DURHAM, N.C. — The past three years have ended the same way at Duke — with a loss in the regional finals.
Getting that far has been good, but Chelsea Gray, Haley Peters and the rest of the Blue Devils' five-woman senior class want to go even further during their final season at Duke.
"When you look at the standards that Duke basketball has, it's not Elite Eights. You don't hang banners for Elite Eights," Peters said Friday during the team's preseason media day.
"That's all that's been done, so you get kind of sick being done on that weekend and not being able to go," she added. "The Final Four is the big show, so there's definitely a feeling of unfinished business."
The Blue Devils have been eliminated one step shy of that goal in each of the last four NCAA tournaments, and haven't been to women's basketball's biggest stage since 2006.
Gray, Peters and Tricia Liston have been the program's cornerstones from the day they arrived in 2010, and their college careers have been marked by consistency.
In each of their three years, they've earned the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and been rewarded with a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament — only to be beaten by their region's No. 1 seed with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
The main difference last year was, the Blue Devils had to do it without Gray — the team's unquestioned leader at point guard and ACC co-player of the year who dislocated her right kneecap in a mid-February victory.
Coach Joanne P. McCallie lamented that last year's team was "robbed" of the opportunity to make its run with a healthy Gray, but that injury might have made the Blue Devils a much more formidable team this time around.
Duke slid freshman Alexis Jones over to the point, and she wound up being selected as the MVP of the ACC tournament.
Gray is back now, practicing at full speed, and that makes the Blue Devils so much deeper.
"It definitely gave an opportunity for (Jones) and Tricia to bond as a one-two punch and also for Alexis to grow," Gray said. "She had a big role to fulfill with me going out, and so did Tricia, as far as leading and with the experience of playing in the NCAA tournament — just that experience that I had been used to those three years. I guess it prepares them for this year, and when I get back on the court, it should all naturally click."
The hallmark of this Duke team will be its mix-and-match composition, which McCallie says will make the Blue Devils "harder to guard, harder to scout."
Gray — whom McCallie calls "the most versatile guard in the country, bar none" — can play the two guard spots or small forward. Peters could play either of the two forward positions. Both Liston and Jones can fill both guard roles.
"Everybody has an interesting role," McCallie said, "and it's going to be a nice puzzle to put together."
And if the pieces fit the right way, the Blue Devils could finally break through their personal postseason glass ceiling and get to the Final Four.
Peters says it would be unfair to judge this senior class strictly on whether or not it wins a regional final.
That said, she added: "We're all hungry to finish differently this year."