Annual Duke Coup Underway?

“Certainly Duke is Duke…” (Coach Pete Gillen, 1997)

And 17 years later, not much has changed in the college hoops landscape.

Coach KWith another loss by a rapidly-fading Syracuse team, along with Kansas and Creighton falling Saturday on the road, Duke backed into a No.1 seed today in some bracket projections. The Blue Devils also somehow soared to No. 4 in today’s new Top 25 poll, though they remain eighth in RPI.

While the aforementioned schools were playing in hostile environments, Duke was off all weekend — recuperating from a home win over last-place Virginia Tech and preparing for 12th place Wake Forest Wednesday. It’s a rough life in the ACC.

But when was the last time a six-loss team tied for third place in a mediocre league (containing more bad teams than any major conference in America), with nary a good road win (just four total all season! By contrast, potential one seeds: Wichita State has 12; Florida 10; Arizona seven – including a neutral win over the Blue Devils before a partisan Duke crowd)received a No. 1 seed? One could make a better argument for a three seed actually.

It’s thus irritating that I must scribe this type of column every year, but an obsequious media, bounces of the ball and much else make it sadly necessary.

I wrote two similar ones in 2013, though Duke thankfully choked down the stretch and received a two seed. The Blue Devils proceeded one round farther than usual in March Madness, but still missed the final four for the ninth time in 10 seasons, though they did advance past the sweet 16 for only the third time in a decade.

Like every year, the Blue Devils positioned themselves well by cleverly scheduling any “tough” opponents in November and December in order to escape with wins against bottom-feeders in January and February, while avoiding too many slip-ups (other than bad losses to non-tourney Clemson and Notre Dame, while somehow avoiding a road game at conference champ Virginia). Those are things you cannot do in the Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, Pac-12, Mountain West or Atlantic 10.

In a world where it’s easier to call names than debate facts, I repeat 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 recruit, Duke has a roster of upstanding young men.

However, that does not excuse the fact that for the fifth year in a row the Blue Devils will likely receive credit they haven’t earned, and we all know darn well why.

And if Duke isn’t a one seed at this juncture, 13 days from Selection Sunday, who will be? Syracuse, despite losing three of four (and easily six in a row), and failing to win the subpar ACC?

Reward teams who schedule tough, including non-conference road games, and play in the best conferences. Period. I know ESPN isn’t listening, but maybe the Selection Committee will.

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. Kurt Crowley says:

    That is going to be an awfully long road trip to their second/third round games, 21.5 miles as the crow flies?

    Badgers better get to play in Milwaukee.

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      Like I said, it’s all a set up for teams like Duke — every year. Amazingly, they rarely deliver. Wisconsin earned it. They play (and succeed) in a brutal conference nearly every contest. Duke and Syracuse play Wake Forest/BC/Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech and others who couldn’t finish in the top half of the Missouri Valley.

      • Kurt Crowley says:

        Wisconsin 48, Virginia 38 – In Charlottesville, beat the regular season champ of conference with mighty Duke/Syracuse/North Carolina

        • AJ Kaufman says:

          Exactly. Just watching ACC basketball — even “mighty” Duke/Syracuse — you see a significant decrease in talent level from Big 10 or 12. Blatantly obvious to anyone with some hoops knowledge. But we have a national media dedicated to obscuring that. Too much at stake. Duke/Cuse/UVA would have 6-7 losses minimum in the Big 10 or 12 this year.

  2. Looking at most of the MSM sports prognosticators – Kansas is first in line for that 4th #1 seed, even though they have seven losses. This is due to the fact that they are the RPI #1, and have played far-and-away the most difficult schedule in the country with many top wins. I wouldn’t take too much stock in anyone granting Duke #1 seed status right now….although if they win out, including the ACC tourney (taking out two between Syracuse, UNC, and Virginia in the process) and the other contenders lose a game between now and Selection Sunday; we could be singing a different tune.

    • AJ Kaufman says:

      If KU wins the Big 12 tourney, they merit a one seed. I do not think the ACC conference winner deserves a one seed, even if KU doesn’t win the Big 12. There are other teams who’ve actually played tough schedules, including Villnova/Creighton BE winner. And I doubt Duke will have to even play both UVA and Cuse. One will lose early. Always happens. The weight the committee puts on the (absolutely silly and should not exist) conference tourneys varies every year, which is another problem.

  3. The MSM is giving Duke’s Campus Intramural Tourney team the 6 seed in the east too.

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