Akron, OH — Wednesday, the Duquesne women’s basketball team released its non-conference schedule.
Here is a glimpse of said schedule:
Nov. 6 @ TCU
Nov. 8 @ Texas
Nov. 12 vs Mount St. Mary’s
Nov. 18 @ Toledo
Nov. 25 @Saint Francis PA
Nov. 28 @ Kent State
Dec. 5 @ Penn State
Dec. 12 vs Central Florida
Dec. 16 vs ETSU
Dec. 21 vs Syracuse (St. Pete Shootout at Eckerd College)
Dec. 22 vs Liberty (St. Pete Shootout at Eckerd College)
Dec. 29 vs Pitt
Jan. 2 vs Temple
Last year, Duquesne missed the NCAA Tournament and some of this was blamed on RPI’s beyond the team’s control, most notably a loss to Charlotte, although the loss to a Saint Joseph’s team which was just returning to full health also hurt the Dukes chances before a final setback against Saint Louis at the Atlantic 10 Championships put any chance of an NCAA Tournament bid to rest.
This non-conference schedule is filled with high RPI teams which made the WNIT and in Liberty, Syracuse and Texas’s cases, the NCAA Tournament.
“The goal of every team is to make the NCAA Tournament,” Duquesne women’s basketball coach Dan Burt said. “For us, it is realistic, for 275 teams it’s not really a realistic goal. With the talent we have and our schedule, our expectation is the NCAA Tournament. We’re in a situation where last year I put that on me. The schedule was not prepared properly. We have two or three 300-RPI games that should not have been on our schedule and I take 100% blame for that. You can’t schedule 300 RPI and help yourself, especially where our league is at this point. In the Saint Louis game, we failed, simple as that. If you don’t have the 300 RPI and fail in the Saint Louis game, you are in the proper position. We learned from that and won’t be in that position this year.”
The above schedule includes some rematches from last season’s slate including Toledo, Saint Francis, ETSU and of course the annual City Game against Pitt. Duquesne went 3-1 against this quartet of teams last season.
This year’s City Game is reportedly the last in the current agreement, though perhaps with Pitt’s hire of Lance White the rivalry can be renewed and have a different feel to it. Duquesne has won eight of the past nine meetings against Pitt.
The game against Saint Francis will be another opportunity to reunite with Red Flash assistant coach Vanessa Abel who was part of one of the Dukes’ most successful graduating class.
Duquesne’s road games against TCU and Texas show Burt’s mentality of having a desire to play any team at any time. DYSTNow.com broke the news of the Texas game and that contest comes against a team which finished last season ranked 10 in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll and with the 12th-best RPI in NCAA Division I.
Mount St. Mary’s last played Duquesne in the 2014 WNIT, a home game the Dukes won by a 62-52 score. Kent State is also a familiar opponent as Duquesne has won the last three meetings including an 86-80 victory win Dec. 3, 2014.
Duquesne has not played Penn State since Nov. 22, 2005 and is 0-16 lifetime against the Lady Lions.
Central Florida is an opponent Duquesne has never faced, one of three of those this season. UCF had a 22-11 season which included a WNIT berth.
Duquesne will face Syracuse and Liberty, both late schedule additions, in Florida as part of the St. Pete Shootout which will be held at Eckerd College.
Syracuse has defeated Duquesne in all three previous meetings including a 90-84 contest Nov. 19. Syracuse has played both George Washington and Rhode Island in recent seasons.
Liberty was 24-10 last season, losing to Tennessee in first round NCAA Tournament play.
All of this schedule will join the already confirmed Atlantic 10 home and road contests which for Duquesne, split as follows.
Home: Davidson, Dayton, Richmond, Saint Louis and VCU
Road: Fordham, George Mason, La Salle, UMass and Rhode Island
Play Twice: George Washington, St. Bonaventure and Saint Joseph’s
It is clear as Burt stated above that the goal is a second NCAA Tournament berth.
“They want to be challenged to be the best or what is perceived as the best,” said Burt. “Anytime you can challenge yourself against name opponents like Texas and Syracuse and the others that are on the schedule, is a really great thing for your program. We are not playing directional schools or the below-300 RPI schools. It’s a schedule where we have an RPI and strength of schedule that could make it as an at-large in the NCAA Tournament.”
This year has a different dynamic to it as the season has been moved up a week and it creates an adjustment to practice times and how often to practice.
“It really gives you a lot more flexibility and rest time,” Burt said. “We could start practice on Sept. 25 and I think that is insanity for a team that is expecting to play until late-March. We’re looking at starting practice a little later. We can practice 30 times in 40 days, but do you have to practice 30 times or is 28 good enough? I like how the schedule is set up for time off and rest periods. The biggest challenge will be November early on. We’ll have things going on with the arena which will limit some time we can get in our own and practice. Everyone has their issues, we’ll figure it out.”
One thing which could help Duquesne is its experience as it lost one senior to graduation. Burt does not hide the fact that this is the most veteran team he has coached.
“How do you keep it fresh, how do you keep it fun,” asked Burt. “We have to do that while they learn but that goes for the staff too. The assumption is that they always know. It is my responsibility as a head coach to build repeatable systems for our basketball program and every year I have to take those repeatable systems and refine them based on our talent, experience and personnel.”
Going into overtime
Something which got some attention was Burt’s one-game suspension following postgame remarks directed towards the game’s officials that he made at the Atlantic 10 Championships. He acknowledged his remarks to DYSTNow.com in this, his first public comment on the matter.
“They’re professionals, we’re professionals,” he said. “I don’t dislike officials, I dislike their calls. I haven’t given it one iota of thought after I wrote the check for the fine. It’s over and done with. I think you have to protect your player, always. I’m going to do it on the floor and not in the press conference. I’ve been told by various people that my press conferences are entertaining and a little bit more inciteful than the typical press conferences. You want that and it feeds your ego a little bit. I want my press conferences to be inciteful too because you want to build a fan base that way. I certainly learned a lesson that you can’t be cute and criticize officials. I tried to get cute and got a hand slap for it. It was an expensive hand slap and I won’t do it again.”