Monday, January 6, 2014

Fordham/Duquesne Preview

Fordham meets familiar face of New York college basketball next, when Rams travel to Pittsburgh for Atlantic 10 opener against former LIU Brooklyn coach Jim Ferry, now at Duquesne. (Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The second half of the season begins for Fordham Wednesday night, and for the second consecutive year, the Rams will have the same opponent taking part in their Atlantic 10 opener, traveling to the Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh to take on the Dukes of Duquesne University.

Fans in the New York area will instantly recognize the name of Duquesne head coach Jim Ferry, now in his second year at the helm of the Pittsburgh institution following a ten-year run at LIU Brooklyn that was punctuated with back-to-back Northeast Conference championships and NCAA Tournament contests against North Carolina and Michigan State, respectively. Ferry has wasted little time installing his uptempo offense at Duquesne, and the results are starting to show in the 7-5 Dukes; who come into Wednesday night's matchup as winners of four straight and a half-game better than the 7-6 Rams, who arrive at the league portion of their ledger having gone in the opposite direction, losing three of their last four, the most recent of which being a 69-59 setback at the hands of Jimmy Patsos and Siena on December 30th after a 23-0 Saints run late in the second half stole the victory from Fordham.

Fordham's biggest issue in trying to stop the Dukes, who they defeated at Rose Hill Gym last season behind one of Branden Frazier's best performances to date, will be the massive interior presence of Ovie Soko, who is eligible this season after transferring from Alabama-Birmingham, not to mention a team that shoots 36 percent from three-point range and is spearheaded by the eye-popping 63 percent long distance clip of sophomore shooting guard and Drake expatriate Micah Mason.

To get to know the Steel City residents a little more, we welcome Steve DiMiceli to our preview. Steve covers Duquesne for the outstanding Dukes fan site, (on a side note, we should have asked about the significance behind that name) and was more than informative in our traditional Q&A session as his city recovers from the Steelers' 8-8 campaign while hoping the Penguins can win their second Stanley Cup in six years:

Jaden Daly: What has been the most impressive quality in Duquesne over their four-game winning streak to conclude nonconference play?

Steve DiMiceli: The Dukes have begun sharing the ball better over the last couple of weeks, and I think they've built decent chemistry at both ends of the floor. In their last three games, they've assisted on 67 of their 96 field goals while accumulating only 28 turnovers. Albeit against two teams solidly in the bottom third of the NCAA, the defense has held the last two opponents under 70 points. If the Dukes keep opponents under 70, they have enough firepower that they should take care of business. 

JD: Ovie Soko has lived up to his hype as a game-changing interior presence. How much of a thorn will he be in Fordham's undersized side?

SD: It all depends on how well Soko finishes, but Mandell Thomas or Bryan Smith will have all they can handle for sure. Unless Fordham changes their lineup, they'll give up at least six inches to guard either he or McKoy. That said, whoever plays guard for the Dukes will have their hands full with Jon Severe and Branden Frazier. 

JD: He may not be as much of a scorer this year, but how much more of a complete player has Derrick Colter become between the jump from freshman to sophomore?

SD: Colter has taken much better care of the basketball this year, and all around, he has shot better. He's just been a much lower volume player, and Jim Ferry has wanted him to shift from a scorer to a distributor this year. I think it's taken him a little while to adjust. 

JD: Tell us a little more about Micah Mason. From the stat sheet, it seems like he and Jon Severe could engage each other in a shootout early, but what exactly does he bring to the table?

SD: When I first heard that Mason was looking to transfer for Duquesne, I assumed he was a spot shooter in the mold of Xavier's Brad Redford. As it turns out, he is much more complete, with the ability to drive and pass quite well. On top of that, he's a better shooter than Redford. Despite missing quite a few games with a broken hand, Mason has locked down the starting shooting guard position over Tra'vaughn White, who led all of junior college in scoring last year. Expect both to play about 25 minutes.

JD: Finally, New York basketball fans who follow Duquesne will see that the Dukes are already resembling the teams that Jim Ferry won back-to-back Northeast Conference championships with at LIU Brooklyn. Why is there so much impatience with him from some other Dukes fans, and how soon will he and the team overcome that?

SD: I think it's a combination of things. Duquesne fans have been asked to be patient for a long time and I can understand why many don't want to wait a little longer. We have an aging fan base and I've spoken to more than one who worries he'll run out of times before the Dukes can get to the next level. There are also quite a few fans hanging onto Ron Everhart. They saw him turn the program around in two years and don't see any reason why Ferry can't do the same. Problem is, the path changes for every coach, and it turns out Ferry might be taking the more normal one. I also think people are ignoring how bad things had actually gotten when T.J. McConnell decided to transfer and how much it would take to dig out of it. I know I didn't realize it until I actually saw last year's team in action. 


  1. Pack the Palumbo Center ... Go Fordham!

  2. The Dukes are well coached. That will be a big advantage for them.