Although the Dukes and Mountaineers are yearly opponents, not many familiar faces will be showing up in this year's game. Just three players who played against WVU a season ago saw action against Pitt and are likely to play against WVU.
Although Duquesne lost forward Wayne Smith to graduation, the Dukes return several experienced players, led by 6-4 senior guard Kevin Forney. Forney is a threat at both the point and shooting guard spots, and is the Duke's main penetrator and playmaker.
Joining Smith in the backcourt is 6-8 Gonzaga transfer Jimmy Tricco. Tricco began his Duquesne career with 13 points against the Panthers, and will undoubtedly give WVU some matchup problems at the guard position.
The news, sizewise at least, doesn't get any better up front. Head coach Danny Nee has made a concerted effort to recruit bigger players to the Duquesne campus, and his efforts have begun to pay off. The Dukes will start raw but talented 6-10 center Simplice Njoya and 6-9 junior college transfer Ron Dokes at the center and forward spots.
That's not all of Duquesne's height. Juco transfer Elijah Palmer (6-7) has provided immediate rebounding help at the small forward slot, while 6-10 center Chris Clark (a former starter) and 6-11 Derek Ahern are a formidable backup tandem to Njoya. Ahern has been battling knee problems, however, and did not play against Pitt.
Duquesne's best player off the bench is 6-5 forward Brad Midgley, who tallied 13 points against Pitt. He's joined by true freshman Bryant McAllister, a 6-2 guard who had a solid performance against the Pnathers in his collegiate debut.
WVU's Kevin Pittsnogle vs. Duquesne's Simplice Njoya
This battle between rookie big men promises to be an intriguing one. Pittsnogle will be playing his second collegiate game, while Njoya, who missed 19 games last year due to NCAA suspensions, doesn't have much more experience.
WVU 1-0, 0-0
Duq 0-1, 0-0
|Mon 11/25 7:30 PM|
WVU leads 42-35
WVU - 145
Duq - 186
|Line: Duq -3.5|
Njoya had a respectable game against Pitt, but showed some tentativeness in going to the boards, grabbing just 3 rebounds in 23 minutes of action while collecting four fouls. Pittnogle has settled right in offensively, but still much to learn on the defensive end in the post. Will he be able to neutralize Njoya in the lane? Will the Duquesne big man be able to cover Pittsnogle away from the basket?
The answers to those questions will point the way to the winner of this inter-conference tussle. Whatever the outcome, Pittsnogle will probably have to keep Njoya to the same level of productivity he had against the Panthers if the Mountaineers are to run their record to 2-0.
Duq: Derek Ahern (Knee) Questionable
For the first of many times this year, WVU will be at a height disadvantage, so we'll get our first real look at how the Mountaineer offense combats taller opponents. The Mountaineers will attempt to draw the bigger Dukes out of the lane to cover, then exploit the resulting holes and gaps in the defense with a series of screens and cuts.
The theory is sound, and so long as WVU shoots reasonably well from the perimeter, the strategy will cause opponents problems. Duquesne may have some trouble chasing WVU through their offensive sets, but that (as you'll hear many times this year) will be counterbalanced by the Dukes height advantage on the boards.
WVU head coach John Beilein has joked about a reporter at Richmond who always started post game press conferences with a question about rebounding totals. His Spiders usually lost the rebounding battle, but often won the game due to winning other matchups. Winning the battle of the boards won't be a common occurence for WVU this year, but it's only one facet of the game. Are the Mountaineers gaining more points due to their offensive schemes and the matchups they create than they are giving up due to rebounding deficiences? That's the key item to watch, and it will probably be in play in the game against the Dukes.
The Mountaineers are one win short of reaching 1400 all time. Only 22 other Division 1 programs have won 1400 or more games.
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The Dukes played the same two preseason foes as WVU, but came out with a 2-0 record, defeating both Latvia Select and Team Nike. The Mountaineers matched Duquesne's win over Latvia, but fell to Nike on a late three point shot.
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The Dukes are playing five games in the span of ten days. Who made their schedule, the Marquis de Sade?
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Beilein has at least a nodding acquaintance with Duquesne. His Richmond Spiders downed the Dukes twice last year in Atlantic Ten action.