Thanks to a roster replenished with freshmen expected to be one-and-done stars, Duke could very well start the season ranked No. 1 for the second season in a row.
Although winning the ACC championship was a celebrated accomplishment, injuries up and down the roster, and in the coaching staff, derailed Duke’s national title hopes a year ago.
The schedule, released on Thursday, that Duke will navigate as it looks to win another ACC title includes the usual amount of prime TV appearances. Duke will be on ESPN’s Big Monday game three times in ACC play.
Here are some other highlights:
Most difficult stretch
Feb. 21-March 3: Duke’s finishing kick to the regular season is a bear. The final four ACC games will be against Louisville, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
Having three of them at home helps a great deal, of course. Duke plays Louisville at home on Feb. 21 at 9 p.m., and welcomes Syracuse to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 24. The next day, Duke will travel to Blacksburg, Va., in advance of the Feb. 26 game at Virginia Tech that’s part of ESPN’s Big Monday package.
Then, Duke gets four days without a game before playing UNC on March 3 at home.
Those are four potential NCAA tournament teams who could all be ranked among the top 25 at some point his season – perhaps when these games are played.
Jan. 6-20: It’s difficult to pick any stretch of games against ACC opponents that are easy. But these two weeks figure to be when the Blue Devils can rack up some lopsided wins. Having two games in that stretch against Pittsburgh helps.
It starts when Duke makes the short trip to Raleigh to face a rebuilding N.C. State team on Jan. 6 at PNC Arena. The Blue Devils will then get two full days in Durham preparing before traveling to Pittsburgh to face what should be the ACC’s worst team on Jan. 10.
Wake Forest travels to Duke on Jan. 13. The Blue Devils haven’t lost to the Demon Deacons at home since 1997, reeling off 18 consecutive wins over Wake at Cameron Indoor.
Duke has a quick turnaround, leaving the next day to travel to Miami to play the Hurricanes on Jan. 15. The Blue Devils then get the rest of the week at home to prepare for Pittsburgh on Jan. 20.
Three games to know
Nov. 29 at Indiana: For the second time in the past six seasons, Duke travels for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Hoosiers have a new coach in former N.C. State guard and assistant Archie Miller, so they probably won’t contend for the Big Ten title this season. But this will be the first true road game for the young Blue Devils. Duke will be coming off the five-day PK80 Tournament (Nov. 22-26) in Portland and will have had parts of two days at home before heading to Indiana.
Jan. 29 vs. Notre Dame: No team has played Duke tougher over the last four seasons than the Irish. Duke beat the Irish twice last season, including a 75-69 win in the ACC tournament final. But in the previous three seasons, Notre Dame went 5-1 against Duke. This Big Monday game is their lone scheduled meeting this season.
Feb. 8 at North Carolina: It’s worth watching whenever Duke and UNC play, but this one stands out because it’s in the middle of a challenging stretch of three road games in nine days for Duke. The Blue Devils play a non-conference game at St. John’s on Feb. 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York before heading to Chapel Hill. Four days after facing the Tar Heels, Duke plays at Georgia Tech on Feb. 11.
Duke’s basketball schedule
27 x-Northwest Missouri State, 7 p.m.
4 x-Bowie State, 1 p.m.
11 Utah Valley
14 Michigan State, State Farm Champions Classic at Chicago, Ill., 7 p.m., ESPN
17 Southern, 7 p.m., FSN
20 Furman, PK80, ACC Network Extra
23 Portland State, PK80 at Portland, Ore., 4:30 p.m., ESPN
24 Butler/Texas, PK80 at Portland, Ore., ESPN
26 TBA, PK80 at Portland, Ore., ESPN
29 at Indiana, ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Bloomington, Ind., 9:30 p.m., ESPN
2 South Dakota, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
5 Saint Francis (Pa.), 9 p.m., ESPNU
9 at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass., noon, ESPN
20 Evansville, 7 p.m., ESPN2
30 Florida State, 2 p.m., CBS
10 at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m., ESPN2
13 Wake Forest, noon, ACC Network Extra
15 at Miami, Coral Gables, Fla., 7 p.m., ESPN
20 Pittsburgh, 4 p.m., ACC Network Extra
23 at Wake Forest, at Winston Salem, 9 p.m., ACC Network Extra
27 Virginia, 2 p.m., CBS
29 Notre Dame, 7 p.m., ESPN
3 at St. John’s, Madison Square Garden, New York, N.Y., noon, FOX
8 at North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 8 p.m., ESPN/ACC Network Extra
11 at Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA, 6 p.m., ESPNU
14 Virginia Tech, 7 p.m., ESPN2
18 at Clemson, 1 p.m., ACC Network Extra
21 Louisville, 9 p.m., ESPN
24 Syracuse, ESPN
26 at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., 7 p.m., ESPN
3 North Carolina, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
6-10 ACC Tournament, Brooklyn, N.Y., ESPN/ACC Network Extra