Luke Henne | Editor-in-Chief
Feb. 23, 2023
After a 2021-22 season in which the Duquesne men’s basketball team won just six games, a postseason berth just one year later didn’t seem like a reality.
Heck, the Dukes were picked to finish dead last in the Atlantic 10 Conference’s preseason poll.
Yet, with three regular-season games remaining, Duquesne (19-9, 9-6) is in prime position to make a run for a postseason berth — whether to the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament — once the calendar flips to March.
What’s been the key to Duquesne’s transformation in this script-flipping season?
Consistently responding to tough losses and adversity.
Just a season ago, Head Coach Keith Dambrot’s team suffered separate losing streaks of four games and three games before A-10 play ever rolled around. Come conference time, the Dukes won their opening game before dropping 17 in a row to end a tumultuous season.
This year, in just its second game, Duquesne was dismantled by 25 points at No. 4 Kentucky.
Rather than falter, the Dukes rattled off six-straight wins, including victories over three teams — Colgate, UC Santa Barbara and Ball State — that have already eclipsed the 20-win plateau.
That dominant stretch was followed by back-to-back losses to Marshall and New Mexico State.
Again, Duquesne responded, winning three-consecutive contests — including another win over a 20-win team in Indiana State —to close out non-conference competition. The Dukes trailed 20-4 early against the Sycamores, but responded and won 92-86.
Duquesne started A-10 play 4-5, which included a 1-4 record in road games. Winning consistently was looking like it’d be impossible.
However, as they have all season, the Dukes responded. Duquesne opened the month of February with four wins in a row, three of which were by 14 or more points.
The lone single-digit victory, a 56-54 defeat over St. Bonaventure, snapped the Dukes’ six-game losing streak against the Bonnies.
After a tough road loss on Saturday at Saint Louis, a loss in which Duquesne led by as many as 15 points, the Dukes responded with a 91-74 road win against La Salle on Wednesday.
Duquesne will play two of its final three regular-season contests at UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. The Dukes currently sit in 5th place in the conference. The top-four seeds will secure a double-bye in the A-10 tournament, which begins on March 7.
Duquesne defeated conference-leading VCU. The Dukes never trailed the Rams, with their lead growing as big as 22 points.
Of the teams positioned in the Nos. 2-4 spots — Dayton, Saint Louis and Fordham — the Dukes are 0-3, losing by an average margin of 8 points. Duquesne will get another crack at Fordham to close out the regular season on March 4.
At the very least, this team has proven that it’s able to respond to adversity and tough stretches.
The Dukes have proven that they can hang with the best teams in the conference, and this year’s A-10 field is extremely wide open.
Duquesne is more than capable of running the table in the conference tournament and securing its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1977.
At the very least, the Dukes deserve a spot in the NIT. And, if they get a bid to either tournament, they’ll have earned every bit of it.