The Duke Blue Devils (13-11) were on the bubble of the 2021 March Madness college basketball tournament, but an outbreak of COVID-19 derailed their lackluster season. Duke withdrew from the ACC Tournament after one member of the team tested positive for COVID-19.
Unranked Duke was slated to meet #15 Florida State on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, hosted in Greensboro, North Carolina. With Duke’s withdrawal, Florida State advances to the ACC Tournament semifinals.
“Unfortunately, after going an entire season with no positive COVID-19 tests among our men’s basketball student-athletes and coaching staff, one member of our program tested positive following Wednesday’s ACC Tournament game in Greensboro,” said Duke athletic director Kevin White.
“I feel deeply for our players, who have done a terrific job all season in taking care of each other and the team,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “I am extremely proud of their collective attitudes and effort, which could not have been stronger. We are disappointed we cannot keep fighting together as a group after two outstanding days in Greensboro.”
Coach K: "We have not asked more of any team in our history, and they deserve enormous credit for handling everything like the outstanding young men that they are." pic.twitter.com/R69HIUyQuI
— Duke Men’s Basketball (@DukeMBB) March 11, 2021
White said the season is over for Duke’s men’s college basketball team.
“This will end our 2020-21 season,” said White. “We wish every team still playing college basketball good health and the very best during the next few weeks.”
Even if the Blue Devils secured a miracle bid to March Madness, Duke will not participate. The positive COVID test ended a marred season for Coach K and Duke.
“This season was a challenge for every team across the country and as we have seen over and over, this global pandemic is very cruel and is not yet over,” Coach K added. “As many safeguards as we implemented, no one is immune to this terrible virus.”
Duke advanced to March Madness in 24 consecutive seasons. Duke last missed a trip to March Madness in 1995.
“While our season was different than any other that I can remember, I loved the 2020-21 Duke basketball team and was honored to be their coach,” said Coach K. “We have not asked more of any team in our history. They deserve enormous credit for handling everything like the outstanding young men they are.”
Tough Season in Durham, Johnson Opts Out
Duke started the season 3-2, but had to endure six postponements or canceled games.
Duke suffered their first loss of the season against Michigan State, ranked #8 at the time. The next week, Duke lost to #6 Illinois by 15 points.
When action resumed after the start of the new year, Duke lost three ACC games in a row to Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, and Louisville, and tumbled out of the AP Top 25 ranking.
In February, Duke lost three more games in a row, including a 4-point loss against interstate rival, North Carolina. After losing a close game at home to Notre Dame, Coach K and Duke were 7-8 and in deep trouble.
Jalen Johnson, Duke’s top freshman and a projected lottery pick, opted to sit out the rest of the season in mid-February in order to prep for the NBA Draft. Johnson appeared in 13 games and averaged 11.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Without Johnson, Duke bounced back with four wins in a row, including a 1-point upset over #7 Virginia. The Blue Devils improved to 11-8 on the season, but then the wheels fell off the bus once again.
Duke lost three games in a row, including back-to-back overtime losses against Louisville and Georgia Tech. Coach K ended a dismal regular season with an 11-11 record.
Duke started the ACC Tournament with two big wins over Boston College and Louisville. Coach K and Duke knew that they needed to run the table in the ACC Tournament if they expected to earn a bid into March Madness. Duke suffered too many losses for a bubble team.