After saying goodbye to one of the best backcourt duos in the A-10 last season, Jim Ferry and the Dukes will be going into rebuilding mode in 2016-17. Duquesne loses its top 4 scorers from last season, and even though there will be some new talent in Pittsburgh this year, it’s going to be tough to replace Micah Mason and Derrick Colter. Nevertheless, basketball goes on, and even though the Dukes aren’t projected to make much of a splash this season, they’ll try to piece together somewhat of a respectable year. Last season was one of highs and lows for this team. Duquesne won 10 of its 13 non-conference game and even got a 26 point win over instate river Penn State. It managed to sneak its way to a 5-4 start in conference play but proceeded to lose its next 8 and began sliding down the rankings in the A-10. They’d end the regular season on a positive note, though, pulling out a tough road victory over Saint Joseph’s. It’s not likely that the Dukes will be any better this season then they were last year, but stranger things have happened in this league.
Micah Mason and Derrick Colter are names that Duquesne fans won’t be forgetting for quite some time. The two guards combined for 36.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 9.1 assists per contest. Both shot better than 80% from the charity stripe last season and even combined for 1.9 steals per game. Both had a number of spectacular displays offensively, and when the Dukes got them both going, they were a tough team to stop in conference play. In addition, the Dukes lose L.G. Gill, TySean Powell, and Mar’Qywell Jackson as transfers, and these departures hurt most notably in the rebounding category. Finally, Duquesne’s fourth leading scorer, guard Jeremiah Jones, has also graduated, leaving the Dukes’ backcourt pretty much depleted.
Lucky for the Dukes, there are some key newcomers that will hep replace the talent that’s moved on. Nebraska transfer Tarin Smith should assume the role of starting point guard where he’ll hope to grow into the role that Derrick Colter filled in his tenure. He’ll have three seasons remaining. Emile Blackman joins the backcourt from Niagara where he averaged 15.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest in 2014-15. Finally, Kale Abrahamsson comes in from Drake where he knocked down 54 threes for the Bulldogs two seasons ago.
The Dukes also add some incoming freshmen that should assist in the rebuilding process. Michael Lewis II and Spencer Littleson could be nice additions to a backcourt that’s going to rely heavily on incoming transfers. They’re both 2 star recruits. Isiaha Mike will join a frontcourt that will definitely miss the presence of L.G. Gill this coming season. In addition, Kellon Taylor joins as a walk-on.
Eric James is Dukes’ highest scoring returning player as he averaged 9.6 points per game last season. He was also third in rebounding at 5.2 per contest and notched a team-high 1.1 steals per game. He’ll definitely have to fill a much greater role this season as he’ll no longer be playing behind high-scoring guards Colter and Mason. This could be the biggest question mark for Duquesne this year: can James increase his output enough to give the Dukes a huge boost, or will their offense be lost without the point guards they relied so heavily upon?
Center Darius Lewis will be returning for his senior season where he’ll hope to build off a solid 2015-16 season. Lewis averaged 6.3 points and 5.8 rebounds last year. He ranked 7th in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage and was a force on defense ranking 5th in block percentage. In addition, he went from 1 double-digit scoring performance as a sophomore to 7 as a junior. Again, he’s a guy that’s going to be called upon to do a lot more this season, and without L.G. Gill, he’ll be carrying a heavy load down low along with Nakye Sanders and Jordan Robinson.
The Dukes have a good non-conference schedule with some of the usual Pennsylvania suspects. They’ll play Penn State on the road this season, and even though they managed to whomp the Nittany Lions last year, they should be the underdogs this time around. They’ll also play Robert Morris and inner-city rival Pittsburgh this season. Duquesne will have a very challenging matchup against Kentucky this season, and more than anything else, the Dukes should take away some valuable experience from a team that could contend for a national title this year. Duquesne definitely has its fair share of tune-up games as well, but this non-conference schedule is no walk in the park.
The Dukes’ conference schedule isn’t too bad this season. They’ll have two go-around with easier teams like Saint Louis and Fordham, but it will also have double-duty against Dayton and George Washington. Duquesne will have a brutal stretch of the conference season where it will face Dayton, George Washington, Rhode Island, Davidson, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, and then Dayton again. This team will have some opportunities to win games against some of the conference’s bottom teams, but it will, for the most part, be fighting to stay out of last place in the conference this year.
This shouldn’t be the best season for Duquesne, as it loses a lot more talent than it brings in. There’s no doubt that this team is adding some solid pieces, but the losses are just too substantial. I’d be shocked to see this team finish somewhere near the middle of the pack in the A-10. Expect the Dukes to be fighting it out with Saint Louis for the 13th spot in the league. Jim Ferry’s squad could always come out of nowhere and surprise everyone, but a record above .500 would be a huge stretch for this team in 2016-17.