Duke women’s basketball schedule features early road trips, nationally ranked opponents

Duke guard Lexie Brown reacts in the second half during the game against North Carolina last January.
Duke guard Lexie Brown reacts in the second half during the game against North Carolina last January. The Herald-Sun

Duke women’s basketball returns plenty of talent from its 28-6 team and that’s a good thing.

The nonconference schedule coach Joanne P. McCallie has put together for that team requires experienced players with toughness.

The Blue Devils play three of their first four games this season on the road. That’s followed by home games with Oregon State and Ohio State, who both ended last season ranked among the nation’s top 11 teams.

Duke also plays at reigning NCAA Tournament champion South Carolina, a team the Blue Devils beat at Cameron Indoor Stadium last December.

The road trips to Grand Canyon (Nov. 12), Villanova (Nov. 19) and Old Dominion (Nov. 22) won’t pair Duke against Top 25 teams. But they do offer challenges nevertheless.

“That kind of gives us different experiences as we start,” McCallie said. “Then, boom, a (2016) Final Four team in Oregon State shows up. That’s going to be a challenge, of course, and then it goes from there.”

Redshirt senior guards Rebecca Greenwell and Lexie Brown give Duke one of the nation’s most experienced and accomplished backcourts. Brown averaged 18.3 points last season, while Greenwell scored 16.4 points per game.

The Blue Devils also have a talented newcomer in redshirt senior center Bego Davalos, a graduate transfer from Fresno State who averaged 14.5 points and 11.2 rebounds last season while also being named Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year.

uke opens the season with a trip to Arizona to play Grand Canyon, where former Duke and current WNBA player Krystal Thomas is an assistant coach. The teams played in Durham last season.

“It’s nice to take a long road trip early,” McCallie said. “Grand Canyon is all about Krystal Thomas.”

Duke plays High Point on Nov. 16 in its home opener before heading back out to play at Villanova and Old Dominion.

Then comes three consecutive home games.

Oregon State, which plays Duke at Cameron on Nov. 25, has won the Pac-12 regular-season title in each of the last three seasons. The Beavers made the Final Four in 2016 and were knocked out by Florida State in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 round last spring. Finishing at 31-5, Oregon State was ranked No 8 in the final Associated Press poll.

After playing Presbyterian on Nov. 26, Duke welcomes Ohio State to Cameron on Nov. 30 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Buckeyes went 26-8 last season, finishing second in the Big Ten, and made the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. Ohio State finished the season at No. 11 in the Associated Press poll, two spots behind Duke.

Four days after playing Ohio State, Duke plays at South Carolina on Dec. 3.

The Blue Devils finish up nonconference play with five consecutive home games -- UNC Greensboro (Dec. 7), Winthrop (Dec. 10), Maine (Dec. 19), Wyoming (Dec. 21) and Liberty (Dec. 29) before starting ACC play.

The ACC has yet to announce the league schedule.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC