So what happened?

By Steve DiMiceli
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I've been wrestling over what is going on with the Dukes for a couple of weeks now and I've been trying to pinpoint what exactly has gone wrong at Duquesne since the 8-0 Atlantic 10 start and the loss in Olean. I don't think it's possible that a team can collapse as badly as the Dukes did without a litany of problems. Before the slump began, they were looking down on the conference from the top. They were projected as bubble in for the NCAA by a number of sites, receiving votes in the AP poll. Now they had to fall into a bye  and will need to make another run to the championship to just be considered for the NIT. While there are a lot of naysayers out there who would suggest they saw something like this coming, I can't imagine many would have really thought we'd fall this far.

So what has happened?

1. The schedule got harder

While I think a lot of people overstate this as a reason for the collapse, it's hard to deny that it factored in. A game against the eventual champion, a game against the always tough Richmond, and  games in two of the hardest places to play in the conference resulted in an 0-4. However, the Dukes could've easily taken 2 or 3. There were certainly other things that keyed into the losses aside from difficulty. When you look at the Dukes record against the top 8 in the league, they went 2-0 in the first 8 and 2-4 in final 8. Again some of those losses could have easily been wins as the Dukes were right in it.

2. Ron is in a slump too

His poor timeout management and the team's failure to execute his plays during some close match ups have been widely discussed, but it's safe to argue that Ron is on one of his worst runs as a coach. He's been second guessing himself, making bad decisions and has failed to take control of games when his team needed him to.

3. 3 point shooting has really fallen

This has been particularly true over the past 3 or 4 games, but it is very difficult to compete this late in the A-10 when you're as one dimensional as the Dukes.

4. The team's confidence is shot

It really seemed like no one believed in themselves that they could make the big shot towards the end of the URI game. Lots ill advised dishes where players pass up on open looks, or forced shots at the end of long possessions to avoid a shot clock violation have led to a ton of empty possessions at the end of games and have prevented the Dukes from closing out.

5. Playing under pressure

For the first time for this group and their coach, the Dukes had something at stake in all of their games. This was the first time they were seriously mentioned as a bubble contender as late as they were in the season. Ron Cook christened them as being relevant. They were a win or two away from being ranked. They were getting national attention. They sold 10,000 tickets to a home game and then they wilted.

6. SI jinx

Team is 2-6 since they were here. :) I used to play hockey. I'm very superstitious.

7. Teams are taking away the transition baskets.

I've noticed that teams are really sending only a couple of guys to crash the offensive glass against us and that they're getting everyone who does not have a play on the rebound back on defense quickly. Our number of easy transition baskets has decreased significantly and we've had to work from the half court offense more than we'd like.

Personally, I refuse to believe this team isn't good enough and I do think they can use this week to correct the ship. Like Alan Robinson said, the Dukes need to get back to basics. They need to do the simple things right and the rest should follow. I believe this team has the talent to have a run to the dance, but it remains to be seen if they believe it themselves.

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