New AP poll ends one crazy Duke streak

What does six years get you? How about a term in the U.S. Senate? Or one college degree, plus the two victory laps you wish you’d taken? Think about everything that’s happened in the past six years: the work you’ve done, the places you’ve visited, how the world has changed, how different you are now, what perspective you’ve gained. Six years is forever.

It’s also the last time Duke was ranked outside the Associated Press top 10 -- until Monday.

It sounds insane, but it’s true: Since Nov. 26, 2007, the Blue Devils have been ranked 10th or higher in the AP poll. You can go into the archives and find that Nov. 19 poll if you like. You can also count forward from there. I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, rest assured, the final number is a mind-bending 122 weeks, the second-longest stretch in college basketball history.

The longest stretch -- UCLA’s 155-week stay from 1966 to 1976 -- will, like many of John Wooden’s records, probably remain forever. But it was accomplished, as were Wooden’s 11 national titles, in an entirely different college basketball climate. There was less talent then, and less diffusion of that talent across the landscape. Duke compiled its record in the modern era, with inarguably tougher competition, where even the faintest idea of an undefeated season -- relatively common in Wooden’s era -- is always immediately laughed away. The next-longest active top-10 streak belongs to Michigan State, with 16 weeks. See?

The differences in era between Wooden and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski may always make the “greatest coach of all time” debate a protracted one. There will be Wooden holdouts forever. But more than anything, the gulf in history accentuates Krzyzewski’s case. Krzyzewski has won 968 Division I college basketball games (968!) and kept his team ranked in the AP top 10 in the decades in which it has been most difficult to do so. By the time he’s done, it’s going to be difficult to mount any argument at all. Heck, it already is.

Of course, this eulogy only comes courtesy of the streak’s end: On Monday, Duke was busted down to No. 16 in the AP poll following Saturday’s loss at Notre Dame. The good news: Duke is still in the Top 25, where it's been ranked 313 of the past 315 weeks. Which is almost as crazy.