The Duquesne Dukes—Let the dancing begin

:10—Well, well, well, and you thought the big story coming out of this past weekend would be the Steelers and their new QBs. Guess again kids—How about them Duquesne Dukes punch­ing their ticket to The Big Dance by beating VCU in a close one, 57-51, to win the A-10 Tourney!! Stand­ing ovation and loud whistling to Coach Keith Dambrot and the team for closing out the season in high fashion, shocking the world and making it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 47 years. Yeah, that’s right, the last time they went to the NCAA Tourney Jimmy Carter was Pres­ident, Rumours by Fleet­wood Mac won the Gram­my for Best Album and Norm Nixon was the star of the Dukes team. With a total team effort the Dukes ended the season, up to this point, with 8 straight wins and in their last 18 games went 15-3. Mighty impressive. In his seventh season Coach Dambrot has done what no one really thought he could do, take the Dukes to the tourney. Unbeliev­able, and with a Thursday, March 21 game against BYU at 12:40 p.m., I will be glued to the TV at a local establishment cheer­ing on an inevitable victo­ry. GO DUKES!!!

:09—What makes the Duquesne Cinderella story even more amaz­ing is Coach Dambrot’s announcement that he will be retiring after the NCAAs to care for his wife Donna in her battle with cancer. Best wishes and all our prayers are with Donna and here’s hoping this added layer of drama uplifts the players to an­other upset victory Thurs­day and propels them to a Sweet 16 berth after this weekend. All that being said, no matter the out­come this weekend, this has been a feel great story since Duquesne went on that final winning streak to get to the NCAAs. It’s all gravy now, all icing on the cake and I couldn’t be happier or prouder of the men and Coach Dambrot. GO DUKES!!!

:08—Yin and Yang. Hey, hey, hey, watch it, I know some stuff. With the good comes the bad. And we all know what I’m talking about, our Pitt Panthers and them getting jobbed by not getting selected to the NCAA Tourney. Yeah, they had a less-than-stellar schedule and lost some winnable games that would have helped their strength of sched­ule ranking but, come on, man, they had a 22-11 re­cord in the ACC. Looking over the brackets I see at least 3 or 4 teams weak­er than the Panthers that got in on reputation or were a feel good story last season and truly should have been bypassed. The fact 5 teams pulled upsets in tournaments over the weekend like Duquesne and N.C. State also didn’t help the Panthers’ cause but they have no reason to hold their heads, it was still a successful season and they should be danc­ing, too.

:07—All that being said, I have no problem with Coach Capel and the uni­versity turning down an NIT Tourney bid. Pitt would have been a top seed in the tourney but so what. It’s a meaningless tournament at this point and with the portal right around the corner the team should and will have a different look next year, so playing the NIT doesn’t make a lot of sense from that standpoint. Go scout some players that may transfer in next season and go from there. ‘Nuff said.

:06—OK, finally, let’s get to the Steelers. If last week someone had told you Russell Wilson and Justin Fields would be on the roster this week for basically nothing in return and Kenny Pick­ett would be off the roster and landing in Philadel­phia to be a backup to Ja­len Hurts, you would have laughed and asked what they were smoking. Yet, somehow, we now have a serious upgrade at quar­terback with a future Hall of Fame QB in Wilson and one of the most dynamic and exciting and talent­ed young QBs in Justin Fields. I’ve watched some of his highlights and, man, the upside is tre­mendous. I know, I know, Wilson is the starter but also remember 60, yeah, 60 quarterbacks started games in the NFL last sea­son. Do not be surprised if the Steelers cruise into the playoffs next season with a 12-5 record and Fields at the helm is not out of the question. Do yourself a favor, check out his highlights, the man is electric. And only 25 years old.

:05—I’m of the opinion that, truthfully, I believe Kenny Pickett still has all the intangibles to be a good NFL QB. In Pitts­burgh he was saddled with the worst O-coor­dinator in the NFL, was handcuffed 90 percent of the time and had a poor offensive line his entire first season. Remember how he looked once Coach Canada was gone and I believe if he hadn’t gotten injured, things probably would have progressed quite differently than where we are now. Good luck to Kenny and here’s hoping for him to have a long, stellar career in the NFL.

:04—As of this time the Steelers are actively seek­ing a trade with Minne­sota to bring elite wide receiver Justin Jefferson to the ‘Burgh. A long shot maybe but if it happens and the Steelers can line up Jefferson and George Pickens as starters and keep them both happy, all bets are off as to how dynamic their offense can be next season. Whew, I’m getting a little hot just thinking about it. Plus, the addition of Patrick Queen to the inside linebacking corps is a major upgrade; second-team All-Pro, and the sky is the limit for his talent. Cam Johnston will absolutely be better than Pressley Harvin III, who just couldn’t hit a punt 40 yards in crunch time, and DeShon Elliott brings a veteran presence and hard-hitting mentality to the defensive backfield we have sorely missed. An unprecedented off-season and GM Omar Khan looks as though he’s far from done. When does the pre­season begin?

:03—Paul Skenes, all 6’6” of him and his 100+ mph fastball, is destined to start the Pirates season in the minor leagues for a bit of seasoning and to keep him under contract for the absolute most time the union allows. That being said, it does not look like the Pittsburgh Pirates will now be able to race off to a 20-5 start like last season when they were the talk of baseball and in first place. I under­stand the logistics of start­ing Skenes in the minors but the look of it, especial­ly when the Pirates have improved a bit, seems short-sided. The fans de­serve an all-in mentality at this point and the soon­er we see Paul Skenes on the mound, the better for all concerned. And here’s a prediction—when Skenes arrives he is go­ing to light it up and with Mitch Keller the Pirates will have a legitimate one-two punch at the top of their rotation for several years to come. A Cy Young Award or two is definitely now in the discussion for both of them.

:02—With incremental improvement and several key additions like Gold Glove-winning center fielder Michael Taylor, I see the Pirates getting over the hump and go­ing 86-76 and legitimate­ly contending for a wild card. A good bounce here and there and I think they could squeeze in and be a wild card team and once you hit the playoffs, it’s all about the pitching. Did I mention Paul Skenes and Mitch Keller? Watch out MLB!

:01—As the town’s re­nowned hockey purist I have to say the Pens have played abysmal hockey the last few weeks and yet still find themselves within shouting distance of a playoff spot because everybody else seems to not want to make the playoffs, too. Hard to be­lieve but a little winning streak and they could get in. They’re aren’t winning the Cup but making the playoffs and getting hot goaltending from Tristan Jarry plus the great Sid­ney Crosby and you never can count out the Pens. But seriously, no Cup this season.

:00—Duquesne Dukes 66 —BYU Cougars 58—Remember where ya heard it first. I’m out.

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