Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will not compare teams from his 42 seasons with the Blue Devils, let alone which one stands out among his five national champions.
“Just like I do not grade my daughters or my grandchildren,” he said last week.
However, after an inconsistent regular season, the unexpected Final Four run of this year’s team could make the Blue Devils 2021-2022 one of his favorites.
“They’ve gotten so big in the last 12 days,” Krzyzewski said after beating Texas Tech 78-73 in the Sweet 16. “It’s such a joy. It’s a wonderful thing.”
But is this team one of its best? Not when there is so much competition for no. 1 is not.
Those five titles. Thirteen trips to the Final Four. Thirteen regular season ACC championships and 15 tournament championships. From worst to best, here’s where Krzyzewski’s 42 teams rank. (Each season lists Duke’s overall record, conference record, and NCAA Tournament finish, where applicable.)
42. 1994-95: 13-18, 2-14
That record comes with an asterisk: Krzyzewski coached only the first 12 games, 9-3, before stepping aside for the rest of the year due to exhaustion and a back injury. Overall, the 18 losses remain the most in a single season in the program’s history. But the 15 losses suffered under interim coach Pete Gaudet do not match Krzyzewski’s CV; Duke only gives him the first three of the season.
41. 2020-21: 13-11, 9-9
Last year’s team lost three separate three games and came 10th in the ACC for the worst finish of Krzyzewski’s career. There is a built-in excuse for this one-off decline in the form of the pandemic, which was a hurdle that Duke could not overcome – the coronavirus forced the Blue Devils to fall out of the quarterfinals of the conference tournament and they omitted the at -large tournament conversation. From 1983 to his final year, it was one of only two Krzyzewski-coached teams at Duke that did not make the tournament.
40. 1982-83: 11-17, 3-11
39. 1981-82: 10-17, 4-10
38. 1995-96: 18-13, 8-8 (first round)
37. 1980-81: 17-13, 8-8
Duke did not turn into a dynasty overnight. While his first team reached the NIT quarterfinals, it was still a step back from the 1979-’80s season, when the Blue Devils won 24-9, won the ACC Tournament Championship and the Elite Eight. achieved. Krzyzewski’s next two teams were weaker, with a combined score of 21-34 overall and 7-21 in conference play. Help was on the way in the form of a first-year drawing class that arrived in 1982 and started a dynasty.
36. 2006-07: 22-11, 8-8 (first round)
35. 1983-84: 24-10, 7-7 (second round)
34. 1984-85: 23-8, 8-6 (second round)
One of the major signing classes in ACC history – consisting of Jay Bilas, David Henderson and Johnny Dawkins – walked the campus and changed the direction of the program. The 1983-’84 team then added freshmen Tommy Amaker and won the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Krzyzewski. Two years later, he would make his first Final Four appearance.
33. 2015-16: 25-11, 11-7 (Sweet 16)
32. 1992-93: 24-8, 10-6 (second round)
31. 2016-17: 28-9, 11-7 (second round)
30. 2013-14: 26-9, 13-5 (first round)
29. 2011-12: 27-7, 13-3 (first round)
Here is a series of teams that will represent the high water mark for the vast majority of college coaches. Instead, it’s one of the most underrated teams in Krzyzewski’s tenure. The 1992-’93 team was caught between rugby champions and the national runner-up. The groups of the 2010s are almost indistinguishable: Duke was shot out several times early, including first-round tournaments in 2012 (Lehigh) and 2014 (Mercer) which delighted the haters.
28. 1986-87: 24-9, 9-5 (Sweet 16)
27. 1996-97: 24-9, 12-4 (second round)
26. 2002-03: 26-7, 11-5 (Sweet 16)
25. 2019-20: 25-6, 15-5
The 2019-20 team is difficult to rank given how the pre-tournament season was canceled due to the growing pandemic. Duke spent most of the year in the top 10 of the Ferris Mowers Coaches poll, including a few weeks at No. 1, but walked to the finish line of the regular season with three defeats in his last six games. The Blue Devils were still ranked among the national title favorites before being canceled for the rest of the season.
24. 1987-88: 28-7, 9-5 (end four)
23. 2004-05: 27-6, 11-5 (Sweet 16)
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22. 2007-08: 28-6, 13-3 (second round)
Krzyzewski had the Blue Devils 22-1 overall and 10-0 in the ACC before the 2007-’08 season ran off the track: Duke went 6-5 the rest of the way and barely beat Belmont’s upset attempt in the first round of the tournament before being shot out by West Virginia in the second. The 2004-’05 team was led by junior guard JJ Redick and might have outperformed by making the Sweet 16.
21. 2008-09: 30-7, 11-5 (Sweet 16)
20. 1988-89: 28-8, 9-5 (end four)
19. 2017-18: 29-8, 13-5 (Elite Eight)
18. 1989-90: 29-9, 9-5 (Championship match)
Each of the top 21 teams on this list has won 28 or more matches and advanced at least as far as the Sweet 16. In 1989-90, Duke reached the title race only to be blown out by UNLV; the margin of 30 points (103-73) remains a record for the championship. All five starters in the 2017-18 team became pro after that season, led by guard Jayson Tatum, making it one of the most gifted groups of Krzyzewski’s tenure.
17. 2012-13: 30-6, 14-4 (Elite Eight)
16. 1999-00: 29-5, 15-1 (Sweet 16)
Krzyzewski earned a rare nod as ACC Coach of the Year in 1999-’00 – winning just five times in his 42 seasons – after milking 29 wins and a Sweet 16 bid from a handsome young group that beat the rest of the conference. . A year later, that same cast would compose a dominant run for the national title. The 2012-’13 team was the best in the country for most of the season and spent a month at no. 1 spent, but could not get past the eventual national champion Louisville in the Elite Eight.
15. 1993-94: 28-6, 12-4 (Championship match)
14. 2010-11: 32-5, 13-3 (Sweet 16)
13. 2005-06: 32-4, 14-2 (Sweet 16)
12. 1997-98: 32-4, 15-1 (Elite Eight)
In 1993-94, Duke only came ashamed of the program’s third title in four years after losing 76-72 to Arkansas in the championship game. The teams in 2010-’11, 2005-06 and 1997-98 are three of his best not to win it all: Duke spent every week from 1997-’98 in the top three, but has a halftime lead of 10 points coughed up and lost to Kentucky. in the Elite Eight.
11. 2021-22: 32-6, 16-4 (end four)
As in 2017-’18, Duke will send as many as five players from this year’s list to the June NBA draft – and all five could go in the first round. It may not be the best team of Krzyzewski’s tenure, but it’s one of his best coaching positions. Starting with the final minutes of a win against Michigan State in the second round, Duke was another team in the tournament after an uneven regular season.
10. 2003-04: 31-6, 13-3 (end four)
9. 2001-02: 31-4, 13-3 (Sweet 16)
8. 2009-10: 35-5, 13-3 (national champions)
That 2009-’10 is the last place among Krzyzewski’s five national champions is a statement in itself, as the Blue Devils were deep, experienced and often dominant on both sides. Led by senior guard and future Krzyzewski replacement Jon Scheyer, Duke won 17-0 at home and lost just once from February to win a title in the third consecutive decade.
7. 2018-19: 32-6, 14-4 (Elite Eight)
6. 2014-15: 35-4, 15-3 (national champions)
Krzyzewski harnessed the power of the one-and-done outlook in 2014-15. Built around freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, the Blue Devils won 11-1 in singles singles and beat a much more experienced Wisconsin team to win the fifth and most recent title of his tenure .
5. 1985-86: 37-3, 12-2 (championship match)
With Bilas, Dawkins and Henderson now seniors, Amaker, a junior, and rookie Danny Ferry coming off the bench, Duke lost two games in three days in January, but was otherwise flawless until the final night of the season. The Blue Devils would lose a close one against Louisville for the national championship and make three more Final Four trips before Krzyzewski’s first title. The 37 victories set a program record that was later tied in 1998-’99.
4. 2000-01: 35-4, 13-3 (national champions)
The 2000-’01 team, which is more than good enough to win everything between five or six more teams, put it all together behind a roster with Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Nate James and Chris Duhon. The offense averaged 90.7 points per game and is one of the best in university basketball history.
3. 1998-99: 37-2, 16-0 (Championship match)
One of the best teams in history not to have won everything, Duke lost on November 28 by two points to Cincinnati and by three points to Connecticut in the title game on March 29. Of the 37 wins, only three came with single figures. Four players would go early in the next draft: Elton Brand at no. 1, Trajan Langdon on no. 11, Corey Maggette at no. 13 and William Avery at no. 14. This was an absolutely dominant group that would have challenged for the top spot by sealing the deal against the Huskies.
2. 1990-91: 32-7, 11-3 (national champions)
1. 1991-92: 34-2, 14-2 (national champions)
The teams that turned Duke into the most envied and hated program in the country. (You can mostly thank Christian Laettner for that.) After knocking on the door for the second half of the 1980s, the Blue Devils upset UNLV in 1991 and then repeated a year later behind Laettner’s heroic deeds in the Elite Eight against Kentucky. Starring Laettner, Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley, the 1991-’92 team is one of the best in university basketball history and Krzyzewski’s greatest achievement.
Follow college reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg