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Take of the Week: It’s time for the return of non-conference road games

<p>Duke should consider visiting non-ACC schools to create more meaningful matchups.</p>

Duke should consider visiting non-ACC schools to create more meaningful matchups.

Every Duke fan has heard this dig from an opposing fan at least once. “Why are the Blue Devils scared to play a non-conference road game?” It may be time to listen to the haters for once, but not for the reason you think.

Duke hasn’t voluntarily scheduled a road game on another school’s campus since 2008, when the Blue Devils traveled to Ann Arbor to battle Michigan in 2008. Duke has scheduled “road” games since then, with schools such as St. John's and Georgetown, but those games took place in downtown NBA arenas, and not on the schools’ campuses. 

The ACC and Big Ten also still hold an annual challenge between the two conferences, where Duke plays at a Big Ten school usually every other year. However, this doesn’t satisfy the anti-Duke army, as the Blue Devils are mandated to participate in the challenge. 

Coach K should begin to schedule non-conference road games in the future, but not for the reason of challenging his team. The games that count in March and April are played on neutral courts, so it’d be silly for Duke to replace their December Top 25 games in Madison Square Garden with a trip to a Power 5 school. They should, however, schedule games on the campuses of smaller schools, that could use the economic boost and exposure from Duke going to their gym. 

Take Indiana, for example. In 2016, the Hoosiers visited Fort Wayne for an in-state battle with the Mastodons. Indiana fans flocked the campus for the game and brought an incredible atmosphere to the community. Fort Wayne was even able to upset No. 3 Indiana in that matchup 71-68. 

Duke by no means needs road non-conference games to help achieve its goals of winning ACC and National Championships, but it can use its massive following to help other college communities. 

The “Duke Brand” has been sky high over the past decade and seems to be growing every year. Duke's twitter account @DukeMBB has more than two times the number of followers as the next closest college basketball account with 2.2 million. Last year Duke played in three of the five most watched college basketball games and its marketable alumni in the NBA are making it cool to be Blue Devils again. 

UNC has decided to go on a similar route, as it has scheduled a matchup with Elon, who is opening its brand-new stadium this year. The same could also be said of Virginia Tech football when the program traveled to Old Dominion this year, making the Monarchs and Norfolk the buzz of the college football world. 

Coach K and Duke athletic director Kevin White shouldn’t even think about playing at a school like Texas, Tennessee, etc. in their home gyms, because it gives those big schools a way to cash in and gives Duke a meaningless game. The Blue Devils will be battle tested on neutral court games and in ACC play, so they let the little guys get some exposure on a national stage.