Season’s final stretch vital for Duquesne’s hopes

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | The Duquesne team bench reacts during a game versus SLU earlier this season.
Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | The Duquesne team bench reacts during a game versus SLU earlier this season.

Adam Lindner | Sports Editor

Feb. 21, 2019

At long last, the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball standings are finally beginning to take shape. Surprises and disappointments abound, and Duquesne finds itself right in the middle of it all.

With just over two weeks remaining in the regular season, Duquesne sits sixth in the conference’s standings and is tied at 8-5 with St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis in A-10 play.

Duquesne is one of the conference’s biggest surprises, as the A-10’s preseason poll had the Dukes slated to finish eleventh in the 14-team league. VCU, picked to finish No. 7, is currently first in the league’s standings at 11-2 and 20-6 overall.

Perhaps the A-10’s biggest disappointment this season was Saint Joseph’s. Coach Phil Martelli’s Hawks were picked to finish second in the conference in the preseason poll, but sit at an eye-opening twelfth place in the standings. Saint Joe’s enjoyed a decently successful non-conference portion of its schedule, but has stumbled to a 4-9 mark in league play thus far.

Saint Louis, boasting a roster with multiple top recruits, was picked first in the preseason, but currently finds itself seventh in the league. For the time being, the Dukes own the tiebreaker over the Billikens courtesy of a Jan. 23 Duquesne win over Saint Louis. The two teams will meet again on Wednesday, March 6, in Saint Louis, however.

Duquesne’s performance over its next five games will largely dictate its postseason positioning within the A-10 tournament. The Dukes travel to face fourth-place George Mason Feb. 23 and will face St. Bonaventure on the road on Feb. 27. The Dukes’ next home game falls on Saturday, March 2, versus UMass.

Three of the Dukes’ five remaining games are against teams currently above them in the standings, plus a fourth game versus No. 7 Saint Louis on March 6. The only opponent Duquesne has left that isn’t in the league’s top-half of the standings is UMass.

Duquesne’s last game of the regular season falls on March 9 versus Dayton.

If Duquesne hopes to find itself with a double-bye in the conference tournament, it will need to secure a spot in the standings’ top four slots. To do so, topping George Mason on Saturday would be a good start. Dropping the decision against the Patriots would make for an uphill battle in Duquesne’s quest for a double-bye.

Games against St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis are of the utmost importance, as well, as both the Bonnies and the Billikens are tied with Duquesne in the league’s standings.

St. Bonaventure topped Duquesne on Feb. 6, giving the Bonnies the tiebreaker over the Dukes for the time being. Dropping another game to St. Bonaventure would not only drop Duquesne one game further in the standings, but would also give the Bonnies complete ownership of the tiebreaker between the two squads.

Once the regular season is complete, the conference’s 14 teams will be set for Brooklyn, New York, where the A-10 Championship Tournament begins on March 13.

Until then, Dukes fans should be watching for several things — chief among them being the team’s overall health.

Freshman guard Sincere Carry’s well-documented knee troubles are already cause for worry amongst Duquesne fans, plus Mike Hughes’ (knee) and Tavian Dunn-Martin’s (ankle) discomforts.

All three benefited from an idle week that hasn’t seen DU play since a Feb. 16 win over George Washington.