Dear readers, this is not a drill: We have real, live, actual college basketball tomorrow. Not official college basketball, mind you -- it's only an exhibition game that won't count toward the regular season or Duquesne's record -- but Division II Mansfield of the PSAC East is coming to Palumbo Center for a 2 p.m. tip.
(Before you ask, I don't know what happened in Duquesne's supposed "secret scrimmage" last weekend at Toledo. I'm pretty positive that it DID happen, but not all schools want to release scrimmage info, even though the NCAA allows it now, so that could be why you've seen nothing about it publicly).
So, Mansfield, what will this tell us about the Dukes for this coming year? Honestly, probably not a lot. The big question surrounding this team, to me, is whether it can compete in the Atlantic 10, and Mansfield is not an A-10-level squad. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to watch for or monitor tomorrow. Here's a few things I'll try to keep an eye on at the game:
* Combinations. As Jim Ferry told me last month at practice, then reiterated a few weeks ago at A-10 media day, he and his staff are still trying to figure out who on this team fits together best. It's nice to have the depth Ferry has touted and I've written about, but how does a coach make best use of it?
"I see us having a team that can go 10 deep," Ferry said at media day. "Now, where do those minutes play out and what is the combination is probably more of a concern than how many. It’s what pieces fit together, what group? You gotta have enough guys on the floor that can defend and score. So which combination? Can you play these two guys together? Or, you can’t, because neither one can shoot, or neither one can defend the perimeter, so you gotta really figure out those combinations. I think we’re really working on that stuff right now."
* Startling lineup. This, I suppose, goes hand-in-hand with the above, as well. We'll find out tomorrow whether Tarin Smith is suited up and ready to play following knee surgery in September. If Smith is out, who starts at point guard? Rene Castro? Or will it be Mike Lewis II, a true freshman Ferry keeps going out of his way to praise? And what about potential freshman sensation Isiaha Mike, will he start, and if so, at the 3 or the 4? Both grad transfers, Emile Blackman and Kale Abrahamson? I think in general, basketball fans and even media too probably make too big a deal of starting lineups, but still, it's relevant.
* Freshmen. I mentioned Lewis and Mike above as potential starters, but whether they do or they don't, I'll still be curious to see how they perform. Throw in shooting guard Spencer Littleson, too, who doesn't have the type of expectations as his classmates, but still could get some playing time tomorrow. I don't think I'll put as much stock into Blackman and Abrahamson, if only because we know they can succeed in college basketball to some degree. A game against Mansfield won't tell us if their talents are a good match for A-10 basketball.
No other A-10 teams have played exhibitions yet, although a few do tonight (Dayton, Davidson, VCU and Saint Louis), so you can check out those results before tomorrow's game if you're really interested. Mansfield is expected to be a middle-of-the-pack PSAC East team, so I'm not expecting a close one for the Dukes, but you never know.
Now, in some recruiting news...
Darius Banks, who sure seemed like Duquesne's best get in the 2017 recruiting class, tweeted his decommitment Thursday night. I can't say I saw that one coming, not with the early signing period beginning next week. It certainly puts a ding in what was a very impressive job by Duquesne on the recruiting trail the last two months, and I guess now the Dukes aren't done with the 2017 class after all. They still have Jamari Wheeler, John Walker and Lewis Djonkam in the fold, but in my view, a wing is needed in this class. Banks was a good one, but now he's out. The other three? I have no reason to believe they won't sign. Djonkam just tweeted the other day about how excited he is to put pen to paper, so to speak. Whether they try to get Banks' replacement now, or wait til the spring, that remains to be seen.
Don't you just love following recruiting?
Feel free to drop me a line at
or Twitter at @BrianBatko or in the comments below. Let's get ready to watch some hoops.