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Duke’s Season: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, Part II

And now some of the good news

Lee Van Cleef in The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly
Lee Van Cleef in The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly
Photo by �� John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Part I

Duke did keep alive some positive streaks.

Let’s look at a few.


Winning beats losing. Winning more than you lose is a net positive. No one would argue that a 13-11 mark is even close to program expectations. But it is Duke’s 25th consecutive winning season, 36 in the past 37 seasons.

Duke had 33 consecutive non-losing seasons from 1940 through 1972. But that included .500 seasons in 1944 and 1950. Which means Duke is in the middle of a program-best run of consecutive winning seasons.


Believe it or not this is a thing. Duke went 12-14 in 1973, the first losing season since the 1939 team finished 10-12. SID Ted Mann decided that the end of one streak deserved recognition of another and began touting Duke’s NCAA-best mark of consecutive 10-win seasons. And 10 wins meant a lot more in the shorter seasons of the day.

The streak was immediately imperiled the next season, that McGeachy season, when Duke beat Georgia Tech 70-60 on February 16 to go 10-11. Five straight losses ended the season, three of which were winnable, including that famous—or infamous-overtime loss at North Carolina.

Mike Krzyzewski’s second Duke team came even closer to ending the streak. Duke hosted Clemson in the regular-season finale with a 9-15 record. Vince Taylor celebrated Senior Day with a career-high 35 points, willing Duke to a triple-overtime victory and that 10th win.

Duke won 11 games the following season.

We have to go back to 1928 to find the last Duke team to not win at least 10 games. But that team went 9-5 and no one would argue that a 10-17 season is better than a 9-5 season. So, Ted Mann can rest easy wherever he is knowing that Duke’s 93-season streak of at least 10 wins is still intact.

But perhaps no one else really cares.


The ACC has 15 teams and only five people can make first-team All-ACC. So, we shouldn’t diminish Matt Hurt making first-team All-ACC. Keep in mind that Jalen Johnson was voted first-team All-ACC in the preseason poll, Wendell Moore was voted second team. Hurt was nowhere to be seen.

Credit due. This is a substantial accomplishment.

Note also that Hurt ended his season leading the ACC in scoring. Post-season stats count, so someone could catch him. But if not, this would be 12th time in Krzyzewski’s 41-year tenure at Duke that the Blue Devils will have had the ACC’s leading scorer.

Going back to DeMarcus Nelson in 2008 Duke has had at least one player selected to the All-ACC first team, 19 total selections in 14 seasons.

Kyle Singler (2010, 2011) accomplished this twice. Grayson Allen climbed the mountain as a sophomore in 2016 but was unable to repeat in 2017 or 2018. Every other Duke first-team All-ACC player since 2008 left, either because of elapsed eligibility or the lure of the NBA.

Hurt hasn’t announced which path he will take.

Josh McRoberts was named second-team All-ACC in 2007. He was the only Duke player on any one of the three all-conference teams. Duke has had at least two All-ACC players every season since then until 2021. Add that to the broken-streak list.

That 2007 team was also the last Duke team before 2021 to only have one All-ACC player (encompassing three teams).

Before 2007 Duke had at least one first-team All-ACC player every season beginning in 1997. That’s 24 seasons out of 25.

Not too shabby.

Duke has only been shutout of the All-ACC voting one time, back in that 10-16 1974 season. Duke had a legitimate candidate, junior Bob Fleischer, who averaged 15.7 points and 12.4 rebounds per game.

If that rebound average seems high, it’s because it is. Only Bernie Janicki, Ronnie Mayer, Mike Lewis and Randy Denton have ever averaged more rebounds per game in a Duke uniform and all played before Fleischer.

There’s a catch.

For most of its history the ACC has picked all-conference teams irrespective of position. The 2004 first team had five perimeter players, for example. But for a couple of seasons the ACC decided to go by positions. Fleischer was a center and there was no way he was going to beat out a couple of All-Americans, Maryland’s Len Elmore and NC State’s Tommy Burleson, especially coming off a 16-loss team.

Fleischer made second team All-ACC in 1975, starting a 47-year-and counting streak.

Speaking of Hurt, he was named Player of the Year of the United States Basketball Writers Association District III. The USBWA is not conference-specific. District III encompasses South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, but curiously not the District of Columbia.

Bagley (2018), Williamson (2019) and Carey (2020) also won that award, giving Duke four straight.


D.J. Steward was voted to the ACC’s All-freshman team. Duke has had at least one representative since 2012. Ironically, that 2011 miss was the year Kyrie Irving was a freshman. But the future NBA superstar missed too much of the season to be considered.

Jordan Goldwire made the all-defensive team. But that only extends Duke’s streak to three seasons.

Although not directly relevant to this season’s team, Duke recruit Paolo Banchero and A.J. Griffin were named to the 2021 McDonald’s All-America team. That gives Duke at least one Mickie D the each of the last 37 years.

I make no claim that this is an exhaustive list; just some stuff to think about over an off-season that’s going to be longer than any of us anticipated. Most of the extended streaks seem likely to be extended next season.

It’s the other stuff, the streaks that Duke needs to start over; back in the NCAA Tournament, 20, 30, 35 wins, a first-team All-American, maybe two.

Those kinds of things would mark a return to normalcy, admittedly a normalcy that has eluded all but a handful of college-basketball programs.