Duke’s March Madness fate decided by inches in back-to-back years

The best game of the 2018 NCAA tournament was played on March 25, when top-seeded Kansas outlasted second-seeded Duke in an Elite Eight thriller.

The Jayhawks won by four in overtime, but the game’s defining moment took place in the closing seconds of regulation. With a trip to the Final Four on the line, Duke’s Grayson Allen took a jumper from just outside the lane that appeared the defy the law of physics in not falling through the net.

Fast forward exactly 364 days.

Duke is the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and the overwhelming favorite to cut down the nets. But the Blue Devils have surprisingly found themselves behind the eight ball in round two in a game that everyone would eventually agree has been the best of the 2019 tournament to date.

Behind the stellar play of Aubrey Dawkins, Central Florida has pushed Duke to the brink of one of the most shocking early exits in March history. All it needs to finish the job and make its first Sweet 16 since 1978 is a friendly roll in the final seconds.

Feel free to insert here whatever cliche you prefer about outcomes being determined by a unit of measurement or iron’s general congeniality, or lack thereof.

When you think about all the hours that go into things like recruiting, and practice, and wins and losses, and the seeding of the tournament; for all those things to come together and for a team’s ultimate legacy to be largely defined by one shot spinning an inch the wrong/right way … it has to blow your mind at least a little bit.

March takes away. March gives.

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