Bracket Bits: Could Duke miss the NCAA tournament?
It’s been a long time since the Duke Blue Devils missed an NCAA tournament (circa 1995). While it may not be time to panic in Durham, it is time to be a little concerned about how the Blue Devils will finish the season given the absence of center Amile Jefferson.
Since Jefferson last played on December 5 (a win over Buffalo), Duke is 7-5. During that stretch, the team’s best wins are Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and NC State – none of which are projected (at least right now) to make The Dance. If Jefferson doesn’t return to action before Selection Sunday, and/or his status for March is uncertain, the Committee will have to evaluate the Blue Devils without him. And that could prove problematic if they falter through a tough upcoming stretch in the ACC.
After a trip to Georgia Tech (which won’t be easy) and NC State at home, look at the Devils’ ensuing four-game gauntlet: Virginia, Louisville, at North Carolina, at Louisville. Duke could easily emerge from that stretch at 6-8 in the ACC, and that’s assuming they beat either Virginia or Louisville at home. If my math is accurate, that would make them 9-9 without Jefferson in the lineup. At that point, their final four games and ACC tournament would make or break the Devils’ chances.
If Jefferson returns or is projected to return, the Selection Committee will have the tough task of looking at Duke through two sets of glasses, one with Jefferson and one without. If he can return, and play well, then Duke will be afforded consideration for its record without him. If he can’t return, the Blue Devils’ status in March becomes a much bigger question.