Duke basketball: The five greatest defensive teams under Coach K

Duke basketball guard Jason Williams and forward Shane Battier (Ezra Shaw/ALLSPORT)
Duke basketball guard Jason Williams and forward Shane Battier (Ezra Shaw/ALLSPORT) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball sophomore Joey Baker #13 slaps his hands on the court during the second half of a game against the Georgia State Panthers at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 15, 2019, in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s success is due in large part to the defense he has both taught and inspired, but which of his 40 teams have stood out from the rest in terms of executing his instructions the best?

While the 2019-20 squad did not make this list of the five greatest Duke basketball defensive teams under Mike Krzyzewski — way too early for that — the current Blue Devils’ play through four games is the inspiration for this list. Put another way, sometime between now and April, this season’s collection of lockdown Duke defenders have a shot to become the reason for a tweak to this list.

ALSO READ: Predicted scores for every Duke game this season

But what does it take to be one of these five bucket-denying, havoc-creating juggernauts? Well, stats — blocks, steals, points allowed, etc. — obviously weigh heavily on a team’s overall defensive rating (grading those that made the cut here on a 100-point scale). In addition to numbers, though, sometimes boosting these squads’ scores are single-possession defensive stands that became memorable because of their importance to crucial contests.

Of course, there is also the intimidation factor to consider — i.e., certain guys, or sometimes tandems or trios, who regularly made Duke’s opponents shiver, sometimes on the way to becoming the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Defensive Player of the Year (Duke is responsible for nine such recipients dating back to the award’s inception for the 1986-87 season).

Finally, championships matter. That said, not all of these five Duke teams won national championships. Not all of them even played in April.

What they all did do, though, was nearly perfect each of the countless tenets of Coach K’s defensive doctrine: grit, passion, hustle, communication, togetherness, perseverance, awareness, instincts, sacrifice, etc. So from No. 5 to the winningest college basketball coach’s No. 1 defensive unit — in an attempt to let the current team understand what it takes to land here — let’s get started…