The Duke basketball team finished last season with an ACC record of 13-5 and overall record of 29-8, losing to Kansas in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament.
For many college fanbases, that would be a great season. By Duke’s standards, it was the norm. Duke is always expected to compete for championship in the ACC and NCAA Tournament. Most years, fans feel like the standard for the program is “Final Four or bust.” Duke fans have been spoiled over the years by the success of Coach K’s teams.
In the past 27 years, Duke has won five national championships – an average of one title every 5.4 years. As crazy as March Madness can be, that is a good mark that many college fan bases would be happy to have.
This year, Duke has the top incoming recruiting class with ESPN Top 100 recruits #1 R.J. Barrett, #2 Zion Williamson, #3 Cam Reddish, #17 Tre Jones, and #41 Joey Baker all coming to Durham to play. Duke also has returning players Alex O’Connell, Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier, Antonio Vrankovic, Jack White, Justin Robinson, Jordan Goldwire, Mike Buckmire, and Brennan Besser. Duke fans are excited about the possibilities for this team. If they can gel, the sky is the limit.
The 2018-2019 Duke basketball schedule has recently been released and, once again, the Blue Devils should be at, or near, the top in terms of strength of schedule and RPI. One thing is for sure, this team will again be battle tested for March Madness.
With that said, here is my list of Top 10 Duke Basketball games this season in order of when they play:
- Kentucky (neutral) – 11/6/18
Duke will open the season in a highly anticipated match-up against Kentucky in the State Farm Champions Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Talk about coming out of the gate swinging…This is a potential Final Four matchup, as well as an early game between two potential Top 5 teams in the polls. It will be a game that fans, NBA scouts, and people everywhere tune in to watch. Both teams have played each other twice in the Champions Classic with Kentucky beating Duke 74-63 in 2015, and the Blue Devils getting the 75-68 victory in 2012. Here’s to hoping Duke will come out with the win in this early season epic match-up.
2. Army West Point (home) – 11/11/18
I know what you are thinking…How does Army make the top 10 list? Here is my reason.
It is the opening home game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. There is a lot of excitement among fans about the potential for this team. You will see a mix of Cameron Crazies and fans in the legendary Section 17 as some tickets were released to fans. There is nothing like being at the first game of the season. Fans will be excited to see how this Duke team begins the year, though I don’t expect this game to be close at all.
3. Auburn/Xavier (neutral) – 11/20/18
After Duke plays San Diego State in the Maui Invitational, they will face either Xavier or Auburn in their next game. The Maui Invitational takes place November 19th – 21st and has a stacked field of teams. Duke could potentially face Auburn in the 2nd round, which could possibly be another top 10 match-up early in the season. Duke could also potentially face Xavier, a #1 seed in the NCAA Tourney last season.
4. Arizona, Gonzaga, Illinois, Iowa State (neutral) – 11/21/18
If Duke gets to the final, they will play either Arizona, Gonzaga, Illinois or Iowa State. To be able to win the championship game in the Maui Invitational would be a confidence boost for a young Duke team that will potentially start four freshmen. Duke could possibly face Gonzaga, which has the potential to be a top 5 match-up. Duke could also possibly face Arizona a team that is often in the top 25.
5. Florida State (away) – 1/12/19
Duke always seems to be road tested in Tallahassee when they play Florida State. Florida State was one win away from going to the Final Four last year. The NCAA granted Phil Cofer (a key player in their Elite 8 run) a medical redshirt to return for a fifth year this season. The Seminoles could possibly battle for a top spot in the ACC rankings and this game has the potential to be a Top 25, possibly Top 15 matchup.
6. Virginia (home) – 1/19/19
Duke vs Virginia makes the list again in what could be another Top 10 or even Top 5 game. Just like at John Paul Jones arena, there have been some epic battles at Cameron Indoor Stadium between these two teams. Duke fans easily remember when Duke won an epic matchup against UVA when Grayson Allen made the buzzer beater shot in Cameron Indoor Stadium in what was an intense game in 2016. I expect the Cameron Crazies to be on their A game when the Hoos comes to town this year.
7. Virginia (away) – 2/9/19
Duke & Virginia get a home & home series this year, in what could be two of the biggest games in determining the ACC race. Virginia has key players returning from last year’s team who won the ACC regular season and ACC Championship in Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome and this has been one of the most consistent programs in college basketball over the past few years. This game will be a battle in a tough road environment for Duke in Charlottesville.
8. North Carolina (home) – 2/20/19
This rivalry needs no introduction. The Tar Heels will travel eight miles down the road to play in front of a rowdy group of Cameron Crazies who will have finished camping out in Krzyzewskiville for weeks just to get into the game that is the biggest rivalry in sports. UNC had star players Joel Berry and Theo Pinson graduate. However, UNC returns star player Luke Maye as well as brings in ESPN Top 100 recruit #6 Nassir Little who will look to make an immediate impact for the Tar Heels. It’s a potential Top 10 matchup, and the Cameron Crazies always bring their A game for this one.
9. Virginia Tech (away) – 2/26/19
Buzz Williams has Virginia Tech heading up the ACC rankings and there is a lot of “buzz” around this year’s Virginia Tech team possibly being his best yet. Road games in Blacksburg have at times been a challenge for previous Duke teams. Last year Duke fell to Virginia Tech in a disappointing 64-63 loss on the road at Cassell Coliseum. The Virginia Tech fan base always seems to bring the football atmosphere inside Cassell Coliseum when Duke comes to town and I expect to hear ‘Enter Sandman” cranking up on the speakers as Virginia Tech gets ready for a match-up with the Blue Devils.
10. North Carolina (away) – 3/9/19
Duke will finish the series with North Carolina in Chapel Hill at the Dean Dome on Saturday, March 9th for the final game of the regular season. One would think it’s pretty much a lock that ESPN will once again bring its crew to do a live taping of ESPN College GameDay at the Dean Dome. This game could also have a major impact on ACC & NCAA Tournament seeding.
Duke will play 15 games (possibly 16 games with a possible matchup against Gonzaga or Arizona in the Maui Invitational final if the bracket shakes out that way) of its 31 regular season games against NCAA Tournament teams from last season.
Kentucky – neutral
San Diego State – neutral
Texas Tech – neutral
Xavier or Auburn – neutral
Virginia – home and away
North Carolina – home and away
Syracuse – home and away
Miami – away
Florida State – away
Virginia Tech – away
North Carolina State – home
Clemson – home
*** a possible Maui Invitational final matchup – Arizona or Gonzaga – neutral
These are the 10 games I’m most looking forward to this season. When March Madness comes around, Duke will once again be battle tested and ready.
Did I miss a top tier game? Let us know in the comments section below.