At 0-2 in league play, Duquesne Basketball is in a must-win situation against Dayton at home on Friday. What do they need to do to get the win?
It was a rough opening week to say the least for Duquesne Basketball, losing both of its games to open Atlantic 10 play. They lost on the road to UMass and Loyola-Chicago, both of whom were some rough games offensively. The good news is that so far, the conference looks fairly open.
The bad news is that it doesn't include the Dukes' next opponent, Dayton. The Flyers are 12-2 on the season, coming off a 2-0 start to league play. They're currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament and is getting top-25 votes as well. If they win on Friday, there's a chance they crack the list on Monday.
But it's going to be a tough task for them, playing in an expected sell-out crowd at Duquesne for the first time in over a decade. What does the underdogs need to do in order to win? Here are a few keys.
1. David Dixon building off his success against DaRon Holmes
The one Duke player that had a good performance last week was Dixon, who went for a career-high 19 points and seven rebounds against Loyola-Chicago. He's the new starter at center and has been an effective two-way player when on the court. He may be the best chance to guard the Preseason A-10 Player of the Year, DaRon Holmes. The star big man for the Flyers is averaging 17.7 pph and 6.9 rpg while shooting 42% from three-point range.
While Duquesne has the bodies, none of them are an ideal matchup for Holmes. Dixon is the most athletic but gets into foul trouble easily, with 4+ fouls in 4 of the last 5 games. Chabi Barre has struggled against good bigs, while Tre Williams is undersized. Dusan Mahorcic has been cleared but his lack of mobility is a concers.
Dixon will get the most minutes against Holmes but how long can he stay on the court?
2. Nate Santos versus (insert Duquesne power forward)
Speaking of Tre Williams, he's been limited throughout the season, missing several games due to a thumb injury and seemingly was out of the rotation last week, playing just eight minutes combined and going scoreless. Yet those who got minutes in his place at the four-spot didn't play well either, as starter Andrei Savrasov scored just two points each in those games, while Fousseyni Drame had three points combined on 0/6 shooting.
Savrasov and Drame are offensive upgrades over Williams and can spread the floor. But if they aren't producing on offense, it becomes a net-negative. Williams, the best interior defender on the team, likely will get more minutes this time around but has a tough matchup with Nate Santos, who is second on the team with 12.1 ppg and 6.8 rpg, shooting 49% from three-point range. He can spread the floor and that could be an issue for Williams but right now, how much more can the others play?
A position that was supposed to be a strength has been a weakspot for Duquesne. They can't afford for that to be the case on Friday. But someone, whoever, has to step up among the many forwards.
3. Winning the three-point battle
Dayton's two main strengths are Holmes and the team three-point shooting. The Flyers rank 5th nationally with 41% shooting at 10 makes a game. Considering the slow-paced style they play, that's a ton of threes in a game that opponents struggle to overcome. Duquesne takes 25 a game at 34% but can be very streaky, combining to shoot 12/43 from deep in the past two games.
It'll come down to the star guard duo of Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark, who each had a rough time in those losses. The two combines to average 34.8 ppg and can fill it up. If they don't have a great night, the odds of Duquesne winning aren't high. But if they go off, things could get very interesting in Pittsburgh.