2009 - #2 seed, lost in Sweet Sixteen by 23 to #3 seed Villanova
2008 - #2 seed, lost in second round by six to #7 seed West Virginia
2007 - #6 seed, lost in first round by two to #11 seed Virginia Commonwealth
2006 - #1 seed, lost in Sweet Sixteen by six to #4 seed LSU
2005 - #1 seed, lost in Sweet Sixteen by ten to #5 seed Michigan State
Here are some stats for your consideration:
- Duke has won one tournament game played outside of the State of North Carolina since winning the 2004 Atlanta Regional as a #1 seed against #5 seed Illinois and #7 seed Xavier. [Thank you to an anonymous commenter for pointing out a mistake in my original stat here. I had overlooked a one-point win over Belmont in Washington, D.C.]
- Duke has not won a tournament game against a team seeded #4 or higher since winning the 2001 national title game against Arizona.
- Based on their seeds over the past five years, Duke would be expected to have won 15 tournament games. (This assumes that they would lose their opening game at the Final Four.) Instead, Duke has won seven.
Leave aside the fact that Coach K was once a great tournament coach and this resume ought to cause Duke to be branded as world class chokers. My understanding is that Duke still hauls in McDonald's All-Americans. Has Coach K turned into a talent waster? Is he Guy Lewis? Bill Frieder? Is Duke's status as the emperor with no clothes common knowledge in college basketball circles and I just think this is an underreported story because I follow the sport very casually? As someone who just gets his content from major national sources - ESPN, Sports Illustrated, etc. - I still hear Duke discussed as a college basketball royalty even though they haven't played like it for years. Is the ACC currently sitting on declining coaching legends in both football and basketball?
Come to think of it, I wonder what changed in the ACC after the 2004 season that might cause Duke to go downhill...
Speaking of football parallels, there are two obvious comparisons: Ohio State and Oklahoma. The Buckeyes and Sooners regularly lose big postseason games, although they are not in the same position as Duke for two reasons. First, the college football regular season is a much bigger deal than the college basketball regular season, so Ohio State's and Oklahoma's success before January matters more. Second, there's no shame for the Bucks or Sooners in losing national title games to Florida, LSU, and USC. If Duke were getting to the Final Four and losing to UConn, UNC, and Kansas, then that would be one thing. It's quite another that they are losing to VCU and West Virginia. Duke could counter by saying that talent is more evenly distributed in college basketball and the post-season is longer, so it's more likely that a college hoops program would get upset in March.
The Ohio State-Duke comparison works better for a few reasons:
- They both get criticized for lacking athleticism (read: too white).
- They both get criticized for being media darlings with high-profile backers on ESPN. Thankfully for Ohio State fans, Kirk Herbstreit is better looking and far less annoying than Dick Vitale. Herbstreit also makes a pretense of not openly rooting for Ohio State.
- They both play in overrated conferences. I know the ACC is supposed to be the bees' knees in hoops, but are there any major programs in the league other than Duke and UNC? The middle class of the conference - Georgia Tech, Virginia, N.C. State, Wake Forest, and Maryland - have all been down since 2005.
- I hate them both and prefer that they end up in the same flaming ship.