Duke and Kentucky have both missed the NCAA Tournament in what is a rarely seen occurrence.
The college basketball landscape has shifted in 2021 now that the official bracket is out featuring the 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Powerhouses like Duke and Kentucky not only usually make the annual event but are featured among the top picks to win it all.
That has changed this year now that both teams failed to land a berth in the dance. That was not surprising for Kentucky, but Duke still held some hope after a positive COVID-19 test knocked them out of the ACC tournament. Both teams missing the tournament has not happened in quite some time.
In fact, we have to go back to the days of Gerald Ford as president.
Duke and Kentucky make history with disappointing seasons
Kentucky had a terrible start to the year and limped to a 9-16 finish. The only real bright spot was managing to go 8-9 in SEC play. A 74-73 loss to Mississippi State this week ended any hope of making a magical run to the tournament.
Duke also had a rough start in terms of COVID-related cancelations. They played only five games between Nov. 25 and Jan. 5, going 3-2 in that span. The Blue Devils managed to go 9-9 in conference play before being knocked out of the ACC tournament because of COVID.
This ends an impressive run for Duke that stretches back decades. They have not missed the NCAA Tournament since 1994 in what was a rare losing season under Mike Krzyzewski. Kentucky last missed in 2013 even after a winning season.
But it was 1976 when both of these powerhouses missed the event in the same year. Kentucky did win the NIT that year, while Duke had a forgettable season back before the program’s glory days.
Fans of both programs are hoping this doesn’t become the new normal under coaches who have had so much success in the past.