By Steve DiMiceli
So I don't have high hopes for tomorrow. In fact, I expect a loss vs. the Xavier Musketeers. However, something happened to Xavier since the "sucker punch heard round the world." I figured their first game loss to the O-Bobs because of all the suspensions, Tu Holloway's in particular. No big deal. Then, they lost to Long Beach. Nothing I haven't seen before this season but it got me thinking that maybe Mark Lyons means more to this team than I originally thought. It didn't stop though. Since the fight, they're 2 and 5 also losing to Hawaii, Lasalle and Gonzaga at the Cintas Center. We've been told a number of times that this is a team with final 4 talent, but there are some problems for this team right now.
If there was a door standing between Duquesne and a win at the Cintas Center at the beginning of the season, it was two feet thick, made of steel and required a retinal scan to enter. On the other side of the door was a raging pack of pit bulls who would tear the Dukes to shreds if they managed to get through. Now, the door is open slightly because Jimmy the security guard forgot to close it all the way behind him when he let the dogs out to pee. Jimmy's not going to make it back in time for tomorrow either because Yancy Gates punched him in the head while he wasn't looking and the dogs were distracted (no I'm not calling the X players dogs, but I am calling Yancy Gates a coward).
Xavier has been flat and it's been a while since I remember them being this cold. What intrigues me most about this game tomorrow is that LaSalle beat X going away and they have a similar lineup to the Dukes. They run 4 guards and essentially, the Dukes do the same thing. This will make it difficult for X to create mismatches for their guards on offense. I could be wrong but I just can't the Musketeers lobbing it inside to Frease every trip down the court. They didn't against LaSalle in spite of a similar mismatch. The Dukes strengths play favorably against Xavier's weaknesses. X is known to turn the ball over and their interior D is no where near as strong as St Joe's was. If BJ Montiero only misses two games, it could be a huge lift for the Dukes as they could use his ability to create shots inside. Teams that pass the ball well against Xavier have been successful against them. In their losses, the Musketeers defense yielded assists a game in their 5 losses, 3 more than they normally allow. They are 0-4 when teams have 16 or more assists against them and 8-1 when teams have fewer than 15. By the way, the Dukes average 16 a game. Duquesne needs to be aware that X statistically plays great perimeter defense and that they should be thinking pass first instead of forcing three's.
I'm not saying this one is in the bag. Again, this will be a very, very difficult road win. Dukes will need to keep the rebounding margin close as always, and execute when they have open looks. I fully expect X to play great transition defense and if the Dukes are going to win, they will need to do it in the half court offense. At the beginning of the year, it would have been more likely for Jim Carey's character to score with Mary Swanson in Dumb and Dumber. Now, I'm telling you there is a chance and a pretty fair one at that. Of course, if this is the game where X decides to wake up, I feel sorry for our boys. I predict an 8 point X win, but I think it will be close at the half and for most of the second.