UNC basketball: Tar Heels can end Duke basketball’s incredible NCAA Tournament streak

Duke basketball’s NCAA Tournament streak could come to an end at the hands of rival North Carolina.

One of the annual rites of spring seems to be a Duke trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils have gone dancing for 24 straight years, a streak that dates back to 1995, and it is in serious jeopardy of coming to an end this season.

Mike Krzyzewski’s team finds itself squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble entering Saturday night’s rivalry matchup with North Carolina, which already beat the Blue Devils once this season. Duke, whose streak of tournament appearances trails only Kansas’ active run of 30 for the longest run of March Madness bids in history, is in dire straits thanks to a pitiful 11-10 record that has little substance behind it outside of wins against Virginia and Clemson.

North Carolina could effectively knock Duke basketball out on Saturday

The Blue Devils looked to be making a late-season push for the dance thanks to a key four-game winning streak but that ended last Saturday with a loss to Louisville. Tuesday’s game against Georgia Tech was also key for Duke, which lost in overtime, putting themselves behind the Yellow Jackets on the bubble pecking order.

That leaves Saturday’s road game against North Carolina as a true must-win for the Blue Devils. Losing to the Tar Heels would mean that not only has Duke been swept by another bubble team, but that the
Blue Devils would finish the regular season with an 11-11 record and be 9-9 in the ACC.

Duke’s NET ranking is currently 58, which is pushing it for a bubble team, and the lack of quality wins against elite competition puts Krzyzewski’s team behind teams like Michigan State on the bubble. A loss to North Carolina would essentially force the Blue Devils to string together four straight wins to capture the ACC’s automatic bid at the conference tournament, a task that could be very difficult given the inconsistent play they have demonstrated all season long.

There is nothing that Tar Heels fans would love more than to essentially be the team to put an end to the Duke tournament streak. A North Carolina win would all but slam the door on an at-large bid for the Blue Devils, forcing them into the same boat as Kentucky, which has to win the SEC Tournament to go dancing after a brutal regular-season performance.

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