Topping Kansas at Madison Square Garden
Duke always gets an opportunity to impress right out of the gate through its participation in the Champions Classic. This year’s edition drew a matchup with Kansas, but Duke won the day by forcing the Jayhawks into an obscene 28 turnovers. Grinding out a two-point win over the third-best team in the country set expectations high for Duke again.
Beating Michigan State in East Lansing
The Big-Ten ACC Challenge provided another statement opportunity for Duke as it squared off with Michigan State in East Lansing. The Spartans had ended Duke’s season back in March, shocking Zion Williamson and company in the Elite Eight, and there were questions about Duke’s viability following a shocking home loss to Stephen F. Austin. The Blue Devils silenced their doubters by hammering Michigan State, with Vernon Carey dominating on the interior to the tune of 26 points and 11 rebounds.
The comeback against North Carolina
You can throw the records out any time Duke and North Carolina face off, and that was certainly the case this season. The Tar Heels had an awful year and were 10-12 entering their first meeting against Duke, but North Carolina built a 13-point lead with four and a half minutes left in regulation. Duke erased the deficit, with Tre Jones hitting a jumper at the buzzer to force overtime. The extra session was tight as well but Wendell Moore’s putback as time expired helped Duke secure their best win of the season.
Lowlight: Losing at Wake Forest in Double OT
There was also plenty of frustration at Duke this season, but no game will haunt the Blue Devils more than their collapse at Wake Forest. Duke built a 78-69 lead with 1:21 to go only to watch it evaporate. The Demon Deacons ended up outlasting Duke in double-overtime, scoring a whopping 113 points in the process to hand the Blue Devils their second loss in a week to an unranked in-state rival.