Considering the Duke Hangover Effect: Fact or Fiction?

Posted by EMann on February 21st, 2013

In a series of events that seems almost predetermined, Maryland, fresh off a signature win against Duke (in what could be the last game in this rivalry played in College Park) and now finding itself either squarely off the bubble or in the Tournament, went out and dropped its next game at lowly Boston College. The Wall Street Journal has already written about how beating Duke has merited a court rushing (“including this season, in 27 out of Duke’s 33 losses in true road games [the last ten years], the fans have rushed the court”). There hasn’t been as much focus on what happens to these teams after getting their “signature win” over the Blue Devils. Beginning in the 2007-08 season, teams not named UNC are under .500 in their next game after beating Duke. Yes, it is a small sample size, but it is worth taking a closer look at this phenomenon.

Maryland won at Duke, but followed it up with losing at Boston College.  The Duke Hangover at work (Yahoo Sports)

Maryland beat Duke, but followed it up with losing at Boston College. The Duke Hangover at work (Yahoo Sports)

Here is just one example of this “Duke hangover”: Feb. 26th, 2011 – Virginia Tech upset top-ranked Duke, 64-60, and looked prime to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth. However, the Hokies lost their final two regular season games (at home against a BC team that did not make the NCAAs, and at a Clemson team that barely did) to finish 19-10 (9-7 ACC), and after bowing out in the ACC semis to Duke, found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble.

I went through the ACC data from the 2003 season onward to determine just how often teams lost its next game after playing Duke. Teams who lost their next game after playing Duke are bolded below. Teams who made the NCAA Tournament are italicized, with their seed and round they lost in listed for reference. I mentioned the ACC Tournament only in the years in which Duke did not win (2004, 2007, 2008, and 2012).

2002-03:  at Maryland (#6 seed, Sweet Sixteen), at NC State (#9 seed, first round), at Florida State, at Wake Forest  (#2 seed, second round), at St. John’s, at North Carolina.  NCAA Tournament:  Duke (#3) lost to Kansas (#2) in the Sweet Sixteen, Kansas lost in the national finals.

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  5-2.  Regular season: 4-2

2003-04:  Purdue, at N.C. State (#3 seed, second round), at Wake Forest (#4 seed, Sweet Sixteen), Georgia Tech (#4 seed, national finals). ACC Tournament (finals):  Maryland (#4 seed, second round) NCAA Tournament:  Duke (#1) lost to UConn (#2) in the national semifinals, UConn won the national title.

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  5-1  Regular season:  3-1

2004-05:  Maryland, at Wake Forest (#2 seed, second round), at Maryland, at Virginia Tech, at North Carolina (#1 seed, national champion).  NCAA Tournament:  Duke (#1) lost to Michigan State (#5) in the Sweet Sixteen, Michigan State lost in the national semifinals.

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  5-1 Regular season:  4-1

2005-06:  at Georgetown (#7 seed, Sweet Sixteen), at Florida State, North Carolina (#3 seed, second round). NCAA Tournament:  Duke (#1) lost to LSU (#4) in the Sweet Sixteen, LSU lost in the national semifinals.

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  4-0 Regular season:  3-0

2006-07:  Marquette (#8 seed, first round), Virginia Tech (#5 seed, second round), at Georgia Tech (#10 seed, first round), at Virginia (#4 seed, second round), Florida State (lost five in a row after beating Duke), North Carolina (#1 seed, Elite Eight), Maryland (#4 seed, second round), at Marylandat North Carolina  ACC Tournament (1st round):  NC State, NCAA Tournament:  Duke (#6) lost to VCU (#11) in first round, VCU lost in the second round.

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  9-2 Regular season:  8-1

2007-08:  Pittsburgh (#4 seed, second round), at Wake Forest (lost four straight), at Miami (#7 seed, second round), North Carolina (#1 seed, Final Four) ACC Tournament (semifinals):  Clemson (#5 seed, first round), NCAA Tournament:  Duke (#2) lost to West Virginia (#7) in the second round, WVU lost in the Sweet Sixteen.

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  2-4 Regular season:  2-2

2008-09:  at Michigan (#10 seed, second round), at Wake Forest (#4 seed, first round), at Clemson (#7 seed, first round), North Carolina (#1 seed, national champion), at Boston College (#7 seed, first round), at North Carolina NCAA Tournament:  Duke (#2) lost to Villanova (#3) in the Sweet Sixteen, Villanova lost in the national semifinals.

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  4-3 Regular season:  3-3

2009-10:  at Wisconsin (#4 seed, second round), at Georgia Tech (#7 seed, second round), at NC Stateat Georgetown (#3 seed, first round), at Maryland (#4 seed, second round) NCAA Tournament:  Duke won the national championship.

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  2-3 Regular season:  2-3

2010-11:  at Florida State (#10 seed, Sweet Sixteen), at St. John’s (#6 seed, first round), at Virginia Techat North Carolina (#2 seed, Elite Eight) NCAA Tournament:  Duke (#1) lost to Arizona (#5) in the Sweet Sixteen, Arizona lost in the Elite Eight.

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  3-2 Regular season:  3-1

2011-12:  at Ohio State (#2 seed, Final Four), at Temple (#5 seed, first round), Florida State (#3 seed, Round of 32), Miami, North Carolina (#1 seed, Elite Eight) ACC Tournament (semifinals):  Florida State NCAA Tournament:  Duke (#2) lost to Lehigh (#15) in the Round of 64, Lehigh lost in the Round of 32.

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  5-2 Regular season:  4-1

2012-13 (thus far):  at NC State, at Miami, at Maryland

  • Team records in immediate game after Duke:  1-2 (Miami/NC State are in the tournament, Maryland is on the bubble).

Overall:  45-22 regular season:  37-17 (except UNC, who is 10-0 after beating Duke in this time frame):  35-22 overall, 27-17 regular season

There is a clear trend that begins around the 2007-08 season:  Teams played much worse in their next game after beating Duke.

So what can we glean from this data? Probably not a ton, as it is a small sample size and many of the teams who beat Duke were not as good as Duke to begin with, but in recent years (starting in 2007-08), teams have really struggled to win its next game after Duke (17-16 overall). And tossing UNC out (who has 10 of the wins against Duke in this time frame and has not lost even once in the next game after beating Duke), that number drops to just 35-22 (27-17 regular season) over the last decade, and beginning in 2007-08, teams other than UNC in the game after beating Duke are just 12-16 (10-12 in the regular season) .  I haven’t studied the results for beating other college blue-bloods of recent vintage, but with all the media attention showered upon upsetting Duke, it does not seem surprising that teams have a bit of a letdown after beating the Devils. For the 2010-11 Virginia Tech team, their letdown cost them a likely NCAA Tournament berth. Could the same happen to this year’s Maryland team?

EMann (30 Posts)


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One Response to “Considering the Duke Hangover Effect: Fact or Fiction?”

  1. Mo says:

    It’s called regression to the mean

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