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A defense of Duke's No. 1 ranking

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Tags: ACC Now | Duke

The e-mails from fans criticizing the current Duke team typically latch onto one area where the Blue Devils unquestionably are lacking.

Fans of other schools question how Duke (25-2) can be ranked No. 1 after playing just two teams ranked in the current top 25 (No. 19 North Carolina and No. 23 St. John’s).

As Duke prepares to meet No. 24 Temple (21-5) at 7 p.m. tonight (ESPN2), that’s a fair and legitimate question.

The ABD (Anyone But Duke) crowd wants to know, if Duke was in the Big East, what would the Blue Devils’ record be? That’s an impossible question to answer.

When Duke lost at St. John’s on Jan. 30, the defeat appeared to expose a serious flaw for the Blue Devils and the ACC. At the time, first-year coach Steve Lavin’s team appeared to be on its way to a finish in the lower third of the Big East standings.

Now, though, St. John’s owns Big East wins over No. 4 Pittsburgh, No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 14 Connecticut. So it’s not accurate to say that Duke’s loss at Madison Square Garden proves that the Blue Devils would be roadkill in the Big East.

Here’s a better question to ask. Let’s imagine that the future of the planet depended on the NCAA tournament.

An invading alien army from another galaxy would spare the earth if you could correctly pick the one team that would win the tournament. Would anybody – even the most fervent North Carolina fan - pick a team other than Duke?

Let’s consider some other options:

- No. 2 Ohio State might have the best big man in the land, but Jared Sullinger is just a freshman and Thad Matta’s Buckeye teams (except for the one that had Greg Oden) have notoriously underachieved in the NCAA tournament.

- Except for 2008, No. 3 Kansas has performed below expectations under Bill Self in the NCAA tournament. The Jayhawks also just had their point guard, Tyshawn Taylor, suspended indefinitely for an unspecified team rules violation.

- No. 4 Pittsburgh and No. 5 Texas also have coaches who haven’t performed well in the NCAA tournament when you consider how much talent they’ve had.

- Regarding No. 6 Brigham Young and No. 7 San Diego State, do you really think the NCAA tournament winner is coming from the Mountain West Conference?

You get the picture. In the final analysis, nobody has two seniors who are as accomplished as Duke’s Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, and you need only look back to the last two seasons (with champions Duke and North Carolina) to see how important high-quality seniors are in the NCAA tournament.

Duke also has a coach in Mike Krzyzewski who has proven time and again that he knows how to win in March and April. Krzyzewski has enough talented pieces in place along with Smith and Singler to make a run in the NCAAs, as Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly all are contributing regularly. And the Blue Devils are defending and rebounding well, as they did at the end of last season.

The final four games of the regular season will test Duke more. The Blue Devils play at home tonight against a No. 24-ranked Temple team whose strengths also are defense and rebounding.

On Saturday, Duke visits a Virginia Tech team that also has veteran talent in Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen and is desperate for a high-profile win to enhance its NCAA tournament resume.

Duke’s home finale on March 2 will be against a well-coached Clemson team that also has NCAA tournament aspirations. And in the regular season finale, the Blue Devils will visit an extremely talented North Carolina team that gets better every week.

The schedule over the next 11 days will tell us a lot about whether Duke really is the No. 1 team in the nation. But as it stands now, it’s difficult to pick a team that’s more likely to win the NCAA tournament, even if injured freshman point guard Kyrie Irving doesn’t return for the Blue Devils.

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dukes sucks! unc is the best!

duke got lucky last year no doubt about it. they had an easy road, anybody can win the ncaa championship, look its so easy name the other teams that have won 4 tourneys, its easy, man the tarheels could have won that thing,all the big east teams that have won  4 tourneys,calhoun has gotten in trouble for the second time in 2 years but hey he is not cheatn,hes racing!and the how about the horizen league getting to the big game, wow no one will remember the loser so you get nothing for that, or hell then give duke credit fot getting to like 12 final fours and like 8 or so championship games, and yeah duke will win the ncaatourney if the give them a cake walk, count on it, ohio st, texas and kansas will get bet in the first or second round, they always do!soo luck does count,duke raise another banner, to be the champs , you got to beat the champs!

Courtesy of the Reagan's

"Just Say No !"

Haters gonna hate, that's

Haters gonna hate, that's what happens when you've been straight crushin' clowns in the tourney. Just look at all of the nerds that refuse to acknowledge Duke's dominance of all things college basketball.

DUKE

I really don't think that Duke's #1 ranking needs to be defended, but it doesn't matter anyway. As Gatr reminded us, the champ will be determined on the court and any of those teams mentioned have a shot at winning it.

I'll wait until the brackets are set, but I am not sure I will be picking Duke to win it all. They have flaws just like the rest of the contenders.

Lastly, I'd be careful about dissing the Mountain West. Who would have thought the a member of the Horizon League would play in the championship game last year? I expect this year's tourney to be just like last year's, with more than a few of the name teams from the elite conferences being pushed and upset by solid mid-majors.

I dont think dooKKK can win

I dont think dooKKK can win even if the selection committee gives them the cakewalk bracket they had last year!!

carawhina!!!!

UNC---whine, whine, whine,whine.  DUKE-win, win, win, win. DUKE will win it all again this year, face it DUKE is superior to UNC in every way .goDUKE-CHAMPS!!!

Wow...Deja Vu!

Wow...Deja Vu!

Hello

It is how it works. You lose, you go down. Besides, this is not college football where it really matters when you lose.

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About the blogger

Ken Tysiac has covered the ACC for The Charlotte Observer since 2003, and spent the previous eight years covering Clemson for the Anderson Independent-Mail and then The State in South Carolina. He grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.
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