How the rest of the A-10 schedule sets up

By Steve DiMiceli

 Last season, the Dukes were sitting at 8-0 halfway through the A-10 season. Problem is worst was yet to come for that team. They played 5 at home and met 6 of the bottom 7 teams in the league in RPI during that winning streak. On the horizon were trips to the UD Arena, the Reilly Center, the Robins Center and home showdown with X looming. Even if I was blinded by arrogance, the schedule set up where the second half was far more difficult than the first and it should not have been surprising that Duquesne struggled a little though 2-6 was extreme.

While the swing is not as severe this season, the second half of Dukes season set ups to considerably easier
than the first half. Below is a chart with the RPI of each A-10 opponent as of the end of the day on February 1, 2012.

1st Half Home 1st Half Road 2nd Half Home 2nd Half Road

49 47 124 86

86 22473 13

72 38 202 135

68 73 38 182
Average 68.75 95.5 109.25 104
Half Average 82.13

Since the schedule is neatly split into 4 home and 4 away games in the each half, it makes for tidy comparison. The Dukes played a very difficult home schedule in the first half of the season with every single team having an RPI of 90 or better. As we suspected at the beginning of the season, St Louis would be the only elite team to visit the AJ Palumbo Center this year. However, I did not expect Lasalle or UMass to be where they are now. Thus what appeared to be a relatively easy early season home slate turned into a very difficult one. The average RPI of the second half home opponents is about a 40 places higher. There is less than a 10 position difference in average RPI between the first half and the second half road schedule, but this is largely because of the outliers Rhode Island and Temple skewing the results. Take them out of the equation and the spread becomes over 80 places. Overall, the second half schedule is 24 positions worse.

So what does it all mean. While an overall 9-7 record in the conference is unlikely, I don't think it's out of the question. If this Dukes team was able to go 4-4 with the chance to do better against the difficult first half schedule, they should be about to at least match it in the second half. The only game, I'd call a miracle win would be Temple on the road. Likewise, I'm expecting a win against Fordham, but with Chris Gaston back in the lineup, that team can be dangerous, too. For the sake of argument let's say, the Dukes go 1-1 in those two games. I think going 2-1 in the remaining home games would be a pretty reasonable expectation. The road schedule is where it gets tricky. The Bonnies are yet to lose an A-10 game in Olean, but have lost twice there this season, once to NC St and once to Arkansas St. I doubt the Dukes win there this time. That leaves the road games to Charlotte and George Washington as the make or break. While the RPI looks bad for both teams, I think it's a bit deceptive. GW's only loss at home was to X by one. Tony Taylor has been coming on a bit of late too. Unless, he's excited about playing in Latvia, TT should be motivated to turn some heads down the stretch. Charlotte just looks like a bad matchup to me. I could see the Dukes losing both games, but I think the Dukes are just as likely to win both. In all likelihood, I see a split coming and an overall 8-8 record.

Sound pessimistic? Maybe it is a little bit, but there is one shining light. I doubt the Dukes fully collapse down the stretch again and I see 3-5 as the realistic worst case scenario. On the other hand, I see the 6-2 as the best case scenario which would require either a win against either Bona or St Louis.  I see both as long shots, but I don't think it would be absurd either to split those, maybe a 30-40% chance.  Still with three likely losses, we fans should be happy with 8-8 and thrilled with 9-7.