Will Duke Make the NCAA Tournament?

The Duke Blue Devils have been one of the most disappointing teams in college basketball this season, and their NCAA Tournament hopes are literally hanging by a thread. With the regular season over and the ACC Tournament just around the corner, it’s fair to wonder whether one of the biggest basketball programs in the country will have what it takes to make The Big Dance this year?

The answer is quite simple. Duke needs to win the ACC Tournament to have a shot at reaching the NCAA Tournament. If they don’t accomplish that hefty goal, something quite unlikely to happen given the way they have performed all season long, then it’s quite hard to imagine them claiming a spot in this year’s March Madness.

Duke ended the regular season with a 91-73 loss at North Carolina on Saturday, and that means they ended the campaign on a three-game losing streak while going 4-6 over their last 10 contests. It’s safe to say nobody saw this coming. Not Duke, not Mike Krzyzewski, and certainly not the experts before the 2020-21 season got underway. Duke was a consensus Top 10 team in the country and was ranked as high as #2 by Ken Pomeroy. Yet, here they are. The Blue Devils are hanging by a thread when it comes to their postseason chances.

An NCAA Tournament without Duke is a rarity, as the last time the Blue Devils failed to reach the postseason was in 1995. However, there’s a realistic chance of that happening in 2021 — adding another wrinkle to what has been a very strange season across the country. There’s always the chance of Duke catching fire and winning the ACC Tournament, something that would give the team an automatic berth in the Big Dance. However, Duke’s recent performances suggest that’s not likely. A miracle would be a better definition of that happening.

Simply put, Duke needs every other ACC team to lose games in the tournament — but the problem is that, more often than not, those teams play each other. Duke would have to go all the way to make the NCAA Tournament, as they will begin their quest for an unlikely ACC Tournament win against Boston College on Tuesday.

The road looks complicated for the Blue Devils and it seems they only have one shot at reaching the Big Dance. And while it’s never easy to doubt one of the biggest programs in the country, don’t be surprised if Duke ends up missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 26 years. They haven’t done enough this season to believe they can go all the way in the ACC Tourney, even if they catch fire when it matters the most.

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