Breaking Down the OOC schedule

By Steve DiMiceli

With all due respect to our out of conference opponents, our schedule on paper looks pretty easy and that's putting it politely. Two opponents are in their first year of Division I basketball. One is playing its second. Five had an RPI an higher than 290. The Dukes have a schedule that is tailor made to pad the win column but not their SOS before A-10 play begins. So what should we expect?

Games I would be shocked if the Dukes lost

11/9 Abilene Christian
11/13 New Hampshire
12/4 UMBC
12/17 @ St Francis (PA)
12/21 @ UMass - Lowell
12/29 @ Texas Pan - Am
1/29 @ NJIT

Again, this is no slight to the schools I'm highlighting under this category and yes, I understand that Duquesne finished with an RPI in the 220's last year so we shouldn't have much room to talk. However, I do think Duquesne will have an improved team and that improved team ought to be able to take care of business against these seven schools even if four come on the road. Abilene Christian and UMass Lowell are in their first year of D-I so they'll be fielding a transitional roster in all likelihood. New Hampshire struggled last year and is losing two of their three leading scorers. Same goes for UMBC. St Francis fields a young team after their  leading scorer Umar Shannon transferred to Quinnipiac for his final year of eligibility. In spite of being in their second year in D-I, Texas Pan-Am graduated 63% of their scoring and 41% of their rebounding. NJIT loses their top three scorers. While I really believe they are trying to build a respectable program, I don't see them taking steps forward this year.

So why play these games or better yet, why play these games on the road? I firmly believe they were scheduled to help the young Dukes learn and implement Jim Ferry's system, build some confidence and chemistry and take some low pressure trips before conference play when the games count. A 7-0 record during this stretch will not really be reflective of how strong the Dukes are this season, but it will help improve perseption as well and hopefully build a little excitement. I doubt that our fan base could have endured another single digit win season and these games should virtually ensure that won't happen again.

Games the Dukes Should Win

11/20 Albany
12/11 Penn St (at CEC)
1/2 Appalachian St

The Dukes went 1-2 against this group last season on the road. They lost to Albany by three in the season opener and beat Appy St in Boone by one for their only non conference road win. The Penn St game got away from the Dukes at the end of the first half and looked out of hand mid way through the second half. The Dukes did manage to cut a twenty - two point deficit to five but ultimately came up short.

Albany returns only one of their opening day starters from last year, but they had plenty of depth in reserve. The Great Danes had ten men average ten minutes or more last season. Without the depth, they'd be in the previous category. It might be surprising to some that I included Penn St among the games we should win especially with PG Tim Frazier returning, but I look at the make up of their potential lineups and I see a favorable matchup for the Dukes. While the Penn St guards will be a hand full, the Dukes should have a size advantage. Sasha Borovnjak, who gave the Dukes plenty of trouble inside, moved on as did Jermaine Marshall. Former walk on, Nick Collela, who managed to have a career day off the bench, graduated. They have a talented freshman class including Shaler's Geno Thorpe who should factor in, but I like the Dukes in what figures to their biggest home game before New Year's. Appy St was the lone win of this group but I expect them to be an improved team that could test the Dukes in Pittsburgh. The Mountaineers eventually went 15-16 last year following a 2-8 start and lost only their leading scorer Nathan Healy. Jay Canty should be dangerous again, but I suspect the Dukes will have the fire power to win.

Tough but Winnable

11/17 @ WVU
12/14 Robert Morris

The Dukes split these two games last season beating the Mountaineers while getting thrashed by the Colonials.

I think Bob Huggins has been building a decent A-10 team over the last couple of years even if he coaches in the Big 12. The Mountaineers are largely rebuilt from last year having a mass exodus of transfers along with some losses through graduation. They have a strong set of guards. Their post play will largely be left to guys who lurk the perimeter like Aaric Murray, JUCO Remi Dibo and a decent, but not great looking crop of freshman based on what I've seen at the Pro-Am. I expect another tough season for the West Virginia. Robert Morris was among the "Games the Dukes Should Win" before they got off to a hot start in the summer league. Karvell Anderson and Lucky Jones are both looking like they should dominate the NEC. Mike McFadden is looking strong as well. I didn't think Lijah Thompson was returning but it turns out he is. It pains me to put Robert Morris in this category and think there is a strong chance that we could lose again to them this year. I wouldn't be very objective if I didn't.

Upset If We Win

vs 11/30 vs Pitt (at CEC)

I think the city game will be more competitive sooner than later, but I don't think this is the year.

I'd like to take the time here to complain about the scheduling of the game though. I really don't understand why you play it over Thanksgiving weekend when a lot of students and even some alums will be out of town. This is the biggest game on our schedule and it feels like its just being squirreled away on a bad weekend. Bottom line, it should always be played on the first Wednesday of December.


I've seen some people complaining about the difficulty of the out of conference schedule. My response to that is two fold. First, it serves a purpose. Second, the A-10 schedule is going to make up for it. The Dukes play five games against the teams I project to lock down the top three in the conference, VCU, St Louis and Lasalle. They go on the road for three of those games. They also play conference new boys George Mason twice. While the A-10 is losing a lot thanks to realignment, it will still be a tough, deep league.