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Make no mistake, Duke will face a grueling ACC gauntlet in 2013-14. Of course, in the ACC, no wins are guaranteed, and Duke usually discovers that even mediocre teams tend to play their very best hoops when they meet the Blue Devils. However, I’m going to step out on a limb and attempt to predict the five toughest ACC games for Duke in the coming season.
First, of course, is North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Williams has lost only a couple of players (Strickland, Bullock) from an extremely talented team and they will be quick and athletic, difficult to overpower.
Second is Virginia in Charlottesville. They overcame Duke by five last year at home and, if anything, they may be a little sharper next year. Along with stars, Harris and Mitchell, Tobey and Anderson are coming on strong, along with other developing guys.
Third is Syracuse on their home turf. Boeheim seems to often find ways to win when he has to, especially at home. Fair and Christmas are two of Boeheim’s especially skilled players. Much will depend on how well Ennis is able to quarterback at point guard; early reports are fairly positive.
Fourth is Notre Dame in South Bend. They’re a tough, mature team with four juniors and five seniors. After Coach K’s potshot, Brey will be aching to show him Notre Dame can win against anything the ACC throws at him.
Fifth choice may surprise some. I’m going to predict that Boston College will be very challenging in Chestnut Hill. Duke barely scraped by with a one-point win last year; and, surrounding star shooter, Olivier Hanlan, those young players will likely be just that much more mature and cool under pressure.
Some may think I’ve overlooked Maryland. It’s true that Duke seems to struggle with the Terrapins and they beat Duke twice last season (by 2 and 9 points). Len will be gone and Duke’s only (and final) meeting with Maryland will be in Durham. Somehow I think the Duke guys will make up for those losses.
I’m sure there will be some other surprisingly close games against ACC foes, both home and away, but I believe these are five of the most dangerous.