Duke basketball: 1 thing that needs to change in post-K era

Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball can sustain its greatness, but one small change might help.

We are just about three months away from the start of a historic college basketball season. The 2021-22 season will mark the end of a 42-year era for one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport.

With the new season quickly approaching, Duke basketball announced its official non-conference schedule this week. The Blue Devils will have some marquee matchups against teams like Kentucky, Gonzaga, and Ohio State. However, the rest of their schedule isn’t exactly grueling.

While Mike Krzyzewski has done so many amazing things throughout his career, one knock on him has been his unwillingness to schedule a tough non-conference road slate.

Another home-friendly Duke basketball schedule

Between November 12 and 22, the Blue Devils should have five easy wins in Durham against Army, Campbell, Garnder-Webb, Lafayette, and The Citadel; as we know, though, anything can happen in college basketball. Then they also play three home games in December against South Carolina State, Appalachian State, and Cleveland State.

Now, nobody would have ever expected Stephen F. Austin to walk into Cameron Indoor Stadium and leave with a win two years ago. So I am not saying that these five games will be guaranteed victories, but these opponents certainly won’t push Duke in ways that some other teams would.

One thing I noticed about Duke’s schedule is the squad will not be playing in any tournaments like the Maui Invitational, Battle for Atlantis, or 2K Classic. These early non-conference tournaments provide the opportunity to play multiple games against high-level power-conference schools.

Two of Duke’s toughest non-conference games are annual games that the program doesn’t even schedule on its own, games such as the Champions Classic (this year against Kentucky) and the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (this year against Ohio State). Of all my years following the Blue Devils, I can’t ever remember them scheduling a nonconference road game against a ranked opponent.

A proposed change for Duke basketball successor-in-waiting Jon Scheyer

Hopefully, in the Jon Scheyer era, the Blue Devils will put together tougher non-conference schedules.

Playing a bunch of mid-majors is a great way to get experience and still get tested. But these games are not exactly the most exciting for both the players and fans. The top players want to come to Duke to play against the top teams. The more chances they get to do so, the better. It is also more fun for the fans to watch a game against another big-name program that they are familiar with.

The selection committee has shown that it values teams that play against other good teams. There is no reason Duke should not be playing against ranked teams or the best mid-major teams in every conference game. Yes, the Blue Devils may lose a few more games, but the selection committee will still reward them for playing a tough non-conference schedule that also helped the team get better.

Duke can only get so much better playing small-conference foes like The Citadel and South Carolina State. It seems like every year the staff schedules too many games that will bring easy victories.

If the ACC is as down as it was last season, winning notable non-conference games becomes all the more significant.

Still, the Blue Devils have games where they will be put to the test.

They will face a potentially top-ranked Gonzaga team in Las Vegas. The Zags return key players like Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard while bringing in the top-ranked recruit, Chet Holmgren.

Kentucky should also be much stronger this year as the Wildcats snagged several key transfers, such as Kellan Grady (formerly of Davidson), Oscar Tshiebwe (formerly WVU), and CJ Frederick (formerly Iowa).

Ohio State also returns key contributors in EJ Liddell, Justice Sueing, and Kyle Young.

Cleveland State could also pose a tough test as the program is coming off an NCAA Tournament berth.

Moving forward, I would love to see the Blue Devils play the majority of their non-conference games against high-level competition.

I get that it’s important for young teams to improve while still winning. You don’t want to end up like Kentucky last year, where the Wildcats played an extremely tough non-conference schedule and lost almost all of those games, completely killing their confidence as a team.

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Nonetheless, I will be excited to watch each and every one of Duke’s non-conference battles this year, even if most of them end up as blowouts.