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Next Up - Queens

A more interesting opponent than you might think

Garden Classic - Duke v Baylor
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 20: Mark Mitchell #25 of the Duke Blue Devils passes the ball against the Baylor Bears at Madison Square Garden on December 20, 2023 in New York City. Duke won 78-70.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Date 12/30 || Time 2:00 || Venue Cameron Indoor Stadium || Video The CW

Duke moves past the Christmas break on Saturday with its first-ever matchup against Queens University of Charlotte. And it’s an interesting opponent.

Queens is a pretty small school. Founded in 1857 by the Presbyterians, the school has a shade under 2,000 students, about 1,300 of whom are undergrads.

It’s located in Uptown Charlotte and fairly recently decided to move to D-I. The hope is that it will draw more attention to a university that is somewhat unknown outside of its hometown.

Queens is now part of the ASUN Conference and is one year into a four-year transition to D-I. Despite a quite small student body, the school supports 30 different sports, which is impressive and it has had some significant success in various sports including basketball.

The Royals have only had a basketball team since 1989, but they first made the D-II tournament in 1996, making the regional semifinals. They’ve made the tournament 15 times and have gotten to the Final Four twice and the Elite Eight twice and generally have done quite well.

Not to pick a fight with anyone, but their tournament success is much better than, say, Clemson or Wake Forest’s.

In their first season in D-I, Queens finished 18-15. This year, Queens is currently 6-8 with wins over High Point, Fairfield, Fairleigh Dickinson and Gardner-Webb. You can reasonably toss the wins over Carolina Christian and Carolina University as irrelevant.

The losses came to Marshall, Drexel, Richmond, Winthrop, Appalachian State, Mercer and Clemson.

Some of them were brutal - SIU won by 23, Richmond by 29 and Clemson by 30 - but some were fairly close. Drexel was a 10 point loss, Winthrop was by six and App State by eight.

Clearly Queens isn’t perceived as a team in Duke’s class, but they have a tradition, too, and obviously a desire to prove themselves as a D-I team. And as Mike Krzyzewski preached for his entire career, you have to respect your opponent and the best way to do that is to give your very best effort.

So what about this Queens team then?

It’s coached by Grant Leonard, who was promoted to head coach last season. Check his bio here - he’s been part of a lot of success. Seriously - check it out. Queens has more tradition than most Duke fans would have any idea of.

The primary rotation is 6-2 junior AJ McKee, 6-2 junior Chris Ashby, 6-2 junior Peyton Albury, 6-5 freshman Bryce Cash, 6-8 senior BJ McLaurin, 6-6 sophomore Jacobi Sebock, 6-4 junior Kalib Mathews, 6-7 junior Jaxon Pollard, 7-0 senior Malcom Wilson and 6-3 freshman Kobe George.

McKee is the leading score at 17 ppg and also leads in steals at 1.7. McLaurin is the best rebounder at 6.3 boards an outing.

The team is averaging 80.7 ppg. It’s not shooting overly well at 43.1 percent overall and is average shooting threes at 33.8 percent.

Duke has had some great production out of Jared McCain and Caleb Foster as Tyrese Proctor recovered from his ankle injury. There’s a good chance he’s back for this one and that will just make the Blue Devils that much deeper and more dangerous. We’d like to see Mark Mitchell get past his offensive struggles but as long as he defends and plays hard, the offense will come. What we’d most like to see is that Duke builds on its success against Baylor last time out. That game was a lot of fun.

We don’t have a lot to go on with Queens but as we say, the Royals have tradition and continuity and if we’re Coach Leonard, we’re telling our guys that they can be sharper than Duke after the holidays and that the Blue Devils aren’t expecting major competition in this game. And if they can put game pressure on Duke in the second half, who knows?

We’ll add more links as we find them.