Last week, Mike Krzyzewski and his Blue Devils dropped out of the top 25 for the first time since the 2007-08 season. It snapped an impressive streak of 167 consecutive weeks of being ranked, which checked in as the fifth-longest stretch by any school in NCAA history.
Two weeks before that, the Duke women’s squad fell into the depths of the unranked for the first time since 1999, breaking a run more than twice as long as that of their male counterparts. Taken separately, either of those events would have been quite newsworthy, but together, they combined to produce, for the first time in my lifetime, a true rarity—Duke men’s and women’s basketball teams that were both unranked.
The last time that happened was Dec. 29, 1986. If that seems like a really long time ago, well, that’s because it was. It was eight years before most of the current class of seniors were even born, and many of our parents were still finishing up college themselves.
A lot of times, it’s easy to take the success of Krzyzewski’s program for granted, and the women’s squad has put together a similar run of sustained excellence with far less recognition. So to put in perspective how truly rare this unrankedness is, here’s a look at what the world was like as 1986 drew to a close:
Instead of Grayson Allen, Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard firing away from behind the arc, sophomore Danny Ferry, senior Tommy Amaker and junior Billy King patrolled the perimeter for Krzyzewski in just his seventh season in Durham.
The No. 1 team in the nation on the men’s side was UNLV, though it was the then-No. 6 Indiana Hoosiers who eventually claimed the national championship with a one-point victory against Syracuse. For the women, Tennessee sat atop the polls, and the Lady Vols claimed the first of head coach Pat Summit’s eight national titles the following spring.
The only Curry in the NBA was Dell, who was just beginning his career as a rookie with the Utah Jazz as Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the Los Angeles Lakers to an NBA championship against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics.
On the baseball diamond, Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden and the rest of the New York Mets hoisted the World Series trophy after outlasting the Boston Red Sox in a classic seven-game set. The Mets almost pulled off the feat again this October, but the Kansas City Royals got in the way of a déjà vu situation.
The “Super Bowl Shuffle” Chicago Bears still held the Lombardi Trophy, but the 1986 NFL season ended with Phil Simms orchestrating one of the greatest performances in Super Bowl history as the New York Giants pounded the Denver Broncos to earn their first championship.
In the boxing ring, Mike Tyson was rapidly ascending to stardom and earned his first-ever title to become the youngest heavyweight boxing champion of all time.
Politics looked vastly different than its modern-day descendant, and the late Ronald Reagan occupied the Oval Office and presided over the waning years of the Cold War. In December 1986, the Soviet Union was still five years from demise, and the Berlin Wall remained standing to separate East and West Germany. In the ensuing 29 years, 28 different countries have gained independence—pushing the world total to 196 autonomous nations.
As for the current cast of politicians, Bernie Sanders was serving in his third term as governor of Burlington, Vt., after finishing a distant third in the state's gubernatorial election. Hillary Clinton was the First Lady of Arkansas, still a few years off becoming the First Lady of the United States as her husband, Bill, entered the White House. And our current White House resident, Barack Obama, was working as a community organizer in Chicago, still more than a decade away from his first foray into political office.
A look on the Republican side of the aisle provides an even greater cultural shock. While Donald Trump was busy with a variety of multi-billion dollar business endeavors, Ted Cruz was a junior in high school, and Marco Rubio just a sophomore.
“That’s What Friends are For” by Dionne Warwick, Elton John and Gladys Knight was the top song of the year—a far cry from Justin Bieber, who currently holds claim to the top two songs in America with “Love Yourself” and “Sorry."
Headlined by Tom Cruise, “Top Gun” reeled in the highest gross earnings of any film. The Jerry Bruckheimer production hauled in more than $8 million in its first weekend—by contrast, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" generated more than $500 million during its opening weekend in 2015—but “Out of Africa” won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Unlike most items on this list, though, Tom Cruise is still around in 2016, and has starred in a movie in every year but five during this span.
The world, unsurprisingly, has changed quite a bit in the past three decades. One thing that has remained constant, though, is elite (and ranked) Duke basketball on both sides of the gender line.
Thanks to Monday’s win against No. 13 Louisville, the Blue Devils stand in position to vault back into the top 25 with a win against a gritty No. 7 Virginia team Saturday. A loss to the Cavaliers could prolong this current state for a few more weeks, given that the women fell twice last week and lost star Azurá Stevens to a left foot injury.
But even if it doesn’t happen again until next year’s preseason poll, Duke will be ranked again soon. With a loaded recruiting class coming in, Krzyzewski's Blue Devils are a good bet to be in the top 10 from start to finish. And head coach Joanne P. McCallie's talented freshman class will have a year of experience under its belt heading into 2016-17.
Who knows when both teams will be unranked again—but it will sure be cool to see what the world is like when that happens.
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