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Duke’s Non-Conference Schedule Isn’t Great But Could Be Worse

20 conference games inherently diminishes non-conference games

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Duke vs North Dakota State
Mar 22, 2019; Columbia, SC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Tre Jones (3) and North Dakota State Bison guard Chris Quayle (13) battle for the ball during the second half and in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Colonial Life Arena. 
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Duke released its non-conference schedule Thursday, the first with the expanded 20-game ACC schedule, and as Danny Manning mentioned the other day, it changes things. Coaches won’t gamble with the schedule because there’s no room for error in a conference this competitive.

The traditional late out-of-conference-tournament tuneup is gone - the last non-conference game is December 28th.

Of course, Duke is not Wake Forest so the schedule is tougher. Here’s what’s coming:

Exhibition season:

  • Northwest Missouri State, October 26th
  • Fort Valley Start, October 30th

Champions Classic: Duke plays Kansas on November 5th.

Colorado State comes to Cameron on November 12th

That’s followed by the Empire Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project

The first two games are in Cameron: Central Arkansas on November 12th then Georgia State on the 15th. Maybe it’s just just but could the Wonderboys come back soon? Greatest nickname ever.

Then the action moves to the Garden where Duke will open with Cal and likely play the winner of Georgetown vs. Texas. That means we may get to see Mac McClung which would be fun.

Then it’s back to Cameron for a match with the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks on November 26th followed by Winthrop on the 29th.

Don’t take that one for granted. Pat Kelsey is a very well regarded coach and having been a Wake Forest assistant is very familiar with Duke.

As a matter of fact, if Wake dumps Manning after this season, keep an eye on Kelsey because he may be on the short list. Small note: he really had a strong reaction to the Sandy Hook shooting, speaking about it passionately and having his players wear jerseys with names of the murdered children. He’s done a lot more than that too.

Anyway, after finishing 14-17 his first year, he’s won every year since and finished no lower than third in the Big South. You might say, well that’s the Big South, but winning consistently in a small conference really isn’t easy. He’s doing very well and we predict he’ll come to Cameron more than ready for Duke.

Then it’s the big leagues, a rematch with Michigan State on December 3rd. For Tre Jones, who was schooled by Spartan Cassius Winston in the NCAA tournament, it’s a huge game. They might go toe to toe in the post-season again too.

Then it’s back home for the post-Mike Young Wofford Terriers.

It’s not just post-Mike Young; it’s also post-Fletcher Magee. The remarkable guard who led the Terriers to a 30-win season last year is trying to catch on with an NBA team as a free agent. Bet against him at your own peril.

Wofford opted to promote from within so we’ll see if Jay McAuley can keep a good thing going.

Non-Conference play concludes after Christmas with an Ivy League opponent in Brown.

As Wake Forest demonstrated, the expanded ACC schedule changes things but still, games with Kansas and Michigan State are marquee events and some of the others could be solid. We’ll have to see how the various opponents stack up.

One marketing concern: there’s not really an exceptional game in Cameron. While we realize the needs have changed with the expanded conference schedule, it’s really too bad that we’re not getting a decent non-conference game at home.

To be clear, some of them could be very good by fall but from July, we can’t see one.

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