Duke Basketball: Blue Devils’ regular season becoming party like 1998-99

(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

Through the first eight games of the 2018-19 season, the stats — and the feeling of dominance — support the notion that this Duke basketball team may be in the midst of a party like it’s 1998-99.

During my senior year of high school in 1998-99, I was the world’s most obnoxious Duke basketball fan.

Actually, I’ve owned that title ever since becoming a loud-mouth supporter of the Blue Devils as a six-year-old at the start of the 1987-88 season (the word “spoiled” doesn’t begin to describe the extent of what the Duke basketball program did to me as a child by its appearing in five straight final fours — winning two — across the first five years of my fandom).

But this season is the first season since that one 20 years ago in which my over-the-top boasts about Duke’s utter dominance feel 100-percent justified.

More from Ball Durham

Like that 1998-99 season, this season has included a two-point loss — a necessary learning experience — in the championship game of a tournament in November.

And like that early-season loss to Cincinnati in Alaska two decades ago, the loss to Gonzaga in Maui the day before Thanksgiving stung a bit, yet it did not at all force me to lower my expectations for the remainder of the season.

Because just as was the case with the team from that last season of the 20th century, four of the six guys who play the most minutes this season are underclassmen. And like that squad, this squad certainly has the potential to end up with an impressive winning streak during the regular season.

Eight games into this season — No. 3 Duke defeated Stetson, 113-49, at home on Saturday night to move to 7-1 — the Blue Devils’ points per game (94.3) is almost an identical match to that stat from eight games into the 1998-99 season (94.1).

And the average margin of victory this season (26.2) only slightly edges out that stat from the same point of that season 20 years ago (24.1).

For those of you who were not yet fans (or even born yet) at the time, here’s whom all Duke fans had to brag about during the 1998-99 season:

  • The eventual Naismith Player of the Year and No. 1 pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, sophomore center Elton Brand.
  • The Alaskan Assassin, shooting guard Trajan Langdon, as a senior (selected 11th in the 1999 NBA Draft).
  • Two other players who also ended up hearing their names called during the first half of the first round of that year’s draft, sixth-man freshman wing Corey Maggette (selected 13th) and sophomore point guard William Avery (selected 14th).
  • The player who is responsible for the jersey number “31” appearing on a banner that is forever hanging from the rafters in Cameron Indoor Stadium, sophomore forward Shane Battier (selected 6th in the 2001 NBA Draft).
  • The future ACC Player of the Year (2000) who is now in his first year as a Duke assistant, junior forward Chris Carrawell.
  • Another current Duke assistant, sophomore forward Nate James, coming off the bench.
  • A player who as a junior in high school had been rated the No. 1 recruit in his class, sophomore big man Chris Burgess.
  • Head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Now, here’s what all accomplishments Duke fans had to brag about as a result of the 1998-99 season:

  • A one-loss regular season.
  • A 16-0 conference record.
  • A 32-game winning streak.
  • Duke trailed only once at halftime all season (a nine-point deficit at Georgia Tech that the Blue Devils turned into an eight-point win).
  • A 96-73 thumping of No. 15 UNC to win the 1999 ACC Championship.
  • An incredible number of incredibly ridiculous blowout wins (for instance, the Blue Devils beat Virginia both at home and on the road by exactly 46 points and then beat the Cavaliers by 37 in the first round of the ACC Tournament).
  • A chance, entering the national championship game, to surpass the 1985-86 team for the most wins in program history (Duke lost to UConn in that game, which included a last-second ending that I still don’t want to talk about, and finished 37-2).

Sure, it’s true that team didn’t have anyone with the same out-of-this-world athleticism as current freshman Zion Williamson (Maggette certainly had no issue dunking a basketball, though). But it’s also true this team doesn’t have anyone with a shot — from beyond the arc and the charity stripe — as sweet and pure as Langdon (the stroke of freshman Cam Reddish is looking nice, though).

In summary, that season and this season share a lot in common. A similar level of talent. A similar amount of youth. A similar feeling. Similar box scores from the first eight games.

But will this season end with the same heartbreak as that season and thereby shut the mouth — at least for a few days — of this obnoxious Duke fan?

Again, the mere mention of the last game of that 1998-99 season is a party foul.

Next. 10 most memorable Duke wins under Coach K. dark

And I still don’t wanna talk about that.