There is not much really to say about this 90-63 destruction of the Dukes by No. 22 VCU at Consol tonight.
VCU is really good, they are experience, they have a great coach, they have become a premier program - Duquesne has a long way to go and is in the first year of a sizeable rebuilding project, what more needs to be said?
Still, there are some observations that I'd like to offer about the program and the team - which has lost six in a row now -- as I don't think things are as bad as they appear...
1.) Jim Ferry inherited a program that was devoid of much leftover talent and the guys who were leftover are better suited to play a completely different game than Ferry wants to play. This is not an excuse for losing games, it is reality. Ron Everhart supposedly had a great recruiting class coming in, when he was fired they all scattered and since many of his best players have left over the years, it left a roster that frankly from where I sit doesn't have many legitimate Atlantic 10 players on it. I know that is harsh, I think that for the most part these guys work hard and play hard but the reality is this team is undermanned. And we saw that tonight - VCU came at them in waves and really looked like a varsity team scrimmaging junior varisty team. And my larger point here is this - there are going to be some nights like this when even the Dukes best effort (and I am not at all saying this was their best effort) won't be good enough.
2.) That being said, there are a few guys on this team who may need to look at the mirror tonight and ask themselves if they gave Duquesne everything they had in this game because I think if they are honest the answer will be "no". That is not to say this team dogged it or laid down or quit, I just look at body language on the court a lot and from what I saw, this Duquesne team had far too many guys standing around watching and acting like they were powerless to stop what VCU was doing. You want to know what makes the Rams difficult to play agianst? There was a sequence in the second half when they were up 33 points where the ball hit the floor and they had guys diving on it like possession of the ball was the difference between breathing and not --- and this was when they were ahead 33 points. Fans sometimes shriek when you use the term "lack of effort" to describe the way a team played because they think it means you are saying a team quit or isn't trying or is lazy. That's not it at all - it is that "extra, all-out, laying it on the line with no fear" effort that sets the good teams apart. If a team like VCU, with all that talent, can play that hard on every possession, they are nearly impossible to beat. Ferry wants Duquesne to play that way and we have seen that in stretches -- but until we see it for 40 minutes on every possession these games are going to be tough to win.
3.) Derrick Colter is fearless, he is a great leader and he is frankly the guy who is driving this team right now. I like the kid a lot because he plays so hard and he is a winner. But I also like that he at times is the only one who is capable of creating things on offense and he isn't afraid to do it. His shot selection is good for the most part and he can drive and dish extremely well. You take him and the other two freshmen - Queyvn Winters, another fearless gunslinger, and Jeremiah Jones, who is tough as nails, and now all of the sudden you have a group of players to try and build around. But they aren't nearly enough and frankly, the way Duquesne will build a better program quickly is that every year, Ferry has to recruit better players than those three. It would be a great thing if the Dukes have two or three freshmen starting next year - because it means they are really, really good players. And that's what it takes - the talent base here is not good yet, but I believe Ferry is the guy to go get those kinds of player.
4.) A word about VCU - what a nightmare it is to play against a team like that. Not only do they pressure you the whole game, they pressure you in every aspect - on the glass, on the floor, on offense, on defense -- heck I am starting to think that Shaka Smart has his cheerleaders making runs at his opponents cheerleaders in the hallway outside of their dressing room. They just keep coming, and coming, and coming, and coming and just when you think that you have it figured out, your guys are exhausted and he is putting in five fresh sets of legs. It is like watching a swarm of little knats attack the dude wearing too much cologne at sunrise on the golf course - he can keep swatting them off his neck and legs but they keep attacking him and sucking his blood....This team is ridiculous. I know other teams out there can handle this pressure to an extent but the bottom line is they just keep coming and wear you down until you really don't even want to play any more. A fabulous team to watch and they are very well coached - as evidenced by the fact that Shaka Smart won his 100th game tonight against the Dukes in a little less than four seasons as the coach. This is a fun team to watch, no doubt and a great addition for the Atlantic 10.
5.) The Atlantic 10 is a real, well to quote Ferry, beast...One of the best leagues in America no doubt and this year especially, with Butler and VCU joining and Temple still hanging around, it is a grind. And for a young team like Duquesne that means there aren't going to be many happy nights. That is just reality. Duquesne will win some games because we have seen some really good stretches of basketball from them and we will see it again and they will have a few nights where they put together two halves, but this is not going to be an easy or fun season and a lot of it has to do with the fact that the scheudle is brutal.
6.) I understand why games are moved to Consol -- and I like the concept and like the idea of trying to play a few games in a big-time atmosphere. But I question the wisdom this year when, everybody knew this team would struggle and that means there aren't going to be huge crowds. Tonight's crowd would have been a very nice crowd at Palumbo, at Consol the smallish crowd was swallowed up and there was no atmosphere. I think Pitt and WVU games against Duquesne should always be at Consol but I'd wait another year or two to start moving Atlnatic 10 games there because this team isn't really ready to start filling it.
And Finally, 7.) Ferry is preaching all the right things, he has a track record of succcess but it isn't going to happen overnight so you need to be a little patient. I think from what I have seen he has put these guys in positions where they can succeed - they just don't have quite enough to get it done yet. But his philosophies are sound, his defensive philosophy is very sound and he will get the most out of his teams and that is really all you can ask for from a coach rebuilding a program.
St. Louis comes to town Wednesday and then it is off to lovely Dayton, Ohio so things don't get any easier for the Dukes.