PITTSBURGH — With four games to play, the Atlantic 10 conference is wide open.
At 8-5, Duquesne is tied with Saint Louis and St. Bonaventure for fifth place in the 14-team league. The Dukes are one game behind Saturday’s opponent, George Mason, who at 9-4, are tied with Dayton for the third spot.
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The top four teams in the league will get double byes in the tournament, and the third through seventh spots are currently separated by just a game.
But there’s more at stake than just a bye for Duquesne. At 8-5 in A-10 play, the Dukes need two wins to secure their first season with a winning conference record since 2010-11. They’ve had just five winning seasons in conference play since joining the A-10 in 1976.
They need three more wins to secure their first 20-win season since 2008-09. The Dukes have had just two 20-win seasons since joining the A-10 and just one since 1981.
But it won’t be an easy task. Of the Dukes’ five remaining games, they visit the 9-4 Patriots, 8-5 Bonnies, 8-5 Billikens and host the 9-4 Flyers. The lone team with a losing record on the docket is 2-11 UMass, set to come to A.J. Palumbo Center on March 2.
“We have a difficult schedule, there’s no question,” Dukes head coach Keith Dambrot said after practice on Friday. “These are the better teams in the league. It’s just going to come down to who is playing their best basketball in late February and March. We just have to figure out ways to win and to win close games, because we know they’re all going to be close.”
Here’s more from Dambrot on the prospects of earning a bye, and what the Dukes have to do to make that happen over their last handful of games.
Freshman point guard Sincere Carry (knee) did not practice on Friday. Dambrot called him “day-to-day” and said that there’s still a chance for him to play on Saturday.