If you take a look at the Atlantic 10 standings, you’ll see two teams sitting on top. To nobody’s surprise, one of those teams is the Rhode Island Rams. Danny Hurley and company were the preseason pick to win the league, and so far they have lived up to the hype.
The team tied with URI is one that absolutely nobody saw coming. FOLKS, it is Jan. 5, and the Duquesne Dukes are undefeated in A10 play.
You may be asking yourself why two wins over the Nos. 128 and 176 ranked teams on KenPom is noteworthy. If you’re asking that question, you are obviously not familiar with Duquesne’s recent work.
No program in the league has been dragged through the mud quite like Duquesne has the past few years. A win on Saturday over Fordham will give the Dukes three A-10 wins this season. That would match their total from all of last season. The last time Duquesne had a winning record in conference play was all the way back in 2011 when a scrappy young freshman named T.J. McConnell led the Dukes to a 10-6 fourth-place league finish.
Head Coach Jim Ferry was fired this past offseason after putting together an abysmal 21-65 record in A-10 play and never finishing higher than 10th in the league. Things went from bad to worse when Duquesne struggled mightily to get anyone to agree to be their head coach. It got so bad, in fact, that friend of the site Mark Titus threw his hat into the ring and seemed to be the only person in the country who actually wanted the job.
Let's end this nonsense @DuqMBB. I will take the job and start today for half of what you're offering everyone who keeps turning you down.— Mark Titus (@clubtrillion) March 24, 2017
Somehow, Dave Harper was eventually able to convince Keith Dambrot to leave an Akron team that was coming off back-to-back MAC championships. After an 11-4 start to his tenure, Dambrot’s hire appears to be paying off in spades. Sure, Duquesne has played one of the worst schedules of any team in the country, but when you haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in over 40 years, you celebrate the small things.
I don’t care that’s it’s only been two games, I don’t care that they’ve played a glorified high school schedule, I don’t even care that KenPom has them projected to lose to Fordham this weekend. I’m ready to say it: Duquesne is back, and there is nothing you can do about it.
The Dukes are one of the most balanced teams in the league, with four players averaging over 12 points per game. Freshman Eric Williams Jr. is the leading the conference in rebounding as a 6’5 shooting guard. Together Williams, Mike Lewis II and Rene Castro-Caneddy make up one of the most dangerous back courts in the A-10.
Is Duquesne going to continue its brief period of dominance over the rest of the league? It’s hard to say. The most likely answer is no, but that doesn’t mean Duquesne fans shouldn’t be excited about the future. The Dukes are young, fun and potentially dangerous. To top it all off, they have the best coach in the greater Pittsburgh area (no offense Andrew Toole, yes offense Kevin Stallings).