The Duke men's basketball team is having a historic season—just not in the way it would like.
Duke fell to Notre Dame 93-89 on Tuesday to drop to 7-8 on the season. This is the first time since 1999 that the program has had a record below .500, according to Kyle Boone of CBS Sports.
Per Matt Giles of FanSided, it's been even longer since the Blue Devils were below .500 in February, something they haven't done since 1995.
The program is in serious danger to miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995, when legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski was on leave to recover from back surgery, per Mike Lopresti of NCAA.com. The Blue Devils went 13-18 that year and picked up just two ACC victories.
Their regular-season struggles could see them demoted to the NIT, where they haven't appeared since 1981—Krzyzewski's first year with the squad. Duke's all-time wins leader deflected a question about the tournament in talking to reporters on Monday (h/t Giles):
"I think, to plan ahead during this season is not a good idea, and also, just to keep your eyes on the road and just try to be as good as you possibly can be. To be quite frank with you, we have not talked about that with our team. So we'll consider whatever. I just hope we have our ACC tournament. ... I'm all for the ACC tournament."
A perennial contender, Duke has dropped six of its last eight games and is 5-6 in ACC play. The squad was ranked ninth in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, one spot ahead of Kentucky, another typically strong team that is struggling in 2021. The Wildcats, who had the top recruiting class in the country, are just 5-12.
The latest edition of the poll was missing Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and North Carolina, something that hadn't happened since Dec. 18, 1961, according to Adam Zagoria of the New York Times.
If Duke and the NCAA's other top programs don't shape up quickly, March will have a new feel.