Duke’s loss to N.C. State back on Jan. 12 started one of the stranger stretches of college basketball in recent memory. Since that game, the No. 1 team in the country has lost in each of the last five weeks with the latest victim being Indiana when they fell at the buzzer on Thursday night.
In the appetizer to the main course of Duke/N.C. State, Illinois pulled off the upset over the Hoosiers when Tyler Griffey hit a layup as time expired to score the Illini a 74-72 win. With the No. 1 ranking now seemingly up for grabs again and Duke being the No. 4 team in the country, it wouldn’t be too outrageous if the Blue Devils climbed back into that ranking.
Mason Plumlee, however, is not concerned with the numbers that come before the team’s name — just the one that comes after and with a “w”.
“We’ve been there twice before. We don’t go by rankings,” Plumlee said. “I think our last two wins have been so good because everybody’s playing and everybody’s playing well. We’re just focused on us. We can’t worry about Big Ten, Big 12, Kansas, Indiana – we can’t worry about all that. We’ll watch the games but we’re so focused on us, and I think that’s what helping us get better right now.”
That type of attitude seems to be the smartest one to take for the teams at the top this season. With no dominant team and more talent throughout the power conferences, any game can be the one that sends a team tumbling down the AP ballots.
But if Plumlee keeps playing the way he played against N.C. State (30 points, nine rebounds), Duke may be the toughest out of any of the other teams in the running for that No. 1 spot.