Duquesne had one of the easiest non-conference schedules under first year head coach Keith Dambrot. In fact, it ranked 2nd easiest in the nation according to Kenpom behind only Georgetown. This was an intentional move, as Dambrot hoped to establish a culture of winning and get fans back to the Palumbo Center. Though there were bumps in a road, it was mostly “mission accomplished” for Duquesne’s new head coach. The Dukes finished non-conference play at 9-4 and actually picked up a few unexpected wins.
Undoubtedly, Duquesne’s best win was over San Francisco in Las Vegas right before Christmas. Not only was it a win over a team that now ranks #152 in Kenpom, but it came away from home, something the Dukes were not used to doing this November and December. The Dons would go on to beat MWC favorite Nevada the next day, so you could say this was an encouraging victory for Dambrot and his young team.
The only other win I would classify as “good” for Duquesne was one at home over Lamar. Sure, the Cardinals aren’t helping build any tournament resumes, but this was a home game that could have gone either way, and Mike Lewis II and co. found a way to close this one out. The rest of Duquesne’s wins were over teams ranked 300 or worse in Kenpom. That’s great for picking up W’s, but those wins don’t carry much weight.
Home losses to Cornell and Robert Morris certainly didn’t help matters. Duquesne, a team that ranks 209th in Kenpom, was 0-2 at home against teams ranked in the 200s. That’s not great. I won’t call it a bad loss, but Duquesne did have a great opportunity to down Pittsburgh in the City Game, as this is a down year for the Panthers. All in all, Duquesne did alright given the transition year that is imminent in Dambrot’s first season.
Non-Conference Grade: C+
I’m giving the Dukes a C+ because of that good win over San Francisco. Other than that, they didn’t beat any notable teams. That said, 9 non-conference wins is a start, and this program is moving in the right direction under Keith Dambrot, so you can’t blame him for scheduling easy games and winning most of them. Had Duquesne taken care of Robert Morris and Cornell, that grade would have been much higher. Duquesne was picked to finish last in this year’s A-10 by many, but I think we could see it as high as 11th at the end of the season.