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Atlantic 10 Non-Conference Grades: Duquesne Dukes

Duquesne’s non-conference schedule was quite the rollercoaster, as the Dukes started off the season 10-0 before dropping two straight to poor opponents. The Dukes were criticized heavily for their weak schedule on Twitter, but I sympathize with their lack of a home arena and the difficulties scheduling P5 opponents. Still, if you’re going to schedule a bunch of cupcakes, you have to beat them. That didn’t happen recently.

Good Wins

None of Duquesne’s wins for necessarily “good,” but the victory over Indiana St. on a neutral court is the best one. That could end up being a Q2 victory for Duquesne depending on how Indiana St. finishes the season. The Dukes’ 2nd best win was 71-49 over Radford on a neutral floor — while Radford is not a great team by any means, blowing them out was a great step for Keith Dambrot’s program, and it started to show Duquesne might have some firepower this year. Duquesne has yet to face a top 100 Kenpom opponent though, so conference play is going to be a rude awakening on that front.

Bad Losses

Duquesne only had 2 losses, and they were both bad. They recently dropped neutral site games to UAB and Marshall, and against the latter, the Dukes got blown out 83-61. The team struggled mightily from three in both games, and two Q3 losses shed some unfortunate light on the strength of Duquesne. The Dukes are likely a middle-of-the-pack A-10 team at best. Optimists could cite these 2 losses as some of the worst basketball Duquesne has played all season, but the Dukes may be in for an uphill battle against an Atlantic 10 conference that has improved top-to-bottom. Unfortunately, these 2 losses really hurt.

Looking Ahead to Conference Play

Duquesne has a shot to be a competitive team given how deep it is and how good of a coach Keith Dambrot has been. This has been a rocky year for scheduling and travel, as Duquesne has been without a home arena, and that will carry into conference play. The Dukes will be at a slight disadvantage in that regard, but games at PPG Paints Arena should have a heavy Duquesne crowd. I could see Duquesne finishing 7th or 8th in the league — not sure if they can creep up higher, but I’d put the ceiling at 5th.

Non-Conference Grade: C+

The Dukes get a C+ for winning 10 games — that’s never a bad thing (they could be Fordham who has 5 wins on an even easier schedule). Still, the Dukes have 2 losses to teams that rank in the 150s in Kenpom. For a team that was creeping into the top 50s, that is not good. There are two ways to look at this non-conference schedule: you have a young group of guys who get some confidence going 10-2, but you also lose momentum heading into league play and haven’t been adequately prepared for a rough A-10 slate.