This week's most compelling college basketball story --- regardless of how you feel about Duke --- is that the Blue Devils' 25-game winning streak ended Wednesday night at Florida State.
The defending national champs and the nation's No. 1 team since the start of the preseason had not lost since early March, when it fell to Maryland in the penultimate game of the regular season.
Duke's loss brings up a favorite debate in college hoops: Is it possible to run the table, something that hasn't been done since 1976.
"I think you can," Maryland coach Gary Williams said Friday. "I think it's really hard nowadays because there's enough teams that are close to the so-called three or four unbeaten teams that are left. Look at Kansas' score with Iowa State [an 84-79 Jayhawks victory]. If you can get that close, then they can be beat. Ohio State's had a tough game with Iowa recently [a 73-68 Buckeyes win]."
So what's the biggest issue? Williams points to the number of imposing places to play a team in a decent conference.
"Home courts are so much tougher than home courts in the pros," Williams said. "It's a much tougher game to go into somebody's gym and, even though your're better than that team, win all those times that you have to do that in college basketball. That's why it's so tough. What's a good home court worth? What's Duke worth to Duke when you play there?"
That question was addressed to me. Having covered about 10 games at Cameron Indoor Stadium over the years, I felt somewhat comfortable suggesting it was an eight-point difference. Maybe it's more; I'm not a gambler and don't study such matters. But Duke definitely gets a substantial bump playing at home.
In any case, Williams didn't quibble with the estimate.
"Now, we have to be better than Duke by eight points just walking in there; we have to be better by eight points," Williams said. "Well, they're the No. 1 team in the country at the time. How are you eight points better than Duke? That's what homecourts do. They put an extra thing on the game where it's very difficult. Last year, when Duke came to Comcast, they were the national championship team eventually, but that night we were good enough to beat them because we had the homecourt and we were a pretty good team. And that's how that works."
Duke is an extreme example; Cameron is tiny and is cramped and (this is the big part) is home to a talented, cohesive team with more than a quarter-century worth of wins since rising into the national elite under Mike Krzyzewski to make it believe it isn't going to lose at home.
But it works for bad teams, too. There was a brief moment in Maryland's 74-55 defeat of Wake Forest when the Demon Deacons closed within six points in the second half and the crowd came to life. The Terps soon extinguished that hope with a 15-0 run, but the best reason to believe they could lose had more to do with the possibility of raucous fans unnerving them than the Demon Deacons simply being better over the final dozen minutes.
"In a good conference, if you play eight or nine road games in the conference, you're going to play six or seven places in a normal year where they can beat you," Williams said. "Maybe in certain years, all eight games they can beat you, even though you're the No. 1 team in the country and undefeated."