Keith Dambrot’s immediate quest for Duquesne is improvement over respect
Keith Dambrot smiles when he thinks about the Atlantic 10 preseason poll.
“We were (picked) 11th (among 14 teams),” Duquesne’s coach said of voting by coaches and media. “We were 14th the year before and finished 10th. We earned so much respect that they picked us 11th.”
Gaining respect is difficult for Duquesne, which hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1977 and has only four 20-victory seasons in the past 48 years.
The Dukes (17-9, 8-5) must win the A-10 Tournament next month to get that elusive NCAA bid, but there still is much at stake as they approach the end of the regular season.
With at least six games remaining, 20 victories is attainable. Plus, the Dukes took that 11th-place projection and climbed into a tie for fifth with Saint Louis and St. Bonaventure. A victory Saturday at George Mason (15-11, 9-4) would clinch Duquesne’s sixth winning season in 42 years in the A-10.
It also would move the Dukes closer to one of four double byes in the A-10 Tournament that opens March 13 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
But Dambrot doesn’t talk much about the tournament or byes or what people think of his team.
“I’m a little different,” he said. “I never really think about (byes) too much. A lot of people do because they think that’s the easiest path to get to the NCAA Tournament.
“My thing is just playing good basketball and playing better basketball and better basketball and better basketball and just trying to play our best basketball heading into the tournament and then play even better in the tournament.
“If we do that, we’ll be better suited.”
With the games gaining more importance, Dambrot is as concerned about point guard Sincere Carry’s knees as anything. Carry, who leads the A-10 in assists (5.8) and the team in conference scoring (13.8), didn’t practice Friday and couldn’t have played if there was a game, Dambrot said. Yet, he still may Saturday.
“It’s a tough injury. If he was completely healthy, I’d feel a little better,” Dambrot said.
“But I like our other guys. We still have to win, whether he plays or not. We can’t make any excuses. Nobody cares.”
Carry’s status was uncertain Feb. 15 when he missed practice. But he played 36 minutes, recording 15 points and six assists the next day in an 85-69 victory against George Washington.
But it wasn’t just Carry.
“The last four minutes, we made every stop,” Dambrot said. “Mike Hughes has been good defensively in the last four minutes of a lot of games,” he said of the sophomore center who has 41 blocks in 13 conference games.
“When he’s really good defensively, we’re much better.”
But the final judgment on the Dukes is still to be determined.
“At the end of the year, they’ll say Duquesne’s record was this, this and this. They don’t care (6-foot-10 freshman center Austin) Rotroff was hurt or Sin was struggling with the knee or Tavian (Dunn-Martin) had a sprained ankle. Whatever the record is, that’s all they look at.”
Dambrot said winning 20 “would mean a lot when you look at the history of Duquesne.”
“We played good enough to win 20 games,” Dambrot said. “We just have to finish the job. It’s going to be hard. It’s a hard, ending schedule. They’re all hard for us.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .