Dukes cling to hopes of an NCAA berth

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This week the Duquesne women's basketball team has faced the challenge of practicing without having any idea who its next opponent is, or even which tournament will invite them.

The Dukes sit squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble and will have to wait until Monday to find out whether they will go to the tournament for the first time in program history or head to the WNIT for the fifth consecutive season.

Duquesne coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, though, wasn't optimistic about her team's chances.

"I think our chances are slim for the NCAA," she said earlier this week.

Specifically, she pointed to back-to-back losses to Saint Joseph's and Dayton in mid-February, by a combined two points, as well as Duquesne's loss to the Hawks in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament last week as missed opportunities to solidify their spot in the field.

"I think any one of those three probably would have solidified us being in the tournament," McConnell-Serio said.

"Right now, I know a lot needs to happen."

According to ESPN.com's Charlie Creme, who runs the site's women's bracket, the Dukes are one of the first teams listed in his "First Four Out" of the tournament.

Working in Duquesne's favor is the fact that the Dukes sport arguably their most impressive tournament resume of McConnell-Serio's six-year tenure. Their 23 wins are the second most in school history, and the Dukes have posted wins against then-No. 17 Delaware and at then-No. 20 West Virginia.

The Dukes are ranked No. 41 in the RPI, ahead of teams such as South Florida and West Virginia, both of which Creme projects as making the tournament.

"Since we've been here, we've tried to do things, as far as upgrading our schedule and who we play, putting ourselves in a position for this," McConnell-Serio said. "We thought this was the year we had finally done that and it may still not be enough."

For now, though, the Dukes can do nothing but wait until Monday. The team had three days off after losing to Saint Joseph's in the conference tournament Saturday, then returned to practice.

"They're disappointed, for sure," McConnell-Serio said. "They're the ones that have raised the level of expectations themselves and had high hopes of being a team to be in the NCAA tournament. I know, across the board, you sense the disappointment among the team."

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG.


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