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Thursday April 25 2019
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Stuck in Neutral

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Despite their fourth tournament win in the past four decades, the arrow is not yet pointing up for Duquesne.

Yes, Duquesne won Wednesday night in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational, but it’s hardly a cause for celebration. Not yet.

It was an ugly win. They gave up 112 points, including 80 in the second half. Duquesne did not score 80 points in 19 of their 33 games this year.

“We shot 76 percent in the second half, 66 percent from three, and we lost the second half by 11,” head coach Jim Ferry said.

Yeesh.

It’s hard to believe, but at the end of January, this team was in great shape. Yes, they were down their captain Jeremiah Jones, but they were sitting pretty as the calendar turned to February. The Dukes were 15-7, 5-4 in conference play, winners of five of their last six and three of their next four were at home.

It looked like they could win 20 games. Twenty wins and a strong showing in the A10 tournament should have been enough to make it to the NIT. Look at Davidson: 6th in the A10, two tournament wins, 20 in total. They played in the NIT.

Instead, the Dukes ended their season losers of nine out of their last 10. That includes three straight games where they blew double-digits second half leads, as well as a loss to La Salle in the opening round of the A10 tournament. Not only was La Salle the worst team in the conference this year, but Duquesne beat them by 27 earlier in the season.

And Wednesday, we saw what a promising year and this program had been reduced to. Giving up triple digits to a school people couldn’t point out on a map, in a tournament most probably have never heard of, in front of a home crowd just north of 600.

It’s not as if the arrow is pointing up for the program. Yes, the win total increased this year, but Duquesne will graduate their three best players: Micah Mason, Derrick Colter and Jones. Mason is one of the best 3-point shooters of all-time (entering the day with a .466 career average). Colter started his 124th straight game and has over 1,600 points and 500 assists in his career. Jones was the leader of this team. These are great careers that were squandered and are not easily replaced. That’s not even counting players who left before graduating like Jordan Stevens and TySean Powell.

So what needs to change? Other programs in the city are thriving. Pitt is going dancing for the 13th time in 15 years. Duquesne’s women’s team earned an at-large bid after their best season, and they’ll be joined by the Lady Colonials from Robert Morris. RMU’s men’s team won their First Four game in 2015 to make the NCAA tournament.

Where have the Dukes been? There are plenty of students currently enrolled at the university that have only been alive for one NIT appearance (2009). This is just their fourth tournament win in over 40 years (two of those being CBI games).

The only way the Dukes can salvage this year is to make a run and take this tournament. They are one of the last eight teams standing, so it’s not impossible.

Hanging a banner--even in a small tournament--is the only way to bring validity back to this program this season. If they don’t, they probably will be stuck in neutral at least for another year.

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