A Duke Fan's Guide to '08-09: 10 to Watch

Devon JeffreysContributor INovember 14, 2008

Two games in and the Duke Blue Devils are already 2-0...pretty good, right?

Well, when your first two games are against Presbyterian and Georgia Southern, and you're a top 10 team in the country, those should be 30-plus point victories.

When the schedule hits its stride, things will get much tougher for Coach K's bunch. Here are 10 games for Blue Devils fans to keep a close watch on in 2008-2009.

When: Nov. 21, 2008—2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer
Championship Game
Who: UCLA?
Where: Madison Square Garden

The first test, and one of the biggest, for the Blue Devils should come a week from tonight when, barring a Duke upset at the hands of Southern Illinois or a Michigan upset of UCLA, the No. 8 Blue Devils take on the No. 4 Bruins in the Championship of the 2K Sports Classic.

This game will be the Blue Devils' first chance to prove they've made the adjustments necessary to go farther than the second round of the NCAA Tournament. UCLA has appeared in the Final Four three of the last four years and has to be favored in this one.

Playing the underdog is not a familiar position for the Blue Devils this early in the season. It should be interesting to see how they respond.

When: Dec. 2, 2008
Who: Purdue
Where: @ Purdue

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge brings the Blue Devils to the Midwest in December...brrr.
Duke will have its hands full trying to stop Purdue sophomores E'Twaun Moore at guard and Robbie Hummel at forward.

The Boilermakers let it rain from beyond the arc (they sank 37 percent of their threes last year), and the Dukies will have to play a suffocating-type defense on the perimeter and find a groove with their own sharpshooters if they plan to keep up.

When: Jan. 7, 2009
Who: Davidson
Where: Cameron Indoor

Other than the UNC game on Feb. 11, this should be the hottest ticket of the season. The Blue Devils will look to give a hostile welcome to last season's NCAA Cinderella, Davidson. But Davidson possesses arguably the best player in the nation in Stephen Curry.

Curry swings over to the point position, but don't expect him to score any less. However, if the Blue Devils can shut down Curry's supporting cast and force the junior to make mistakes in just his ninth game at the point guard position, it could be a long night for Cinderella.

When: Jan. 17, 2009
Who: Georgetown
Where: Cameron Indoor

No one can accuse the Blue Devils of filling their non-conference schedule with cupcakes this season. The Blue Devils begin conference play on Jan. 4 and play seven games in a span of 20 days, five against conference opponents and two non: Davidson is the first, Georgetown the second.

The Hoyas aren't the team that many expected to dominate the big dance last season. The departures of Roy Hibbert and Patrick Ewing Jr. made sure of that, but they do have a talented roster of youngsters. Junior DaJuan Summers is expected to enjoy a coming-out party after living in the shadows of the two big men.

The Blue Devils can use their experience, and the sixth man that is the Cameron Crazies will play a big role in stifling the green Hoyas.

When: Jan. 28, 2009
Who: Wake Forest
Where: @ Wake Forest

Blue Devils fans won't soon forget that the Demon Deacons handed them a damaging and quite unexpected loss last season in the only game between the two teams. This season, the two play a home and home set, with this first game taking place at the scene of last year's crime.

Wake Forest's shooters don't have many inhibitions when it comes to shooting the ball. That bit the Blue Devils last year because their own shooting went comatose in the second half, as they connected on just 10 of 35 shots. This season, it can be expected that the Demon Deacons will play a little bit more disciplined, which makes it paramount that the Blue Devils choose their own shots wisely.


When: Feb. 4, 2009
Who: Clemson
Where: @ Clemson

Duke begins a tough stretch of three games in seven days with a showdown against the team that knocked them out in the second round of last season's ACC Tournament. This road game is a classic trap matchup for Duke. They'll have to contend with the force of Clemson forward Trevor Booker in the paint.

Kyle Singler must step up and be a go-to guy in this one. If he has another game like last season (1-9, two points) the Blue Devils don't stand a chance against a confident Clemson.

When: Feb. 7, 2009
Who: Miami
Where: Cameron Indoor

The Hurricanes were one of four ACC schools to knock off the Blue Devils last season. Miami forward Dwayne Collins is a year older after dominating the paint in last season's 96-95 win. The Blue Devils could not stop him as the sophomore went for 26 points on 12-14 from the field.

This game falls on the Duke defense. Last season's 95-point outburst by the offense was the highest scoring total by Duke in conference play, and they still lost. If the bigs can't contain Collins, it could be a long week for Duke fans because...

When: Feb. 11, 2009
Who: North Carolina
Where: Cameron Indoor

Everyone in the world's preseason No. 1 makes its annual trip to Durham in the heart of the Blue Devils' toughest stretch of the season. Duke and UNC split last season's pair with each team pulling out victories on the road. The Blue Devils held Tyler Hansbrough in check but got beat by junior Danny Green, who came off the bench to score 18.

In order for the Blue Devils to protect the home court, they must step up offensively. With 68 points and 32 percent shooting, it’s a miracle they didn't lose by 30. It's up to the shooters to let the pressure of beating UNC roll off their shoulders and make better decisions.

When: Feb. 22, 2009
Who: Wake Forest
Where: Cameron Indoor

Though the Blue Devils will have home court advantage, this looks like another trap game. Prior to this game, which falls on a Sunday, the Blue Devils spend most of the week up north, playing on the 15th at Boston College and the 19th in prime time at MSG against St. John's.

That means the Blue Devils will return to Durham on Friday and have about a day and a half to get ready for a tough Demon Deacons team.

When: March 8, 2009
Who: North Carolina
Where: Chapel Hill

The Blue Devils travel Tobacco Road for their final game before the ACC Tournament begins. Duke went to the Dean Dome last season and took down the Tar Heels 89-78 thanks to all five starters, who put up double-digit points and a defensive effort to contain everyone not named Hansbrough.

Tyler went off for 28 points, but it wasn't enough for a Carolina team that was handcuffed by a Ty Lawson injury. The intensity will be even higher in this one.

It's most likely that the Blue Devils will maintain a Top 10 status all season, but these 10 games will go a long way to showing how high they can go.