Duke Basketball Preview: Top 10 Games To Watch During the 2010-2011 Season

Tyler LambertSenior Analyst ISeptember 4, 2010

Duke Basketball Preview: Top 10 Games to Watch During the 2010-2011 Season

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    In the midst of a weekend filled with college football, Duke University released their Men's Basketball schedule for the upcoming season, a year in which Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils hope to repeat as the NCAA Champions.

    With veterans such as Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler both returning for their senior seasons, Duke will be one of the favorites, if not the favorite, to win the championship for a second year in a row when the season officially begins in November.

    With that in mind, most teams in the country will be targeting the Blue Devils from day one, with their sights set on nothing but ruining a repeat performance from last March. However, which teams are actually capable of rising to the occasion when their game against Duke arrives?

    The following is a list of the top 10 games for Duke during the upcoming season. Also, keep in mind that the location and date for each of the games were key factors in determining the importance of that game in the eyes of Blue Devil nation. 

10. Duke vs. Miami (January 2)

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    Location: Cameron Indoor Stadium (Durham, NC)

    Although this game looks like a major mismatch on paper and is hosted in Durham, the Blue Devils can't afford to overlook Durrand Scott and his Miami team when they roll into town on January 2. 

    To get a better understanding for how well the Hurricanes can match-up against Duke, just look at the ACC Tournament Semifinals from last season: Scott (21 points, 10-15 Field Goals) lit up the Devils from the floor and nearly helped Miami pull off the upset, losing to the eventual champions by just three points. 

    If a similar game occurs this season, the Cameron Crazies may just walk away from the game shocked and dazed at the outcome. I do see the Blue Devils pulling this game out, however, but it's a definite must-watch.

    If you're still not interested, simply watch the game to get a glimpse of Scott as an outstanding young talent.  

9. Duke vs. Oregon (November 27)

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    Location: Matthew Knight Arena (Eugene, Oregon)

    The Oregon Ducks' basketball program receives little attention by the media each year. However, a new 200 million dollar basketball arena, backed heavily by the co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight, as well as a new coach and winning atmosphere, may make the Ducks relevant once again when it comes to college basketball. 

    One thing they are guaranteed of is a tough opponent when the Blue Devils head into Eugene on November 27.

    A major sub-plot, and probably the main reason to watch this game, will be to watch the match-up between Duke star, Kyle Singler, and his younger brother and Oregon power forward, E.J. Singler. Kyle will also be returning to play basketball in his home state for the first time since committing to Duke.

    Although it remains uncertain if the Ducks can prove to be a major threat, an early road game for Duke in a new arena with a loud crowd could make the game intriguing. Another key factor to watch is to see how well Kyle can handle the pressure of playing in front of his home crowd as a Blue Devil. 

8. Duke vs. Florida State (January 12)

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    Location: Donald L. Tucker Center (Tallahassee, Florida)

    Although Florida State lost an important defensive-minded player and their leading scorer from last year in Solomon Alabi, the Seminoles return the likes of Derwin Kitchen, Chris Singleton, and Michael Snaer, each of whom will play major roles in the 2010-2011 campaign.

    For the Blue Devils, playing Florida State on the road has caused some problems in the past, most notably in 2009 when former Duke star Gerald Henderson seemed like the only player on the court who could make a shot when the then-ranked No. 2 Blue Devils narrowly escaped an upset-bid by the Seminoles in a 66-58 win.

    Now that each of the two programs have matured since that time, this game will be crucial to both teams during the early part of the season when ACC play begins.

    Will the Blue Devils be able to escape Florida with a tough road win, or will the upperclassmen for Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton step up and pull off the big upset? It's too early to tell, but the Seminoles will definitely have a chance if they play well on the defensive side of the ball, making this game a must-see early in the season.   

7. Duke vs. Gonzaga/Kansas State (November 23)

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    Location: Sprint Center (Kansas City, Missouri)

    Whether you are a big fan of Duke or Gonzaga, it's hard to forget their match-up that took place last season at Madison Square Garden in New York City, a game in which the Blue Devils completely humiliated the Bulldogs in a 76-41 rout.

    This upcoming season, Duke may have the opportunity to once again face Gonzaga, except this time the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic title will be up for grabs.

    Granted, the Blue Devils must first get past Marquette, and the Bulldogs must knock off an up-and-coming Kansas State basketball program that is sure to have a large number of supporters at the tournament, considering it's geographical location.

    Regardless of the winner between Kansas State/Gonzaga, the championship game is sure to be filled with exciting plays and talented players all looking to make a mark on the country in the early stages of the season. The CBE Classic is a must-watch preseason tournament, and the title game will definitely receive its share of media attention.  

6. Duke vs. Virginia Tech (February 26)

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    Location: Cassell Coliseum (Blacksburg, Virginia)

    Malcolm Delaney, along with Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson, will look to help lead the Virginia Tech Hokies back into the NCAA Tournament after missing an invitation last season, despite finishing with the third best record in the ACC.

    This season, however, they may earn their bid into the field of 68 with one statement win. That win could come against the Duke Blue Devils, who head up to Blacksburg nearing the end of ACC play and who could be competing with the Hokies for the ACC crown during the final week of the season.

    After being ignored by the selection committee for the past couple of years, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenburg may finally have the pieces in place to land a signature win against the Blue Devils, having lost not one key contributor from last season's 25-9 squad.

    Will Delaney shine in the spotlight for the Hokies as Duke will have to play on the road, or will the Blue Devils once again defy the odds and come out on top of one of the biggest ACC clashes the upcoming season has to offer?

5. Duke vs. North Carolina (February 9)

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    Location: Cameron Indoor Stadium (Durham, NC)

    If you've heard it once, then you've heard it a thousand times: the Duke/UNC rivalry is one of the best rivalries off all-time. Now after stating that first sentence, you may be wondering to yourself why I ranked the Duke/UNC game as the No. 5 game on this list, and I do so for a variety of different reasons.

    First off, look back to last season's home game for the Blue Devils against their arch-rivals from Chapel Hill, a massive 32 point win for the men in "Duke" blue.

    Secondly, consider that the Tar Heels next season will be a team loaded with talented yet inexperienced players who have, for the most part, never competed in the legendary rivalry game before. Compare that to the Blue Devils, who are an experienced group looking to demolish their counterparts for the second straight year.

    Finally, understand that this first game against the two is far less important in terms of the ACC standings than the last game of the regular season, further giving the Tar Heels' youth more reason to be disinterested than they should be when first entering the sacred halls of Cameron Indoor.

    I may be completely wrong, but I see Duke winning this first game against the two big, just not by as large a margin as last season. As for the game in Chapel Hill, there could be a different outcome as it will have larger implications than this first one.

4. Duke vs. NC State (January 19)

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Location: RBC Center (Raleigh, NC)

    For those of you that didn't know, during Duke's National Championship season, the Blue Devils lost to just three ACC teams throughout the course of the year: Maryland, Georgia Tech, and NC State. That's saying a lot for the Wolfpack, considering they finished the season with a mediocre 20-16 record and won just five ACC games.

    What's even more surprising is that their 14-point loss to NC State was the 2009-2010 Duke team's largest loss in terms of points that they had all season long.  

    With Tracy Smith, Javier Gonzalez, and even Scott Wood returning from the team that knocked the Blue Devils off last season, to go along with highly touted recruits C.J. Leslie and Ryan Harrow, the Wolfpack appear to have an even stronger team then they did last year.

    However, Duke has also upgraded from a year before and will be seeking revenge after last season's disappointing loss.

    This game is going to be filled with emotion, both from the fans in the arena and the players on the court, and is definitely worth watching if you get the chance.

    The Wolfpack of NC State are slowly climbing up the ladder in the ACC, but they must beat the best in order to continue their climb. I'm not sure if they can achieve the same magic this season as they did last year, but we'll just have to watch and see.  

3. Duke vs. North Carolina (March 5)

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    Chris Keane/Getty Images

    Location: Dean Smith Center (Chapel Hill, NC)

    Unlike the first meeting between the two rivals, I see this game as being an extremely close affair due to the home crowd and the rivalry game atmosphere. The young stars for UNC will finally have one game against Duke under their belts and will be able to play more freely the second time around in front of their home crowd.

    Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock, and Kendall Marshall will look to lead the Tar Heels' young group to a win against the Blue Devils in the last game of the regular season. Duke, however, will counter with players who have experience playing on the road in Chapel Hill and who already have won there before in their careers. 

    Regardless of the ACC standings, this game is sure to be filled with enough intensity that it will feel as if the ACC title is up for grabs, even though that may not even be the case. On the flip side, one team may grab the lead early and continue to run away from the opponent as the game progresses.

    Whatever may be the case, whether it's seedings in the ACC Tournament at stake or even the regular season title, the second Duke/UNC game of the year is sure to be one of the most exciting and lands its place on the list at No. 3.

2. Duke vs. Butler (December 4)

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    Location: Izod Center (East Rutherford, New Jersey)

    After meeting each other in the final game played last season, the NCAA Championship Game, Duke and Butler will once again face-off this upcoming season, just sooner than the previous year. On December 4, 2010, the Blue Devils and Bulldogs will compete at the Izod Center in New Jersey, a year after Duke defeated Butler to claim the 2010 national title.

    Several of the game's biggest stars, including Jon Scheyer of Duke and Gordon Hayward of Butler, have moved onto bigger and better things, but the core of both teams are still returning to compete in a rematch of one of the best title games of all-time.

    Young Butler coach Brad Stevens will look to level the score against Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has won the only game played between the two. Also, NCAA Final Four MVP Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, and the Plumlee Brothers of Duke will look to once again fend off the likes of Butler's Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard, and Ronald Nored.

    This game will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest game of the early part of the college basketball season. Many people will tune in to see if Butler will be able to compete for a national title, or if they can even relive some of the magic that helped them nearly knock off the Blue Devils just one year ago.

    On the other hand, many will watch to see how well the new-look Duke team will handle the pressure against a Butler team that honestly has nothing to lose. Look for exciting plays and new faces to highlight this Championship game rematch, putting the Duke/Butler game at No. 2 on this list.  

1. Duke vs. Michigan State (December 1)

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    Location: Cameron Indoor Stadium (Durham, NC)

    If the championship game rematch between Butler and Duke isn't the No. 1 game on this list for the upcoming season, then which game could simply dethrone it?

    The most exciting college basketball game of the year, and the game that is a definite must-watch for any fan of basketball in general, will be the game that features the Duke Blue Devils and the Michigan State Spartans in Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 1.

    The meeting between Duke and Michigan State is all part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and could possibly feature the country's No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams respectively when they meet in Durham at the beginning of December.

    If you just look at some of the names that will be featured in this match-up, it's crazy to think that another game during the season could be more entertaining or hyped than Michigan State/Duke.

    Tom Izzo vs. Mike Krzyzewski.  

    Kalin Lucas vs. Nolan Smith.

    Darrell Summers vs. Kyle Singler.

    and so on and so forth....

    The point is, the Michigan State/Duke game is going to be the top game of the year in college basketball, regardless of the result. The game will give you an idea for what two championship-caliber teams will look like at the beginning of the season and could be a preview for what's to come in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

    Sure, Purdue and other teams will be in the mix, but at this point in the year it's hard to imagine there being two better teams in the country than Duke and Michigan State. Make sure to tune-in on December 1; it's going get crazy in Cameron!

    To see Duke's full schedule for 2010-2011, click HERE