Schedule Not Getting Any Easier Just Yet

By Steve DiMiceli

The Dukes have now lost 5 in a row and 6 of their last 7. Five of the six losses came on the road. With the Dukes mired in one of their deepest slumps in years, the schedule isn't getting any easier just yet. It actually gets more challenging first even though Duquesne returns to Pittsburgh for two next week.

Generally, college basketball teams look forward to their home arena to help stop the bleeding of an extended losing streak. Unfortunately, Duquesne is looking at a deadly home stand this coming week against two of the top teams not just in the league but in the country. Coming into the season, I had St Louis as my number two team in the A-10 and VCU number five. St Louis has struggled a little with the loss of Coach Rick Majerus and a preseason injury to PG Kwamain Mitchell, but the Bilikens should dance and have already gotten some consideration for the Top 25 this season.  VCU is looking like a team that could do damage deep into the NCAA tournament this season. They are leading the nation in steals and are turning their opponents over on 30.7% of the their possessions. Those two along with Temple and Butler make up the top tier of the A-10. St Joe's, UMass Charlotte and Lasalle are a step down, but all look like strong NIT teams.

Needless to say, the Dukes don't have much of a chance of getting back on the winning track next week but the schedule does lighten up a little after that. While the Dukes will face two tough road tests in Dayton and Olean, the Dukes should have a realistic but not great chance in 9 of their final 11 games. I particularly like their chances at home against George Washington, Rhode Island and St Bonaventure and I think they have a decent chance against Xavier. I don't think it's out of the question that they steal a road win either.  Really, the only games I think they have no chance in are at Butler and Temple.

Realistically, I can't see the Dukes winning more than five games the rest of the way and it would take a lot of things going right for that to happen. Three or four is a lot more likely. The outlook is dismal right now, but come this time next week, the Dukes will have the worst of their A-10 schedule in the rear view mirror. If they maintain their effort the rest of the way, I think they have at least a few more wins in them.