Duke officially announced their non-conference schedule, though much of it had been known
for quite some time. It is the most challenging schedule Duke has ever
faced, tougher than even the brutal 1999 schedule that included Tennessee,
Notre Dame, UConn, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt and UCLA. This
year's slate will include three Final Four teams in UConn, Tennessee and
Texas, as well as NIT champ Auburn and NIT final four team Creighton.
Throw in another top-ten matchup against Purdue, and you'll have a
schedule that will truly challenge a veteran Blue Devil squad.
Texas returns virtually every important player, with the exception of
guard Tai Dillard. That includes bruising forward Stacy Stephens and
willowy high-scorer Heather Schreiber, as well as superb point guard Jamie
Carey. The Horns will also add prep All-America center Tiffany Jackson,
a player that Duke was recruiting rather heavily. This will be an immense
test as the first official game of the season, though it will be for a
technically neutral crowd at Purdue. Elon will be a warm-up for the
Jimmy V Classic and a game with Purdue. The Boilermakers lost huge center
Mary Jo Noon, but will return ultra-quick wing Shereka Wright and
playmaker/shooter Erika Valek. The inaugural Jimmy V Classic was a huge
success last year, and keeping it at the RBC Center only makes sense.
Duke will conclude November with their own Duke Classic. Auburn is led by
guard Natasha Brackett and has a good shot at being a top 25 team.
Creighton returns their top three scorers from a team that won 24 games
and beat Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. Before the month of November is
over, Duke will have already played two top ten squads and faced some
December will be a bit easier, with games against Tulsa and a
welcome-home game for Alana Beard at Northwestern State (in Shreveport,
LA) scheduled around exam time. Duke will travel to Los Angeles in late
December for the Loyola Marymount tournament, which will include LMU,
Northwestern and Hampton. Hampton won the MEAC last year and gave Duke a
battle in their game at the Paradise Jam before being blown out. LMU was
a mediocre team last year but do return their top player, Kate Murray,
from an injury. Northwestern was just plain bad, so hopefully Duke won't
be matched up with them.
The highest-profile games will be against UConn at the Hartford Civic
Center and Tennessee in Cameron. UConn of course won their second
consecutive national title last year and beat Duke in Cameron along the
way. Duke and UT have a thriving rivalry, and it is hoped that Cameron
will sell out for their game on January 24th. UConn returns everyone of
note to their team, including national player of the year Diana Taurasi.
UT lost seniors Kara Lawson and Gwen Jackson, but still has plenty of
talent with Shyra Ely, Brittany Jackson and many more. A more detailed
analysis of each squad will come once the official schedule is released.