Duke basketball NCAA Tournament 2021 odds, bracketology, bubble watch: Blue Devils favored to miss Big Dance first time in 26 years

Underachieving Duke has much work to do if it is to make the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
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Of course, every college basketball team in the country failed to make the 2020 NCAA Tournament because there wasn't one – canceled by the COVID pandemic. There will be a 2021 Big Dance, all held in the greater Indianapolis area, with Selection Sunday on March 14. There is no more marquee program in the sport than Duke, but SportsLine NCAA basketball oddsmakers favor Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils to miss the Big Dance for the first time in 26 years.

The last time Duke didn't play in the NCAA Tournament – again, not counting last year – was in the 1994-95 campaign. The Blue Devils, who had lost in the previous season's national championship game to Arkansas, started that year 9-3 but then Coach K stepped aside for the remainder of the '94-95 campaign due to back issues and exhaustion. The team went 4-15 under Pete Gaudet. The 18 overall losses remain the most in school history.

Duke enters Saturday's home game vs. No. 7 Virginia – in which the Blue Devils will be solid underdogs; they are just 4-12 against the spread on the season and 2-8 ATS at home – at 9-8 overall and 7-6 in the ACC. Neither CBS Sports' Jerry Palm nor ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Blue Devils even among the last four out on their Big Dance bracketology projections.

The NCAA Tournament selection committee gives huge weight to the NET rankings, and Duke sits No. 60 overall as of this writing. A total of 31 automatic bids are earned in the 68-team Big Dance field – usually it's 32 automatic bids to conference champions, but the Ivy League isn't playing during the pandemic. Needless to say, if Duke surprisingly wins the ACC Tournament, reaching the NCAA Tournament is a moot point.

Coach K's team has just one Quadrant I win in four tries. That was a 79-53 home victory over current NET No. 41 Clemson on Jan. 3. Here are Duke's other victories: Coppin State, Bellarmine, Notre Dame, Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, NC State and Wake Forest. Duke's worst losses were to Miami and Pittsburgh.

In addition, Coach K lost his most highly-touted freshman recruit earlier this week to an opt-out in Jalen Johnson as he will start preparing for the 2021 NBA Draft. Sister site 247Sports ranked Johnson as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2020 but he largely disappointed an injury-plagued season at Duke. In 13 games, Johnson averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists. The Blue Devils were 5-8 with him in the lineup.

Not long ago, Duke was +5000 to win the national championship at William Hill Sportsbook but is now +10000 despite back-to-back wins for only the second time this season.

The Blue Devils could perhaps at least get on the bubble with an upset Saturday against Virginia and finish the regular season home vs. Syracuse and Louisville and at Georgia Tech and North Carolina. If the Dukies could win four of those games, especially knocking off the Wahoos, they could be in solid shape entering the ACC Tournament. The NCAA Tournament TV's partners definitely want Duke in.

Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Will Duke play in the 2021 NCAA Tournament?

  • No -240
  • Yes +170

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times, and it returned over $5,000 in profit on its top-rated NBA picks last season. The model is also up more than $8,400 on top-rated NBA picks over the past two-plus seasons. Dating back to last season, it enters Week 9 of the 2020-21 NBA schedule on a stunning 83-48 roll on top-rated NBA picks against the spread. Anybody who has followed it has seen HUGE returns.

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