Dukes Slight Favorites Sat. Night vs. Dayton

OK folks, guess we need to get used to this. Duquesne is again the favorite, by a single point, in an Atlantic 10 game with one of the premiere programs in the league, the Dayton Flyers who enter the contest with a 15-2 record. Saturday's game will also see the gathering of nearly 60 former Dukes at Palumbo, which is described by an excellent story in today's Trib.

What seems as amazing as the Dukes 12-4 record this season that was expected by most to be a rebuilding year with eight freshmen (seven now that Rodrigo Peggau is out for the season), is the Dukes remain the pick even though senior Aaron Jackson could miss tonight's game. Jackson hasn't practiced since Wednesday's 88-83 comeback win over George Washington.

There are some excellent stories in the papers this morning about this game. Leading off is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's article on the gathering of the former Dukes.

There's a number if nuggets of news in this article, perhaps the biggest is that Adolph Rupp had a lot to do with All-American Jim Tucker coming to the Bluff since Kentucky didn't accept Blacks and Duquesne "... was known as one of the first to accept African-American students."

The article also describes the basketball world in Pittsburgh a half-century ago when Duquesne was a national power, and the number one team in the AP poll for five weeks at the end of the 1953-54 season. The Dukes finished as the runnerup at the 1954 NIT (when IT was The Tournament) and won the NIT title the following season.

Sid Dambrot, a member of that '53-'54 team, told reporter Dave Mackall, "Pittsburgh would (almost) never play us back then. We used to scrimmage against them. The only time we played them was in the Steel Bowl." (emphasis added)

It's now 2008=09 and that same Pitt program is now number one in nation with a 16-0 record, while Duquesne hasn't been to the national postseason since 1994 and to The Tournament, now the NCAAs, since 1977.

The alum are back for a lot of reasons, the biggest perhaps the Duquesne is showing they can play like those great teams from decades back. Having a good head coach who remembers the Dukes from "those glory years" is a big part that makes this possible.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story includes a feature on freshman Melquan Bolding, a legitimate contender for the A-10 Rookie of the Week honor after scoring a season-high (career-high too, natch) 26 points against the Colonials.

This was the first game in which the former Louisville commit put up strong numbers in the second half as well as in the opening 20 minutes.

Wednesday, Bolding had 12 points and three rebounds in the first half and 14 points and three rebounds after the break. In previous games, most of his scoring came in the opening period.

GW head coach Karl Hobbs told the PG:

    "I think right now their guys believe they can beat anybody. I watched a lot of tapes on them, and that's the way they play. That was us three years ago. They remind me of our program when I first got here and we were rebuilding and going step by step."

The Dayton Daily News story reports on the aftermath of the Flyers one-point, come-from-behind win over 2-13 Fordham on Wednesday, when reporter Doug Harris observed:

    "I've never seen a more subdued locker room after a win than what I encountered when I interviewed UD players in the aftermath. A stone-faced Rob Lowery looked like he had just made the play that lost a game, not a clutch drive to pull out a one-point victory."

The team had a players-only meeting the next day. Senior forward Charles Little said, "We had to air some things and get everybody on the same page, get back to the way we were playing in '08, get back on the right track."

The good news for UD -- they had a spirited practice Friday. Frankly, anything less would not be in concert with the quality of this program.

The Springfield News-Sun notes in the outlook section of the game preview:

    "The Dukes have been averaging nearly 80 points per game, but they're not one of the A-10's better defensive teams. The Flyers need to get their transition game going. If not, they probably won't be able to keep pace offensively.

Finally, the News-Sun article includes this quote from UD coach Brian Gregory:

    ""They may be a surprise to some, but not to the coaches in this league or the players in this league. They always play with great toughness and intensity, and they have very talented players."