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Duke Win Streaks To Open Season

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

What was clear watching the Blue Devils through their first two games was that this year’s freshmen class, a key component of the squad, is not as polished, poised or prepared for prime time as the 2015 group.

There was little real surprise, then, in Duke’s defeat by Kentucky at the United Center in Chicago.

Not that the freshmen necessarily define the Blue Devils or encompass their current weaknesses. Unless freshman Derryck Thornton was on the court, there was no playmaker, just an array of ball conveyors. Not coincidentally, the Devils had 9 assists and 16 turnovers.

It’s also unclear anyone other than Thornton and perhaps junior Matt Jones can guard quick backcourt players. Take as a modicum of proof that UK had 15 assists and 9 turnovers.

Nor is budding star sophomore Grayson Allen, clearly gifted and sometimes spectacular, ready to take on the burdens of leading a team to victory.

Duke was forced to rely on a trio of supportive upperclassmen – Amile Jefferson, Jones and Mason Plumlee. All three were McDonald’s All-American in high school, so they’re not exactly overmatched or incapable of excellence. Rather, they’ve rarely been asked, or perhaps able, to step to the fore in college.

They did against Kentucky, scoring 44 of Duke’s 63 points. Jefferson and Plumlee had 25 of 39 rebounds as the Devils matched UK’s total on the boards.

Regardless of the Blue Devils’ strengths and deficiencies, they became the ninth of Mike Krzyzewski’s 36 squads (25 percent) to open a season with two or fewer victories. Compare that with 2015, when the team debuted with 14 consecutive wins.

In case you’re wondering, there’s apparently little relationship between starting a Duke season with a long winning streak and ending it with a Final Four visit or an NCAA title. Two of Krzyzewski’s five national title winners (1991 and 2010) won six or fewer at the season’s outset. Six of his 12 Final Four teams started with six or fewer wins.

Fifteen of his squads (42 percent) opened with a double-digit run of victories.

Most Wins In A Row By Duke Teams To Open Season
Since Mike Krzyzewski’s Arrival in 1980-81
Wins To
Men’s Seasons
0 2000 (0-2), 1982 (0-1)
1 2014, 1987
2 2016, 1995, 1991**, 1983, 1981
3 2004*, 1997, 1990*
4 2007, 1996
5 1999*
6 2010**, 1988*
7 2012
8 2009, 1984
9 1998
10 2008, 2001**, 1994*, 1993
11 None
12 2003, 2002, 1985
13 1989*
14 2015**
15 2013, 2011, 2005
16 1986*
17 2006, 1992**
* Reached Final Four.
** Won NCAA title.