Nothing beats the commemoration of actual Duke basketball feats, but that doesn’t mean recognition in the rafters would be inappropriate for a year when several potential banner-worthy moments never had a chance to happen.
The 2019-20 Duke basketball team (25-6, 15-5 ACC) finished with a loss total either equal to or less than 28 of the other 39 versions of Blue Devils under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Only three of the 11 squads with either fewer or the same number of L’s do not have a banner hanging inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. Of course, unlike the group that saw its season come to an end on Thursday due to happenings beyond its control, those three squads at least had opportunities to win the ACC Tournament, reach the Final Four, and capture the Big Dance crown.
But what Tre Jones, Vernon Carey Jr., Cassius Stanley, Jordan Goldwire, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Justin Robinson, Alex O’Connell, Jack White, Javin DeLaurier, Joey Baker, Mike Buckmire, Michael Savarino, and Keenan Worthington did pull off was admirable and hinted at possible greatness to come:
- Jones and Carey Jr. both landed on the All-ACC First Team. Jones also earned honors as ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year, and Carey Jr. took home ACC Rookie of the Year. Also, Stanley joined Carey Jr. on the conference’s All-Freshman Team.
- They became the first unit in Durham since 1966 to finish a season with a W without winning the national title (both the ’63 and ’66 teams won what used to be the Final Four’s third-place games).
- They reached No. 1 and then finished No. 10 in the final AP Poll after going a combined 3-0 against foes that wound up in the top 10 (No. 1 Kansas, No. 4 Florida State, and No. 9 Michigan State).
- They cut down nets at the only tournament they played in (November’s 2K Empire Classic).
- They became the ninth squad under Coach K to sweep North Carolina; arguably none others did so in a more thrilling fashion (plus, having the final game be a victory over the Tar Heels adds extra sweetness).
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Therefore, both as a result of the cancellation of postseason play due to concerns over coronavirus and the regular-season achievements — particularly impressive when considering the program lost 73.3 percent of its scoring from the previous campaign — these Blue Devils deserve a banner.
So what should the banner claim? Maybe “2019-20 Blue Devils” and then a blank space underneath would suffice. Or maybe put the team’s record with a giant question mark or ellipsis underneath.
No, whatever it reads, it shouldn’t go next to those for winning it all. Just hang it somewhere among the ones for No. 1 finishes in the AP Poll, conference titles, and the rest.
This way, it would serve as a reminder for Duke basketball fans to forever discuss the team. As gutwrenching as such rehashing might forever be seeing that there’s no way to know what might’ve been, anything less would be a disservice to the good times this bunch provided.
In short, though uncontrollable events cut the season short, the 2019-20 Duke basketball team did nothing to deserve ever being forgotten.
Plus, addressing worries about potential overcrowding in Cameron’s rarefied air, we should all pray that measures relating to unique circumstances such as the current one will never again be necessary.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.