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Duke’s (Pre-Season)Top Five Streak

It’s been awhile since Duke wasn’t ranked in the pre-season Top Five.

North Carolina v Duke
DURHAM, NC - MARCH 03: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 74-64 during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Writers with nothing better to do start issuing self-described “way-too-early” projections for the upcoming basketball season as soon as the previous season ends.

The Sporting News wins what should be called this year’s “rush-to-judgment, way-too-early” record, releasing its knee-jerk forecast of the 2018-19 rankings on April 3. Others waited until the dawn of summer, when recruiting and early NBA departures had concluded, more seemly timing.

Surveying several of the more prominent sources, none picked Duke atop the ’19 preseason Associated Press poll. But all picked the Blue Devils among the top five. For the sixth straight year.

This status has become so routine, it’s a bit of an upset when the Blue Devils aren’t picked among the nation’s top-10 teams in preseason. Since 2000, the Devils failed only three times to start a year ranked 10th or better – 2005, 2007 and 2008.

That last season was more than a decade ago. Later that year Barack Obama beat John McCain for the presidency. Remember those days, when politics, like modern ACC basketball, was tough but largely civil?

The ’19 season figures to be the 11th time in this century neither Duke nor UNC starts the basketball race atop the polls.

Media voters also picked Arizona, Kansas and Kentucky at No. 1 twice each during the 21st century. Early forecasts tend to go with KU or UK, a pedigreed palindrome of limited scope.

Otherwise only Florida (2007) and Indiana (2013) joined the top starters in the poll position since 2000-01. Familiarity apparently breeds more than contempt when AP voters cast their ballots.

Come season’s end, Duke finished in the AP top-20 in 18 of the last 19 seasons, with 2007 the sole exception. Other than a No. 19 finish in 2016, the Blue Devils were a top-10 team each of the other years. The ’18 team finished ninth.

Duke in AP Polls, Preseason and Postseason Since 2001
(Final Ranking at Dawn of NCAA tournament)
Season Preseason Postseason No. 1 At Start
2019 (?)
2018 1 9 Duke
2017 1 7 Duke
2016 5 19 UNC
2015 4 4 Kentucky
2014 4 8 Kentucky
2013 8 6 Indiana
2012 6 8 UNC
2011 1 3 Duke
2010 9 3 Kansas
2009 8 6 UNC
2008 13 9 UNC
2007 12 NR Florida
2006 1 1 Duke
2005 11 3 Kansas
2004 2 6 UConn
2003 6 7 Arizona
2002 1 1 Duke
2001 2 1 Arizona