Duke women's basketball schedule poses challenges
Armed with a team expected to contend for a national championship this coming season, Duke women’s basketball coach Joanne P. McCallie will challenge the Blue Devils with a schedule worthy of a champion.
With five starters returning from this past season’s 33-3 team, the Blue Devils will face eight non-conference teams that participated in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and, including ACC games, play three Final Four participants.
“It will be the No. 1 most difficult schedule in the country,” said McCallie, who has led Duke to four consecutive NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearances.
Duke announced its non-conference schedule Tuesday, and the Blue Devils will open the season Nov. 10 at California, which played in the Final Four. That will be a homecoming game for senior guard Chelsea Gray, who hails from Stockton, Calif., the first of three homecoming games for Duke’s seniors.
The Blue Devils will play Nov. 24 at Marquette in Milwaukee, which will allow senior guard Tricia Liston, a Chicago native, to play in front of family.
Duke’s Dec. 8 game at Oklahoma gives a similar opportunity to senior Richa Jackson, who hails from Midwest City, Okla.
“It’s a real honor and a privilege to take Richa home to Oklahoma,” McCallie said. “After all that has taken place in that great state and after all they have been through during the most horrific tornado that I’ve seen covered, it’s a honor to bring Richa home and to give the people in the community an opportunity to support her.”
Duke’s non-conference schedule also includes a host of home games at Cameron Indoor Stadium against quality opponents.
Topping that list is reigning champion Connecticut, which plays Duke on Dec. 17 at Cameron in the Jimmy V Classic game.
The Blue Devils also will play Southeastern Conference members Alabama (Nov. 17) and Vanderbilt (Nov. 21) at home. Purdue heads to Cameron on Dec. 5 as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Having won 20 consecutive home games, Duke plays South Carolina Upstate in its home opener on Nov. 14.
After home games against Alabama and Vanderbilt and the trip to Marquette, Duke heads to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam tournament. Between Nov. 28-30, Duke will play Xavier, Central Michigan and Kansas.
After the home game with UConn, the Blue Devils will host Albany on Dec. 19 before traveling to Kentucky on Dec. 22.
After a Christmas holiday break, Duke closes the non-conference portion of the schedule at home with Old Dominion on Jan. 2.
The newly expanded ACC gives Duke further challenges. The Blue Devils will play home and road games against both Notre Dame, a Final Four team this past season, and rival North Carolina, which was an NCAA Tournament team.
The Blue Devils play ACC newcomer Pittsburgh at home and travel to Syracuse, which joins Pittsburgh and Notre Dame as the newest ACC teams this season.
Duke also travels to Miami, where the Blue Devils suffered their only ACC loss of the 2012-13 season.
Also in league play, the Blue Devils have home games with Wake Forest, N.C. State, Virginia and Maryland.
Duke’s ACC road games, in addition to Notre Dame, North Carolina, Miami and Syracuse, are at Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
Dates for the 16 ACC games will be set by the league office later this summer.
“It is a great time to be a part of women’s basketball at Duke,” McCallie said. “It is a special time with the expansion of the conference. We are looking forward to trying to take full advantage of those great competitors in every game we play.”