Can Duke Complete Their Annual March Seeding Coup?

Despite massive evidence that they are undeserving, Duke basketball may be granted another questionable No. 1 seed when the NCAA Tournament field is announced Sunday.

Though semi-expected, a top spot in 2013 is remarkably baffling, considering these damning facts:


  • Duke did not win the regular season ACC title. (The conference is barely Top 5 in America; many would say lower.)
  • Duke fell quietly in round one of the conference tourney to a non-tourney team with a sub-.500 conference record (their second loss to inexperienced Maryland in four weeks).
  • Duke did not beat a ranked team on the road all season.
  • Duke beat just ONE ranked team in the past 110 days.

And within this spectacle, the Blue Devils establish a terrible precedent for college basketball:

  • Have your veteran-laden team schedule any and all “tough” games the first two weeks of the season.
  • Play NONE in a true road setting.
  • Schedule only home games in December against inferior schools.
  • Win your conference home games — but lose half those ACC road games.

This is truly historic.

Even at 27-5 — with three of those losses occurring in the past 30 days against teams not in the Field of 68 — you’d think this team would be a three seed, two at best, but Duke is Duke.

After rolling to the Big 12 title, Kansas has every argument (overall record, strong end of season, quality road wins, tough conference, conference tourney title, et al) in their favor to EARN a top seed over a team that never left the Eastern Seaboard all season.

It remains troubling that top teams from equal-to-better conferences than the ACC cannot pull the annual Duke coup because their alumni don’t work at ESPN or CBS and thus avoid these unfortunate truths, and instead promote cliches (that losing your third-leading scorer for eight weeks is akin to Miami losing LeBron James) and myths (Duke is the only great team in America) about Coach K’s kids every night.

Allegedly there are sentient people at Duke University, but what the school’s Athletic Department did this basketball season was sheer genius.

That established, and Duke’s ultimate seed notwithstanding, Blue Devil fans should be wise enough to realize this is a scam. And though an epic choke job like last season may not occur again, they should be unsurprised when their one-dimensional and flawed team fails to advance past the sweet 16 for the eighth time in nine seasons.



About AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. now works 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 State. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the back roads of all 50 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. is the author of three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.


  1. On the bright side, I really feel like this season may be the perfect storm for an A-10, MVC, MWC, WCC team to win it all. Of course it all depends on the bracket matchups. It drives me crazy that for the last 5 years they’ve been matching mid-majors in the first two rounds. I guess it helps guarantee mid-majors to the sweet 16, but I want to see them knocking off the big boys not each other. 

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      The Commitee loves to put “mid majors” against each other so they can eliminate them. Wichita/VCU last year a perfect example. It’s about money. The Dukes, Syracuses and others travel better, so they are given easier routes. It’ll happen again today no doubt. And if/when an MVC/MWC/A10/WCC team breaks through, it will quickly be forgotten as Butler was. The media and NCAA need big schools to advance far, so they shout myths and give them undeserving high seeds and easier brackets. That Duke lost to Lehigh last March is ignored once Duke schedules their “tough” games (none on the road) and wins them in November, then is barely a top 25 team from Dec. 1 to March 15. It makes me enjoy the game less and less each season and look forward to MLB sooner each spring.

  2. Or maybe the AD is a genius. Keep the schedule light and help guarantee a top seed and easier draw to the final four. Or do you schedule powerhouses and get beat up all season to prepare you for the combat of the tourney?

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      You only schedule powerhouses if you’re not from the “power 6” or whatever. New Mexico and St, Louis, for example, are as good as anyone in America — and they still schedule. Other teams don’t have to, and they rarely play non-conference road games. Michigan State is one exception. Duke & Syracuse are often the worst offenders. At least KU went to Columbus non conference and won. Duke was forced to go there last season for ACC/Big ten and lost by 30. Telling, and forgotten.

  3. This year should extremely exciting as a large number of teams could win it all as there are no teams that have been dominant, except for Gonzo who dominated their weak conference.

  4. RPI Ranking this year, #1. You’re the typical hater, still bitter about 2010. They will be a two seed, no question. If you’re so bitter, I’d stick with baseball………

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      Dude, the RPI is irrelvant. New Mexico was 2. Duke was the last 2 seed. Look at their slate and be reasonable, not a fan. Stop calling names. I presented fact after fact an you call me a hater. 2010??

      Otherwise you just feed the Duke stereotype: arrogant, angry, no depth.

  5. I can’t tell if this is parody or not. If so, bravo my friend.

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      Huh? Fact, fact, fact, correct. The committee saw that Duke was barely a 2 seed and gave them the final 2 seed. their season will again end very early.

      • Right. A two-seed. That seems about right to me.

        I have no idea what “fact fact fact correct” means, but it certainly seems to me that your conspiracy theory was just plain old wrong. There was clearly no grand cabal orchestrating an undeserved 1-seed for duke.

        I certainly hope duke’s season ends early. I’m no duke fan (I’m an NC State supporter). But if your argument is that the #1 RPI team in the nation is undeserving of even consideration for a top seed, well then, who is? Again, I think the seedings were fair. Personally, I think that Miami by winning the ACC regular season, winning the ACC tournament, and splitting with Duke head-to-head during the regular season has to have been deemed ahead of Duke in the tournament pecking order. And that seems to be the case, even though they both ended up as #2s.

        But if you are arguing that #6 team in the latest Ken Pom rankings, with the #11 most difficult SOS, and played the #19 most difficult NCSOS (far exceeding any/all of the B1G teams) does not even deserve to be considered as one of the top teams.. well, then, I think you’re letting your personal preferences cloud your objective judgement.

        I don’t think that Duke deserved a #1 seed, but they were clearly among the top 8-10 teams in the country and thus worthy to at least be in the conversation for one of the top spots. For the record, I think that Creighton will knock them off in the 2nd round… But your opinions might be taken more seriously if you engaged in actual analysis as to why you think duke is overrated (i.e. their offensive rebounding is awful, they struggle to defend ball screen offenses, etc) rather than “I don’t like this team, so I’m going to spout off unexamined nonsense masquerading as ‘expert opinon'”. But that’s just my opinion. ymmv.

        • AJ Kaufman says:

          Well said, Frank. That is a very reasonable summary, of which I mainly agree. I thought you were mocking my article, which took a great deal of effort and revisions on each point and hyperlink.

          There is no conspiracy. I was saying, as you inferred, that Duke did not deserve a 1 seed, is a tad overrated, should be below Miami, and may very well lose in round 2 or the sweet 16. That would be underachieving for a team ranked #1 part of the season.

          I simply pointed out that these big schools can’t just play some tough games very early — none on road — then think their BCS conference slate will carry them to a top seed. The Committee finally made that clear today when A10 & MWC got more teams in than the ACC and others, while many SEC and ACC schools saw their bubbles burst, in contrast the “mid majors” like Boise, MTSU, La Salle and others.

          And as I have said numerous times before in print, Duke’s has major flaws in their on-court game: cannot stop the dribble penetration and dish out; no size inside other than Plumlee; and rely way too much on three-point shooting. That’s how and why they lost to Lehigh last March and Maryland (4 for 25 three-point shooting) on Friday. If Creighton — who also relies on the three off dribble penetration — is on their game Sunday, they’ll beat Duke. (And yes, despite what ESPN says, CU will beat Cincy) The Blue Devils also never faced anyone as talented/skilled as Doug McDermott in this year’s ACC.

          I apologize for my tone earlier. I just get so many ad homimen attacks from angry, vicious Duke fans/apologists (like the guy above your comment and dozens in other articles) that I’m apt to reply that way to yours. My bad. Good points. I look forward to seeing Duke exposed again.

          Thanks for writing.

  6. Look at all the columns and this guy says he is not a Duke hater. Reminds me of Dan Shanoff and Bill Simmons when they worked at page 2 on Duke lives rent free in this guys head.

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      No, sir, reality — and EVERY year I am proven correct. Another underachieving year for Duke. Maybe you can look in the mirror and see who is biased about your team. I simply state facts.

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