Duke basketball seeing its worst closers in 99 years

Duke basketball (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports) /

To find a less clutch record, go back to when Duke basketball didn’t exist.

Taking into account Tuesday night’s bubble-popping 81-77 loss in overtime at bubble-growing Georgia Tech (14-8, 10-6 ACC), this Duke basketball team (11-10, 9-8 ACC) is likely to wind up among the worst in program history when it comes to coming out on top in close games.

Well, at least there is one straightforward metric that says so at this point, with the rivalry battle versus UNC (15-9, 9-6 ACC) in Chapel Hill set for 6 p.m. Saturday. Entering this final outing before next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro — quite possibly this Duke squad’s endpoint — the Blue Devils have a 3-9 record when the margin of victory is less than 10 points.

Perhaps the explanation for frequent failure in the clutch comes down to a fairly equal mix of inexplicable substitutions, foul trouble, youth-driven miscues, ill-advised shots, wide-open misses, etc.

Whatever the reasons, though, the season-long trend doesn’t bode well for this group’s chances to stay off the shortlist of the all-time lousiest Blue Devils in this regard. In other words, at this point, the one-point wins at home over Boston College and then-No. 7 Virginia — what looked at the time like a floor-slapping statement on Coach K Court — are now looking like outlier events.

Worst Duke basketball closers ever?

To answer the question above, the SameronCrazy Twitter account is a must-follow for fun Duke basketball stats.

In this case, of course, “fun” might not be the appropriate word.

Whoever is tweeting from there pointed out the sheer amount of time since any men’s team on the idyllic Durham campus held a worse record across 10 or more single-digit affairs than these current Blue Devils:

While I can’t say I was around to witness that 1921-22 Trinity bunch, I guess I can also say I’m glad I wasn’t.

Yet I am all too familiar with those 1994-95 Blue Devil underachievers, who left this then-teenage Duke basketball fan at the mercy of viciously boastful Tar Heel classmates in North Carolina.

Let’s just say that viewing Wojo & Co. Choke Art was a bit of a chore at times. Leave it at that.

All we can do now is hope that this learning-experience Duke basketball campaign instantly distances itself from the sad company above — no offense, 1921-22 Trinity, for maybe your refs were to blame — via some 2020-esque clutch Blue Devil performance in the partially filled Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday night.

Related Story. Duke's sweetest Dean Dome wins of all time. light

Bookmark Ball Durham for more Duke basketball news and views.