Duke basketball put in impossible situation entering Selection Sunday

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball team is in an impossible situation entering Selection Sunday. 

Just two days ago, the Duke basketball season was over.

A positive COVID-19 test within the program forced the Blue Devils out of the ACC Tournament as they were hours away from tipoff in the quarterfinals against the Florida State Seminoles.

As a fringe bubble team, Duke needed a victory against the Seminoles to try and prove itself as an NCAA Tournament team but never got the chance and was eliminated from the postseason after two straight victories.

Following the positive test, athletic director Kevin White released a statement that said, “this will end our 2020-21 season.”

While head coach Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t as blunt, his statement certainly didn’t sound like he was preparing to get back on the bench with the Blue Devils this season, saying, “I loved the 2020-21 Duke Basketball team and was honored to be their coach.”

Fast-forward to Saturday morning when ESPN’s Rece Davis reported that Duke could play in the 2021 NCAA Tournament if selected as an at-large or replacement team.

In order to play in the NCAA Tournament, a team must have seven consecutive days of negative COVID-19 tests before arriving in Indianapolis, the host city for the entire tournament.

Dan Gavitt, the NCAA Senior Vice President of Men’s Basketball, said that a team needs just five healthy players to play in an NCAA Tournament game.

Saturday night at 11:00pm EST was the deadline for teams to inform the NCAA if they could not meet the health and safety protocols set forth for the tournament.

The Kansas Jayhawks (Big 12) and Virginia Cavaliers (ACC) were also forced out of their respective conference tournaments because of COVID-19 positive tests and reportedly have not informed the selection committee that they cannot play in the NCAA Tournament.

Duke basketball in tough situation

While the Blue Devils are still trying to figure out their standing, the bubble shrunk on Saturday as the Georgetown Hoyas won the Big East Tournament and the Oregon State Beavers won the Pac-12 Tournament.

Neither team would have made the Field of 68 if it did not win its conference tournament, stealing two bids from potential bubble teams.

The NCAA will name four teams, the ‘First Four Out’, as replacement teams for the tournament in case teams fail to meet the COVID-19 protocols and need to be replaced in the bracket. There is only a 48-hour window where teams can be replaced in the field.

If a team has to withdraw in the midst of the tournament, the game will be deemed a forfeit, and its opponent will advance.

But where does this leave Duke?

It seems highly unlikely that the Blue Devils will be selected to the Field of 68, but then why did this report surface?

Just to stir conversation? Create more buzz around the Selection Show with the biggest name in the sport?

It just seems all too coincidental after the official Duke Men’s Basketball Twitter account fired off a cryptic message late Friday night and has not tweeted since.


Speculation over the tweet raged late into Friday night as the comment section ranged from the retirement of Mike Krzyzewski to the positive COVID-19 test ending Duke’s season turning out to be a false positive.

The easiest and most logical answer was that it was in response to Florida State defeating North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament to advance to the Championship Game, a place where the Blue Devils wished they had been in.

But back to the NCAA Tournament.

Duke fans will tune in to the NCAA Tournament Selection Show with the slim hopes that the Blue Devils will appear on the right side of the bracket, and maybe that is what Saturday’s reports were meant to do.

But what if the Blue Devils are named as a replacement team?

Are they supposed to hope for a team to be infected with COVID just so they can play in the NCAA Tournament?

That’s a tough position to put a college team in, or any team for that matter, but all of the speculating will end at 6:00pm EST on CBS as the NCAA Tournament bracket is unveiled.

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