Duke basketball: Thank goodness for NCAA decision on brackets

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

The NCAA made a wise call to cancel an annual Sunday evening show that has long been one of Duke basketball fans’ favorite pastimes.

I, for one, am glad we won’t have to visualize over and over in our heads all the obstacles Tre Jones, Vernon Carey Jr., and the rest of the 2019-20 Duke basketball team might have faced in the postseason.

The March Madness Selection Show that was originally on tap for 6 p.m. Sunday definitely would have been too maddening to watch under the current circumstances.

So I agree with every word of what NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt wrote in a release on Sunday afternoon explaining the decision not to unveil a hypothetical NCAA Tournament bracket. Here are some of his main points:

“The world is experiencing a challenging health crisis with the coronavirus pandemic…it has resulted in the cancellation of NCAA basketball championships and an empty month that otherwise would be filled with tremendous excitement…There were 19 men’s and 18 women’s conference tournaments that had yet to be completed…”

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Gavitt continued:

“The important work of the basketball committees is to set up competitively-balanced brackets to determine national champions. I don’t believe it’s responsible or fair to do that with incomplete seasons…Players and coaches want to see their school name on the bracket. Members of the media want to dissect matchups…Fans are curious…However, anything less than a credible process is inconsistent with the tradition of the NCAA basketball championships…”

What doesn’t have to be consistent, of course, is each program’s tribute to the season. Remember, some squads — such as a Duke rival eight miles down Tobacco Road — thankfully had just enough time to end their campaigns on their own.

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As for Mike Krzyzewski, the 40th-year Duke basketball head coach will no doubt take measures to ensure ample lifetime appreciation finds this unfortunate collection of Blue Devils. In the meantime, the players must come to terms with missing out on the NCAA Tournament opportunity that every one of his other teams with winning records enjoyed (except his first squad in 1980-81, which finished 17-13 in a time when only 48 invites went out for the Big Dance).

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Sure, despite the NCAA’s decision to let it all go unknown, we could all keep obsessing over what seed Duke would have earned. We could all keep guessing as to how far the gang would have advanced.

But we should be grateful that the woulda-coulda-shoulda talk will never include an official forever-empty bracket. For one, incessant simulations would have initially been infuriating and quickly turned tiresome.

We must accept that all we will ever have as evidence for what these Blue Devils were is their No. 10 ranking in the final AP Poll and the way they went about compiling their overall record of 25-6, including a 15-5 mark in ACC play.

I can at least say with certainty that watching the following Duke basketball hype video now gives me unique goosebumps:

Like it or not, this Duke basketball squad never got a shot to show if it is built March-tough (other than the 2-0 start to the month, which came against its two nearest conference foes); unless God plans to create a 2020 bracket and then show us the missed ending one day in Heaven, nothing will ever change that.

Therefore, all we can do is enjoy the highlights for what they portray: a special bunch of positive-minded Blue Devils who didn’t need postseason play or a spot on an NCAA Tournament bracket to offer up forever-moments.

If you don’t agree, then I urge you to refresh your memory at 7 p.m. Sunday when ESPN2 airs a condensed version of the Feb. 8 magic show in Chapel Hill (the Ball Durham Twitter account plans to live-tweet the spectacle as if the outcome is unknown).

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For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.

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