What Does History Tells Us About Duke Basketball Being Ranked in AP Preseason Top 5?

What Does History Tells Us About Duke Basketball Being Ranked in AP Preseason Top 5?
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Duke men’s basketball starts the season ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press preseason poll, behind No. 1 Kansas. But is being picked Top 5 in the AP preseason college basketball poll a blessing or a curse? With so many transfers and roster changes these days, can anyone have a clue how an October roster is going to play in March?

To see if an early Top 5 ranking has been a good omen for the Duke Blue Devils, BetCarolina.com – your source for NC sports betting – used SportsReference.com/cbb to look at seasons going back to 2000-01. In that time, Duke has a been ranked in the Associated Press preseason Top 5 a dozen times. A dozen! Half the time. Some of that was due to the overall quality of the team and some to the Coach K mystique, but that’s a lot of consistent media confidence before the season starts.

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When Duke Was in AP Preseason Top 5

The storied Duke basketball program has been a near-fixture in the top 5 of the AP poll over the years. When North Carolina sports betting apps launch next year, this chart might be of some help when considering wagers.

Average Final AP Poll Rank6th*
Average Tournament Seed2*
Average Winning Pct..825
Round of 32 or Earlier Exit2 of 11 (18.2%)
Final Four Appearance4 of 11 (36.4%)
Championship2 of 11 (18.2%)
*Round to the nearest number

Assessing Duke in the 21st Century

In seasons in which the Blue Devils began in the Top 5, their average ranking at the end of the season was 6th. Their average NCAA Tournament seed those years was a 2 seed. Their winning percentage? A tick over 82%. They made the NCAA Tournament in all 11 years that they were ranked in the preseason Top 5 except in 2020, when the Big Dance was canceled due to the Big Virus. Here's how Duke fared when the prognosticators thought they were great:

  • 2000-01: Pre-season No. 2, finished 35-4, 13-3, 1st in the ACC, won the National Championship
  • 2001-02: Pre-season No. 1, finished 31-4,13-3, 2nd in the ACC, lost in the Sweet 16.
  • 2003-04: Pre-season No. 2, finished 31-6, 13-3, 1st in the ACC, lost in the Final Four.
  • 2005-06: Pre-season No. 1, finished 32-4, 14-2, 1st in the ACC, lost in the Sweet 16.
  • 2010-11: Pre-season No. 1, finished 32-5, 13-3, 2nd in the ACC, lost in the Sweet 16.
  • 2013-14: Pre-season No. 4, finished 26-9, 13-5, 3rd in the ACC, lost in the second round.
  • 2014-15: Pre-season No. 4, finished 35-4, 15-3, 2nd in the ACC, won the National Championship.
  • 2015-16: Pre-season No. 5, finished 25-11, 11-7 T-5th in the ACC, lost in the Sweet 16.
  • 2016-17: Pre-season No. 1, finished 28-9, 11-7, T-5th in the ACC, lost in the second round.
  • 2017-18: Pre-season No. 1, finished 29-8, 13-5, 2nd in the ACC, lost in the Elite Eight.
  • 2018-19: Pre-season No. 4, finished 32-6, 14-4, 3rd in the ACC, lost in the Elite Eight
  • 2019-20: Pre-season No. 4, finished 25-6, 15-5, T-2nd in the ACC, no tournament

In the two seasons before this one in which Duke began ranked No. 2, they won the National Championship one year and lost in the Final Four the other. Coach Jon Scheyer probably would sign up for that now.

That 2000-01 Duke team was led by seniors Shane Battier and Nate James, supplemented by sophomores Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy and Jay Williams and freshman Chris Duhon. The following year Duke entered the season ranked No. 1 and had a great regular season but fell 74-73 to Indiana in the Sweet 16. Duhon returned as a senior for the 2003-04 season, when the team was again No. 2 in the preseason poll, with another powerful sophomore class, including Sean Dockery, Shavlik Randolph, JJ Redick and Shelden Williams. That group lost, 79-78, to UConn in the Final Four.

Since that season, Duke four times has been ranked pre-season No. 1, but never No. 2 (or No. 3). This year’s Duke basketball odds are solid as it is again loaded, with senior guard Jeremy Roach overseeing a group of talented underclassmen.

A No. 2 pre-season ranking combined with a senior leader and young, developing future stars says that a futures bet on Duke of +1100 or higher to win it all, is not crazy if you have cash to burn. Remember: If you do bet when mobile wagering comes next year, be sure to do so with North Carolina sportsbook promos.



Howard Gensler
Journalists / Reporter

Howard Gensler is a veteran journalist covering the North Carolina sports betting market for BetCarolina.com. Before his focus on US sports betting, Howard worked at the Philadelphia Daily News, TV Guide and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Howard is also a founding editor of bettorsinsider.com.

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