And the Oscar for the most worthless Zips game of the year goes to ...
You could argue Akron has nothing on the line tomorrow night. This isn't a conference game. The loss at Miami nearly drowned any hopes of an at-large bid. (Don't believe me? Watch ESPN and the teams they are saying sit on the bubble.)
The only possible reward for knocking off the Dukes is slightly improving the odds for a better NIT seed, should the Zips not win the MAC Tournament. (Talking with Tom Gaffney last night, I realized the NIT committee cares more about possible attendance when considering first-round sites. Five- to six-thousand would not cut it.)
Just the same, I'll break down the Dukes for you. It's 10 things you need to (or possibly might be interested in) learn about Duquesne.
- The campus is located just outside downtown Pittsburgh. The Catholic university was built into a residential neighborhood, so it has a small-town feel with cobblestone streets. USA Today ranked it one of the nation's safest campuses. (I'll get back to that.)
- The Dukes play in the Atlantic 10 conference. Massachusetts and Xavier are dueling for supremacy and the conference tournament's first seed. St. Joseph, under Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, has been the most successful A-10 team in the past five years. Duquesne is 6-9 in the conference and 10-16 overall.
- Five Dukes were shot outside the student union in September. Campus safety comes in many forms -- extra lighting at night, patrolling police officers, those blue emergency phones. A shooting spree after a university dance is not one of them. Four players hope to return next season. A fifth, sophomore guard Aaron Jackson, is back in Ron Everhart's starting lineup.
- The injuries absolutely crippled the Duke's size. They now have only one player at 6-foot-7 or taller. That's 6-10 Kieron Achara, who averages 15.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The only other big man, 6-9 senior Almamy Thiero, is out indefinitely with a blood clot in his lung.
- The disposition has led Everhart to alter his game planning. The Dukes rely on a full-court press, full of bloody traps, sure to make an inexperienced point guard wet himself. On offense, they like to run. It makes sense to play up-tempo when four of your five players need booster seats.
- It was this philosophy that led to Duquesne's five-game midseason winning streak. They were putting up a ton of points. As the season wears on, however, it is looking like the Dukes are too short-handed to sustain any level of success. Duquesne relies on eight scholarship players and two walk-ons.They currently ride a five-game losing streak.
- Freshman forward Robert Mitchell leads the team in scoring at 16.7 points per game. He also grabs 5.2 rebounds a night. Jackson and freshman swingman Scott Grote also score a lot.
- The up-tempo play means both teams probably will surpass 80. Several games have gone into the 100s. Duquesne allows 84.5 points per game. Opponents shoot 50.5 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from 3. Like most teams with no size, they give up a high field goal percentage, mostly because of weak interior defense.
- Also like teams with no size, Duquesne's opponents consistently win the rebounding battle. The four players I mentioned are decent on the boards. No one else will have a chance against the Zips three post players.
- This game means nothing, and I'm bored of writing about this team. Therefore, item No. 10 is as worthless as tomorrow's matchup.