The countdown is on.
The college basketball season is near and the Duke Blue Devils are once again ranked as a top-10 team in both the Coaches and AP preseason polls.
It won't be an easy season by any stretch and the tests will come early and often.
With the ACC boasting schools like NC State, UNC and Florida State in the top-25 polls as well, the Blue Devils will have plenty of chances to test their might against some of the country's best teams.
Their first big test of the season, however, will come against the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats (though most of that team's core has moved on to the NBA) on November 13, 2012. Kentucky will start the season as the No. 3-ranked team in the country.
Chalk that game up as a warm-up contest for an even bigger test that will come up a week later in the Bahamas. There, the Blue Devils will partake in the Battle 4 Atlantis early season tournament.
While their first matchup will come against the unranked Minnesota Golden Gophers, they're sure to be tested later in the tournament should they advance by the likes of Missouri, Memphis and the No. 2 ranked Louisville Cardinals.
That tough schedule doesn't let up, either.
As soon as Duke wraps up the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in Nassau, they'll head back to Durham to take on their third top-5 ranked team, when the Ohio State Buckeyes will pay a visit to Cameron Indoor.
Was scheduling three top-5 opponents in the first 10 games of the season a smart move for Duke?
While this may seem like a daunting task to many, having such a difficult start to the season may be just what a team like Duke needs in order to succeed later on.
With the team being so inexperienced, having to play very difficult games early on can help guys like Amile Jefferson, Rasheed Sulaimon and Marshall Plumlee gain some extremely valuable experience in just seven games into their collegiate careers.
Sure, it's very possible that the Blue Devils will lose three of those games, there will still be plenty of opportunities later in the season to improve their NCAA tournament resume.