With the end of 2016 quickly approaching, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest sports stories of the year. Each day, The Blue Zone will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year in Blue Devil athletics.

Coming in at No. 4 on our list: Duke women's basketball losing two of its most talented players from the 2015-16 team and having to move past an internal investigation of head coach Joanne P. McCallie's program.

Several Blue Devil teams had to cope with adversity in 2016, but few had to face as much as Duke's women's basketball team.

Shortly after the Blue Devils missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994, sophomore All-American forward Azurá Stevens and freshman guard Angela Salvadores announced they would not return to Duke's program in early April.

Less than two weeks later, the Blue Devil athletic department confirmed that Duke was conducting an internal investigation into McCallie's program with the following statement:

“The welfare and success of our student-athletes are among Duke’s highest priorities. To that end, we are in the process of conducting an evaluation of the Duke women’s basketball program. This effort is led by a Duke human resources professional outside the Athletics Department. Coach McCallie is aware of the evaluation and eager to assist. We look forward to hearing the insights of those involved in the program and any recommendations that may result from this evaluation.”

The outlet Swish Appeal reported that Duke was investigating the program for possible mistreatment of players and coaches after several left the team in recent years.

Then, in late April, Stevens announced she would transfer to Connecticut and Salvadores signed with the Spanish professional team Avenida.

On May 8, the University announced that McCallie would remain the head coach following Duke's internal investigation.

"The information we received from this process, and the subsequent conversations with Duke athletics leadership, afforded me an opportunity to consider my ongoing efforts to be the best possible basketball coach and leader of young women," McCallie said after the investigation concluded.

During the summer, McCallie sat down with The Chronicle for an exclusive interview in which she discussed the investigation, recent departures from her program and much more. In the interview, McCallie questioned Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma's decision to accept Stevens as a transfer.

Auriemma responded by suggesting McCallie "try a little harder," per the Hartford Courant.

With the offseason drama then behind them, the Blue Devils turned their attention to the 2016-17 campaign. Led by its dynamic backcourt duo of Maryland transfer Lexie Brown and All-ACC guard Rebecca Greenwell, Duke has started the year 11-1 and risen to No. 15 in the AP Poll after beginning the season unranked.

The Blue Devils fell at Vanderbilt 77-73 Nov. 20 but have since won seven straight games, including a major upset against then-No. 3 South Carolina at home Dec. 4 led by Greenwell's 29 points.

Duke will take on No. 17 Kentucky Thursday as it looks to cap off a whirlwind calendar year on a high note.

READ MORE on Salvadores and Stevens leaving Duke, the HR investigation and the Blue Devils' start to the season:

Stevens and Salvadores leaving Duke women's basketball program

One and done: Salvadores signs with Spanish professional team Avenida after first season for Duke women's basketball

Former Duke women's basketball star Azurá Stevens to transfer to Connecticut

Duke conducting 'evaluation' of women's basketball program

Duke women's basketball head coach Joanne P. McCallie remains following program investigation 

Q&A: Duke women's basketball head coach Joanne P. McCallie discusses HR evaluation, recent high-profile departures

'Splash Sisters' Greenwell, Brown eager to lead Duke women's basketball

Upset Complete: Greenwell leads Duke women's basketball past No. 3 South Carolina in statement win

A look at the rest of our Top 10 countdown to date:

10. Duke rowing makes first-ever NCAA championship

9. Duke football rallies to stun Notre Dame as injuries mount

8. Grayson Allen returns for junior season but earns suspension for 3 tripping incidents

7. Duke baseball makes NCAA tournament for the first time since 1961

6. Landmark wins against North Carolina in 4 sports

5. Mike Krzyzewski wins third Olympic gold medal