Duke basketball is all but a lock to, at the very least, make the NIT in Jon Scheyer’s first season at the helm, needing only a couple of more wins to ensure that invite. But following Monday’s 78-75 loss at Virginia Tech (12-8, 2-7 ACC), the Blue Devils (14-6, 5-4 ACC) are still far from a guarantee to earn an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.
Although it’s still somewhat early, a double-digit loss total entering Selection Sunday would likely equate to the Blue Devils, who have already fallen to No. 31 in the NET Rankings, being a bubble team at best this go-round.
Meanwhile, they are 1-4 in opponents’ gyms, where the Duke players have repeatedly allowed inexcusably big runs by the other team and failed to make winning plays in late-game situations. And they have five road outings remaining, including at now-No. 7 Virginia on Feb. 11.
Five days before that is a trip to face No. 20 Miami, who came within one possession of beating the Blue Devils in Durham on Saturday. That’s not to mention Duke’s meeting with rival UNC, currently riding a three-game winning streak, in Chapel Hill to wrap up the regular season in early March.
Seemingly, every time Duke enjoys an emotional lift via an apparent script-flipping victory in Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Blue Devils are 10-0 this season, the team follows it up with a dud or two away from home.
So if that trend holds, Duke, currently in a tie at No. 8 in the ACC standings, might enter the ACC Tournament at 20-11 overall and 11-9 in conference play.
Yet that’s assuming wins in every home game. The Blue Devils still have to host the likes of UNC and Virginia Tech, in addition to an NC State team that embarrassed them in Raleigh and a Wake Forest squad that defeated them by 11 points in Winston-Salem.
Granted, the Blue Devils should notch their second road win when they play lowly Georgia Tech at 3 p.m. ET Saturday. Again, though, Scheyer’s Duke basketball product has consistently appeared disappointingly dull, sometimes even uninspired, in front of unfriendly crowds.
Next, consider how weak the ACC is this year, at least in the eyes of those who matter nationally. It’s in danger of having only one ranked team if Miami and Clemson each lose at least one of their two games this week.
Furthermore, Duke’s non-conference slate featured a few quality wins that no longer look as impressive. Outside of the 71-64 win over now-No. 13 Xavier at the Phil Knight Legacy in late November, there’s not much for these young Blue Devils to write home about in this regard. Ohio State is 11-8 (3-5 Big Ten), and Iowa is 12-7 (4-4 Big Ten).
As for Duke’s six other non-conference wins, they came against squads with a combined 59-60 record as things stand.
According to the NET Rankings, more than half of the Blue Devils’ wins this season are of the Quad 4 variety.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that one of Duke’s most promising weapons of late, freshman forward Dariq Whitehead, may now miss considerable time due to the lower leg injury he sustained at Virginia Tech.
Moreover, sophomore guard Jaylen Blakes now has to play with a protective mask due to a broken nose. Add in the fact Scheyer has implied recently that junior guard Jeremy Roach may be weeks away from being 100 percent due to his toe injury.
While the rest of the bunch appears healthy, the Blue Devils’ only consistently formidable talent has been freshman forward Kyle Filpowski.
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