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College Basketball: Duquesne Preview

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The Duquesne men’s basketball team is looking to make some progress this season.

Last year, the team went 17-17 in its first non-losing season since 2011-12. The Dukes dipped in the latter half of the season, however, going 6-12 against their Atlantic 10 conference opponents.

Duquesne is picked to finish 13th out of 14 in the Atlantic 10 preseason coaches poll. They finished 10th in the conference last season.

The team enters the new season without four starters from last season’s opening day roster. Derrick Colter, Micah Mason and Jeremiah Jones all graduated. Junior L.G. Gill transferred to Maryland in the off-season.

Head coach Jim Ferry thinks that although Mason and Colter provided the bulk of the scoring for the Dukes last year and will be missed, their replacements will provide an improvement on defense.

“For as dynamic as [Mason and Colter] were offensively, defensively they struggled at times,” Ferry said. “Just because of their length, and maybe not being able to contain the ball. We’re significantly more athletic [this year], we’re significantly longer at every position. We can defend the ball better.”

The team will surely need the next tier of players to step up if they want to improve on last year. One of those players is junior guard Rene Castro, who transferred to Duquesne from Butler but saw limited action in his first eligible season with the Dukes.

Through four full seasons as Duquesne’s head coach, Jim Ferry is 50-75 but has improved steadily nearly every year since his 8-22 inaugural season in 2012.

This year's non-conference schedule is tougher than recent years, highlighted by a road trip to Lexington to face the AP preseason No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats.

As a program that is still trying to improve, incoming freshman forward Isaiah Mike could have an immediate impact on the Dukes this season.

“Our depth is something that’s shown it’s going to make us different,” Ferry said. “When Jeremiah [Jones] went down last year, we couldn’t really recover. We just didn’t have that depth. Now, we have the ability to go 10 deep, which I think is going to help this program evolve.”

As the their first game approaches, here are some things to keep an eye on this season for Duquesne.

KEY PLAYER: Darius Lewis (6’11”, 250 lbs)
Lewis is the most veteran starter returning for the Dukes. The senior big man averaged 6.3 points and 5.8 rebounds last year. Lewis needs to step up those numbers at least a little bit if Duquesne is going to contend in the A-10 down the stretch. He has shown flashes of promise in his three years on the bluff, but his inconsistent hands and tendency to find foul trouble have caused him problems. If Lewis can put those struggles behind him, look for him to be a force in the paint this season.

TOP NEWCOMER: Emile Blackman (6’ 3”, 195 lbs)
Blackman arrives at Duquesne this season as a graduate transfer from Niagara University and is eligible to play immediately. He led his team in scoring each of the past two seasons. He will look to fill the immediate hole at guard that is the result of Colter and Mason’s departure.

Ferry says Blackman is a scorer with “great athleticism and length. He gives us that combination of shooting and attacking, which I think we lacked a little bit last year.”

The last several seasons, the Dukes have been very reliant on three point shooting. In games where they were hot from deep, they looked great. If they had an off night shooting, they could be beaten by anybody. Most of this identity as a three-point Duquesne Jim Ferryshooting team was build around Coulter and Mason, both of whom have graduated. Ferry has said he expects this year’s team to be more defensively sound, and capable of playing closer to the hoop. During non-conference play, we will find out how smoothly the team will transition into a new style of play.

Duquesne begins the new season at the A.J. Palumbo Center on November 11th against Loyola Maryland.

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