A look ahead at Duke men's basketball's path through the ACC tournament

Mark Mitchell (25), Kyle Filipowski (30) and Tyrese Proctor (5) celebrate during Duke's March 4 win against North Carolina.
Mark Mitchell (25), Kyle Filipowski (30) and Tyrese Proctor (5) celebrate during Duke's March 4 win against North Carolina.

The departure of an iconic head coach, injuries to key players and inconsistent showings on the road couldn’t stop one fact: Duke is seemingly inevitable in the ACC.

The Blue Devils had a roller coaster of a season, with highs including a perfect 16-0 record at home, the first since 2013-14, and lows such as a 24-point road loss to N.C. State in the middle of the season. However, Duke finished its regular season as well as it could thanks to a road win against bitter rival North Carolina, which marked its first regular-season sweep of the Tar Heels in three years. It also ensured the Blue Devils would head into Greensboro, N.C., for the ACC tournament with a six-game win streak, their longest of the season.

Duke’s victory against North Carolina grants it a clear morale boost, as well as an advantage in the tournament. With Pittsburgh’s Saturday loss at Miami, the Blue Devils captured the No. 4 seed, granting them a double-bye for the second year in a row. Duke will begin its postseason Thursday at 2:30 p.m. as the second game in the quarterfinals slate.

The Blue Devils will have to wait until Wednesday afternoon to determine their opponent, the winner of a second-round match between No. 5-seed Pittsburgh and either No. 12-seed Florida State or No. 13-seed Georgia Tech. Duke played each of these teams once during the regular season, garnering victories in each contest. Pittsburgh is the clear favorite to advance to the quarterfinal, although the Panthers split their regular-season matchups with the Seminoles.

If Duke can win its first contest and advance to the semifinals, it will likely run into No. 1-seed Miami, who emphatically defeated the Blue Devils in a 22-point blowout Feb. 6. As the likely underdog, Duke will be looking for revenge for this loss. The Blue Devils and Hurricanes split their regular-season series, so a game at a neutral site could go either way. However, it’s not a foregone conclusion that Miami will advance to this position; No. 8-seed Syracuse or No. 9-seed Wake Forest could upset the Hurricanes and compete for a chance to play in the tournament final.

With a victory Friday, Duke will compete for its 22nd ACC tournament title and an automatic bid to March Madness. Of course, the Blue Devils have all but punched their ticket to the dance, but an ACC championship would give them a nine-game win streak and make them enter the NCAA tournament as dangerous as any team. If Duke makes it this far, look for No. 2-seed Virginia, No. 3-seed Clemson or No. 6-seed N.C. State to face it. 

At several points during the season, Duke looked like a shell of its past self, unable to perform consistently or truly finish off teams down the stretch. However, the Blue Devils once again find themselves in great positioning to make an ACC tournament run. This year’s young squad may not have as much NBA-ready talent as the season prior, but Duke has gotten hot at the right time. Three games separate head coach Jon Scheyer — the protege of former head coach Mike Krzyzewski — from accomplishing what his mentor couldn’t last year on the ACC stage. 


Share and discuss “A look ahead at Duke men's basketball's path through the ACC tournament” on social media.