The last time there was an NCAA tournament without the Duke Blue Devils, none of the current Blue Devils were born.
The season was 1994-95, and Duke had just completed his seventh Final Four appearance in nine years. There was still some talent – center Cherokee Parks, guard Jeff Capel, rookie Trajan Langdon – but after a 9-3 start, coach Mike Krzyzewski became too ill to continue the season and the squad went away. is dissolved without him on the bench. The Blue Devils went 2-14 in the ACC and finished the year 13-18.
Krzyzewski returned to full health the following season, and there hasn’t been a March madness without him since. He added three NCAA titles and five more Final Four appearances.
This year’s young Blue Devils, however, have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic which has ruled out exhibition matches, limited the ability to play trusted non-conference games, and led to a given time, to Krzyzewski to suggest that the season be postponed to spring.
They fought for an 11-10 overall record, but they were also good enough with just enough chances to stay alive in the pursuit of a berth in the NCAA.
Can Duke participate in the NCAA tournament?
One could take an optimistic perspective and cite the fact that the Blue Devils had to rally even to be considered for a wide spot. They had a 7-8 record after losing at home on February 9 to Notre Dame. March Madness was well over a month away for Duke by then.
The Devils then rallied with four straight wins, including wins over ACC title contenders Virginia and Syracuse, another team struggling to break out of the bubble and join the NCAA squad.
The schedule has bitten them since. They played effectively against Louisville and Georgia Tech, but these teams also have ambitions for the month of March. Back-to-back losses in those games have placed Duke in the position where the traditional end-of-season game against North Carolina, on the road at Smith Center in Chapel Hill, is simply a must-win.
If Duke fails to win this game, his only real path to an NCAA bid will be winning the ACC tournament next week in Greensboro.
Duke and the ACC tournament
The Blue Devils advantage in pursuing an automatic NCAA bid is the relative absence of elite teams in this year’s ACC. There are only two league members in the NET’s top 25: Florida State at 13, Virginia at 21. In the KenPom.com rankings, there are three in the top 30: FSU # 9, Virginia # 15 and Georgia Tech at 30.
The Devils’ record against these teams is 2-1, although they have yet to face the league-leading Seminoles.
It can happen quite early. Even with a win over North Carolina, it doesn’t seem possible for Duke to come out of the 8-9 game of the ACC tournament that would fuel a quarterfinal game against the regular season champion. If FSU wins on the road to Notre Dame, the Seminoles take the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament. If they lose and Virginia beats Louisville, the Cavaliers take first place.
Duke’s remaining hours
The biggest rivalry in American sports – North Carolina against Duke – does not take advantage of one of its typically glamorous seasons. In some ways, however, the stakes are higher than ever.
In the four decades that Krzyzewski has coached, Duke has never been an NCAA bubble team. His lowest March Madness seed was in 1996, a No.8 seed. Now, in the game that traditionally ends the regular season for both teams, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils will play at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.
There is no doubt that the network will make this an opportunity.
The strength of Duke’s victory
Duke is 2-4 against his opponents in Quad 1, with wins coming over No. 21 Virginia at home and No. 64 NC State on the road. The Blue Devils also had home wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech.
Duke’s weak points
Duke has lost two games to opponents under .500 for the season, No.88 Notre Dame and No.165 Miami. There are few teams in the general discussion with a loss to a team ranked as low as the Hurricanes.
Duke also lost on the road to a .500 Pitt team that is ranked 89th in the NET.
Duke’s KenPom, RPI, SOS and quadrants
– KenPom: Duke is # 38 in the last KenPom Ranking.
– RPI: Duke ranks # 124 in the last RPI Ranking.
– Calendar strength: Duke is # 48 in the latest SOS rankings and n ° 74 in record strength.
– Quadrants: Duke measures 2-4 ” Parts of quadrant 1, 6-8 versus quadrants 1 and 2 combined. The Devils have two losses in Quad 3.
How Duke Makes March Madness
It starts with a road win over North Carolina, which would represent the Devils’ third Quad 1 victory of the season. The ACC tournament opener would then likely be against the Tar Heels again or against Syracuse, and either offers the opportunity for another quality win.
However, it’s hard to imagine the Blue Devils coming out of the bubble without at least winning a quarterfinal game against Florida State or Virginia. If they could win this, there would be no reason to believe that they were unable to win twice more and take the subjective discussion away from the selection board.
But three straight wins – Caroline, Caroline or Syracuse and possibly Florida State – followed by an ACC semi-final loss would leave Duke at 14-11 with likely a 4-5 mark against Quad 1.
Do you think they forget about Coach K if he hits those numbers?
Don’t bet the house on it.