Four Reasons Why Duke Will Not Win the NCAA Tournament

Story posted March 20, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack McCune

The Duke Blue Devils were awarded the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and for good reason. The ACC Tournament champions look unstoppable at full strength, and freshman Zion Williamson is the frontrunner for this year’s John R. Wooden Award, given to the best player in college basketball. Their only losses with a healthy Williamson came to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, another No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament, and to the always-threatening Syracuse Orange. However, there are several factors that show that Duke might not win it all this year. Here are four reasons why the Blue Devils will not win the NCAA Tournament.

Being the No. 1 Overall Seed Does Not Guarantee Success

Since the NCAA selection committee began to publicize the No. 1 overall seed in 2004, that team has made the Final Four less than half of the time, and only three of these 15 teams have won the championship. In the previous two tournaments, both No. 1 overall seeds have failed to even reach the Sweet 16. Last year, Virginia lost a gut-wrenching game in the first round to UMBC, becoming the first No. 1 seed to fall to a No. 16 seed in the history of the tournament. In 2017, the No. 1 overall seeded Villanova Wildcats were beaten by the Wisconsin Badgers in the second round of the tournament. Duke is probably the best team heading into the tournament, but as history shows, anything can happen in March Madness.

Duke is Favored to Win It All… Maybe by Too Much

On Selection Sunday, the Blue Devils were given 11/5 odds to win it all. These are the best odds to win the tournament since the 2015 Kentucky Wildcats, who were the biggest favorite in the history of the modern NCAA Tournament. Led by now-NBA players Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles, and by the Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew, both fantastic college players, these Wildcats were undefeated overall heading into the tournament and looked as if no one could beat them. However, Kentucky fell to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Final Four. These Blue Devils are structured similarly to the 2015 Wildcats, as they are led by NBA-level talent in Zion Williamson, R. J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, and surrounded with great college players like Tre Jones and Marques Bolden. History tends to repeat itself, and Duke’s situation in this year’s tournament is eerily similar to the 2015 Kentucky team.

The Blue Devils Are in a Tough Region

Tournament experts and fans have argued that it is unfair to the Michigan State Spartans that they were placed in Duke’s region as the No. 2 seed, meaning they would have to face the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight if both teams got that far. However, the opposite must be considered as well. Michigan State won a share of the Big Ten regular season title with Purdue, and they also won this year’s Big Ten Tournament. Head coach Tom Izzo has been in similar situations and has been victorious against tough opponents, so expect that the Spartans would be ready to steal Duke’s Final Four appearance away from them if this matchup happened.

Zion Williamson Could Go Down Again

No one ever wants to see a player leave a game for injury, but the reality is that it does happen. When the Blue Devils lost Zion Williamson for six games to a knee sprain that occurred in February, they did not look like the same powerhouse team they have been all season. In those six games, Duke lost to North Carolina twice, by 16 at home and by nine on the road, and they beat Wake Forest, who ended their season as the third to last team in the ACC standings, by just one point. Even if Barrett or Reddish go down early in the tournament, this team will not be as good, and if they lose Williamson, it appears that anyone could beat them.



Jack McCune is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at