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Duke vs. The SEC

Look at the last time the Blue Devils played Georgia!

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 06 State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kentucky
 INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 06: Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) scores inside against Kentucky Wildcats forward Nick Richards (4) during the State Farm Champions Classic basketball game between the Duke Blue Devils and Kentucky Wildcats on November 6, 2018, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN.
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

They were once siblings, the cores of their respective memberships arising from the same Southern Conference. The first Southern split came in 1932 with formation of the SEC, the second in 1954 when the ACC began play.

In its earliest days the new ACC sought to outshine the SEC with higher academic aspirations, but was repeatedly ground to dust on the football field.

Basketball was a different story. The ACC produced 6 national champions, two each from Duke, UNC and NC State, before the SEC saw a second member besides Kentucky win an NCAA title. Limiting SEC chances, over the years its NCAA title contenders stupidly declined competing in the national tournament lest they face Black players. UK repeatedly went instead.

The breakthrough champ from the SEC was Arkansas, picked up from the old Southwest Conference. (The LSU Fighting Tigers reached four Final Fours but the school’s men have yet to win a title.) The Razorbacks defeated Duke in the ’94 title game at Charlotte, a moment forever fixed in NCAA record books by photographs showing a beaming coach Nolan Richardson and US president Bill Clinton, an Arkansas native.

Lately the advantage has remained with the ACC. In this century the two leagues provided 26 Final Four participants, 16 from the ACC and 10 from the SEC. Seven ACC squads from four schools (Duke, Maryland, UNC, UVa) won NCAA titles in those 21 years, once every three seasons. (No tournament in 2020). The SEC won 3 — Florida in 2006 and 2007, UK in 2012.

The SEC previously mounted a little-noted Challenge series with the Big 12 which ended in 2022-23 after a 10-year run.

The ACC met the Big 10 in a much-hyped challenge series from 1999-2000 to 2022-23. The ACC won the first 10 Challenges with the Midwestern league. More recently the Big 10 won three of four. Duke was by far the most successful school in the annual matchups, going 20-4. The Challenge ended when ESPN lost broadcast rights to the Big 10, although no league poobahs said as much.

The network helped arrange a challenge series with the SEC instead.

The ACC previously got the ball rolling on interleague, in-season matchups with an annual series against the Big East, then a young league trying to prove its debatable superiority. The two conferences tied over the three-year span of the rivalry (1990-92). Duke lost to Syracuse and Georgetown, then major powers, and beat St. John’s. Big East coaches lobbied to end the deal, and the Big 10 was served up instead.

ACC and SEC teams already play annual Challenge-like games with in-state rivals in Louisville-Kentucky, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida State-Florida, and Georgia Tech-Georgia. Those remain separate, stand-alone engagements not incorporated in the new challenge series.

Last year Duke was battered into submission in the NCAA second round by SEC member Tennessee, coached by former Clemson coach Rick Barnes. The Blue Devils also lost to South Carolina, a former ACC member, in 2017 and to LSU in 2006 in the Sweet 16.

Three SEC members have winning overall records against Duke. Arkansas, this year’s Duke opponent in the new series, has met Duke once since the 1994 NCAA championship contest – a Duke victory in 2022 in the NCAA West Regional.

This season they face off on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 to break a 2-2 series tie. The Razorbacks were decisively defeated by UNC in a Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas.

Duke vs. SEC Teams in Men's Basketball
SEC School Duke Vs. Most Recent
Alabama 8-3 W,2013
Arkansas 2-2 W, 2022
Auburn 4-0 W, 2019
Florida 14-4 W, 2018
Georgia 2-3 L, 1932
Kentucky 10-12 W, 2019
Louisiana State 5-2 L, 2006
Mississippi 0-0 None
Mississippi State 1-2 W, 2005
Missouri 2-0 W, 2001
South Carolina 57-20 L, 2017
Texas A&M 1-0 L, 1987
Tennessee 9-7 L. 2023
Vanderbilt 10-5 W, 1997