On Duke Being ‘Overrated’ – It’s College Basketball, Not Just Duke, That Has Problems

Stats can often lead us to the wrong conclusions.

For instance:

  • The murder rate increases by 10% in the month of July.
  • Ice cream sales increase by 10% in the month of July as well.
  • That means, people kill more when they eat more ice cream.

A fourth grader could look at the previous statements and point out the obvious fallacies in reasoning.

But sometimes, it’s not so easy.  Sometimes, the stats actually seem to tell a story until you examine the entire story.


Duke Doesn’t Deserve A #1 Seed…But Who Does?

My good friend and colleague, Ari Kaufman, wrote an interesting article yesterday about the problems in college basketball.  In the article, he used Duke as an example to showcase some of these problems.  Ari cited several indisputable facts that point to the conclusion that, in 2012, Duke is seemingly overrated, and from a general perspective they should not receive the #1 seed that many bracketologists are projecting them to receive.

It didn’t matter that he noted Syracuse and Kentucky share some of the same problems. Duke apologists jumped at the opportunity to criticize what they perceived as Duke hatred.

Interestingly enough, I took what he said at face value and thought that it sounded pretty reasonable.

First of all, take his basic premise: the ACC is overrated.

This is 100% true.  Sagarin has the conference ranked behind the Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, and SEC while barely edging out the Mountain West.  If the ACC is not good, and Duke has struggled in conference play, they don’t seem to look like a #1 seed.

Secondly, look at the additional facts:

  • They have only two good wins since November 7 (road wins over sloppy Florida State and a thrilling comeback against their big rival, UNC).
  • They have zero non-conference road wins.
  • They were absolutely blown out by Ohio State in Columbus.

Be honest.  Just looking at those facts, it does appear that Duke would be incredibly undeserving a #1 seed this year if they are indeed given it.

However, upon further examination of all the facts, the above statements can be incredibly misleading.  I believe that they point to a bigger problem, not just a problem at Duke but a problem in College Basketball.

If Duke is not deserving of a #1 seed, than who is?

To me, I thought this answer was easy.  While I don’t follow college basketball as much as Ari, I do enjoy watching it, and generally I grade teams on the eye test.

To me, I think the four best teams are Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri, and Michigan State. But when I tried to base my decision on facts, I was left wanting.  Again, I discovered that there was a huge problem across the board in NCAA Hoops.

(Of course here, you are thinking, “No way!  An institution that ALLOWS kids to leave school early, and then turns around and punishes schools when it’s kids leave early could have problems?  No way….”)

You see, if you want to criticize Duke for not scheduling any tough “true road games,” that’s fine.  Just make sure you criticize nearly every other top team in the country.

Let’s take a quick look at the nation’s top teams, and see if they are really any different from Duke:

  • Kentucky:  Played ONE non-conference road game.  Lost to Indiana.
  • Syracuse:  Played ONE non-conference road game.  Beat North Carolina State.
  • Kansas:  Played ONE non-conference road game.  Beat USC.
  • Missouri:  Played ONE non-conference road game.  Beat Old Dominion.
  • Michigan State:  Played TWO non-conference road games.  Beat Gonzaga and Eastern Michigan.
  • Marquette:  Played ONE non-conference road game.  Lost to LSU.
  • North Carolina:  Played TWO non-conference road games.  Beat UNC-Ashville and lost to Kentucky.
  • Ohio State:  Played TWO non-conference road games.  Beat South Carolina and lost to Kansas.
  • Georgetown:  Played ONE non-conference road game.  Beat Alabama.
  • Baylor:  Played TWO non-conference road games.  Beat BYU and Northwestern.
  • Duke:  Played TWO non-conference road games.  Lost to Ohio State and Temple.

Wow.  Not exactly “murderer’s row” is it?

The Problem With College Basketball

In the current state of College Hoops, if you start the season ranked in the top 15, you would be absolutely stupid to schedule yourself a lot of non-conference road games.  You don’t need to.  As long as you keep on winning, you will stay around the top of the polls for the entire season and end up getting a high seed.

I think the biggest problem is that we are trying to evaluate #1 seeds like we have the same teams that we had ten years ago.  But look around.  The landscape of college basketball has changed.

There aren’t any teams in college basketball that have three upper-classmen first round draft picks like Duke had with Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, and Carlos Boozer.

Gone are the days when a Carmelo Anthony-led team would only get a #3 seed in the tournament.

With the one-and-done rule, conference re-alignment, and the rise of mid-majors, we just don’t have that many super teams anymore.

And even if a team does pass the eye test, like Kentucky this year, you can’t point to their resume and say they are anything ultra-special.  The SEC is down this year, and they lost their only true road game out of conference.

Personally, I don’t think Duke deserves a #1 seed.  I think they are too small.  I don’t think they have front-court depth.  They only have one guy who can truly create his own shot – and it’s unclear whether or not Coach K even knows how to use him.

Duke fails the eye test for all of those reasons.  And those are the reasons they aren’t a #1 to me, independent of everything Ari outlined in his article.

But we can’t keep hating on Duke for doing something that every other big time school in college basketball does.  Sure, teams like Creighton and Butler have to go on the road in order to prove themselves.  A close look at them does seem to indicate that their schedule has been more difficult than Duke’s; but not just Duke’s…EVERYBODY’S.

Wow.  I just defended Duke and their schedule.  Come back again tomorrow as I aimlessly wander out into traffic.

About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.


  1. I commend you on writing an article that considers
    multiple factors.


    The emphasis placed on true road games is overrated. If
    I’m the coach of Kentucky, Duke, or any other highly rated team with young
    players (i.e., I’m anyone not named Tom Izzo), there’s no way I’m scheduling
    true OOC road games. First of all, I’m every opponent’s biggest game, meaning
    they’re going to play several notches above their normal level. And then I’m
    going to agree to go into their stadium where they play several MORE notches
    above normal? That’s foolishness. Second is just what you mentioned, Jon. A
    loss is going to hurt my chances of a higher seed. The higher your seed, the
    easier your road to the Final Four. Just ask the 2010 Duke team (which is one
    of the things Ari was trying to point out yesterday). But do you think Coach K or
    any other coach cares when someone writes about how his team got to the Final
    Four? All K cares about and all people remember (minus the people who don’t
    like Duke or whatever team it is) is the fact Duke cut down the nets.


    The argument usually given for playing true road games
    is, “It’ll make them tougher.” Meaning what? They’re going to gain experience?
    Experience for what? March? Major conference teams don’t play true road games
    in March. I want my players winning as many neutral court games as possible.
    That’s what will help me when the national championship, not going into someone
    else’s gym and losing by 20. It gives you guys something to write about, but
    from the perspective of a coach of a top 15 team, scheduling true road games is
    just plain dumb.

  2. Scottie Mac says:

    Maybe the days of the superteam are over in college basketball. The excitement just hasn’t been there for college basketball for me this year. I used to watch either college or pro basketball every night while working, but to date the only games I’ve seen at least one half of have involved Duke, Carolina, or College of Charleston. Sure, I’ll watch March Madness just like I’ll watch every night of the NBA playoffs, but the appeal of watching a bunch of teams I have no vested interest in is over. Maybe I’m becoming Cynical Old Man.

  3. Great take.  I’d personally give teams that actually schedule tough  games like Wichita, Creighton, Butler, Gonzaga, Murray State, UNLV, Long Beach, SDSU et al higher seeds than the big cowards anyday.  The tourney has the last say, and the so-called “mid majors” usually take out the overhyped unprepared Syracuse and Duke type teams anyway.

  4. Kurt Allen says:

    Marquette did win their rivalry game at Wisconsin, screw the seedings anyways, tourney will tell the truth…

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