ATLANTIC 10 CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: @DuqMBB vs. Richmond
March 5, 2018
No. 10 seed Duquesne (16-15, 7-11) opens Atlantic 10 Championship play against No. 7 seed Richmond (11-19, 9-9) on Thursday, March 8 at 6:00 p.m. (NBCSN/Terry Gannon & David Kaplan with Jordan Cornette sideline). The winner moves on to face No. 2 seed St. Bonaventure (24-6, 14-4) on Friday at 6:00 p.m. (NBCSN/same crew).
Duquesne, picked to finish 14th in the preseason poll of A-10 coaches and media, finished tied for 10th in regular-season play. This is DU's first A-10 Championship appearance under first-year head coach Keith Dambrot. Dambrot went 27-10 in 13 Mid-American Conference Tournament appearances while the head coach at Akron (2005-13). His Akron teams reached the MAC championship game nine times and won at least one game in all 13 appearances. Duquesne has posted just three opening game wins since 1995 (20 Championship appearances, DU did not qualify in 2006 & 2013).
LEAGUE FINISH: Duquesne finished the regular season tied for 10th in the Atlantic 10 with a 7-11 record. The seven league victories were the program's most since 2011-12 (7-9). DU went 5-4 at home and 2-7 on the road in conference games. This was the third time in 41 A-10 seasons that the Dukes opened conference play 3-0 or better. The Dukes, who were 3-15 in conference play last year, went 4-1 in their first five A-10 games under first-year head coach Keith Dambrot.
THE SEED: This is the fifth time - and first since 2014 - Duquesne will enter the Championship as a No. 10 seed. Oddly enough the Dukes faced No. 7 Richmond that season (a 76-64 UR win at Barclays Center on Mar. 13, 2014). DU is 0-4 all-time as a No. 10 seed (also No. 10 in 2001, 2007 & 2008).
THE BRACKET: Duquesne 0-3 this season against its first two potential opponents in the 2018 A-10 Championship bracket (0-1 vs. No. 7 Richmond and 0-2 vs. No. 2 St. Bonaventure). The Dukes are 3-3 vs. the rest of the school's in its side of the bracket (2-0 vs. No. 11 George Washington, 1-1 vs. No. 14 Fordham, 1-1 vs. No. 6 Saint Louis and 0-1 vs. No. 3 Davidson).
A RECORD-TYING FIRST YEAR: DU is in its first season under head coach Keith Dambrot. Dambrot came to the Bluff after 13 highly-successful seasons at Akron, where he led the Zips to a 305-139 record (23.5 wins per season) including 10 postseason appearances (3 NCAA, 5 NIT, 1 CBI & 1 CIT). Dambrot's 16 wins are the most by a DU first-year coach since Dudey Moore went 17-5 in 1948-49. Moore coached Keith's father, Sid, from 1952-54 during his highly-successful 10 seasons on the Bluff. There were 10 coaches between Moore and Dambrot.
MOST WINS BY A FIRST-YEAR DU COACH
WINNING: Duquesne eclipsed last year's win total (10-22) in its 15th game - a 69-52 win over GW.
CLOSE CALLS: Two of Duquesne's conference losses came on last-second shots (a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at then No. 24 (AP) Rhode Island and a 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left vs. St. Bonaventure). The Dukes lost a third game in overtime at home to Richmond. DU held a 15-point second half lead at URI, and also led by 12 in the second half at VCU.
Duquesne is 12-2 when holding opponents under 70 points and 15-1 when leading with 5:00 left.
DU's three overtime games in 2017-18 are its most since a school record six in 2009-10.
Eric Williams Jr., a four-time A-10 Rookie of the Week, had six double-doubles in 18 regular season A-10 games. His 14 double-digit rebound games & 11 double-doubles on the full season rank second in the conference. The double-double and double-digit rebound totals have tied the DU freshman record set by Bruce Atkins in 1978-79.
Williams Jr. took over the team scoring lead (14.5 ppg.) with his team-high 19 points on Feb. 21 at St. Bonaventure. Williams Jr., who also leads DU in rebounding (8.9 rpg.), is bidding to become just the second freshman in school history to lead the Dukes in both categories, joining Wayne Smith (16.6, 6.2) who accomplished the feat in 1998-99.
Williams Jr. broke the freshman record for 3-pointers in a season with is 4-of-6 showing vs. Saint Louis. Williams Jr. (66-of-182, .363) eclipsed the old mark of 63 set by teammate Mike Lewis II last year.
Williams Jr., who ranks fourth on DU's freshman total points list (450), needs 17 to pass record holder Wayne Smith (466 in 1999). His 276 rebounds are 15 shy of passing Dick Ricketts (290 in 1952) for most by a DU freshman.
Rene Castro-Caneddy, who entered the season with a 5.0 ppg. scoring average, is scoring at a 13.2 ppg. clip. He scored in double digits 11 times, and totaled 20 or more six times in regular season conference play. His 13.6 ppg. scoring average in conference play ranked second on the team.
Tarin Smith, who entered this season with 21 3-pointers in 63 career games, has 39 3-pointers in 31 games this year. Smith, who entered the season a .256 career 3-point shooter (.212 at Duquesne), is shooting .342 from the arc this season.
Mike Lewis II ranks 7th DU's career 3-pointers list with 149. He needs 102 points to become DU's 39th 1,000-point scorer. Lewis II's 86 "3s" this season are fifth-most in school history. He needs three to pass both Micah Mason (88 in 2015) and Tony Petrarca (88 in 1990) to move into the No. 3 spot on the list.
Tydus Verhoeven, the A-10's leading shot blocker (71, 2.29/g.), has broken the DU freshman record for blocks in a season set by Derrick Alston in 1991 (54). Verhoeven's 71 blocks - in addition to being the fifth-highest single-season total - already rank 8th on DU's career list.
This is the 31st meeting in a series that dates to Jan. 12, 1937 ... DU led the series 8-0 when Richmond joined the Atlantic 10 in 2001-02 ... the Spiders promptly reeled off 14 consecutive wins before DU ended the streak with an 81-72 win at Palumbo Center in 2012 ... UR defeated the Dukes, 77-73 in overtime on Jan. 24 in Pittsburgh, giving the Spiders an 20-1 record against Duquesne in A-10 regular season games (21-1 including the A-10 Championship).
Duquesne has topped the 70-point mark three in 14 meetings (1-13) against Chris Mooney-coached Richmond teams ... the first was in DU's lone win - an 81-72 decision at the Palumbo Center on Feb. 4, 2012, the second was in a 101-90 loss at Richmond last year and the third was the OT loss this year (77-73) ... in fact, DU has scored 70 or more just four times against Richmond since the Spiders joined the A-10 in 2001-02 ... the third was in a 72-71 loss at Richmond on Feb. 1, 2005 ... that game was decided when Richmond's Daon Merritt answered a Martin Osimani 3-pointer by racing the length of the court in the final six seconds to hit an acrobatic layup with eight-tenths of a second remaining.
This is head coach Keith Dambrot's second meeting with Richmond.
In the lone A-10 Championship meeting, Terry Allen scored 27 points and Kendall Anthony added 23 to lead No. 7 Richmond to a 76-64 win over No. 10 Duquesne in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Championship at Barclays Center on March 13, 2014. Ovie Soko led DU with 23 points and 13 rebounds.