5 Reasons Duquesne could make the 2017 NCAA Tournament

Duquesne got off to a very solid start in the 2015-16 non-conference season before getting a taste of the brutality that is the A-10 conference. Regardless, the Dukes showed a lot of promise throughout the season as an up-and-coming team in the league. After scoring some good wins over solid non-conference opponents, this team started to realize it may be legitimate after all. Though 2016-17 will feature a team that loses leading scorers Derrick Colter and Micah Mason, it sill may have the talent to make a run for the Big Dance. Here are 5 reasons Duquesne could make the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

1. Duquesne can win in the non-conference

One of the most vital pieces to making the NCAA Tournament is playing well against teams in other leagues. Though the Dukes didn’t have the most difficult schedule (114th overall), they managed to win the games they should win and even contest in the games where they’re outmatched. Last season, the Dukes won all of their games against mid-majors with the exception of Pepperdine, and they even managed to beat a Power 5 team in Penn State. In addition, the Dukes fought neck-and-neck with Georgia Tech on the road. Though Jim Ferry won’t have the same team he had last year, he knows that he has the capability to win some resume-building games before heading into A-10 play.

2. Incoming transfers will help the Dukes

Though Micah Mason and Derrick Colter will be hard to replace, senior transfers Kale Abrahamson and Emile Blackman could be a step in the right direction. Abrahamson averaged 11.1 points for Drake and Blackman averaged 15.4 points per game for Niagra last season. The Dukes already get two capable double-digit scorers who can lead this team back to prominence in the A-10 conference. They’ll be the senior leaders on this team and will likely be called upon to do a lot next season. It will be interesting to see how impactful these two can be for Ferry after he lost a lot of talent this offseason.

3. Eric James could be a rising star

Duquesne’s highest-scoring returning player is going to have to do a lot more next season if the Dukes want to make an unexpected run to the NCAA Tournament. As a sophomore, James averaged 9.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Expect those numbers to sky-rocket this year as he’ll be one of Duquesne’s go-to-guys throughout the course of the season. James didn’t show himself to be a great three point shooter last season, but he can do just about everything else. The sophomore dished out 1.4 assists per game last season and even led the team in steals at 1.1 per contest. Duquesne’s ceiling is as high as Eric James will take it.

4. Jim Ferry has this team on the rise

Though it may not feel like it, Duquesne has come a long way since Jim Ferry’s first season in 2012-13 where the Dukes finished at an abysmal 8-22 overall with just 1 win in conference play. Duquesne finished 17-17 this past season even with an 8 game losing streak in the middle of the conference season. Despite that tough stretch of play, the Dukes were fairly competitive in the conference and in college basketball. Though this team still may be a couple years away from making the NCAA Tournament, Ferry certainly has them moving in the right direction, and this season will really test just how good of a coach he can be.

5. Anything can happen

St. Bonaventure wasn’t picked to finish anywhere near the top of the A-10 last season and ended up winning the league. Davidson did the same thing two seasons ago. Anything can happen in the Atlantic 10 conference, and it’s impossible to leave any team out of the equation. Though it’s unlikely Duquesne will be going dancing next season, there’s always a chance that something clicks in Pittsburgh and this team goes on a magical run. Besides Rhode Island, Dayton, and VCU, the league will be pretty wide open this year, and there’s room for a team like Duquesne to assert itself in a big way.

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Grant Labedz is a college basketball superfan who loves the entire sport but definitely has favorites in the A-10 and the Big Ten. He has written for ...