lot from the starter to the bench at any position. This was true until about the middle of November when Colter created some separation between himself and Marvin Binney and since the GW game as Marhold stepped it up. While the bench has been ok, it's not been the stabilizing force I expected it to be. Three point shooting has been decent but the Dukes have had to rely too much on it. Often times, it's been the only weapon that's worked and opponents have defended the Dukes to the half court stripe knowing that they can't take them off the dribble or in the post consistently. The jump shooting could have been a useful complement, but by itself it was never able to steal a game.

Ferry implemented his system in waves and I'm not even sure the team is fully comfortable with it even now. The transition game is still a little sketchy and the half court offense doesn't seem crisp. Plays are often slow to develop or are poorly executed. The Dukes lack the wide body post player to set effective screens. The man defense has come a long way, but the 2-3 zone is still suspect. Again, the rebounding mantra has degraded and been forgotten. Looking at other A-10 teams who have made coaching changes recently, it took George Washington almost a season and a half to gel. Lasalle and Charlotte took even longer. Expecting the Dukes to learn the system quickly enough to succeed this season was the most glaring mistake in the preview.

I don't mind being wrong, but being five games wrong is pretty embarrassing.  I really screwed up with my estimation of how quickly they could learn the system. The rest of the mistakes I believe were pretty easy to make. Sean Johnson is going to score over a 100 points less than I projected him to score and at least 75 fewer than he netted last year. If you saw that coming, give yourself a gold star but I certainly didn't. I didn't foresee the entire offense living and dying by the three pointer as I expected players like Quevyn Winters, Jeremiah Jones, Marvin Binney and even Johnson to create more for themselves off the dribble. I thought Marhold could provide a little more offense over the entire season. I expected the depth options like Binney and Martins Abele to get better as the year went along. Instead, Binney moved to an off guard role and Abele hardly plays. Again, neither of these mistakes seemed like too much to ask even in hindsight. Bottom line, most of the positives I was anticipating didn't happen in reality and the result is my projection fell well short of their perceived capabilities and the Dukes are likely heading to their first single digit winning season since 2006.