The 2016-17 Duke basketball schedule was officially set this week with the release of the ACC schedule from the league office.
It’s another sign that we’re one step closer to the 2016-17 college basketball season, which is expected to be a very good year for the Blue Devils.
With a roster built around veterans like Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones, along with newcomers Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Marques Bolden, and Frank Jackson, Duke is widely regarded as the No. 1 team in the country entering the season and a strong favorite to reach the 2017 Final Four in Phoenix.
Here are a few first impressions of the schedule and how things could play out for the Blue Devils.
- Mark Your Calendar for February 9 & March 4
Those two dates are the games where Duke faces North Carolina. The Blue Devils will host UNC on Thursday, February 9, in the game that has come to symbolize the unofficial start of college basketball season for the casual fan. The return trip to Chapel Hill comes as the regular season finale on Saturday, March 8. Duke has won four of the last five meetings between the two programs.
2. Duke Can Ease Harry Giles into the Rotation
The health of incoming freshman Harry Giles is one of the biggest questions for Duke entering the season. The 5-star recruit missed his entire senior season after tearing his ACL in his first game for Oak Hill Academy, the second knee injury he suffered in three years. If healthy, the 6’10” power forward has the potential to be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Fortunately, the way Duke’s schedule sets up, it should give Mike Krzyzewski the opportunity to slowly integrate Giles into the lineup. The two exhibition games against Virginia State and Augustana should give Giles a chance to test the knee, and then the team can see how it responds to back-to-back games on November 11 & 12 against Marist and Grand Canyon. If he’s at 100% by the start of 2017, it’s a great sign.
3. Duke Faces Some Tough ACC Road Tests
Any road game for Duke usually means facing a sellout crowd and hostile environment, and this year will be no different. The Blue Devils face many of the league’s most dangerous teams on the road this season in ACC play, including trips to Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Virginia, Miami, and an up-and-coming Virginia Tech team. The January 30th trip to South Bend could be extra tough considering it comes less than 48 hours after a road game at Wake Forest, two places that have given Duke trouble in the past.
4. Potential for a “What’s Wrong with Duke?” Narrative Entering the Postseason
Let’s go ahead and address this now before anyone starts to panic. Duke’s schedule is backloaded with some of its toughest conference games coming at the end of the regular season. The Blue Devils play four of their final six games on the road, which includes trips to Virginia, Syracuse, Miami and North Carolina. It will be a very difficult stretch and it wouldn’t be a shock if Duke loses a few of those games. That’s what happens when you play good teams on the road. However, it will be an easy talking point for the college basketball media that’s looking to generate interest as we enter March. Prepare accordingly.
5. Duke Won’t Lose a Game in Cameron Indoor Stadium
If there’s a positive to having so many tough ACC road games, it’s that the home schedule for the Blue Devils sets up quite favorably this season. Duke’s toughest tests at home will be hosting Michigan State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on November 29, N.C. State on January 23, and North Carolina on February 9. Aside from those three contests, Duke could be a double digit favorite in all of its other home games.
Be sure to check out the full schedule on GoDuke.com.
What are your first impressions of the schedule? Let us know at @DukeReport on Twitter!