Duke basketball finalizing plans for Cooper Flagg's Madison Square Garden debut

The Blue Devils are heading back to Madison Square Garden with its loaded freshmen class
2024 McDonald's All American Game; Duke basketball signee Cooper Flagg
2024 McDonald's All American Game; Duke basketball signee Cooper Flagg / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

The Duke basketball team is heading back to New York City and it will be Cooper Flagg's first time playing inside Madison Square Garden, for what he hopes is the first of many appearances during an illustrious NBA career following his one year in Durham.

Jon Rothstein reports that the Blue Devils are finalizing a deal with Illinois to play at The Mecca next season. The date of the game is uncertain at this time.

Duke played Baylor in late December in New York this season.

It will be the first matchup between the two schools since the 2020-21 season in which Illinois defeated Duke inside Cameron Indoor Stadium, although there were no fans in the building due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Prior to that meeting, Duke had won its last four games against the Illini but its most recent triumph was during the 2007-08 season.

It adds to an already daunting non-conference schedule for the Blue Devils that includes a road game against Arizona and neutral site games against Kansas (Las Vegas) and Kentucky (Atlanta). Duke will also host an SEC program in the ACC vs. SEC Challenge.

Duke also has a date booked with the University of Maine, which is the home state of Cooper Flagg, for its season opener in Durham.

The Illinois roster is currently in flux, like many around the country, as it tries to put the final pieces together in hopes of repeating as Big Ten Champions and its run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Star forward Coleman Hawkins, who averaged 12.1 points per game this season, entered the 2024 NBA Draft while also putting his name into the transfer portal. He has not made a decision on his future yet, but a return to Illinois has not been ruled out.