Duquesne women have shot at NCAA Tournament
Duquesne women's coach Dan Burt wants to make himself perfectly clear:
He carries no personal grudge against Charlie Creme.
In fact, he sincerely appreciates the “great service” Creme does for women's basketball by posting a projected NCAA Tournament bracket on ESPN.com and helping build interest in the sport.
“Charlie Creme doesn't know what he's talking about,” Burt said. “Other than the (NCAA Tournament committee) people who are in that room March 10, 11, 12,” Burt said, “no one really knows.”
For fear of burying the lead, Creme's bracketology doesn't include a Duquesne team that will take a 16-3 record (6-0 in the Atlantic 10) into Philadelphia on Wednesday night to play St. Joseph's.
Burt isn't hurt by the snub. He's too busy to worry about such things in January — unless, of course, a reporter asks him about it.
“You can look at all the math and the projections,” he said. “About the only thing we're worried about is winning the next game.”
Duquesne is No. 59 in the most recent NCAA RPI rankings, which is tops in the Atlantic 10 — one better than Dayton (14-4, 7-0), projected by Creme as an 11th seed.
“If we can continue to be successful and we don't have any bad losses, we're going to be right there squarely on the bubble, in the 44-46 (RPI) range,” Burt said.
Duquesne's postseason cause will be helped by top-100 victories against No. 37 Virginia, No. 39 Central Michigan, No. 45 Toledo and No. 91 George Washington.
Burt admits the Atlantic 10 doesn't have the top-to-bottom strength as in past years. The conference typically sent three teams to the NCAA Tournament, but only two went last year and that could be the limit this year, too.
“The league is a little bit down with some of the teams at the bottom with their RPIs and their scheduling, and it's affecting all of us,” he said.
But the Dukes have won six in a row since a 104-52 loss to No. 1 Connecticut in Toronto on Dec. 22.
“This is as good a team as he's had,” Burt said of UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “We lost to the most dominant basketball program in the world.”
Duquesne is led by its leading scorers — junior guards Chassidy Omogrosso of Blackhawk and Julijana Vojinovic of Serbia, who are averaging 17.3 and 16.3 points.
Kadri-Ann Lass, a 6-foot-3 forward from Estonia, is tied for seventh in the nation with 61 blocks and needs three to break the school record of 177, held for the past 31 years by Tanya Larrydale.
In its most recent game Sunday, Duquesne trailed by eight at halftime to George Mason but rallied to win 71-64. Omogrosso scored 28 points, and Lass added 14 and shared rebounding honors with Paige Cannon (eight).
“Some people told me it was the most physical women's basketball game they've seen at Duquesne,” said Burt, who later got a congratulatory text from Duquesne President Ken Gormley.
Burt was encouraged by the next day's practice, which was one of the best of the season, he said.
“We could have taken a day off (after the difficult victory), but we were good to go,” he said.
Part of that is the competition for playing time, thanks to the depth Burt has built through recruiting channels overseas and in the WPIAL.
“We're so close in terms of the talent level that those who are playing the majority of the minutes, they can't take a break,” he said.
“They feel the footsteps. They feel the breath on the back of their neck.”