PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – The last two seasons were going to be the turn of Duquesne basketball. The Dukes were rolling into March of 2020, 21-9 and a shot of at least some post-season tournament, if not a first NCAA tournament since the 1970s.
Almost everyone back this year, the Dukes again had high expectations. Yet COVID-19 didn’t leave, it intensified. The team had to shut down for over a month and then a latest stretch of 18 days in-between games.
Add to that the new building delays and playing all but one home game in a Division 3 gym miles from campus. Plus, the starting point guard transferred and a couple of other players left or haven’t played much of the season.
Oh, and now the season shortened by a week so the Atlantic 10 could start its tournament early.
“It’s been a miserable experience for them,” Duquesne head coach Keith Dambrot said of his team who were able to get back to a full practice Monday for the first time since playing their last game.
“Playing 13 games on February the 18th is ridiculous, mentally and not having a college experience is ridiculous mentally. We need to make sure we have fun. That’s the most important thing is to go out and have fun. If we have fun, we will win our share of games.”
Practice has been no fun, before Monday they were only able to work five players on the court due to contact tracing and when they do practice, it’s for a shorter time. Dambrot has limited practices to an hour as he tries to keep them in some type of shape, but not break their minds.
“It’s hard to practice hard every single day when you don’t know if you are going to play,” Dambrot said. “Normally I wouldn’t like some of the things I see in practice. Nothing is normal this year. It’s just a strange year.”
The Dukes are 7-6 on the season and Dambrot says they can compete with every team in the conference. Unfortunately, the Dukes only get three more games before the A-10 tournament starts on March 3.
“(Duquesne AD) Dave Harper and I discussed this at length,” Dambrot said. “I don’t think it’s good for us, but it’s good for the league. We have to bite the bullet for the league.”
Dambrot and his team scheduled to play at Richmond Saturday at 4:30p.
Who knows if the game will happen? I hate to speculate what obstacle might be next for this program. It’s been a road full of potholes.
Duquesne basketball has turned the corner. When will it get to enjoy a smooth straightaway?