When college basketball’s power rankings are released every week, it’s typically a safe bet that Duke will be near the top. However, after a rough start to the season, the basketball powerhouse has a hard time even staying in the top 25. After narrowly making the cut in the latest coach’s poll, many wonder if this will be the rare off-year for Mike Krzyzewski and company.
Duke out of the rankings
During the latest round of voting, reports ESPN, Gonzaga got the pole position in both the Coaches Poll and AP Top 25. This came as no surprise after a dominant 4-0 start on the season. The same can be said for the 5-0 Baylor, who came in second in both polls. This is where the lists start to diverge, however. Other undefeated teams like Rutgers, Houston, Tennessee, and Michigan stood anywhere from the top 25 to the top 10.
As far as teams who already have a loss, Kansas ranked third and fourth; Iowa cracked the top five in both. The overall list is a predictable collection of all the teams that typically have a spot reserved. Oregon barely made it into both polls, and North Carolina secured the 17th spot at 5-2. Texas is looking to have one of its best years since Kevin Durant represented them.
For an average team, making the top 25 is a big deal, but it’s a formality for elite schools. When it comes to college basketball, however, few have loftier expectations than Coach K’s club, so when they barely ranked on both sides of the poll, many started wondering whether this would be a year that Duke will soon choose to forget.
The Duke Blue Devils’ season
Duke had an impressive collection of freshmen coming into the 2020-21 season. From forward Jaemyn Brakefield to Henry Coleman III, Jalen Johnson, Jeremy Roach, DJ Steward, and Mark Williams to round out the group. Led by Matthew Hurt’s scoring, Johnson’s defense, and Jeremy Roach’s point guard minutes, the team had lofty expectations going in.
After a decisive but far-too-close victory against Coppin State, however, the school started noticing some cause for concern. A loss to Michigan State the following game didn’t help things, either. Duke has had a frustrating season filled with wins against unranked schools, postponements against others, and losses to their two ranked opponents.
Should this keep up, their number could drop even further. With the most challenging stretch of conference play coming, too, it’s not unfair to start asking some questions.
Coach K on the season
Krzyzewski spoke about the team’s struggles. He acknowledged that COVID-19 combined with other factors have made it hard to approach this season with the vigor they usually have. After entering what would’ve been March Madness with a 25-6 record before the playoffs were canceled, he’s concerned about what that does to players on top of everything else.
“I don’t think it feels right to anybody,” Krzyzewski said at a press conference, according to MLive. “I mean, everyone is concerned. We made an assessment. I’m not sure who leads college basketball. It’s done by committee … It wasn’t like well-planned.”
At 20 and 25 respectively in the polls, Duke might be headed toward a rare down year, something that Coach K hasn’t experienced since the mid-1990s. Until then, they have to turn things around, or else they’ll keep watching their status fall in the polls.