Duke Basketball: Blue Devils arrive in Maui with sights on sixth title

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

A loaded field awaits, but the Duke basketball team will be hoping to celebrate its first of a possible three tournament titles this season when the Maui Jim Maui Invitational comes to an end on Wednesday.

The return flight is always slightly heavier than the flight there. Not only have past Duke basketball players had to board the plane from Maui back to Durham with sand stuck to their shoes and souvenirs stuffed in their luggage, but they also have had a championship trophy to take back home with them.

Every single time. Five for five (’92, ’97, ’01, ’07, ’11). A combined 16-0 record.

And starting with a game against San Diego State at the Lahaina Civic Center on Monday at 5 p.m. EST on ESPN2, the top-ranked 3-0 Blue Devils — whose plane safely arrived in Maui just after midnight Saturday on the East Coast — will be seeking their sixth title at the 35th Maui Jim Maui Invitational. This coincides with the same season in which they are the current betting favorites to win the program’s sixth national championship.

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Both, please. And please go ahead and throw in the program’s 21st ACC Tournament title as well.

What has been fun for Duke basketball fans when it comes to Maui is they have had the chance to catch an early glimpse of what it looks like for that year’s players to celebrate winning a trophy together.

If that is to happen this time around with a squad led by four talk-of-the-nation freshmen starters — Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones — the team will have to get past some stiff competition. But if Duke does go 3-0 in Maui next week, Duke fans will cherish every second these tight-knit, thrill-to-watch players stand on the podium together laughing, smiling, and embracing their shared achievement.

First up, though, is the 2-0 Aztecs, who returned three of their top four scorers from a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season. If the Blue Devils win, they will face the winner of Xavier and No. 9 Auburn, who has beaten its first three opponents by a combined 116 points.

And if Zion and the rest of the gang reach the championship game, they could have to face a 3-0 No. 3 Gonzaga team that is currently averaging 106.0 points per game.

In other words, if they are able to leave Maui again with the first-place trophy in hand, added to the highlight-filled start to the season they’ve already had, expect the hype surrounding this team to further grow (if that’s even possible).

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham next week for previews, recaps, and analysis of all the Blue Devils’ games from their Maui trip (hopefully ending with a memorable championship celebration).