Duke In Prime Position To Steal Another One Seed It Does Not Deserve

Cliché or not, this has been a strange year in college basketball.

We have Kentucky and Syracuse, seemingly number one and two nationally most of the season, still with just one loss each, on their way to incredible records. Yet, neither is anywhere near as impressive as great teams of  past years with similar marks — mostly due to watered-down competition and subpar conferences.

Last fall, North Carolina was thought to have one of the great teams of all time due to multiple returning NBA lottery picks, yet has sat quietly in the five to ten polling range during 2012.  Ohio State and Connecticut were also thought invincible, which has proven far from true. (The former, staring at a two or three seed at best, has been inconsistent all season in a brutally strong Big Ten; the latter is a bubble team, 9th in a down Big East.)

Then you have Michigan State, Kansas, and Missouri, all expected to have rebuilding seasons, among America’s best. Meanwhile Wichita State had been in the Pomeroy Top 10 for two months (above Duke), yet probably won’t be granted higher than a four seed.

And then there’s Duke, somehow steamrolling to another one seed March 11.

Coach K

Duke Getting Credit It Doesn’t Deserve

I am not a Duke hater. I admire Coach K as a person and leader. And compared to the type of player many top teams have recruited the past 20 or so years, Duke has a roster of upstanding young men. However, this does not excuse the fact that for the third year in a row the Blue Devils are cruising toward a one seed they do not deserve.

In 2010, Purdue was locked in as the final top seed until Robby Hummel tore his ACL Feb. 24 in Minneapolis; Duke quietly took the final number one seed for March Madness, somehow was clandestinely given a cakewalk draw, and hung on to take the national title when Gordon Hayward’s desperation shot hit the rim  April 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium. I was at the game, and support Butler, but Duke played even up with a “mid-major” for their first title in a decade. (The Blue Devils beat a banged-up West Virginia team, playing without its two best players, in the national semifinals 48 hours prior.)

In 2011, Duke was ranked #1 deep into January, then lost to unranked Florida State, St. John’s, and two of their final three games (non-tourney Virginia Tech and UNC).  Like this year, the ACC was a weak conference; Duke lacked quality road wins; had questionable losses, yet somehow “propelled” themselves to a questionable one seed after winning three games in the meaningless ACC tourney.  The Blue Devils were quickly demolished by a one-man Arizona team in the Sweet 16 a fortnight later. They were not worthy a one seed.

When Austin Rivers hit the game winning shot in Chapel Hill Feb. 8th, Duke was at its low point of the season. Coming off home losses to sloppy Florida State and enigmatic Miami, the Blue Devils were getting ripped by rival North Carolina before the freshman’s three pointer capped a furious late comeback. If the shot missed, Duke would’ve fallen out of the Top 10 and was staring a 3 seed (at best) in the NCAA Tournament.

Instead, as soon as Rivers’ shot ripped through the net, I could see the jump in the polls (voters ignored the struggles and bumped Duke to a #5 ranking) and the momentum rising on the horizon, blessed by soft scheduling.  Even with a weak ACC, Duke struggled mightily to survive at home against non-tourney N.C. State and awful Virginia Tech, just as they had earlier this season at bottom-dwelling Georgia Tech.  Number one seeds in March Madness don’t need 40-45 minutes to hold off inferior teams.

Duke apologists like Dick Vitale, Seth Davis, Jay Bilas and most folks at ESPN point to the school’s ”quality wins” as to why they deserve a one seed.  Factually, Duke’s ”best” wins are the UNC game and against Kansas, Michigan and Michigan State.

dukie-v

"Dukie V"

The latter seem impressive, until you realize these all occurred in November before any of those young teams were what they are today. None were road games. Michigan State was unranked and traveling 3,000 miles in three short days after opening their season against UNC on the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego.

Every possible break has gone Duke’s way — again.

A December blowout loss at Ohio State, and Jan. 4 loss at Temple — well before the Owls hit their recent stride — have been ignored.  Duke did not have a non-conference road win this season. Creighton, for example, who has a similar overall record to Duke yet was considered on the bubble until last week, has three.

College hoops has issues.  They are nowhere near as bad as fraudulent football and the BCS, but despite the incredible success of mid-majors in March, a problem is increasingly apparent:

If you’re ranked in the top five or ten in November, schedule weakly non-conference, play in a weak “major” conference like the ACC or SEC, win 90% of your games, you’ll receive a top seed. Many have done it, but the Blue Devils will soon have done it three years in a row.

Many Americans dislike Duke’s basketball team, their coaches, their often obnoxious fans, the school itself, mainstream media hype and bias toward them, et al.

I do not have an agenda other than “exposing injustice” at the sports level —  be that obvious (BCS, inordinate length of the NBA playoffs) or less obvious (incessant NFL hype, overrated Ryan Howard).

I don’t know which category Duke falls into, but I believe the objective summary I provided above is worth considering.



About AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. is now in public relations. As an MSF columnist since 2009, he supports anything baseball-related. Raised in San Diego, A.J. has since resided in numerous parts of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Washington. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the backroads of 49 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. has authored three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.

Comments

  1. And you are not a Duke hater? It’s everybody elses short comings that makes Duke a winner. That mid major college named Butler beat everybody to make the finals. Duke was the only one who beat them. Hmmmm I wonder whose fault that was? As far as considering your article, you need to change the statement that you are not a Duke hater. Obviously you are.

    • Thanks for the visit and comment Billy, but I’m not sure I follow the logic of your reply. Should Ari also change this statement then: “I admire Coach K as a person and leader. And compared to the type of player many top teams have recruited the past 20 or so years, Duke has a roster of upstanding young men.” He goes out of his way to say he is not a Duke hater, but apparently a hater is anyone who is not effusive in their praise of the great and beyond reproach Duke. This is a pretty fair and balanced analysis of the favorable treatment Duke gets. And while I understand where some of it comes from, it does get a bit excessive, and comes at the expense of other deserving teams. It is possible to offer an objective critique without being a “hater.” That words gets used far too often.

  2. Thanks for reading, Billy.  I’m eager to hear someone argue with the facts that Ari presented, rather than just resort to name-calling because somebody dared to challenge that his favorite team might be a little unworthy of a one-seed.

  3. I do agree with you… It has been a strange year in
    basketball. I will say at the beginning that I am not a Duke fan who is not a
    realist. Coming into this season I had hopes of a two seed and at least a sweet
    sixteen. That being said let me humbly disagree with you and Twitch on the
    worthiness of Duke in a one seed.

     

    1.    
    Past seeding has nothing and yet everything to
    do with a teams worth. Your argument against them is that the past few years
    they did not deserve a one seed. In 2010, that mid-major that almost beat them
    was pretty good… they already beat a UTEP team that most commentators had as an
    upset pick, Murray St., Syracuse (#1 seed), a really good K-State team, and
    Michigan State… That “mid-major” also happened to make it back to the finals
    the next year… I’d say they were decent… Yet the only team to beat them was a
    Duke squad that played as scrappy as them and shot the three very well… You are
    right… an overachieving Duke team… who won. Then you had the debacle of 2011
    with Arizona. Lets be honest… Derrick Williams played the best game of his life
    and Nolan Smith played his worst. If Nolan makes half his normal production,
    it’s a ball game instead of the blowout. The best teams in that tournament who
    deserved a national championship and a one seed also lost (Ohio State & Kentucky).
    But all that is in the past. Sure the committees take into consideration your
    programs history, but bottom line your seed is based on one thing… the win and
    loss column during the season based on rpi and sos.

     

    2.    
    Something that gets overhyped is when in the
    year you played opponents. Sure Duke got some quality wins against teams that
    are much better now than they were they beat them, but don’t you think it is a
    bit hypocritical to say that they should heavily marked by a loss to a Temple
    team early in the season? Shouldn’t that not count against us as much? Or about
    us losing to Ohio State a couple of days off a grueling Maui trip… that’s only
    a small 4700 mile journey after coming off of games with Kansas, Michigan, and
    Tennessee… Their conference wins are not that unreasonable either… both were
    close games (unlike FL St.’s blowout of UNC). And I think that several of the
    ACC teams might surprise you come tournament time…That being all being said…
    you may think their schedule is weak but their strength of schedule is still
    ranked three by almost every major sports site… and their rpi is a 0.66, which
    is as high as any one in the country except the three teams ranked ahead of
    them… bottom line… they have won , pretty or not against good teams.

     

    3.    
    The last area I am going to go with you… and
    then disagree on the conclusion… who all is a better team in college
    basketball… looking at pure rosters and guys I would want on my pick up team on
    the playground… I am not going with Duke in the top 10. With that being said,
    it is up to those better teams to win the games they need to win. If they drop
    the ball and lose it hurts them, because they are a good team, but… Ohio State,
    Kansas, and even UNC dropped the ball. (two of those to Duke) If they want a
    one seed… win.

     

    I still
    don’t think Duke is a lock for a 1 seed. A loss to UNC (which is VERY
    possible!) would and should drop them out of the top 5. If Duke wins out the
    season though and gets a good seed, well… that is why teams play a season.

  4. I get the feeling that AJ has always been ready to diss DUKE at a moment’s notice.  Exemplary, consistent, superior performance will always bring out the naysayers. (I’d be willing to bet that AJ probably hates the Yankees, too!!)  You create your own ‘breaks’ in life and sports with positive mental attitude and unbelievable amounts of hard, smart work.  Sorry, AJ…but nobody recruits like Mike Krzyzewski.  The harder and smarter you work, some luck will follow.  Take a moment and appreciate what Coach K has accomplished in Durham since 1981. 

  5. Objective Summary lol.
    2010. People argued that West Virginia or Purdue(with a hurt hummel) deserved the 1 seed. Duke beat them both in the dance. The article described WV as playing without its two best players. Not accurate. They played without Bryant a very mediocre point guard. Da’Sean Butler(best player) got hurt with 8 minutes to go in the game with Duke up by 15.  Jones and Ebanks were substantially better players than Bryant and played the entire game.

    2011. Why would the defending national champions not get a 1 seed after winning their conference tournament?  Great record with two All-Americans along with Kyrie Irving returning…I’ll wait.    Did Florida, Notre Dame, UNC, or SDSU have better resumes?

    2012 If Duke gets a 1 seed, they deserve it. They would have beat Mich st., Michigan, Kansas, and UNC all at a neutral sites or on the road. Duke would also have to beat UNC at least one more time and win the conference tournament. The article inferred that Mich St should be tired because they only had three days to get from San Diego to New York…Laughable. I guess Duke playing back to back games with one less day of rest before traveling to New York is easier enough to mention mich state’s travel distance. If certain few teams get hot and win their conference tournaments they could overtake Duke without much resistance from duke fans, but quit blaming Duke for other teams failing to get the job done.

  6. Agreed. Duke should have played the Heat and Lakers away from home in February. The defeat of Michigan St (who had a long trip and little rest) makes that win worthless, but Duke losing to Ohio St. after coming home from Maui excuses nothing. It is obvious there is a Duke conspiracy. Would love to ID who DOES deserve the #1 seed. Not UNC, obviously. Not Michigan St. Not Ohio St. Not Kansas (barely beating Missouri in OT… heh, they lost to K State!). Maybe Murray St!

  7. I classify you as a hater!

  8. Boy, that really sounds like a Duke hater to me!!!!!!!!! Blame Duke just like everyone else , reading what is being said by you makes me think that you have no idea what a quality win is. Ask youself,  did the wins come on there home court? Well everyone , we have one more Duke hater to and to the bunch, he sounds like a Tarheel to me, you can form your own opioion!!!!!!!!

  9. What a biased POS article.  West Virginia was without Truck Bryant and he was one of their two best players?  They lost DeSean Butler with 6 minutes left when they were down by 15 already.

    After KU and Syracuse, who’s more deserving of a 1 seed off of merit right now?  Duke beat both KU and MSU on a neutral court, has a better record than both and has a comparable amount of top 50 wins to each.  Looks at the facts and take your bias out of it.

  10. Jim Marcum70 says:

    Duke was given a cakewalk bracket in 2010 like many they have had.  When the best team in that tourny, Kentucky, was upset by W.Va. Dook cakewalked for the title and barely, actually upsetting Bradley?  We are praying for Dook this year to be in our bracket  with Kentucky so they don’t get their customary carkewalk to the final four.  Prediction.  If Dook plays Kentucky, Kentucky will beat them by at least 20. 

    • Duke always has had it handed to them. It’s sad because the better teams deserve to be that number one seed. All duke can do is shoot some three’s. What kind of team is that? Take them out and duke wouldn’t even leave Durham. They are as overrated as Carolina and you see where they are now!

  11. Duke a Cake Walk???? The best teams win in the tournament and the National Championships. Duke wins without players Kentucky recruits (thugs, one and dones) and still wins. If Kentuky lost in the tournament than how could Duke play them in 2010? They played who won. They beat the National champs last year. It makes me sick to know there are such bad writters out there. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Duke is great. They have the most final fours in recent time. If your team loses in the tournament call it a upset. If anything goes Duke’s way it’s overrated.

    • You will never say that Duke doesn’t deseve to be where they are and thats because you’re a fan. But a true “fan” would be even more proud to say hey you know what, we don’t deserve to be where we are this year but we will take it! Not one single one of you duke fans can say that. Why?? Is it because you are finally “winning” and feel no threat this year? It’s understood that you Duke fans haven’t been quite able to “brag” as much as others but even the lowest of the low don’t mind admitting simple facts

  12. They probably don’t deserve a 1 seed this year but you are still a moron. The same WV team beat the favorite ky team. They already had a big lead when their best player went down. You act like they have 10 loses. 

  13. Tcarpenter23 says:

    You can tell AJ Kaufman is from the midwest because of his mentality and total ignorance about basketball. Never saw an artcle so biased as this one before. They play the NCAA tournament to crown the champion so idiots can’t say Kentucky or Kansas or anyone else from the midwest is the best team. Regardless of what bracket or seeding a team gets in the tournament, you have to win and Duke has won more NCAA tornament games than anyone. Duke has beat Kansas, UNC, Michigan and Michigan St and is number 1 in the ACC and their record is 24-4. I think that is pretty good credentials for a number one seed.

    • Tcarpenter, thanks for visiting MSF. We really do appreciate it. But I have to say that your comment made me laugh (and I don’t think humor was necessarily your intention).

      As to your first sentence, it seems worth mentioning that Mike Kryzewski is from Chicago originally. So I’m not sure it’s wise for you to try to draw public correlations between basketball ignorance and being from the midwest.

      And there is no sillier argument to justify a team’s seed than what they did AFTER being seeded. Seeds are awarded with zero knowledge of what will happen after. They are awarded based on the body of work of ONE season, or at least that is how they are supposed to be awarded. I don’t agree with everything Ari wrote above, but I certainly take issue with you citing Duke winning NCAA Tournament games as some kind of justification for their current projected seeding now (which is the point of this article).

      We’ll see where the seeds shake out. I don’t believe Duke deserves a #1 right now, but if they win out and win the ACC, and if other teams fall, they may. But to call someone ignorant simply because they don’t drink the blue devil Kool-Aid is pretty ignorant itself.

  14. Pretty much all the comments have been personal attacks and/or reaching back to 1981, 2001, 2010, 2011 or November of this season to justify Duke deserving another 1 seed.  That won’t cut it, though curious thought processes.

    Duke has exactly one impressive win since November: a fluke shot after UNC choked.  It counts, but in that same span, the other top teams, sans UK and Cuse who have also beaten very few good teams but are both one loss teams, have anywhere from five to ten.  Again, objective analysis by non Duke fans show the Devils should be thankful to have a 2 seed.

  15. Highest seed money can buy

  16. Dukeblueforever says:

    LOL!  Duke has the No. 3 SOS in college basketball.  They have the No. 2 RPI rating in the nation.  They beat the No. 4, 5, and 6 team in the RPI, and none of those wins came at home.  You talk about some of those teams being young, but Duke has a grand total of one senior.  Duke’s only bad loss is to Miami.  Temple, Ohio State, and Florida State are all top 25 rpi teams.

    And nice revisionist history as well.  In 2010, Purdue had the 1-seed locked up until they lost 2 of their last five prior to the tourney, including a 27-point loss to Minnesota in their regular season game.  Besides, Duke beat them in that NCAA tourney, so what’s the argument there?  Should Purdue have been given a pass on the blowout loss?  Duke on the other hand, won 12 of their last 13 games going into the tourney, with the only loss being to a ranked Maryland team on the road by 5 points.  The ONLY team that had an argument for a 1-seed other than Duke was West Virginia, who Duke destroyed in the tournament.  As for them playing without their best two players, you seem to forget that Butler got hurt with only 9-mins left in the game…and Duke was in TOTAL control at that point. 

    As for the easy bracket crap, Duke played higher RPI-rated teams on it’s tourney run than UNC did the year before.  Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse, etc. could have taken care of business and made Duke’s road tougher…but they didn’t.  You can’t fault Duke for that.  They earned the 1-seed in 2010, and they beat every team they had to in order to win the title.

    • Ajkauf7 says:

      Heck of a performance tonight on the big stage. They are lucky to get a 2 seed. No good wins since November.

  17. acc makes lots of money on duke    cbs loves having duke in their tourney  follow the money or it may be just dumb luck 

  18. Brian Horine says:

    Seriously? You really believe what you wrote? You might want to grab a Cosmo magazine and see what that offers, because this is definitely not your level of expertise.

    • Ajkauf7 says:

      Nice name calling. Are you going to cite any actual stats or facts, especially after Saturday’s debacle, or just spew anger and ignorance? Typical Duke coward. People like you are why many hate Duke. Sad indeed,

  19. Lefty Levy says:

    pretty prophetic article after todays embarassing home effort

    • Ajkauf7 says:

      Yes, and you won’t see the Duke fan coward back here again. They know they’re wrong. I just lay out facts and expose frauds. Duke is a 3 seed — at best.

  20. Duke4 life says:

    Your kidding. Any team that losses to TCU is not a 1 seed and Gonzaga plays in a high school league..Indiana lost 3 of their last 6 games. There is 3 of your final four teams. Duke beat Louisville and OSU has the highest RPI an d SOS apparently that counts for nothing

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