The end of a season, and with it, the end of a college career for several players on the roster each year, is always a tough moment. As Coach K tells his team when the inevitable happens, “If you aren’t crying, it all didn’t mean enough for you.”
On the decade-end countdown for the darkest moments of the 2010s for Duke basketball, we look at two season-ending losses.
8. Inspired by injured teammate, Louisville ousts Duke:
The No. 6 Blue Devils met the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals in Indianapolis with a shot at the 2013 Final Four on the line.
With 6:33 remaining in the first half, Tyler Thornton hit a three-pointer to cut Louisville’s early lead to one point. For everyone in the arena, however, the attention was focused far from the scoreboard.
Cardinals sophomore Kevin Ware dove at Thornton to try to block the shot and landed awkwardly. His right leg broke, with the bone poking through the skin in two places. He landed near the Louisville bench, and the team reacted with horror, crying openly.
Coach K tried to focus his own shaken team, warning the that Louisville would be determined in the face of seeing “a fallen brother.” He was right but couldn’t do anything to prevent the outcome. Louisville went on a run, eventually winning by 22 in an 85-63 win.
The result was later vacated, along with Louisville’s eventual NCAA title, but the sting is still there for Blue Devil players and fans.
7. Arizona ends hopes of a repeat:
The Blue Devils entered the 2010-11 season with the 2010 NCAA title and a core that returned nearly intact, with Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer leading the way. The Blue Devils also added two key pieces in Seth Curry, who sat out the previous season after transferring, and the first of a long string of Coach K one-and-dones in Kyrie Irving.
A toe injury to Irving shook the plans for a repeat title, however, as he missed 26 games before returning in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, leading to concerns about how his presence on the floor would impact Duke’s chemistry.
Duke entered the NCAA tournament as ACC champions, the No. 3 team in the nation and the top seed in the West. The Blue Devils advanced to the Elite Eight and faced five-seed Arizona with a shot at a return trip to the Final Four.
Instead, Derrick Williams scored 25 first half points to carry the Wildcats, and the rest of the Arizona team stepped up after halftime, shooting 58 percent in the second half to blow out the Blue Devils 93-77.
In just his eleventh game with the Blue Devils, Irving scored 28 points, leaving everyone wondering what might have been.