The Loop

COVID K

Duke out of ACC (and probably NCAA) Tournament in most (2021) Duke way imaginable

Ladies and gentlemen, the most beloved team in the basketball universe has another big moment for the 2020-21 highlight reel:

That joins other beloved moments from the season, such as Jalen Johnson, the team's top-ranked freshman, quitting the team in February, or dropping out of the top 25 for the first time since 2016, or Coach K getting mad at a student reporter for the world's most innocent question, Jim Boeheim-style, and then having to apologize to him, or...the losing. The endless, joyless losing.

What makes this whole thing particularly annoying is that after Johnson left, Duke actually started to look very good. then they lost three straight to Louisville, Georgia Tech, and Carolina, and hope was deflated again. THEN, they beat Boston College and Louisville in the ACC Tournament, looking very good, which inspired a new round of hope that maybe they could take down Florida State and have a pretty decent argument at an NCAA tournament berth.

Now? The old hope balloon has been pricked by the needle of 2021 again, this time for good. There's no way they make the NCAA tourney after this, and why would you even bother playing in the NIT? Especially when this is such a perfectly frustrating end to the team's most frustrating season in years. Further disasters and humiliations would only be gilding the lily.

The sad part is, the reality of COVID is so miserable on its own that even the Duke haters can't really enjoy this:

This is even sadder:

Could all the pathos, somehow, bring the stans and haters together in sympathy? God, I hope not. As a Duke fan, the embittered feeling of being despised by the rest of the basketball world is basically all I have left.