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BUBBLE POPPED: Duke men's basketball misses NCAA tournament for first time in 26 years

Duke hadn't missed the NCAA tournament since 1995.
Duke hadn't missed the NCAA tournament since 1995.

For the first time in 26 years, Duke was not selected to participate in the NCAA tournament.

Selection Sunday came and passed, and the Blue Devils were not granted an at-large bid or selected as a COVID-replacement team (the designation given to the top four teams that don't make the original 68-team field, which can be used to replace a team that drops out prior to Tuesday at 6 p.m.). It remains to be seen whether this officially ends Duke's season, or whether the team would consider accepting a bid to the NIT (if it is offered one).

The Blue Devils pulled out of the ACC tournament last week due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program and subsequent contact tracing, with athletic director Kevin White including in his written statement that "this will end our 2020-21 season." However, NCAA's Andy Katz reported early Sunday morning that no teams had informed the selection committee that it didn't expect to meet NCAA protocols to be able to play in the NCAA tournament (thus withdrawing from consideration) prior to Saturday night's 11 p.m. deadline. Thus, Duke remained in consideration for a bid.

ESPN's Joe Lunardi had Duke as one of his "Next Four Out" in his final projections, three spots behind the "First Four Out" (and thus, the COVID-replacement team) line and seven spots behind the "Last Four In."

The Blue Devils began the season ranked No. 9 in the country, but two early nonconference losses to Michigan State and Illinois, respectively, pushed the team into the latter half of the AP poll. Two separate three-game losing streaks in the first half of conference play then started the chatter of head coach Mike Krzyzewski and company missing the NCAA tournament entirely.

Duke ripped off a four-game win streak—including a huge win against then-No. 7 Virginia—to enter back into the conversation, but yet another three-game losing streak to end the regular season kept the Blue Devils on the outside looking in.

Even two impressive wins in the ACC tournament weren't enough to convince the selection committee, with Duke likely needing at least one more victory to get on the right side of the bubble. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the sudden positive COVID-19 test —the program's first of the season—and subsequent withdrawal from the ACC tournament all but ended any hopes that they'd sneak their way to Indiana.

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