Duke is arguably the most well-known college basketball program in the country, with more national titles (five) than Arizona has trips to the Final Four. The Blue Devils may also be the most-hated college hoops team, mostly because of that success.
Getting the opportunity to play Duke anywhere is no doubt high on the list of every college player, and probably a lot of coaches, and Arizona gets to do so at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday night to start a home-and-home series.
The Blue Devils are ranked No. 2 in the preseason AP poll and were picked to win the ACC for the eighth time in the last 11 seasons, making this a matchup of preseason conference favorites.
To better understand Duke, we reached out to JD King of SB Nation sister site Duke Basketball Report. Here are his uplifting answers to our woeful questions:
AZ Desert Swarm: Duke opened the season with a fairly easy home win over Dartmouth. Did that game go as expected, or were there any surprises?
JD King: “Not really, other than Mark Mitchell not being available. But Ryan Young has been unbelievably solid at Duke, so it was fine.”
Kyle Filipowski is a consensus preseason All-American, while Tyrese Proctor has also gotten a lot of national recognition. What makes each so worthy of this attention?
“Filipowski has a solid all-around game and he’s really confident. Offseason surgery also appears to have helped him quite a bit. As for Proctor, his 3-point shooting looks to be vastly improved. He’s already an excellent point guard and defender. They’re both going to be in the NBA sooner rather than later. Keep in mind that Proctor got to Durham late because he played for the Aussie national team over the summer. He took a few weeks to really get up to speed. Well, he is now and then some.”
The Blue Devils just signed the top recruiting class in the country, per 247Sports, but the 2023 wasn’t too shabby at No. 2. Which of these newcomers are expected to have the biggest impact right away?
“Jared McCain and Caleb Foster are the best of the recruits but TJ Power is pretty promising and Sean Stewart, when he catches up, is the best athlete in the class. He didn’t play a whole lot against Dartmouth but he’s really talented. You’ll be hearing his name.”
Jon Scheyer had a pretty darn good first year as a college head coach—not as good as Tommy Lloyd, though—especially considering the legend he was replacing. It’s super early, but do you think he can maintain Duke’s stature as one of the top programs in college basketball?
“I think that the transition was meticulously planned. Mike Krzyzewski is a very tough act to follow—Arizona fans should understand this after Lute Olson retired because that transition didn’t go well at all. Scheyer is a brilliant young coach and Duke fans seem to be giving him the room to be his own man, so I think he’ll do very well.”
When Duke makes the return trip to Tucson next season it will be one of the few true nonconference road games it has played by choice (i.e., not part of a conference-mandated series) in recent memory. Is this a fluke or a sign that Scheyer plans to schedule differently than his predecessor?
“The reason K started doing the neutral court games was the intensity of Duke hating. It got very ugly for a while. I don’t think Scheyer will have that same level of disdain, or at least not right away. I like it. It’s fun to watch Duke play Dartmouth but Arizona should be much more interesting.”
How excited are you for an annual trip to Cal or Stanford for what will no doubt be an 11 p.m. ET tip (if not later)?
“Not very, honestly. I know why expansion is happening but it’s killing so much of what makes college sports special. Kansas should play Missouri, UCLA should play you guys and Duke should play the traditional ACC teams. But they’re sacrificing all of that and it’s a shame.”
Prediction time. Can Arizona go into the vaunted Cameron Indoor Stadium and steal a win or will the Crazies intimidate the Wildcats and Duke hold serve? Give us a score pick.
“I often say I don’t bet against Duke. Honestly I haven’t seen enough of Tommy Lloyd’s team to know for sure, and Duke has work to do. But keep an eye on Jaylen Blakes, aka Agent Chaos. He was brilliant against Dartmouth. That said, Dartmouth is obviously not Arizona, and I wonder if they would have scheduled this if they had known Caleb Love was going to end up there. Or maybe that would have been an incentive. I’m not really sure. Either way, it’s a more interesting visit than it would have been otherwise.
“Incidentally, Lloyd looks like a brilliant hire. That said, it should be a great rivalry. I hope it keeps going for a while. I’d say Duke by 7.”