Expectations for Next Year? Not Getting Burned Again Edition.

By Steve DiMiceli

As I look around at people making early predictions of the A-10 including our own fans, they seem to have us lumped into the bottom tier with Fordham and St Bonaventure. Some are just looking at the Dukes from what they did last year and are over looking the impact of additions. This is just sloppy.  Some might say that the Dukes now have to earn their way off the bottom, but I'm more interested in making accurate projections than statements dripping with testosterone marking some quasi-pissing contest for respect.  Of course, that doesn't mean I disagree with their conclusion; just their logic. Pressed into an answer, I'd place the Dukes eleventh out of the thirteen teams in the A-10.

One caveat on my early projection. Eleventh place is based not on how badly the team did last year, but on how badly I did. I'm normally within a game or two of predicting the Dukes record plus or minus. I was minus five last year so you can understand why I'm still feeling a little scorched and cautious this year.

But this team is extremely different from last year's. Problem is that we don't know much about it at the moment. We know that Derrick Colter will likely play a two point system with Tra'vaughn White. We know White can fill it up in junior college, but we don't know how that will translate to the D-I. We know Micah Mason is one of the best three point shooters in the county but we don't know if he will get his waiver. I think he should, but my opinion doesn't matter a whole lot. We know the team will be bigger and have more talent in the post. We don't know if Ovie Soko will find the consistency he needs to take his game to another level nor do we know if Dominique McKoy's JUCO success was evidence of real improvement or weaker competition.We don't know who will start at the three and we don't know which freshman will be able to step up.

One thing I'm sure of is that, on paper, the Duquesne team coming in looks better. On paper, Fordham and St Bonaventure look worse to the point where I'm comfortable slotting the Dukes ahead of them. I think we were pretty even with Fordham last season and in spite of their commitment from the highly sought after Jon Severe, I think the Dukes are bringing in a deeper, better class. This isn't to say I don't like what Fordham has. Brandon Frazier is an average to above average point guard and I think Fordham retains a couple of quietly efficient post players and breakout candidates. That said, I like the Dukes depth and age (not experience) better. I also have my concerns about the loss of Chris Gaston. The Rams won seven games last year and only two came without him in the lineup.

While Fordham lost one key player, St Bonaventure lost several. Defensively they could be ok, but I have no idea who will score for them. I read what a lot of Bona fans are writing about their team and it sounds like what Duquesne fans, myself included, were saying last year.  I think a few of their players are interesting. Marquise Simmons, Matthew Wright and Andall Cumberbatch all come to mind, but I liked Sean Johnson, Jerry Jones and Kadeem Pantophlet last year too. They're overestimating the chances that marginal players to this point in their career will step into bigger roles. I don't see a player that is clearly the guy for the Bonnies. This isn't to say that one won't step up, but they have more question marks than the Dukes. Assuming one or more players on their roster can step up and become fringe all conference players is assuming a lot. For me, that's what it would take for them to finish higher than Duquesne. Obviously, St Bonaventure isn't dealing with a coaching change but they may have lost as much talent if not more than the Dukes did heading into last off season.

Last year was the Murphy's Law season for question marks. As a result, I have a difficult time answering all of this year's questions or as many with the affirmative right now. I might be in a better position after I see a few more games at the Pro-Am, but for now, I have the Dukes 11th because I just don't know what they have. If things go badly for the Dukes and well for Bona and Fordham, they could find themselves at the bottom of the league again.  They could be better than St Joe's, Dayton or GW if some of their question marks don't work out. We'll get our answers when the time comes, but until then, we have to play wait and see. I don't think they're doomed to finish eleventh, but for the moment, I would have to presume too much to project a higher finish.