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Sitting Down With Royalty: Q&A with the Dukes of Duquesne

One of the great things about playing in tournaments like the CBI is the opportunity to meet teams and fanbases that you don't hear about very often. We got the wonderful priviledge to hear from Dave over at the Duquesne Sports Blog to swap some questions and answers about the game coming up on Monday. Make sure to stop by their user forums to say hello and offer some well wishes for the contest. If you are interested in reading our responses, check those out here. Onto the questions!

I think one of the biggest questions we all have on our mind is pretty simple and, as Oregonians, it represents an issue very near and dear to our hearts. Tells how to correctly pronounce your name so we don't sound like blithering fools. Also, give us some background on what the school is like and what kind of culture dominates the campus.

For one, doo-KANE is a Catholic university in Pittsburgh with an enrollment of around 10k. The campus is really very nice and you'd never know that you're in the middle of a city when you walk around on it. It sits up on a bluff overlooking downtown and the South Side (across the Monongahela River), so oftentimes we'll talk about things happening "on the bluff" when we talk about something happening at Duquesne. Most people that go there love it, though with a basketball program that is on the rise rather than established, that feeling is only starting to show itself in school spirit. DU basketball used to really be something several decades ago. In 1955, back when the NIT was the big show, we won the NIT championship against Dayton. The 60s and 70s were pretty good, too. Then there were a series of bad decisions made by the administration and we fell off completely. A lot has changed, though, and we're moving back into the light.

One of the biggest school traditions is the class ring: Gold with a red ruby and a gothic D emblazoned in the stone. It's generally regarded as the most recognizable class rings in the country and alums wear it with pride. Check one out. I think its a far cry from the glass-enclosed pictures or high school ring-esque faux stones that a lot of schools have. No offense, of course, if Oregon's is like that. I haven't had the opportunity to see one.

A lot of good teams come from the Northeast and there are a lot of teams that get media attention nationally. Do you feel that Duquesne flies under the radar a bit as an athletic department? How does the school navigate the waters of Big East and professional teams in that area to create it's own mark on the map?

The Dukes are on the verge of breaking through that radar screen, but they aren't there yet. Ron Everhart has been turning a program that was once a power in the 50s, 60s, and 70s back into something resembling what they once were. It hasn't been easy, but we are certainly going in the right direction with ere postseason berths in the past three years to go with four winning regular seasons in a row. Ron Everhart knows how to recruit kids - just look at our freshman class that includes A10 Rookie of the Year TJ McConnell. He already holds the single season steals record.

One thing that does annoy a lot of Dukes fans (and a lot of basketball fans in general who don't like the Big East) is the attention that the Big East gets despite their ability to fall flat on their faces come tourney time. Plus, as far as basketball goes, DePaul, USF, St. John's (despite this year's success), Providence, and Seton Hall are basically mid-major programs, but because they're in the Big East, they're somehow elevated.

The Dukes will have the chance to make their mark, though. We play Pitt and WVU every year out of conference, and we just started a series with Penn State. In conference, Temple, Xavier, and Richmond are no strangers to postseason play and five of the six teams that I just named are frequently, if not typically, ranked. Dayton is another regular opponent, and there's a degree of recognition to that team as well. We started down that path this year with the win against Temple and the 8-1 record rolling into the Xavier game. During our 11-game win streak, there was press for us on ESPN about how reliable we were against the spread and we also started seeing a few points in the "others receiving votes" category in the polls.

Richmond, Temple and Xavier. All teams making runs in the NCAA Tournament. The team right behind them in conference? Duquesne. Add in close losses to George Mason, Penn State and West Virginia and you have a formidable looking schedule. With the Dukes losing 5 games by less than 3 points, is there a feeling that the Big Dance slipped away? Does the team have issues closing other teams out in the final minutes?

Well, you summed it up right there. Five or six points, strategically placed, and we're at least 22-8 before tourney invites go out. Add to that the fact that we were leading WVU, GMU, and PSU at halftime. It's a little disappointing to look back at , especially with Saunders and Clark graduating. These guys are two of the best that DU has ever seen, and while they've been instrumental in turning the program around, we'd have liked to see them make the dance. They've earned it.

There has been trouble closing out games where we were in the the lead, but I think that a lot of it was youth, especially early. We were without our veteran point guard Eric Evans for the first half of the year, so we freshmen running the show from the get-go. Evans is back and is starting to get things together, though it's incredibly hard when you've been out for that long a time. Does Evans make that extra pass, see that defender, make that shot? Maybe, maybe not, but someone who is experienced at the point is just going to recognize things faster.

One of the things that jumps out at me is the balanced scoring between Damian Saunders, Bill Clark, TJ McConnell, and BJ Monteiro. With the assist totals, obviously the Dukes are a great passing team. If there is a weakness in this group's game, what would it be? Please tell me it has something to do with a 2-3 zone.

The biggest weakness is rebounding. DU was one of the worst in the conference in that department. The 2-3 zone has given us issues in the past, primarily with teams that play a slow game combine with a very high shooting percentage. One thing that was done to combat that was to schedule some teams that play that sort of system during OOC time. Clearly we've gotten better with it, as demonstrated by the win against Temple. Usually, to run with the Dukes is to lose, and they've gotten better at finding ways to make you run.

Most of the time, you can fit a school into one of two categories. Football school or Basketball school. On occasion, you can get both or neither. Oregon is a football school, especially over the last 25 years. What is the number 1 sport for Duquesne fans and give us a little insight into why that is.

The number one sport is basketball. Football has a following, but we are one of the smaller-time FCS schools in the country. It's almost a shame. Early this century, DU had a powerful football program. It was disbanded as a result of WWII, so for a number of years there was absolutely no football on the bluff. Made it pretty easy for basketball to reign supreme!

If you had to describe Coach Ron Everhart's tenure in terms of movies, what would it be?

I like this one. Movies. It has also taken me the longest to answer because I tried to fit it into the mold of just one movie and it doesn't really work like that. The best I could do are two "kinda, sorta" options:

In some ways, Hoosiers... we haven't won a championship yet of course (though we were close a few years ago in the conference!), but there are parallels. New coach comes in, has a new set of expectations, that sort of thing. Everhart gets hired, the entire team transfers except for two guys. People who didn't follow the coaches rules have been suspended or removed from the program. It's a little bit of a reach, but it works in some ways.

I also thought about "The Departed," given the amount of transfers we've had as we look at getting kids who are actually interested in the concept of a team in place. Robbie Mitchell was the A10 Rookie of the Year a few years ago for us, but he didn't want to play defense and was a hot dog who clashed with Everhart. He was gone, transferred to Seton Hall and did absolutely nothing. I know he had some legal troubles there too, so big loss.

The Oregon Student Section, known as the Pit Crew, has gotten quite the reputation for being "rough" on opposing teams and their fans. With the game on Monday and school out for spring break, how much of a factor with the Duquesne fans be at Oregon's home court?

Unfortunately, I can't imagine a lot of DU fans making the trip just for practicality's sake. It's pretty hard to just show up in the Pacific Northwest on a Monday. DU's break was a couple of weeks ago so everyone has class as well. When Easter is late like this year, spring break is early and then there is another break around Easter. I'd love to go, but... well, work has a way of blocking stuff like that.

Plus, I just checked Orbitz and a round trip flight for two plus a hotel room is over $900 and includes 2 or more layovers.

What is this 10/40 system you keep talking about on your blog? I take it this has nothing to do with taxes... Are we going to see this on Monday?

1040 stands for "ten men/forty Minutes." It is a two-line substitution system in which you divide ten players into two platoons. All five players sub out after about three minutes of nothing but full court press, transition baskets, and aggressive play. It was first used by the Dukes the first season that Everhart was here. We were depleted - the coaching change resulted in all but two students transferring, and there had also been a shooting that involved five players (not the players' fault), which you may recall from the national media at the time. We needed something different. It did work, helping us win five in a row.

While we used a ten man rotation against Montana to great effect, it was something altogether different, but since you read the blog post you know that!

Give me a prediction and don't spare the melodrama!

This game will be all about pace. If the game is fast, and you seem to indicate from your answers that it will be, then it favors the Dukes. If it is a little slower, I think that the Ducks could be favored. At the same time, we have some players that will shoot for a high percentage, so if Oregon is off and we are not, the pace won't matter. Duquesne has two seniors who are two of the best in the history of the program in Saunders and Clark. Our freshmen have played a full regular season; they're basically sophomores now. I say Duquesne, 76-70.