Ah, the pomp. The circumstance. The sheepish grins on the faces of the players as their proud mothers grasp their arms and walk them to midcourt to bask in the adulation of the Cameron crowd for the last time. Senior Night is upon us, Blue Devil faithful. Last roundup at Cameron for Mason, Ryan, and Seth is Tuesday night against Virginia Tech. I don’t know about you, but every year I find myself saying to myself, “How in the world are we going to do without this guy, or that guy, next year? We have nobody else to do what he does.” Same holds true for all three of this year’s seniors. Not only are they three excellent players, all three of All-ACC Caliber and worthy of All-American consideration as well, but all three are truly outstanding young men. Cameron better be rocking on Tuesday to let these guys know how much they’ve mattered to us, and how much they’re appreciated for the excellent ballplayers and representatives of the university that they have been.
OK but what about the basketball on Senior Night? I decided to take a look and see how we’ve actually done. In examining this, I think you have to divide the games into Senior Night vs. UNC games and Senior Night vs. Anybody Else games, because the emotion and meaning of a Carolina game is just different than it is for any other. It just is. I also looked just at the Senior Night games beginning with the 1983 season, as that is the year I consider to be the first of the modern Krzyzewski era, as that was the freshman year of Dawkins, Alarie, Bilas, and Henderson (and Williams), a class that changed everything.
Beginning in 1983, Duke is 8-8 against Carolina in Senior Night games, and 10-4 against everybody else. Duke has lost three of the last four to UNC, however, and has won three of the last four against “other.” Against UNC, our average margin of victory is 14, with a high of 32 in 2010 (yes, it was 82-50; seniors were Brian Zoubek, Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas) and the average margin of our losses has been 12, with the largest being the 24 pointer in 1983 (seniors: Tommy Emma, Chip Engelland, and Mike Tissaw) and the second largest being last year’s 18 point spanking at the hands of the Heels. In all, ten of the sixteen games have been decided by double digits.
In non-UNC games the average margin of victory in our ten wins has been 15 points; the average margin in our four losses has been 5 1/2. Nine of the 14 games have been decided by double digits. The biggest win was the 27 pointer over Clemson in 1999 (seniors: Trajan Langdon, Taymon Domzalski, Jay Heaps, and Justin Caldbeck) and the worst loss to a non-UNC team was the 11 pointer to Maryland in 2001 — the Carlos Boozer “it’s over” game (seniors: Shane Battier, Nate James, Ryan Caldbeck, and J.D. Simpson.)
Duke has never played Virginia Tech in a Senior Night game. In this era, our most common non-UNC opponents in Senior Night games have been Clemson and Maryland. While we’re 4-1 against the Tigers, with the lone loss being a one pointer way back in 1984 (seniors: Doug McNeely and Richard Ford), we’re only 2-3 against the Terps.
Duke is 2-0 against Florida State, 1-0 against Miami and 1-0 against NC State in Senior Night games during this era. The NC State game was back in 1989 (seniors: Danny Ferry, Quin Snyder, and John Smith), and it didn’t feel quite the same as many other Senior Nights, as Duke still had to go play a game in the Meadowlands against Arizona, followed by a road game at Clemson before finishing up at UNC.
With Duke having handled the Hokies by 32 points less than two weeks ago in Blacksburg, and with the addition of Ryan Kelly back into the lineup (he played against Miami on Saturday, didn’t he?) plus the emotion of Senior Night, it doesn’t take much of a crystal ball to see Duke adding to its history of Senior Night successes on Tuesday.