Duke could reportedly still play in its 25th consecutive NCAA tournament with an at-large bid or as a COVID-19 replacement team after it withdrew from the ACC tournament because of a positive coronavirus test.
Though Blue Devils athletic director Kevin White said the withdrawal would "end our 2020-21 season," ESPN's Rece Davis reported Saturday that outlook has changed, with the team preparing for a possible return if selected to the March Madness field.
Duke was a bubble team entering the conference tournament and opened with victories over Boston College and Louisville to reach the quarterfinals. It pulled out of the event ahead of a matchup with Florida State following the positive test.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski expressed disappointment about the season's apparent ending:
"While our season was different than any other that I can remember, I loved the 2020-21 Duke Basketball team and was honored to be their coach. We have not asked more of any team in our history, and they deserve enormous credit for handling everything like the outstanding young men they are. I feel deeply for our players, who have done a terrific job all season in taking care of each other and the team. I am extremely proud of their collective attitudes and effort, which could not have been stronger. We are disappointed we cannot keep fighting together as a group after two outstanding days in Greensboro. This season was a challenge for every team across the country and as we have seen over and over, this global pandemic is very cruel and is not yet over. As many safeguards as we implemented, no one is immune to this terrible virus."
Duke, with its 13-11 record and only one win over a ranked opponent, is a long shot to earn an at-large bid unless there's a slew of withdrawals ahead of the Selection Sunday bracket announcement.
The Blue Devils are more likely to find themselves as a COVID-19 replacement option, which means they'd be on hold until the Tuesday deadline for teams to opt out of March Madness. At 6 p.m. ET that day, the bracket will be finalized.
Duke would be a dangerous opponent on short notice. Despite its up and down season, it sits No. 34 in the KenPom rankings on the strength of the nation's 15th-rated offense.
The 2021 NCAA tournament will be held in Indiana to limit travel during the pandemic, creating a bubble-like environment for the event.