Duke has best track record, so far
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
Unbeaten Indiana retained the top spot in the USA TODAY Sports coaches poll, though one college basketball team stands alone with the nation’s strongest body of work: Duke.
The Blue Devils, which rose from fifth to second in this week’s poll, have been the team of November. They received four of the 31 first-place votes in the poll, with Indiana (6-0) receiving the other 27.
Duke (6-0) already has beaten two preseason national title contenders in Kentucky, 75-68, on Nov. 13, and Louisville, 76-71 on Saturday to win the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. What’s more, Duke also beat Minnesota and VCU, two potential NCAA tournament teams, on consecutive days in the tournament.
In beating Louisville, Duke won its 23rd straight game in a regular-season tournament, a streak that dates to the championship of the 2006 CBE Classic.
If questions about Duke persist, it is in part because Louisville played without 6-foot-10 shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng, who is sidelined with an injured left wrist. And Kentucky played without point guard Ryan Harrow, who did not make the trip to Atlanta to play Duke because of flu-like symptoms.
But after knocking off the teams expected to be the class of the SEC and Big East, Duke will now set its sights on one of the best teams in the Big Ten. The Blue Devils’ matchup with No. 4 Ohio State (4-0) on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge will serve as a strong litmus test for both programs before they enter conference play.
The ACC race is expected to be a taut three-team battle among preseason favorite North Carolina State, Duke and North Carolina. Though conference play has yet to begin, both the Wolfpack, which lost to Oklahoma State and struggled to beat North Carolina-Asheville, and the Tar Heels, which lost to Butler by 11 points in the Maui Classic, have exhibited uneven play at times.