For an elite college basketball program like Duke, compiling its nonconference schedule is a delicate dance.
The team wants to entertain its home fans with games against easily beatable opponents, but it's best if those victims are solid enough to also help the RPI come March. There are the games at popular "neutral" venues designed for maximum TV exposure against quality opposition.
True road games—especially against teams that can actually defeat the Blue Devils—are to be avoided at all costs, unless contractually mandated. Whose cockamamie idea was this Big Ten/ACC Challenge, anyway?
This year's Duke schedule has a similar look to last season's, which ranked 90th in the nation—but second in the ACC—per Ken Pomeroy. The biggest hitters on the slate could assemble strong seasons, but they could also struggle. There are major-conference opponents that could turn out underrated, as well as a couple of intriguing mid-major foes.
And then there are some total fruit carts, but we'll come to them in due time. Read on to examine Duke's non-ACC schedule in three self-explanatory categories.
A "Don't Miss" game should trump all other potential social occasions up to and including a wedding. If your own is scheduled up against one of these matchups, it's time to ponder how well you and your intended really know each other after all.
A "Don't Sleep" game could turn from a blowout to a plucky underdog story. Considering it's Duke and Duke is never the plucky underdog, Blue Devil fans certainly hope there's no intrigue here, but they should probably watch just to make sure.
Finally, there are the "Don't Bother" games. If you're at the edge of your seat during one of these, it's probably because you fell asleep and are slumping to the floor.