PITTSBURGH — It’s now official that Duquesne is part of the Wade Houston Tipoff Classic which will feature nine teams occur Nov. 25-Dec. 4 at Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center as the Dukes prepare to play three games in five days as part of its non-conference slate.
Duquesne will face UNC Greensboro Nov. 29, Winthrop Dec. 1 and Little Rock Dec. 3. The first two of these games will be part of the Wade Houston Tipoff Classic.
“We’re excited to be part of the field and look forward to facing three quality opponents,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “We’ll be playing a pair of defending conference champions in Winthrop and Little Rock and a third team that won 23 games in UNCG. All three programs are talented, well-coached and have a winning pedigree. It will be a great early-season test for our team.”
Duquesne’s first opponent, UNC Greensboro has won at least 20 games in each of the last four seasons and return 12 players including Southern Conference Player and Defensive Player of the Year Isaiah Miller, who won the latter as a guard who recorded 89 steals. He entered his name in NBA Draft consideration but ultimately decided against going that route. The Spartans ranked 82 in the NET and were 92nd in KenPom led the nation with a +6.4 turnover margin and placed sixth with 299 total steals.
Winthrop won last year’s Big South Championship earning the conference’s automatic bid to the ultimately-cancelled NCAA Tournament. Senior guard Chandler Vaudrin and sophomore forward D.J. Burns Jr, both Big South Second Team selections, are among the leading returners. Winthrop ranked second in the country with 33 bench points scored per game and placed in the top-10 nationally in scoring offense (fifth/81.3), rebounds per game (sixth 40.8) and rebounding margin (eighth/+7.7).
Little Rock are the reigning Sun Belt champions and return every player from that 21-10 team which included four double-digit scorers, led by Markquis Nowell who scored 17.2 points a game, dished 136 assists and drained 77 three-point shots a season ago. Six-foot-10 forward Ruot Monyyong also averaged 11.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, recording 16 double-doubles on the 2019-20 campaign.
In addition to Duquesne, its three opponents and host Louisville: Prairie View A&M, Seton Hall, South Illinois and Western Kentucky will all participate in the event.
Louisville will provide two practice courts teams within the bubble can use. One is the practice court at the KFC Yum! Center and another will be installed in the Grand Ballroom of the Galt House Hotel that all of the teams will be staying. Teams can also access a court at the Planet Fitness Kueber Center, Louisville’s campus practice facility and a weight room will be available as well. Teams will also eat their meals inside of the hotel as well. The Galt House Hotel is connected by an elevated walkway which goes directly to the arena.
These health considerations and precautions mean that save for a bus trip to the Planet Fitness Kueber Center for practice, teams will not have to leave the dual facilities where the bubble is being housed.
“Scheduling changes from day-to-day, almost hour-to-hour,” said Dambrot. “We are happy to have this opportunity. The University of Louisville has put together a very competitive field, but most importantly, they have the health and well-being of the participating teams at the forefront.”
The significance of Wade Houston’s name being featured is that he was the first African American to sign a basketball scholarship at Louisville, doing so in 1962. Houston went back to his alma mater to serve as an assistant coach from 1976-1989 and later served as Tennessee’s head coach from 1989-1994, twice making NIT appearances.
Though a pod is certainly a different circumstance, Duquesne is no stranger to playing in multi-day events during the non-conference seasons under coach Keith Dambrot.
In Dambrot’s first season, the 2017-18 campaign, the Dukes played two of its four games of the Las Vegas Classic in the event namesake’s city at Orleans Arena splitting contests in the only two true road games of that non-conference slate.
Additionally last season, Duquesne won the Junkanoo Jam in Bimini, Bahamas besting Indiana State, Air Force and Loyola Marymount. The Dukes also participated in the St. Pete Shootout besting Austin Peay but falling to UAB ending a streak of 10 consecutive triumphs to open the season.
Duquesne returns all five of its starters and seven of the eight highest scorers on last year’s team, one which went 21-9 and 11-7 in Atlantic 10 play before COVID-19 halted the Atlantic 10 Championship after one day of play.
— Duquesne Basketball (@DuqMBB) November 3, 2020