Duke Basketball: What will it take for Duke to be decade’s best program?

Duke basketball mascot (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Duke basketball mascot (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

It’s no secret the 2018-19 Duke basketball team is talented enough to win a national title, and that could be what is required for the Blue Devils to earn the title of “Best Program of the Decade”?

From 1990-99, the Duke basketball program accomplished just enough to earn the nod over Kentucky as the decade’s best; both had two national championships, but the Blue Devils held a five-to-four edge in final fours. That being said, plenty of folks in Lexington wouldn’t hesitate to put forth a counter-argument as to why the Wildcats were the best of the ’90s.

As for 2000-09, the only logical pick was UNC (two national titles, four final fours). Painfully, this one is tough to argue.

But it’s not as if anyone hands out an official trophy; rather, just like most of the best-of-anything titles abundant on the internet, deciding the best program from a decade is just an opportunity for writers to pass the time on slow news days and spark a discussion.

And with the football team in Durham on a bye week and seemingly every basketball program in the country other than Duke receiving commitments from recruits, this just feels like one of those days at Ball Durham.

First, what should be considered when choosing the best program of the decade?

Well, the simplest and arguably the most accurate way to come to a conclusion is to take into account three totals: national titles, final four appearances, and total wins.

So, with just one season until it is complete, let’s identify the accomplishments of the programs that remain in contention to be the best of this decade:

  • Duke: Two national titles, two final fours, 267 wins
  • Villanova: Two national titles, two final fours, 244 wins
  • Kentucky:  One national title, four final fours, 275 wins
  • UNC: One national title, two final fours, 248 wins
  • UConn: Two national titles, two final fours, 197 wins

Let’s now identify what the current Duke basketball squad must accomplish this season — and what the others must fail to accomplish — in order for the program to hold the imaginary trophy once this decade is complete (although there will be games at the start of the 2019-20 season that would theoretically factor into the equation, outcomes of games in November and December won’t have enough impact to change the answer that will be decided by April 8, 2019 — the date of the championship game in Minneapolis).

First, if none of the above programs reach the final four, the title would likely be between Duke and Kentucky. Duke would have more national championships, but Kentucky would have more final fours and more wins (unless the Blue Devils far outperform the Wildcats this season). That means, with the head-to-head series between the two tied at one win apiece for this decade, the tiebreaker to decide the decade’s best program could come down to the outcome of their season-opening game on Nov. 6 in Indianapolis.

If Villanova wins the national championship, then it would be — without argument — the best program of the decade. Same goes for Kentucky.

If UNC wins the national championship and neither Duke or Kentucky reaches the final four, then it would hold the title.

If UConn wins the national championship, despite having far less total wins than the rest, it would be tough not to give it the title for the simple fact that national championships tend to trump all other factors (and rightfully so).

So, other than relying on the others not to reach the final four, what is the minimum Duke must do ensure it is “King of the Decade”?

Well, the Blue Devils could seal the deal if they reach the final four and none of the other above schools win the title.

Or the Blue Devils could just end the debate by cutting down the nets in Minneapolis.

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Let’s just go with that.