Welcome back to We Wear the Ring everyone! I wanted get us kicked off with an article archetype that should seem familiar to long time readers and even those of you who followed me to TPOP. Over the next three days, I’ll break down Duquesne’s 2018-19 schedule and put their games into five buckets based on how likely I think the Dukes are to win each of them. At the bookends are Upsets if the Dukes Win or Lose. These are games that reasonably should not be competitive one way or the other and while one or two will likely flip, they go into the projection assuming the favorite will take care of business every time. From easiest to most difficult, the remaining games are Games the Dukes Should Win, where I expect them to emerge victorious about 60-84% of the time, Coin Flips, where the Dukes matchup pretty evenly and should win 40-59% of them and finally, Tough but Winnable. The Dukes should only take those 16% – 39% of the time.
Upsets if the Dukes Lose (>85% chance of winning)
vs. UMass – Lowell, vs. Longwood, vs. UMES, vs. Maine
Last season, the Dukes were criticized for loading the non -conference schedule with cupcakes. This year, they really only have four I can pencil into the win column, down from seven in Keith Dambrot’s first campaign. UMass – Lowell graduate their top two scorers, after struggling in the Am-East in 2017-18. They did outperform Maine whose young roster finished 2018 with only 3 conference wins. Neither have much of a shot in Pittsburgh this year. Longwood loses a lot from a team that had a rough season. I think UMES could be the most likely to cause problems with a former MEAC Rookie of the Year returning from injury for a grad year and big man Miryne Thomas growing two inches.
Games the Dukes Should Win (60-85% chance of winning)
vs UIC, vs NJIT, vs. Pitt
I get the jitters when I see NJIT on the schedule after the Dukes’ visit to their Jersey gym a few years back. While they’ve fallen off a bit since Jim Engles went to Columbia, they still slot a tier up from the upsets. They return a fairly veteran group with some size to test the Dukes young front court. UIC reminds me a lot of Cornell from last year in that it’ll be an early season test to the Dukes as they gel. While I’m hopeful every year, I actually rate the Dukes as a clear favorite in the City Game for the first time that I can recall. Duquesne are a year ahead of the Panthers as both programs rebuild from a poor choice for their last head coach.
Coin Flips (40-59% chance of winning)
vs. Radford (in Akron), vs Eastern Kentucky
Radford is a deceptively tough challenge that gets even tougher by the Dukes moving the game to a neutral site. I’d really prefer this one at the AJ Palumbo from a competitive stand point, but I love the idea of using Keith Dambrot and Lebron James’ brand to extend Duquesne’s reach into Ohio. That said, I would have also preferred the Dukes host a more interesting opponent in the City of Tires or whatever the hell Akron’s nickname is. Eastern Kentucky should be a category down but they cap a run of four games in twelve games and follow what should be the toughest non – conference game vs. Penn St. If the Dukes pull off the upset against the Nittany Lion’s, Eastern Kentucky could serve as a classic trap.
Tough but Winnable (16-39% chance of winning)
vs. William and Mary, vs. Marshall
I would prefer Longwood to open the season over William and Mary but you can’t always get what you want. They’re a good mid-major, but this rating changes if it’s a Christmas clash rather than the first test of the year. Marshall starts the season at Kenpom 95 and I wouldn’t favor the Dukes against anyone in the top 100 at the moment even on home court. If this game were scheduled in February rather than December, I might change my rating, but based on timing, this will be a tough one.
Upsets if the Dukes Win (1-15% chance of winnings)
@ Notre Dame, vs. Penn St.
I want to start by saying I love both of these teams on the schedule and I particularly love the Penn St. “home” and away restarting. Bringing a B1G school to Pittsburgh is always a plus. The Dukes need to play these types of games moving forward to boost SOS heading into the regular season especially if the Atlantic 10 continues to languish outside the top 8 in conference RPI. Notre Dame looks down this year, but I’m not holding my breath for a win in South Bend. Penn St. should bring a caliber of team to the PPG Paints Arena we classically saw from Pitt in the City Game. It’s not out of the question they’ll be ranked when they tip this game off.
I’ll have the A-10 slate tomorrow and a wrap up the day after that. If you’d like start doing the math now, go for it!