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A look back at Duke men's basketball top 10 wins of the decade

The Blue Devils' win in the 2010 NCAA tournament final against Butler was an instant classic.
The Blue Devils' win in the 2010 NCAA tournament final against Butler was an instant classic.

This decade has certainly been filled with excitement for Duke men's basketball, and so to cap it off, I will be running you through the most thrilling games over the last decade. 

While the quality of a game is certainly subjective, I ranked the following list based on the stage and storylines of the game, how entertaining the action was, individual performances and defining moments.

With the Blue Devils playing 370 games this decade, many jaw-dropping contests were left off the list. So before we get into the top 10, here are some memorable Duke wins that barely missed the cut.

Honorable mention:

  • Duke 68 vs. Kansas 61, Nov. 23, 2011: North Carolina fans have the Jordan logo, but maybe Duke should create a silhouette of Tyler Thornton hitting the game-clinching 3-pointer against the Jayhawks for a Maui Invitational title.
  • Duke 78 vs. N.C. State 73, Feb. 16, 2012: Before the epic Louisville contest last year, this was considered the comeback of the decade, as Duke rallied from 20 down in the last 11 minutes behind Seth Curry's 26 points.
  • Duke 74 @ North Carolina 73, Feb. 17, 2016: Derryck Thornton left his most lasting impression at Duke with a game-sealing block on Joel Berry to steal a win against the heavily favored Tar Heels.
  • Duke 87 vs. Florida 84, Nov. 26, 2017: After staging a remarkable comeback the night before against Texas, the Blue Devils again rallied from 17 points down with 10 minutes to go and took home the PK80 Invitational championship in thrilling fashion.
  • Duke 74 vs. North Carolina 73, March 15, 2019: It was hard to leave this game of the list as it was Zion Williamson's only game against the Tar Heels. Despite the freshman phenom's game-winning put-back and 31 points, this game fell just short.

Now without further adieu, here are the top-10 Blue Devil wins of the 2010s.

10. Duke 77 vs. Central Florida 76, March 24, 2019

Central Florida's Aubrey Dawkins crashed the offensive glass and had an uncontested tip-in attempt in the final seconds, but the shot rolled off the rim to send Duke into the Sweet 16. Charles York

The storylines were evident from the start: Williamson against Tacko Fall in a battle of physical freaks, Johnny Dawkins trying to take down his mentor and close friend Mike Krzyzewski and a win-or-go-home game in the NCAA tournament. This game had every college basketball fan on the edge of their seats in a back-and-forth game that ended with an R.J. Barrett game-winning layup and an Aubrey Dawkins put-back attempt that tried every which way to go down. Dawkins gave it his all with 32 points, but Williamson showed up big with 32 of his own.

9. Duke 66 vs. Syracuse 60, Feb. 22, 2014

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was ejected from the second meeting after the controversial charge call on C.J. Fair. Eric Lin

After an intense first conference game in the Carrier Dome, Jabari Parker and the Blue Devils welcomed the top-ranked Orange to town for one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the year. Parker led the Blue Devils with a 19-point double-double, but it was Rodney Hood who sealed the game with a late, controversial charging call—which famously sent Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to the locker room early after a massive rant.

8. Duke 79 vs. North Carolina 73, Feb. 9, 2011

Seth Curry's second-half shooting helped to propel Duke past North Carolina in Curry's first game in the Tobacco Road Rivalry. Photo by Melissa Yeo/The Chronicle File Photo

Melissa Yeo

The fifth-ranked Blue Devils weren't supposed to have much trouble against No. 20 North Carolina, but a sloppy start let the Tar Heels head to the locker room up 14 points on the road. Thankfully for Duke, senior Nolan Smith delivered a career-high 34 points, and Seth Curry had his coming out party with 22 points in a dominant second half for the Blue Devils. Smith's and-one basket right after Duke took its first lead in the final frame remains arguably the loudest Cameron Indoor Stadium has been this decade.

7. Duke 63 vs. Virginia 62, Feb. 13, 2016

Grayson Allen has never lost to Virginia and made a buzzer-beater to beat the Cavaliers the last time they visited Durham. Chronicle File Photo

With Duke having fallen out of the polls and in the midst of a daunting four-game stretch, Virginia came to town in what turned out to be one of the closest games of the decade. Neither team would lead by more than two points over the last eight minutes of the game, as the Cavaliers looked to win their first game in Cameron since 1995. Brandon Ingram carried the Blue Devils back in the game with 18 straight points, but he was out-shined by sophomore Grayson Allen, who hit an acrobatic buzzer beater to stun No. 7 Virginia.

6. Duke 71 @ Louisville 69, Feb. 12, 2019

Reddish scored 22 points against Louisville Feb. 12, including a game-tying three that was one of the season's signature moments. Simran Prakash

Without a doubt, the comeback of the decade has to be the Blue Devils stunning the No. 16 Cardinals after erasing a 23-point deficit with nine minutes to play. Duke turned the tables with a heavy dose of Williamson and a defensive backcourt of Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire that Louisville simply couldn't handle. Cam Reddish delivered another clutch performance with four clutch second half triples and clinched the win with the go-ahead free throws.

5. Duke 69 @ Virginia 63, Jan. 31, 2015 

There have been plenty of memorable moments from the recent Duke-Virginia series, but perhaps none as poignant as Tyus Jones' 2015 dagger triple in Charlottesville, Va. Chronicle File Photo

Coming off a defeat to Notre Dame and the loss of Rasheed Sulaimon, things were starting to look grim for the Blue Devils coming into a game against undefeated No. 2 Virginia. After a close first half, the Cavaliers sprung out of the gate after halftime, holding a 58-50 lead with five minutes to play. Thanks to four 3-pointers from Quinn Cook and company, the Blue Devils walked out of Charlottesville, Va., with a win after a 14-2 run. Freshman Tyus Jones clinched the game with an iconic trey with 10 seconds to play.

4. Duke 92 vs. North Carolina 90 (OT), Feb. 18, 2015

Duke and North Carolina knelt at halfcourt before the Feb. 18 basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium to honor the late Tar Heel head coach Dean Smith.

Emma Loewe

Just a few weeks after that win in Charlottesville, Duke found itself in another ACC thriller. The game started off with a touching tribute at center court from both teams to the late North Carolina coach Dean Smith, and then one of the all-time Tobacco Road Rivalry games commenced. Down seven points with just over two minutes to play, Krzyzewski confidently told his team that they were going to win the game. Tyus Jones once again delivered in the clutch with 22 points, seven rebounds and eight assists to send the game to overtime. There, Jahlil Okafor dominated to send the No. 15 Tar Heels home stunned.

3. Duke 85 @ North Carolina 84, Feb. 8, 2012

Duke's loss to Lehigh marred the end of the 2011-12 campaign, but Austin Rivers' buzzer-beating game-winner against North Carolina remains that season's lasting image.

Melissa Yeo

Many call it the Austin Rivers game, with the freshman keeping the Blue Devils in the game in the first half before capping his 29-point outing with the game-winner. Holding a 10-point lead with over two minutes to play, North Carolina collapsed to triples from Curry and Thornton, as well as two jumpers from Ryan Kelly. Rivers made North Carolina's Tyler Zeller pay for missed free throws, as the Blue Devil freshman nailed a 3-pointer over the center at the buzzer for the win.

2. Duke 68 vs. Wisconsin 63, April 6, 2015

Tyus Jones was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2015 Final Four after starring alongside future NBA lottery picks Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow. Chronicle File Photo

The second of Duke's two national championships this decade,  the Badgers started a second half push after a close first frame, and it seemed like the Blue Devils were in trouble. Then the freshman Allen decided to introduce himself to the world, taking charge with his dynamic offense and true grit to put Duke right back in the game. His classmate Tyus Jones would add to a game-high 23 points with clutch shots down the stretch to seal Duke's most recent national title.

1. Duke 61 vs. Butler 59, April 5, 2010

Nolan Smith was part of Duke's last national title team and mentors current Blue Devil senior Quinn Cook. | Chronicle File Photo

The college basketball world didn't expect much from fifth-seeded Butler in a David vs. Goliath matchup, but the Bulldogs delivered in an all-time classic. Neither team led by more than six throughout the night. Blue Devil upperclassmen Kyle Singler and Brian Zoubek came in clutch with tough defense on future NBA All-Star Gordon Hayward to give the Blue Devils free throws with less than four seconds left up one. Down two, Butler would get another chance, as its star launched a half-court heave at the buzzer, and man, did it look like it was going in. However, Hayward's shot deflected off the rim, allowing the Blue Devils to open the decade with a fourth championship banner

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