Can the Dukes Still Get To Brooklyn?

By Steve DiMiceli

Upsetting Temple would have been a surprise to anyone coming into this season. Upsetting them to break an 11 game losing streak is down right shocking. Following the game, Thursday's hero, Derrick Colter, mentioned in his post game interview that the goal for the Dukes was still to qualify for the Atlantic 10 tournament. Body full of adrenaline from the win, my first irrational thought "Yeah, we're going to get there." As the euphoria wore off by eleven o'clock, the comment stuck with me, but the belief did not. Calling the Dukes chances to make the Barclays Center field a long shot would be an understatement.

Let's explore why it's beyond a long shot. Here are the standings for the 11th - 16th place teams:

Richmond 4-6
St Bonaventure 4-6
Dayton 3-7
Rhode Island 2-8
Fordham 2-8
Duquesne 1-9

 With six games to play, the Dukes are 3 games out of the final spot in the tournament. I said before the A-10 season began that Duquesne would need to win six games to seal the final spot in Brooklyn. I said that winning at Fordham was probably a must as was taking four of five against George Washington, Xavier, Rhode Island, Charlotte and St Bonaventure. They've already lost two of those games. I also said they needed to win one true upset. Surprisingly, this is the only thing they've accomplished so far. In my A-10 preview, I suggested they'd need to make up for their missed opportunities by pulling off more upsets. As it stands, the Dukes will need to win five of there final six just to have a chance including winning two of three on the road against Butler, LaSalle and Richmond. 

To build on that point, the Dukes have strength of schedule working against them. Of Richmond, St Bonaventure, Dayton and Duquesne, only the Dukes play more than one current top four team and only Richmond plays one. Should the Spiders, Bonnies, and Flyers each split their final six games, the Dukes are dead in the water even going 5-1. Even if the Spiders or Bonnies falter and Dayton splits, the Dukes are still toast as the Flyers own the head to head tie breaker. 

So how would the Dukes get in? Again, I said they will need to go 5-1 to have a chance. Dayton would need to go 2-4 or worse and one of St Bonaventure and Richmond would need to do the same. The good news is that the Dukes would likely own the tiebreaker over the Spiders or the Bonnies by virtue of head to head win or by best win respectively. 

The Dukes getting the help they'd need seems fairly plausible. While neither Richmond, Dayton or St Bonaventure's schedule is all that challenging, seeing two of those teams go 2-4 would seem pretty reasonable. Expecting the Dukes to go 5-1 would not. 

The good news is that at least one of the players believes it can be done. Maybe having a team of freshman might come in handy because they're still too green to know they're defeated. If the team has fight left, that's all that matters and if it pulls them out of the cellar in the worst case scenario, I'll call that a small victory. At this point, the team has nothing to lose and hopefully, stringing a few wins together at the end of the season will help build some confidence going into next season. Unfortunately, dreams of Brooklyn aren't that practical


Rhode Island Notes:

Its funny how the media's man crush on the Hurleys ended so abruptly. I'm not sure if the media's fleeting love has shifted to the C7 or the Hurley's inability to pull off an absolute miracle first year turn around in Kingston has caused them to back away . Either way, the attention the Rams are getting is no different than it would be if Jim Baron were still in charge at this point.

The Rams are actually better than I expected and are quite capable of an upset or two down the road. Of course, no one would consider them winning at the AJP this evening much of an upset. Xavier Munford has been outstanding at times and fairly consistent. While he's not dropping 25 points every night he's scored in double figures in all but three of their games. The variable with Munford is how efficient he will be in getting to double figures. He's had a few lights out shooting nights but more often than not, he takes a lot of shots to run up his gaudy point totals. The Rams also have weapons in Andre Malone, Nikola Malesevic, and Mike Powell as well as the highly regarded young post players in Jordan Hare. Those five account for roughly 75% of Rhode Islands minutes. Mike Aaman has been ok off the bench but the rest of the team are role players and hold overs from last years miserable team. 

Of course, the Hurley's plan isn't about what happens in year one. It might not even be about what happens in year two. This team has a pretty strong foundation for success and whether or not the media is paying them much attention, the Rams still have a couple of name brand coaches who will have an immediate leg up in the recruiting game. The good news for Rhode Island is that they have a couple of good enough big men to build around over the next three years and an exciting two in EC Matthews and a solid combo forward in Hassan Martin joining the party next year. This is still a program on the rise, but they are certainly not there just yet.

And by the way their chances of making it to Brooklyn in year one are about as good as ours. Doesn't change my mind about where I think their program is heading just like Duquesne's struggles doesn't change my mind about where I think Jim Ferry can take us.