The Duquesne Dukes will look to keep their winning ways going tonight when they host the Fordham Rams at the PPG Paints Arena.
Keith Dambrot’s squad is current 14-2 and tied for first place (4-0) in the Atlantic 10 with No. 13 Dayton. Duquesne’s success is getting them attention from the local media but also nationally. In the latest AP Top Rankings vote on Monday, the Dukes received nine votes and that number will increase if the winning continues.
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A member of the national media that is noticing what’s happening with Duquesne is long-time college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy from The Sporting News.
Pittsburgh Sports Now caught up with DeCourcy, who like a lot of people is impressed with what Dambrot has been able to do in just his third year with the Dukes. He’s also not one of the people that’s attributing their 14-2 start to a soft early season schedule.
“Let me dismiss this whole thing about their schedule,” said DeCourcy. “It’s Duquesne. The idea that you should blow off a 14-2 record because of who they’ve played, that’s laughable. They used to be the team that everyone wanted to play to get a win. It’s just an abomination of logic to dismiss their 14-2 start on the basis of they didn’t play a hard schedule. When I hear that my head wants to explode.
“They are Duquesne. They have not been to the tournament since 1977. They might have been the worst program in my opinion, in a Top 10 league for a four decade period. Their wasn’t anyone worse than them and now they are good. And now they’re appearing on my mock NCAA Tournament bracket for Fox Sports. I have people now asking me why they’re not in the bracket instead of the first four teams out. Duquesne basketball now is a completely different conversation, it’s a wonderful conversation and anyone that suggests this is a mirage is totally missing the point.”
As DeCourcy mentioned, Duquesne is now starting to appear on mock brackets and are being discussed as a team that could be playing in March. What does Duquesne have to do over the next month to be given serious consideration by the tournament committee?
“For an at-large position, forget about their non-conference schedule, their conference schedule is not adventageus for them,” said DeCourcy. “They do get Dayton at home but they don’t get VCU at home which hurts. They already beat St. Louis and that’s a better win than most people thought, that was a good win. But there are only so many teams in the league that are good wins for you. They still have to go to St. Louis, obviously they have a road game at Dayton and a road game at VCU so it’s going to be problematic for them to get high quality wins.”
“They just have to keep winning and hope that they can put enough wins together and get some of the quality that the committee says they’re win-loss record is more impressive than someone else’s not so impressive overall record that might have a couple more quality wins. It’s going to be a long-shot this year but not an impossibility. The fact that we’re even having this conversation in the middle of January is amazing.”
When talking about Duquesne and their body of work, one other factor that DeCourcy feels should be mentioned is the obstacle of not playing a true home game and being road warriors for the entire season while their new building is being renovated.
“The fact that they don’t have their home floor and still doing this is too easy overlooked. One of the reasons it’s easily overlooked is because when over teams have done this over the past decade they’ve been more notable programs with more notable arenas. Like when UCLA shutdown Pauley Pavilion, it’s more noticeable. When Cincinnati did it, it was more noticeable or when Northwestern did it. But since hardly anyone has paid attention to Duquesne over the years and they’re playing at LaRoche and PPG Paints Arena, not many college basketball people know that.
“They deserve a ton of credit for doing all that they’re doing in what is not their typical home environment.”