Duke Basketball: What Seed Will the Blue Devils Earn?
This college basketball season has been wide open. The result is a variety of teams vying for top seeds in the NCAA tournament. Though seeding isn’t necessarily correlated to success in the tournament, it does decrease the likelihood of an unfavorable matchup. As vulnerable as the Blue Devils are to certain types of teams, seeding could mean an awful lot.
As Duke opens play in the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils can either improve or devalue their stock in the eyes of the selection committee. The results of other conference tournaments will certainly play a role, but Duke has the chance to strengthen its case for a good seed this weekend.
At this point in time Duke could end up as a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 seed. Their performance in the ACC tournament will go a long way to deciding which of those seeds the Blue Devils end up occupying. So let’s lay out the scenarios for what Duke needs to do in the ACC tournament in order to get each of those seeds.
No. 1 Seed
Florida, Wichita State and Arizona seemingly have locks on No. 1 seeds. The Shockers have already won their conference tournament and the Gators and Wildcats are favorites to win theirs. So those three top seeds are sewn up, but the fourth one is up for grabs.
Villanova looks to have the inside track right now, but losing to a bad Seton Hall team in the first round of the Big East conference opened the door for someone else.
Duke’s only chance to get a No. 1 seed would be to win the ACC tournament. Even if the Blue Devils won on Sunday, they’d need some help from other contenders for the top seed.
For starters, someone other than Michigan or Wisconsin would need to win the Big Ten tournament. Duke would also need the selection committee to downgrade Kansas due to the Joel Embiid injury.
Ultimately, Duke’s shot at a No. 1 seed is slim at best. Even if they won the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils would have seven loses. The Notre Dame, Clemson and Wake Forest loses are particularly glaring blemishes on the resume. Those might be enough to keep Duke away from one of the top seeds.
No. 2 Seed
This is the most reasonable seed for Duke to aspire to. However, it’s far from a guarantee. The Blue Devils will need to earn a No. 2 seed with a good showing in Greensboro.
Firstly, Duke cannot lose its opening game. Doing so would doom Duke to a No. 3 seed or worse. Secondly, even a loss in the semifinals would open the door to other teams competing for a No. 2 seed.
Outside of the ACC Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin and Louisville can all make a case for a No. 2 seed. Within the conference, Syracuse and Virginia are both right on Duke’s tail.
If Duke loses in the semis to Syracuse, it’d likely assure Syracuse of a No. 2 seed. If Virginia also advances to the finals, it’d be hard to see Duke getting a better seed than either of those two teams. Duke played a better schedule than Syracuse and Virginia, but those two teams finished ahead of the Blue Devils in the regular season and besting Duke in the tournament would confirm their superiority.
The good news is that the Blue Devils probably control their own destiny in this regard. If Duke makes it to the ACC championship game, it'll probably have done enough to earn a No. 2 seed even if it loses. If Duke wins the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils likely guarantee themselves a No. 2 seed.
But if Duke isn’t playing on Sunday, a No. 2 seed is probably out of reach.
No. 3 Seed
Unfortunately, this is the most likely seed for Duke. Losing to Syracuse or Virginia will bump either of those two teams above the Blue Devils. Again, Syracuse and Virginia finished ahead of Duke in the regular season. If either or both of those two teams perform better in Greensboro it’s hard to see Duke being seeded ahead of them.
Beyond the ACC, Creighton and Louisville are making strong cases for a No. 2 seed. Though both those squads play in weak conferences, it may be hard to deny them if both win their respective conference tournaments.
Getting at least a No. 3 seed is extremely important for Duke. A No. 3 seed or better would keep the Blue Devils in Raleigh for the first two rounds. Falling to a No. 4 seed means Duke could get shipped out West. Given the troubles Duke has had in hostile environments, it behooves the Blue Devils to make sure they at least earn a No. 3 seed and a short trip for the NCAA opening rounds.
The No. 3 seed is the likely landing spot for Duke. All it would require is one win in the ACC tournament. Even with a loss in their first ACC tournament game, the Blue Devils could conceivably hold on to a No. 3 seed. A win, however, would make things much easier for Duke come NCAA tournament time.
No. 4 Seed
It’s possible, but not probable, that Duke could fall to a No. 4 seed. The selection committee does overvalue the Big Ten. If Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan all perform well in that conference tournament and Duke loses on Friday night, then the Blue Devils could drop to a No. 4 seed.
An ACC loss would put Duke at eight loses. If that loss came to a subpar opponent in the Blue Devils' opening ACC tournament game, it would seriously hinder Duke’s case for a top seed. Opening with a loss would certainly push Syracuse and Virginia ahead of Duke and Louisville and Creighton are strong favorites to win their conference tournaments.
The saving grace for Duke is their top-10 RPI and Strength of Schedule rankings. By playing top competition, Duke has enough quality wins and close losses to cover up the more embarrassing defeats.
If Duke comes out completely flat in the ACC tournament, it could play itself down to a No. 4 seed. It’s unlikely that will happen and Duke should at least do enough in the ACC tournament to prove itself worth of no worse than a No. 3 seed.
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