When Keith Dambrot accepted the seemingly impossible job of head basketball coach at Duquesne in 2017, he did so with one goal in mind: get Duquesne to the Men’s Division I NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Considering that hasn’t happened since 1976 and the Dukes have had only two 20-win seasons since 1972, Dambrot seemed to be living in a dream world and not reality.
However, three years later we’re seeing tangible signs that Dambrot is one heck of a coach and just might be a miracle worker.
Heading into Monday night’s game against Columbia, Duquesne sits with a record of 7-0 and is just one of eight remaining undefeated teams in college basketball.
While some want to brush it off and question the competition the Dukes have played, the reality is that it’s the programs best start in 40 years. Duquesne is undefeated and could remain that way until we reach January. The Dukes received a vote in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2011. As a result of the winning, people are starting to take note of the Duquesne men’s basketball program.
The program is taking the steps needed to become relevant in college basketball. In the latest KenPom.com ratings, Duquesne is ranked No. 77. For comparison, Pitt is ranked No. 72 and Duquesne is currently ranked higher than programs like Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Kansas State, Miami, Northwestern, St. John’s, South Carolina and UCLA.
If the winning continues through December, there’s a good chance that vote total will increase and so will their rating with KenPom.
Here’s example No. 2, and that’s getting recognized by the national media.
Can someone do a story on the job Keith Dambrot is doing at @DuqMBB “Can’t win there” people used to say
— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) December 6, 2019
I don’t blame him / glory days return !
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) November 25, 2019
I can assure you that prior to Dambrot arriving, Dick Vitale or Doug Gottlieb weren’t commenting publicly on Duquesne basketball, at least not in a good way. But that’s what winning and a coach with the reputation that Dambrot gets you.
While all this early season attention is nice, it’ll vanish if Duquesne doesn’t have a successful conference season. The good news for Duquesne fans is that from the look of their roster, this is a deep, talented that has a chance to finish in the upper half of the Atlantic 10 conference.
Any really good team needs a star and Duquesne has that in sophomore guard Sincere Carry. They also have two excellent big men in Mike Hughes and Baylee Steele, a budding star in freshman Maceo Austin and tremendous quality depth in Lamar Norman, Marcus Weathers and Tavian Dunn-Martin.
The other encouraging thing for the future of the program is that the university is showing a commitment as evidenced by the renovation of A.J. Palumbo Center in UPMC Chuck Cooper Fieldhouse. That new building will allow Dambrot and his staff to attract better recruits, which could help continue the winning.
I’m not here to tell you that Duquesne basketball is going to rival the likes of Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State or North Carolina. What I am saying is that you’d be blind not to see the process the program has taken in year three of the Dambrot era.
I’m also here to say that in terms of the NCAA tournament, it’s not a matter anymore of if, but when Duquesne will be putting on their dancing shoes.
And it’s coming sooner than you might think.