Who is Duquesne, BYU's first-round NCAA Tournament opponent?

Let's get to know the Dukes, BYU's first matchup in March Madness.

Duquesne celebrates their A-10 Championship victory over VCU
Duquesne celebrates their A-10 Championship victory over VCU / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When BYU's March Madness region was announced, many fans saw the Cougar's first opponent and welcomed the foe with a collective "Who?". For those of you unfamiliar with the Duquesne Dukes of the A-10, let this be your formal introduction. Knowing your enemy is vital for a team who plans to avoid a first-round exit, and you owe it to yourself to understand who BYU is up against. After all, BYU wasn't even supposed to be here before the season began. Who are we do declare who's a nobody and who is a worthy opponent?

Duquesne is a Catholic institution, officially known as Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit. It was founded in 1878 and is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A very prestigious institution, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the top Catholic universities in the United States, and a top program in Nursing Sciences. On the basketball court, the Dukes aren't quite as world-renowned. The team is making an NCAA Tournament, despite not being a regular appearance on this stage.

The Dukes haven't been in the bracket for 47 years until this season, when they stole the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament bid as the 6-seed in their tournament by taking down Saint Louis, the sputtering Dayton Flyers, St. Bonaventure, and finally securing the championship by outscoring 5th-seed VCU in the final. Duquesne may be the beneficiary of the bracket breaking open thanks to a coordinated round of upsets in the quarterfinals, leaving none of the top-4 seeds standing in the semifinals, but they won every game in their path, and earned their bid in the Big Dance.

They even won the championship with 18 minutes still on the clock, which is something that not many teams can say.

Duquesne enters this game against BYU with a 24-11 record. While that doesn't stand out, it is worth noting that the Dukes have won their previous eight games, so momentum is on their side in this matchup. Something else to consider, Duquesne has been hot and cold this year, following a five-game losing streak with a four-game winning streak, so this team is unpredictable. Coming off their current hot streak, the Cougars must be prepared for this game, as overlooking the Dukes would be the perfect way to add another win to Duquesne's tally.

This team is led by their lead guard, Dae Dae Grant. Grant is in his fifth collegiate season, and spearheads the Dukes' offensive attack with his 16.7 points per game. He isn't always an efficient scorer, but is deadly from the free throw line, where he hits an automatic rate of 93.9% of his attempts. He's also capable of exploding for high point totals, like he proved with 27 against St. Bonaventure and a handful of 30-point games scattered across the season. If BYU catches Grant on the right night--as they so often seem to with star players--they could be in trouble.

Offense is not Duquesne's specialty, though, as they are the worst offense in the A-10 Conference. Their defense is where they make their mark, sitting in the top 30 of defensive efficiency in the nation. BYU's offense will be challenged by this team's ability to slow the game down and force BYU into uncomfortable situations. BYU's success will hinge on their ability to play their game and avoid playing into Duquesne's preferred style. BYU is going to be favored and will have to show they can control the game from start to finish.

Duquesne hoists the A-10 championship trophy after their win over VCU. / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Duquesne is 80th in NET rankings, with an 8-8 record in Quad 1 and 2 games. The Dukes haven't lost any Q4 games, which is great if you ignore their glaring 5-3 Q3 record. With key wins over Dayton and a road matchup against VCU, the Dukes are capable of winning big games. But with bad losses to Fordham, Santa Clara, and Davidson, the floor seems disproportionately low when compared to the team's ceiling.

BYU's size and experience should give the Cougars the edge in this matchup. BYU is under-seeded and Duquesne is over-seeded. I feel confident in a BYU victory, despite history suggesting that I shouldn't feel confident in BYU ever winning when it matters most. Duquesne is no slouch; they earned their spot in the field of 68.

These teams will face off early on Thursday, March 21st at 10:40 AM as the second game of the round of 64. Plenty of eyes will be on the Cougs, so let's hope they show up for it!

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