Entering Saturday, the consensus was Duke needed at least a win over rival North Carolina to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive. It did not need what happened next.
The Blue Devils fell to UNC by a score of 91-73, and looked even more lifeless than the score can show. They were down by 20 points midway through the first half and never came within 10 points of the Tar Heels after that. As time wound down, UNC fans chanted “N-I-T.”
The loss knocks Duke down to 11-11 in a miserable regular season and 10th place in the ACC. Not only was Duke swept at the hands of its biggest rival, it now sits in a desperate position if it wants to keep its streak of 24 straight March Madness appearances alive. The last time a Mike Krzyzewski-led team didn’t make the tournament was 1984 (Krzyzewski missed much of the 1994-95 season after undergoing back surgery).
The consensus around Duke’s tournament hopes at this point are that its chances at making it in through an at-large big are done. The team’s only hope is five wins in five days to win the ACC tournament next week.
Here’s ESPN Joe Lunardi on Duke’s chances:
“At last, Duke has fallen off the bubble and likely needs to win five ACC tournament games in five days to keep its string of NCAA appearances alive.”
And a few more observers:
This game didn’t deliver, but the Tar Heels did. Duke is officially off the Bubble and Coach K will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time for real since 1984
— Tate Frazier (@tatefrazier) March 7, 2021
Not sure I like Duke’s chances of getting a 1 seed in the NIT with this performance so far.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) March 6, 2021
Duke is scheduled to play Boston College in the first round of the ACC tournament on Tuesday.
More from Yahoo Sports: