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Vukovcan: How Will Duquesne Handle Being ‘The Hunted’?

Vukovcan: How Will Duquesne Handle Being ‘The Hunted’?

The Duquesne men’s basketball team is much improved from last season and are undoubtedly a good team.

But the question that basketball fans–and probably Keith Dambrot himself–want to know is how good are the Dukes, really?

Despite entering today with a record of 12-2 and tied for first place in the Atlantic-10, many will question the legitimacy of that record because of their soft non-conference schedule; and it’s hard to argue that point.

However, what can’t be argued is that Duquesne has looked very impressive to start league play, beating two legitimate preseason A-10 contenders in Saint Louis and Davidson.

Davidson was a team that some labeled the preseason favorites and has arguably the conference player of the year in Kellan Grady. Travis Ford’s St. Louis team was picked to finish in the upper half of the conference and has a formidable front court led by Hashan French.

Duquesne doesn’t have to apologize for those games. They were two legit wins over good teams and you need to win those if you’re to be taken seriously or have any aspirations about playing in the postseason.

Tonight starts a stretch of games that will be a test for the Dukes because they’ll be in an unfamiliar position. Being the hunted instead of the hunter.

Any Duquesne fan would be hard pressed to find a stretch of conference games over the last 20 years where the Dukes have been heavy favorites but that will be the case starting tonight at St. Joe’s.

Following tonight’s game in Philadelphia, Duquesne travels to George Washington before a home game against Fordham. The bottom line is there’s no excuse to lose any of these games. Period.

I’m sure the players are feeling good and confident about themselves so this will also be a test for Dambrot. He needs to find a way to keep this group of players, who’ve never experienced much success on the collegiate level, grounded, hungry and to approach this stretch of games as if they were playing Duke, North Carolina and Gonzaga.

If Duquesne approaches these next three games like they should, they’ll enter their remaining 13 games with a record of 15-2 and seemingly a lock to achieve a 20-win season.

And while some programs wouldn’t consider a 20-win season a major feat, that’s not the way Duquesne would view it.

Since 1972, the Dukes men’s basketball team has had only two 20-win seasons.

When you win that many games, it usually puts you in line to get invited to postseason tournaments like the NCAA and NIT. While the goal should be playing in March Madness, the NIT would be a big step considering they’ve only qualified for it twice since 1981.

When Dambrot took over, he was well aware that rebuilding Duquesne would be one of the bigger challenges he’s ever faced. Three seasons in and is already showing signs of taking this Duquesne program to places they (and the fan base) have only dreamed of reaching.

The job is nowhere near complete, but tonight starts an important stretch that could lead the Dukes toward another important plateau.

Let’s see how they handle success and prosperity.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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