Fans Bedeviled: Is Duke Basketball Losing Its Luster?

Matt SmithSenior Analyst IMarch 9, 2017

The question has been asked many times over the past few months: has Duke basketball lost some of the shine it has earned over the last couple of decades? 

While most fans will say that this is a myth, the stats since Duke's last national title in 2001 prove otherwise.

With inflated rankings and media hype, the Blue Devils have reached the top five of the AP Poll in every season since 2001.  In 2002, 2003, and 2006 they have even reached the number one ranking in the AP Poll. 

But with all of this hype, the Blue Devils have only reached the Final Four once in this span, a trip in 2004 against eventual national champions UConn. 

In fact, Duke has only advanced further than the Sweet 16 once in this span and have not advanced past the first weekend in back-to-back seasons.

While Sweet 16 trips are nice for some, it is a disappointment for most Blue Devil fans.  But it's not only the tourney where they have faltered.

It's been the whole late stretch of the college basketball season.  In the months between November and January since 2001, when Duke usually plays its unchallenging non-conference schedule, Duke is 122-10 (.924).  Impressive, right? 

But in February and March of these years, Duke is a mediocre 69-31(.690).  Without their easy wins and lack of physical play, the Devils have worn out in the later months of the season when tough conference play kicks in.

But win-loss records are not the only problem brewing in Durham. 

A recent slew of top recruit transfers, high lighted by Taylor King, Eric Boateng, and Jamal Boykin, have left the program.  Boykin left due to family illness, but the other two seemed to be unhappy with the coaching style (primarily Coach K not recognizing that he has a bench) and just up and left. 

If you don't believe top prospects look at this as a warning sign and say, "Hey why would I want to play there?" then you obviously do not realize the fragile psyche of a ball player's mind.

And now we move of the final point of Duke's decline, the coaching.  Coach K is a great coach, no one will deny that.  But seriously, what is he doing? 

Duke's main problem this year was a lack of an inside presence.  What did he do this year?  Sign a five-star shooting guard. 

Duke also signed Olek Czyz, but the kid is an unproven force in the paint.  He plays facing the basket and the scouts say he needs to improve on his post play.  You miss Greg Monroe and sign a "post project," and you believe that is going to get you over the hump? 

Maybe if Wojciechowski, a guard, wasn't developing big-man talent, Duke would have less of the Josh McRoberts and more of the Tyler Hansbroughs.  If the coaches get the credit for building a program, they deserve the credit for ruining one as well.

So what's in store for this year's team with seven, count them seven, McDonald's All-Americans that "overachieved" last year? 

Another late season collapse, another home loss to arch rival North Carolina for a fourth-straight time, or another undeserved high seed in the NCAA tournament, only to lose in the first weekend? 

Apparently, the stats agree with all three.  Be prepared Blue Devil fans, it's going to be a long, bumpy ride.