Addison Smith | Opinions Editor
Two years ago, Belma Nurkic, April Robinson and the rest of the women’s basketball team had high hopes to make the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Dukes finished 24-8 overall with only three conference losses in the regular season. They were a classic bubble team, and then on selection Monday their bubble popped. The Dukes were WNIT bound for the fifth season in a row.
Fast forward two years later on March 16, 2015. The Duquesne women’s basketball team was considered a bubble team once again, and once again they were not selected for the NCAA Tournament. However, Nurkic and Robinson weren’t upset after learning they had clinched the Atlantic 10’s automatic berth to the WNIT, and the heartbreak they endured two years ago is why.
“I had a similar feeling my sophomore year,” Nurkic said. “Just not seeing your name up there makes you go ‘aww.’ I guess we didn’t have a big win. Pitt got in, we beat them, but other than that it was 50-50. The way I’m looking at it now is that this is another tournament we can win. We just have to prepare for this.”
Robinson, who leads the team in scoring for the season with 13.9 points per game, said that she is just happy to still be playing, no matter the stage.
“I kind of was prepared from my freshman year and what happened there,” Robinson said. “I kind of figured if we didn’t make it to the [A-10] Championship game, we weren’t going to go [to the NCAA Tournament]. [ESPN] actually showed the bubble teams, and we weren’t even on there. I talked to my dad and I said ‘I’m just happy to put on a Duquesne uniform against this season to finish out my junior year.’”
The Red & Blue finished third in the A-10, falling to Dayton in the A-10 Championship semifinals. They finished the season 21-10 overall and 12-4 in the conference, with a win over Suzie McConnell-Serio and Pitt on their tournament resume. This is the seventh consecutive season in which the Dukes finished with 20 or more wins and a trip to the postseason.
The Dukes were ranked 46th in RPI, and coach Dan Burt said when teams the Dukes weren’t even considering to be competition for spots began to be announced, that’s when the Red & Blue anticipated the automatic WNIT bid.
“It was LSU, Arkansas, Iowa State and Tulane, when you saw those four the death bell was ringing,” Burt said. “Something was ringing and it wasn’t a good thing whatever it was … At the end of the day, we always know it’s going to be a 50-50 chance. Three out of the last five years, we’ve been on that bubble and we have to figure out something to get us over that. Maybe it’s one more win, maybe scheduling a more difficult schedule, even though our schedule was the second most difficult in our history. We have to figure out something.”
The Dukes will take on the Youngstown State Penguins in Youngstown, Ohio at 7:05 p.m. tonight in the first round of the WNIT. The Penguins finished in fourth place in the Horizon League behind NCAA participant Green Bay, Wright State and Cleveland State. Both WSU and CSU also reached the WNIT. If the Dukes can get past YSU, they will face the winner of the Setson-Richmond matchup in the second round.
In last year’s tournament, Duquesne defeated Mount St. Mary’s at the Palumbo Center in the first round before falling 68-52 against Michigan in Ann Arbor in Wumi Agunbiade’s and Orsi Szecsi’s final games as Dukes.