Heller: New Year’s resolutions for the Dukes and A-10 preview

Posted on Dec 28 2017 - 12:24pm by Jonny Heller
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Despite knowingly playing a weak non-conference schedule, Keith Dambrot and his Duquesne Dukes are sitting prettier than they thought at 9-4 going into conference play. Photo Credit: Stephanie Strasburg/ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Duquesne wrapped up the non-conference portion of their schedule Saturday with a 74-64 loss to Southern Illinois. The loss didn’t diminish what could be classified as a successful venture outside the conference even if there were some low lows. With the new year and the conference season on the horizon, I decided to give my new year’s resolutions for Duquesne basketball and take a stab at how the Dukes will fare in conference play.

New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. More offense from the post players — The Dukes will need more of a scoring presence inside if they want to be successful in the Atlantic 10 this year. Right now, the duo of Jordan Robinson and Chas Brown are averaging a combined 9.2 points per game. That number needs to increase to take pressure off the Dukes’ guards, who are doing all the scoring thus far.
  2. Consistent free-throw shooting — Free throws are free! Duquesne currently sits at 69.4 % on the season from the charity stripe. This has been a frustrating stat for Dukes fans for many years. Free throw shooting is mental and we’ve seen some strides taken recently. Here’s to hoping that upward trend continues.
  3. More fan support — The crowds at the A.J. Palumbo Center have been far below the line this year. This is nothing new, but it needs to change fast. Palumbo can be an intimidating place to play if the house is filled with rowdy fans that love their team. The fans who show up are amazing and boisterous, but there needs to be more of that to make it a rough environment. The student turnout has been hugely underwhelming as well. Again, this is not new to the program but a culture change needs to be made. When I was a student at Duquesne in the not too distant past, it wasn’t uncommon to see many students dressed in Pitt gear. A sense of school pride needs to be instilled in the students the second they walk on campus. A great basketball program makes your degree more valuable! Students, pack the Palumbo and give this team the support it deserves.

Now let’s take a stab at what Atlantic 10 play holds for the Dukes, shall we? It’s no secret that the Atlantic 10 is a bit down this year. It’s a good year for that to happen for the Dukes. With a young team, this is an opportunity for the Dukes to steal games that normally wouldn’t while they bridge the gap to 2018-2019. The hype for next season is legitimate for next season, but the Dukes can make noise this year if some bounces go their way. All that being said, I’m going to try my best to predict the results of the upcoming conference slate.

Capital One Arena, home to the Washington Capital and Wizards, plays host to the 2018 A-10 tournament. Photo Credit: Fox 5 D.C.

12/30 vs Dayton –– Dayton is down this season with a new coach and many new faces, but this will still be a tall task to ask from the Dukes. I’ll put this one in the loss column but wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up as a win.

01/03 vs George Washington — GW has some very nice wins this season over Temple and Harvard, but I will take the Dukes here.

01/06 at Fordham — Fordham has been disappointing this year, but have played some strong teams in their non-conference slate. A conference road game is always tough, but I like Duquesne in this one.

01/09 at VCU — Duquesne has not beaten the Rams since they moved to the Atlantic 10. That won’t change this year.

01/13 vs La Salle — La Salle has looked very good at points this year B.J. Johnson and Pookie Powell in the backcourt. This one could go either way, but I will take Duquesne here with hopes Mike Lewis and one of either Tarin Smith or Rene Castro-Caneddy can neutralize La Salle’s backcourt scoring punch.

01/17 at Saint Louis — Another road game and another tough out. The Billikens have a strong, young nucleus to pair with Michigan State transfer Javon Bess and returner Davell Roby. Mike Lewis will have another strong outing in his hometown, but this one looks like a loss to me.

01/20 vs George Mason — George Mason has some serious talent on hand with Otis Livingston II and Jaire Grayer but only have an eight-man rotation. This is penciled in as a win.

01/24 vs Richmond — Richmond has had Duquesne’s number for years, but the Spiders flat out stink this year. Here’s another victory.

01/27 at Rhode Island — URI is the class of the league at this point. This one will not be going the Dukes way.

01/31 at George Washington — Like the previous matchup with GW, this is a toss-up. If it’s a toss-up, I will go with the home team.

02/03 vs St. Bonaventure — The Bonnies are a very good ball club with the backcourt of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley. Adams is one of the best guards in the country and the Dukes will have trouble containing him. I’ll go with a loss here.

02/07 at Dayton -– A date at UD Arena is a lot to ask of any team, much less a young team. The Dukes keep this one competitive but ultimately fall like most teams do in Dayton.

02/10 vs Fordham — This is a win. Not much more to say.

02/17 at St Joe’s -– Hagan Arena is a tough place to play, but St. Joe’s has been very underwhelming this year. This is a road game I have the Dukes stealing.

02/21 at St. Bonaventure — See above. They do have a Tim Horton’s in Olean though which makes the drive worth it.

02/24 vs Davidson — I don’t know what to make of Davidson. They haven’t beaten a good team all year and don’t play great defensively. Bob McKillop is still Bob McKillop and his team is going to score points. This will be a great litmus test to see how far the Dukes have come defensively. This will be close, but I must predict Davidson as of now.

02/28 vs Saint Louis — The Dukes win on senior day against the Billikens to avenge the January loss.

03/03 at UMASS — The regular season finale is very intriguing as both the Dukes and the Minutemen boast a strong, young core. This is another road game I can see the Dukes stealing. You can put this in as a win, don’t use a pen though.

That puts the Dukes at 7-11 in conference play and with a 16-15 record overall. This would be an overwhelming success for Keith Dambrot and something to build on going into 2018-2019.

I hope you all have a wonderful new year and keep on #trustingthedambrocess.