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YouTube Gold: When Duke Sunk Navy In 1986

A major turning point game in the Duke canon

Naval Academy David Robinson, 1986 NCAA East Regional Finals
 College Basketball: NCAA Playoffs: Navy David Robinson (50) in action, block vs Duke Mark Alarie (32). East Rutherford, NJ 3/6/1986 
SetNumber: X32861 TK5 R4 F33

Over the Krzyzewski-Scheyer years, Duke fans have gotten used to the Blue Devils being an NCAA tournament force.

When Coach K got to Durham though, it wasn’t quite like that. Duke had made the tournament in Bill Foster’s last three seasons, and had made it four times, and three Final Fours, in the Bubas era when you had to win the ACC Tournament to get there.

Coach K got there for the first time in 1984 and then again in 1985 but only won one game in those first two trips.

So 1986 was a pivotal year and in many ways was a foundational year as well.

The Blue Devils got to the elite eight with just two losses on the season. The starting lineup was Jay Bilas (6-8), Mark Alarie (6-8), David Henderson (6-6), Johnny Dawkins (6-2) and Tommy Amaker (6-0).

Duke ran into Navy in the Elite Eight and that was unusual, not the sort of level anyone had ever seen Navy at before (or since).

That was because David Robinson had emerged as a generational talent.

Just 6-7 when Navy recruited him, Robinson quickly sprouted to 7-1 and was also supremely athletic.

It was no sure thing for Duke.

But the Blue Devils were motivated. They had heard people dismiss their chances and didn’t like it.

The highlight of the game may have been Dawkins going up for a reverse layup in traffic between two Navy defenders.

In the end, Duke won comfortably, 71-50 and advanced to the Final Four, where they beat Kansas before losing to Louisville in the finals, finishing 37-3.

Years later Robinson’s son, Justin, would come to Duke as a walk-on, later earning a scholarship.