The last glimpse the Blue Devils gave the selection committee was a barely-competitive loss to now-No. 25 Wake Forest; their accomplishments to that point, however, clearly overwhelmed the committee.
The NCAA tournament selection committee revealed the 2021 bracket on Monday, with Duke receiving a one-seed. The Blue Devils and their 13-3-1 record (7-3-1 in the ACC) will have home-field advantage through the Elite Eight, with the College Cup—collegiate soccer’s name for the Final Four—being held at Stevens Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The top-three seed comes as Duke’s highest since 2017, when the ACC-champion Blue Devils were also third overall.
Accompanying the Blue Devils in the Duke Region are two-seed UCLA, three-seed Georgetown, four-seed Auburn and unseeded Old Dominion, Memphis, LSU, Brown, St. John’s, Samford, Central Connecticut, Santa Clara, Stanford, Wisconsin, Butler and UC-Irvine. The Blue Devils will play Old Dominion in the first round this weekend. Their second-round matchup should come against the winner of LSU and Memphis.
Of the teams in its region, Duke has had previous tournament matchups with Georgetown (loss in 2018 Sweet Sixteen), Stanford (loss in 2011 championship, advance on PKs in 2015 Elite Eight) and UCLA (loss in 2004 Sweet Sixteen, loss in 2008 Elite Eight, eliminated on PKs in 2017 semis). The Bruins are one of just two teams Church’s Blue Devils have faced in the tournament multiple times and lost to more than they’ve beaten.
Duke has advanced to the College Cup both times it has received a one-seed in the past, and, since 2005, advanced to at least the Elite Eight all seven times it’s been at least a three-seed. Head coach Robbie Church’s Blue Devils have become the tournament’s great perennial overachievers; as a top-three team in the tournament, there’s not much room to overachieve this year.