The games Duke basketball must win to earn NCAA Tournament bid

Duke basketball forward Jalen Johnson (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball forward Jalen Johnson (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke basketball has serious work to do before punching a postseason ticket.

If not for its blueblood stature, the Duke basketball program wouldn’t even sniff the NCAA Tournament bubble at this point.

Nope, at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in ACC play with no quality wins whatsoever — none against teams with a winning record versus Division I opponents — these Blue Devils have quite the uphill climb just to step foot in the Big Dance.

Yes, they could become the first Blue Devils since 1995 not to hear their name on Selection Sunday (March 14).

Sure, four of Duke’s five losses this season have been by seven points or less, and all of them have come at the hands of teams with winning records. Moreover, including Saturday’s 70-65 L at Louisville, the current three-game losing streak has taken place on the road and to ACC foes who have a combined record of 29-9 overall and 14-6 in conference play.

All that said, the journey doesn’t get any easier from here for the 41st Duke basketball squad under Mike Krzyzewski, especially when taking into account the sheer level of inconsistency from his guys throughout their consistently lackluster performances to date.

ALSO READ: Ranking the first 40 Duke teams under Coach K

So to those who keep screaming that there’s still a long way to go, you should go ahead and consider updating your outlook. Because as Duke continues on its backward slide with a relatively difficult closing stretch ahead, March Madness hopes quickly dwindle.

The upcoming challenges on the Duke basketball schedule

Assuming the ACC reschedules Duke’s previously postponed games versus Pitt and at Florida State, the Blue Devils now have 14 games remaining in the regular season. And assuming this group doesn’t earn an automatic bid by winning the ACC Tournament, even a 9-5 record from here on out — finishing 14-10 overall and 12-8 in ACC play — might not be enough.

After all, with only four teams from the conference appearing in the latest AP Poll and Virginia being the only one inside the top 15 — Duke, by the way, is now receiving zero votes — the ACC slate doesn’t exactly offer regular opportunities right now to add statement victories to one’s résumé.

At the same time, for these Blue Devils, neither the to-be-rescheduled games nor the remaining scheduled games offer any automatic W’s either.

The nine best shots at wins are in bold below. Notice these “must-wins” include the next seven contests, meaning Duke needs to start clicking right away:

  • Tuesday vs. Georgia Tech (7-4, 3-2 ACC)
  • Saturday vs. Clemson (9-4, 3-4 ACC)
  • Feb. 1 at Miami (6-8, 2-7 ACC)
  • Feb. 6 vs. UNC (10-5, 5-3 ACC)
  • Feb. 9 vs. Notre Dame (5-8, 2-5 ACC)
  • Feb. 13 at NC State (6-5, 2-4 ACC)
  • Feb. 17 at Wake Forest (4-6, 1-6 ACC)
  • Feb. 20 vs. Virginia (10-2, 6-0 ACC)
  • Feb. 22 vs. Syracuse (9-4, 3-3 ACC)
  • Feb. 27 vs. Louisville (10-3, 5-2 ACC)
  • March 2 at Georgia Tech (7-4, 3-2 ACC)
  • March 6 at UNC (10-5, 5-3 ACC)
  • TBD vs. Pitt (8-3, 4-2 ACC)
  • TBD at Florida State (9-2, 5-1 ACC)

Based on what you have seen from this Duke basketball team, what are the chances it comes out on top in nine or more of the above matchups? Now, what are the chances the Blue Devils snag a bonafide big-time win in either of the lone matchups with currently No. 16 Florida State or No. 8 Virginia?

Not looking good. Simple as that.

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