Well now that I have seen the Dukes I can go about commenting on them.
It is hard to get to know a team that you have never seen play, other than on TV against Georgetown, but now having seen this group up close and personal for the first time I will say there is a lot to like.
Duquesne won 90-88 over James Madison and while I don't think the visiting Dukes (James Madison is also the Dukes) are a tremendous team, this was a great win for the home Dukes because they finally won down the stretch (they had lost their first two games down the stretch) and they did with their senior leader, Sean Johnson, on the bench with cramps.
They did it because a trio of freshmen - Jeremiah Jones, who is a great defender, Derrick Colter, who has no fear as a point guard, and Quevyn Winters, who can light it up - played like grizzled vets down the stretch.
Colter and Winters handled the offense - they combined to score 31 points, 25 of which came in the second half -- and Jones led the charge on the defensive side of the ball. The Dukes also got big plays from Jerry Jones - not to be confused with Jeremiah - and a big first-half from P.J. Torres, who scored a career-high 12 points.
Here are some quick thoughts on th Dukes after seeing them:
1.) The defense is going to be difficult to deal with once these guys figure out what to do. They had some breakdowns, they had some miscommunication but Jim Ferry wants them to play on the ball, lock it down, man-to-man and at times they did it great. He also showed a 2-3 zone that gave James Madison fits but even in the zone they didn't take chances, they just kept their guy in front of them and made it difficult for James Madison to get good shots. As this team works more in practice and understands Ferry's defensive system more it is going to become very difficult to score on, there is no doubt.
2.) Colter and Winters are going to become very, very fun to watch as they gain experience. They have no idea what they are doing, they are just hooping but both play with so much energy and play so fearless that they are bound to be stars. I love Colter - he has that flambouyance and fearlessness you want in your point guard. He has a chance to be a stud, that's for sure. And Winters has no fear of letting it fly and he can score quickly. These two are fun to watch, that's for sure.
3.) Marhold needs to get consistent quickly, especially if Johnson is out for any amount of time. He didn't play well in this game, though he did a few good things defensively.
4.) Martins Abele is limited but his big body is going to come in handy against bigger teams and he is surprisingly not bad at holding big guys out of the paint and rebounding. He gives the team some strength under the hoop and perhaps can develop into a useful player as well.
5.) Johnson can flat out play, but we knew that.
6.) This team is limited personnel-wise but Ferry has them believing they are better than they are. They are inexperienced and don't know any better but they play with passion, with energy and they want to be great at defending so they have a chance to pull some upsets and hang in games longer than they should.
OK, that's about it for now - there are two more games this week - Tuesday and Wednesday - so I'll keep updating the blog each day.