The 2014-2015 Duke Basketball schedule has recently been released. Once again Duke should be at or near the top in strength of schedule and RPI. One thing is for sure, Duke will be battle tested come March Madness. With an out of conference schedule that includes top teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin, and defending champion Connecticut as well as playing ACC teams Virginia, Louisville, Syracuse (twice) and North Carolina (twice) , Duke will be ready for anything the NCAA Tourney throws at them.
With that said, here is my list of Top Duke Basketball games this season in order of when they play:
- Michigan State
Three games into the season Duke will face Michigan State in the State Farm Champions Classic. The Duke vs. Michigan State games always seems to bring a lot of hype with them. In 2011 Duke beat Michigan State in the Champions Classic as Coach K passed Bobby Knight to become the all time Division 1 winningest coach. This game will be an early test for the Blue Devils.
Duke will travel to play Wisconsin for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wisconsin is returning most of their players from a team coming off a trip to the Final Four. This will be another early test for the Blue Devils in what should be a tough road environment.
How do you top a schedule that already has you playing a Final Four team from last year? How about throw in a neutral court game in East Rutherford, New Jersey against the defending champion Connecticut. By mid December Duke will have played 2 out of the 4 Final Four teams from last year. Connecticut and Duke have a history of epic match ups playing each other. If there is one team I really don’t like seeing Duke lose to (other than UNC) its Connecticut. I know for many fans the 1999 Championship loss and the 2004 Final Four loss still sting till this day. Duke has a large northern fanbase. Expect many Duke fans in the house for this game.
Five games into the ACC schedule has Duke playing an away game against new arrival Louisville. Duke has recently had some epic match ups against Louisville. From Duke pulling out the win against Louisville to win the Battle for Atlantis in the fall of 2012 to Louisville rallying back from Kevin Ware’s injury to beat Duke in the Elite 8 of the 2013 NCAA Tourney, these 2 teams have played each other on the big stage. This upcoming game at Louisville could potentially be a top 10 match up.
Duke will travel to Charlottesville to play the defending ACC Champion Cavaliers. Back in March Duke lost to Virginia in the 2014 ACC Tournament in Greensboro. I was there to see it. And well, it was a long ride home for me after that game. Virginia did lose stars Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell but still return a very solid team that most think will be a top 10 team.
Duke will play at Syracuse for the 1st game of the series. Syracuse knows that Duke brings the attention. They even capitalized on it last season with Syracuse University bookstore selling “Beat Duke” t-shirts 2 months before the game even took place. University officials almost considered moving the court to the middle of the football field which could have put the attendance well over 50,000. However the Duke vs. Syracuse game still set an on-campus game record for the Carrier Dome with 35,446 tickets sold. Last season had two great games between these teams. Duke fans haven’t forgot the non foul call on Rodney Hood as he went for the dunk with 12 seconds left in overtime as Syracuse squeaked out the win. I look for this game to be yet another exciting game between these two teams.
- North Carolina
This game needs no introduction. The history is there. The Tarheels will travel 8 miles down Tobacco Road to Durham to play the Blue Devils. This game also happens just four days after Duke will have travelled to Syracuse. This could be a top 10 or even top 5 matchup. The Cameron Crazies will be ready after camping out for weeks to get into this game. This is the greatest rivalry in all of sports. Over the years the average ticket price to get into this game is around $1000. Two years ago, I myself splurged well over that amount to get a front row seat. It was the best money I ever spent. I look for this game to be yet another epic game in the rivalry.
Syracuse will travel to play Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the last game of this series. Ticket prices for this game at Cameron last season cost more than the North Carolina game. The Cameron Crazies will bring their A game for this match up. I know one group of Cameron Crazies slept outside for seven days to be in the front of the Crazies section for this game. Last year this game had an eventful ending when Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim got mad at a call and stormed the court while ripping off his jacket yelling at the officials. He was given two technical fouls and ejected from the game. Quinn Cook then made 3 out of the 4 free throws to close the win. With a Saturday evening tip off, this game has the potential to be an exciting one.
- North Carolina
To close out the season, the Blue Devils will travel 8 miles down Tobacco Road to play rival North Carolina. One has to think it’s pretty much a lock that ESPN GameDay will bring their crew to do their live taping of College Game Day at the Dean Dome. Last year this game got postponed a week due to the winter weather. North Carolina pulled out the win as the fans stormed the court and then packed out Franklin Street celebrating. I was at this game and personally got to witness all the UNC fans celebrating. It was not one of my favorite moments as a Duke fan. It doesn’t matter what the rankings are when these two teams play. They bring out the best in each other. It is the biggest rivalry in sports. This game could be a top 10 or even top 5 match up at the end of the season.
The last game to make this list doesn’t have a set date. It all depends on Duke’s wins and losses as to what game Coach K hits 1000 wins. Coach K is already the winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball with 983 wins. If Duke was to stay undefeated, this milestone could happen as early as the away game at Louisville. When he hits the 1000 win mark, it will be yet another great accomplishment in his legendary career.
This completes my Top 10 Duke Basketball Games list. Duke will play defending national champion Connecticut. Duke will play 2 out of the Final 4 teams from last year who are Connecticut and Wisconsin. Duke will play 9 NCAA Tournament teams from last year. They are Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Michigan State, North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville, NC State, and Wisconsin. There is also a possible match up against Stanford in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic to bring that tally to 10 NCAA Tournament teams. When March Madness comes around this Duke team will be battle tested and ready.