Addison Smith | Sports Editor
Once again, the Duquesne women’s basketball has to endure lofty expectations. However, this time they’re doing so under a new coach, new teammates and new conference foes.
The Dukes were picked to finish third overall in the Atlantic 10 in the preseason ranking while senior forwards Wumi Agunbiade and Orsi Szecsi were named to the preseason first and second teams, respectively.
However, the Dukes just haven’t been as vibrant this season as expected. Yes, Agunbiade has been a bright spot and senior Raegan Moore had a complete transformation over the summer to become the Red & Blue’s go-to girl for scoring. Yes, their non-conference schedule was difficult they played women’s basketball powerhouse Notre Dame in Toronto (a game that they lost 100-61, their largest losing margin this season).
What the Dukes are truly missing is that defensive edge they had over teams last season. They lost Jocelyn Floyd, who led the nation in steals last season, to graduation as well as Vanessa Abel. Both Floyd and Abel were capable of creating turnovers and ensuring the Red & Blue held onto the ball for the majority of the game.
Though only a mid-major conference, the Atlantic 10 has a lot of talent this year that will make it harder for the Dukes to compete. Conference preseason favorite Dayton is 7-4 overall and certainly not as good as expected, but other veteran conference opponents such as Fordham (13-2) and St. Joseph’s (11-3) are strong.
Add in Virginia Commonwealth University in their second year of Atlantic 10 play and 14-1 overall and you can see that Duquesne has some competition to be elite in this conference this season. This is especially true after the Dukes ended up losing to VCU 71-68 Saturday evening at the A.J. Palumbo Center.
But no need to start nailing Duquesne’s coffin shut. No need to wonder, “What if Suzie McConnell-Serio hadn’t left nearly overnight last April?”
We do need to look at Duquesne women’s basketball realistically for the first time in a while. With McConnell-Serio and former players Alex Gensler, Abel and Floyd, the Dukes were unstoppable, or so it seemed. Now, the Wo-Show is still going strong and Moore is definitely adding a spark to the Dukes’ fire, even if though the team is not as complete as it once was.
Given what head coach Dan Burt has and what he’s made of it, it’s not him that we should be worried about. In fact, he was the one who made this schedule last year when he was McConnell-Serio’s assistant. He knew going into the season what he had undertaken.
This isn’t a call for anyone’s head but rather a call for reality. The past few years, the Dukes seemed destined to make it far into the postseason and make the NCAA Tournament. However, last year in what many call a snub they were left out of the pool and accepted a spot in the WNIT for the fifth season in a row.
Numbers aside, the Duquesne women’s basketball team is good, very good actually. But once again, it may not be their year. Under a new coach and heavily veteran presence, the key will be to peak near the end of conference play heading into the tournament in Richmond to compete for the conference’s automatic bid and a ticket to the NCAA Tournament come the month of March.
Because as the Dukes have seen in years past, it’s not how well you play in January but rather in March that matter the most when Selection Monday rolls around.