2019-20 Record: 21-9 (11-7)
Key Returning Players: Tavian Dunn-Martin, Maceo Austin, Lamar Norman Jr., Marcus Weathers, Sincere Carry, Michael Hughes,
Key Losses: Baylee Steele
Key Newcomers: Tyson Acuff, Mike Bekelja, Chad Baker, Toby Okani, Andre Harris
SHOO-SHOO RAH-RAH THE DUKES ARE HERE TO PLAY!
I have been a Duquesne fan my whole life. My dad’s a graduate. My grandfather worked there for 30-some years before retiring. I have not been this excited about a Dukes team since I was in elementary school.
If you did not know…. I am currently in college. That is a long time. Not nearly as long as their NCAA Tournament drought though. That ages back to 1977.
There’s reason to be optimistic. The Dukes return all five of their starters and have improved every year under Keith Dambrot.
Dambrot also brings in one of the greatest recruiting classes in school history, as the Dukes set to open up their refurbished arena during conference play.
2018 Year in Review: President Gormley, @GoDuquesne's Dave Harper and Chuck Cooper III unveil new UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse and athletics facility renovation https://t.co/vbavGNnk5c #GoDukes pic.twitter.com/PNnYnNQKWH— Duquesne University (@duqedu) December 28, 2018
Can the Dukes finally break their tournament drought?
3 Things to Watch
The Dukes are currently slated to play their toughest schedule yet in the Dambrot era, not that It’s saying a lot. Duquesne has had three awful non-conference schedules under Dambrot, each ranking in the bottom 50 of KenPom’s rankings. But that is how you build a program. By winning.
So far, the Dukes have three non-conference games released, all against top 150 teams in KenPom. Those are against Little Rock, Winthrop, and UNCG.
Little Rock returns their top three scorers from last year, including Preseason Player of the Year, Ruot Monyyong. The Trojans are favorites to win the Sun Belt once again, and are ranked 133rd in KenPom.
Winthrop is once again the favorite to win the Big South, finishing last season with a 20-13 record. The Eagles return 2019-20 Big South Freshman of the Year, D.J Burns, and are currently ranked 132nd in KenPom.
UNCG had an impressive 23-9 record a year ago. The Spartans are currently ranked 95th in KenPom and return their go-to-guy and 2019-20 SoCon Player of the Year, Isaiah Miller.
Another potential MTE with Cincinnati, Loyola (IL), and a team to be determined in Indianapolis could go a long way for a potential resume as well. The only problem is, Loyola is currently under quarantine because of COVID-19. That event in Indianapolis could turn into just a game against a good Cincinnati team...or nothing at all.
This serves up the question for Pitt’s Heather Lyke and Jeff Capel. Play Duquesne?
They have a top 100 opponent across town in Duquesne that has been adamant about playing. Any place, any time. It is the only smart thing to do amid a pandemic. Play the closest teams possible. A win does a lot for either program, a loss really doesn’t hurt. I do not make the decisions, though.
Pitt has announced three non-conference games, all of them at home:— Craig Meyer (@CraigMeyerPG) November 13, 2020
Nov. 25: Saint Francis (Pa.)
Nov. 28: Drexel
Dec. 12: Gardner-Webb
Along with the matchup with Northwestern in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the Panthers are expected to have one other non-conference game
Duquesne quietly ran an efficient offense last year. It was ranked as the fourth-most efficient in the A-10 behind two tournament teams (Dayton, Richmond) and an always well-run team in Bob McKillop’s Davidson.
It all starts with Michael Hughes. A season ago, the big man from Kansas City shot 60.1% from two-point range, picking up the 81st best eFG% in the country. He was also top 200 in the land in offensive rating.
Hughes had four double-doubles a season ago and is on pace to be the best percentage shooter in Duquesne history.
His guard and fellow Kansas City native, Marcus Weathers, is almost as efficient as Hughes. Weathers shot an even more impressive 60.5% from two-point range a season ago, and was 81st in the country in OR%.
Off the bench, Tavian Dunn-Martin took a boatload of shots. That can sometimes amount to a poor shooting percentage, but Dunn-Martin shot an impressive 35% from behind the arc last season. Lamar Norman was not too far behind at 33.9%, and Sincere Carry at 33.6%.
Carry was also 102nd in the nation in assist rate.
The Dukes only scored fewer than 60 points five times during the 2019-20 season, winning three of those games.
Out of the 150 starts for Duquesne a season ago, 148 remain on the roster. The Dukes also only lose 16% of their playing time a year ago.
What they lose is nothing big. Everyone but Baylee Steele was on the bottom of the stat sheet. Dambrot hopefully has brought in players who can overtake that from a stellar recruiting class.
Nearly all the players they bring in had multiple high- to high-mid-major offers, and that just adds onto the major output their returning starting five and top two bench players bring back.
You might say… “X-Factor? He was their third-leading scorer last year.”
Well, Hughes did not make an Atlantic 10 Preseason team. His fellow teammates, Carry and Hughes, rightfully did.
For a player to be ranked top 10 in the country in block percentage and 58th in steal percentage, and not make his conference’s Preseason All-Defensive team is honestly crazy. No matter the level of play.
To add on to that, he was in the top 25 of seven other KenPom ratings within the conference.
He might honestly not be overlooked in games, but he is by the media and coaches when it comes to top players in this packed league.