Duke’s Fifth: A Historical Perspective

It was another magical night in Indianapolis for Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils Monday evening, as the program hoisted its third national championship in the midwestern city known for its fast open-wheel cars and its affinity for college basketball.

Twenty-four years removed from winning his first national championship at the old RCA Dome back in 1991, Coach K returned to Indy to the Final Four with a young and hungry squad that outlasted two of the Big Ten’s best — Michigan State and Wisconsin — to bring the NCAA title back to Tobacco Road for the first time since 2010. Duke’s 2010 title came on the same Lucas Oil Stadium floor where the Blue Devils celebrated the newest jewel in its championship crown.

Duke’s 68-63 triumph over Wisconsin Monday night seemed to have it all — highlight-reel plays, a stirring second half comeback, stellar individual performances, players rising to the moment and playing beyond themselves, and, of course, multiple questionable calls down the stretch.

But for every Badgers fan whining about some of the late-game calls that didn’t go their way, there’s a Duke fan and/or ACC supporter willing to point out that ACC Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor sat out large chunks of the second half in foul trouble, on what they considered to be some pretty questionable calls as he defended Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky.

Fortunately for the Blue Devils, players like Tyus Jones and Grayson Allen stepped up in Okafor’s absence, with Jones scoring a game-high 23 points, and Allen adding a critical 16 points. The efforts of Jones and Allen, along with Duke shooting 16-of-20 as a team from the free throw line, allowed them to get over the hump against a Wisconsin squad that had defeated North Carolina, along with national title contenders Arizona and Kentucky, on its path to the national title game.

With his third national championship in Indy, It would now seem that the only sportsmen Krzyzewski has left to top in that town are racing legends A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser Sr., who all won the Indianapolis 500 four times each. Should Krzyzewski stay in coaching through the 2021 season — when the Final Four returns again to Indianapolis – he would have a chance to win his fourth title in the city that has been so friendly to his Blue Devil program over the years.[hr]

In a season that saw Krzyzewski win his 1,000th game as he continues to set a new bar in long-term coaching success at the college level, the venerable Blue Devil coach has become just the second man in history to win five national championships at college basketball’s highest level. At the same time, he’s seen his storied Duke program join the rarified air of schools with five NCAA titles in its sport.

UCLA’s John Wooden set a standard that may never be topped with his 10 national championships from 1964 to 1975. But Krzyzewski now stands second — behind only Wooden — in terms of NCAA titles in Division I men’s college basketball with his fifth national championship. The win over the Badgers pushes Krzyzewski past Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp, who won four national championships over his legendary tenure as the Baron of the Bluegrass. Two others — Bob Knight of Indiana and Jim Calhoun of Connecticut — earned three national championships in their careers.

Duke’s triumph over Wisconsin came 23 years to the day after Duke became the first men’s college program since UCLA in 1972 and 1973 to win back-to-back national championships.

Krzyzewski tied Wooden for most all-time Final Four appearances by a head coach, with 12, with Duke’s South Regional triumph in Houston. In addition, Duke’s triumph over Gonzaga in the South Regional final also propelled Krzyzewski past North Carolina great Dean Smith, who reached 11 Final Fours in his outstanding career with the Tar Heels. With its 16th Final Four appearance, Duke currently stands behind only Kentucky and UCLA (17 Final Fours each) and North Carolina (18 Final Fours) on the all-time list of national semifinal appearances.

With its fifth NCAA title, Duke becomes just the fifth school in college basketball history to attain that many championships, joining UCLA (11 titles), Kentucky (8 titles), Indiana (5 titles), and North Carolina (5 titles). Duke and UNC have now combined to win 10 of the ACC’s 13 championships in men’s basketball, with NC State and Maryland claiming the other three.

When combining Louisville’s three national championships — two won in the Metro Conference in 1980 and 1986, and one in the Big East in 2013 — as well as Syracuse’s 2003 NCAA title, the ACC has a total of 16 national championships among current member institutions in men’s basketball, which ties it with the Pac-12 for the most all-time.

If you throw in Maryland’s 2002 NCAA title — which the league still rightfully claims as its own — the ACC could make a technical claim for most all-time national championships among its schools, with 17. The Pac-12 hasn’t won a national championship since Arizona in 1997, back when it was still the Pac-10. But the addition of Utah, and its 1944 NCAA title, gives that league 16 national championships among current members.[hr]

Considering that the ACC had tied for its longest stretch in history without a Final Four appearance between the 2010-2011 and 2013-2014 seasons, Duke’s national championship did quite a bit for the league as well as for the school itself.

The Blue Devil triumph restores order to a conference that prides itself on being labeled the best collegiate men’s basketball conference in America — a label that wasn’t entirely accurate in recent years.

But with the Blue Devils back atop the college basketball world — along with the more than $2 million per school that will be distributed around the ACC in the coming years through the NCAA Tournament’s payout structure — the league is once again basking in the glory that can only come through ultimate victory.[hr]


Pac-12 Conference (1915-present) 15 titles — UCLA 11 (1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1995), Oregon 1 (1939), Stanford 1 (1942), California 1 (1959), Arizona 1 (1997)

Atlantic Coast Conference (1953-present) 13 titles — North Carolina 5 (1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009), Duke 5 (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015), NC State 2 (1974, 1983), Maryland 1 (2002)

Southeastern Conference (1932-present) 11 titles — Kentucky 8 (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998, 2012), Florida 2 (2006, 2007), Arkansas 1 (1994)

Big Ten Conference (1896-present) 10 titles — Indiana 5 (1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987), Michigan State 2 (1979, 2000), Wisconsin 1 (1941), Ohio State 1 (1960), Michigan 1 (1989)

Big East Conference (1979-2013) 7 titles — Connecticut 3 (1999, 2004, 2011), Georgetown 1 (1984), Villanova 1 (1985), Syracuse 1 (2003), Louisville 1 (2013)

Big 8 Conference (1907-1996), Big 12 Conference (1994-present) 3 titles — Kansas 3 (1952, 1988, 2008)

NOTE: Utah, a current member of the Pac-12, won the NCAA title in 1944, giving the Pac-12 16 national championships among current members. Louisville won NCAA titles in 1980 and 1986 in the Metro Conference, and 2013 in the Big East, before joining the ACC, while Syracuse won a national championship in 2003 in the Big East before joining the ACC. That gives the ACC either 16 or 17 national championships in men’s basketball, depending on whether or not you count Maryland’s 2002 title, which the ACC still does.[hr]


John Wooden (UCLA) 10 titles (1964-1965, 1967-1973, 1975)

Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) 5 titles (1991-1992, 2001, 2010, 2015)

Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) 4 titles (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958)

Bob Knight (Indiana) 3 titles (1976, 1981, 1987)

Jim Calhoun (Connecticut) 3 titles (1999, 2004, 2011)[hr]


UCLA — 11 national titles

Kentucky – 8 national titles

Duke – 5 national titles

Indiana – 5 national titles

North Carolina — 5 national titles

Connecticut – 4 national titles

Louisville — 3 national titles

Kansas – 3 national titles