Last week, I broke down the uncertainty still remaining in the Duquesne schedule and predicted that the Dukes would go light on their degree of difficulty. A couple of days later, the actual docket came out and it turns out I was correct. One regional series against WVU ended to make way for a low major and an easy win. None of the series that ended last year were replaced by anyone more challenging. However, no one should be surprised that the slate of non – conference opponents is engineered to be softer than a pillow as plenty of signs were there ahead of time
The coaching staff likely scheduled to pad wins, gain experience and nurture confidence against lower division foes. Truthfully, the Dukes would need to botch this opportunity if they didn’t start A-10 play with at least 8 wins. On top of that, the home schedule is particularly easy with the Dukes only going on the road once to play a lower division foe. The average non – conference opponent headed for the AJ Palumbo finished last season with an average Kenpom rating of 317.5. On top of that, they play Division II Bluefield St in an exhibition that sort of counts.
Of course, the Dukes will have challenging three game, in state set dead in the middle of the non – conference against Pitt, Penn St and Robert Morris. It will be difficult to get an assessment of this team until they hit this part of their schedule as I suspect they’ll be an easy 5-0 when they tip off the city game. That said, I expect these three games to be a bit more difficult than last season as they travel to face an improved Penn St team and go to the Sewell Center to face the Colonials. Pitt should also take steps forward.
While there has been plenty of talk about the opponents themselves, we haven’t heard much about when the games are schedules. The Dukes don’t kick off their regular season until November 15 against Bluefield St. By that date last season, the Dukes had already played in two games and were only two days away from traveling to Morgantown for their third. In total, the Dukes will only play in three November contests as opposed to five last year. Most teams begin a little later, but Jim Ferry may have engineered the rest of the first month to maximize his practice time before the schedule really heats up with eight games in December. While that seems like a lot, the Dukes will have the benefit of staying within three hours of campus by bus for the entire month.
Sure the schedule looks like an RPI / SOS killer, but the Dukes will be doing what they can to bring wins into conference play. If they take eight, they did their job. If they bring more, they’ll have truly helped the league non conference. Besides, the strength of the A-10 over eighteen games should balance it out out the softies. It did in sixteen games last season. The Dukes had the 333rd most challenging out of conference strength of schedule entering conference play according to RPI Forecast and they should be in that ball park again this year. By the time they bowed out in Brooklyn, strength of schedule improved to 132nd.
The schedule fits what the Dukes need this coming season to maximize their potential by the time league play kicks off and to build momentum heading into the all important fourth season. While Duquesne fans will hate to admit it, the Dukes are still probably a year away. However with a very realistic eight wins OOC followed by seven in the Atlantic 10, the Dukes could coast to a very comfortable feeling 15-15 which basically puts them in line with a normal, low 100’s Ron Everhart finish many have longed for. I would gladly take that at this stage in development, but I hope the actual players and coaches have their sites set higher.
Tags: Duquesne Dukes