Thursday, December 31, 2009

Underachieving Duke

On April 2, 2001, Duke defeated Arizona 82-72 to win its 3rd National Championship. Arizona was the #2 seed in the Midwest region that year. That marked the record 18th time that Duke had defeated a top four seeded team since 1979 when the tournament began seeding teams.

Why is this significant today? Because, that is the last time Duke has defeated a top four seed. That is 8 years without defeating a top 4 seed. In that timeframe, 57 other schools have beaten a top 4 seed at least once including Kansas with 8 victories over top 4 seeds.

Duke's current futility includes 6 consecutive years being defeated by a lower seed which is an NCAA Tournament Record.
  • 2004: #1 Duke lost to #2 Connecticut 79-78 in National Semifinals
  • 2005: #1 Duke lost to #5 Michigan State 78-68 in Sweet Sixteen
  • 2006: #1 Duke lost to #4 Louisiana State 62-54 in Sweet Sixteen
  • 2007: #6 Duke lost to #11 Virginia Commonwealth 79-77 in First Round
  • 2008: #2 Duke lost to #7 West Virginia 73-67 in Second Round
  • 2009: #2 Duke lost to #3 Villanova 77-54 in Sweet Sixteen
The 2004 year is unique because they went to the final four without defeating a top 4 seed. In the Sweet Sixteen, they defeated Illinois who was a #5 seed and in the Elite Eight, they defeated Xavier who was a #7 seed.

In 2002, Duke was a #1 seed and defeated by #5 seed Indiana. The only year since the 2001 championship that they played to their seed was 2003 when as a #3 seed, they were defeated by #2 seed Kansas.

Why has Duke underachieved in the tournament? Jatin Patel states that Duke's lack of true road games out of conference has led to them underachieving. Most of their games away from Cameron Indoor are at Madison Square Garden which many have dubbed "Cameron Square Garden" because of the many Duke fans in the New York City area.

To see if this has any merit, I decided to look at the location of Duke's losses in the tournament since 2002:
  • 2009: Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2008: Washington, DC
  • 2007: Buffalo, New York
  • 2006: Atlanta, Georiga
  • 2005: Austin, Texas
  • 2004: San Antonio, Texas
  • 2003: Anaheim, California
  • 2002: Lexington, Kentucky
In that same timeframe, they are 8-0 in North Carolina and 2-0 in South Carolina. They are 5-8 playing in all other states.

Why has Duke underachieved in the tournament? It may be location. It may be the fact that Duke overachieved in the regular season. It may just be a string of bad luck. But whatever it is, Duke haters are loving it while Duke fans would like to know how to end it.

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