Duke basketball non-conference matchup against Illinois gets odd scheduling quirk

The Blue Devils will have a very lengthy non-conference schedule this season
Dec 20, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Duke basketball guard Caleb Foster (1) reacts during the
Dec 20, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Duke basketball guard Caleb Foster (1) reacts during the / John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

There has only been one team that typically breaks up ACC play for the Duke basketball program -- the St. John's Red Storm -- but that appears to be changing entering the 2024-25 season.

The Blue Devils will make its annual trip to New York this season for a game at Madison Square Garden, but it will not be to play Rick Pitino's Johnnies, rather a non-conference matchup against Illinois.

Many anticipated the matchup between Duke and the Illini to be in December, but Illinois head coach Brad Underwood explained that will not be the timeline for this year's contest.

"We're working on a game -- it's not finalized -- with Duke in the Garden at a unique time," Underwood said to Andy Katz at the NBA Draft Combine on Tuesday.

"We're going to do it in February."

The Blue Devils haven't played a non-ACC game after January 1 since defeating St. John's, 91-61, in Cameron Indoor Stadium behind 29 points from Zion Williamson in 2019.

In fact, the last non-conference game that Duke played after January 1 that wasn't against the Red Storm was on January 2, 2013 against Davidson, but the game was still prior to ACC play beginning.

The 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons were the last time Duke had major interruptions in its ACC schedule, prior to the conference starting its 20-game slate, playing three games each season in the midst of league play.

As for next season, it will be interesting to see what date the teams, and Madison Square Garden, are able to agree upon with the rigors of ACC and Big Ten action.

Duke will open its season against Maine on November 4 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. It also has dates booked against Kentucky (Nov. 12) in Atlanta at the Champions Classic along with a trip to Tucson to play Arizona (Nov. 21).

George Mason will come to Durham on December 17 while dates have not been released for a non-conference neutral site game against Kansas in Las Vegas as well as the SEC vs. ACC Challenge, which will be held in Durham.