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Duke women’s basketball to face first true test at Texas A&M

Jade Williams and Duke's bigs will be tested Sunday.
Jade Williams and Duke's bigs will be tested Sunday.

Coming off a down season, the Blue Devils are hoping that 2019-20 will mark a return to blue blood status. Their first step in accomplishing that comes Sunday afternoon.

Duke will travels to College Station, Tex., to play no. 6 Texas A&M at 4 p.m. The Aggies come into the season with high expectations, coming off a 26-10 season in which the Aggies reached the Sweet Sixteen, their 13th-straight season playing in the NCAA tournament and their sixth Sweet Sixteen in that time.

What’s at stake?

In years prior, this would likely be a matchup between two ranked teams. But after last year—just the second time in the past 25 years that Duke has missed the NCAA Tournament—the Blue Devils are clearly the underdog against top opponents. If Duke wants to make its way back into the ranks of the great powers in women’s basketball, this is a game it has to show up for.

Unfortunately for Duke, beating Texas A&M might be a bit of a long shot. If the Blue Devils can pull off the upset, that’s a crucial statement win. But just playing a competitive game would signal that last year was nothing more than a blip on the radar for them and that they don’t need much more to get back into the national conversation. Getting handily beaten by the Aggies, however, might signal that they’re farther away than we thought, and still require more time to rebuild.

Where does Texas A&M get their points from?

Texas A&M is led by point guard Chennedy Charter, a former All-American and All-SEC selection who has averaged over 20 points each of the past two years. She’ll present a challenge for the Blue Devils regardless of who they send her way. They won’t be able to focus their perimeter defense on her, either, as shooting guard Kayla Wells has been a markswoman, with a career 38 percent mark from deep for her career. Covering both of those guards effectively will be key for a Duke team that prides itself on defense, but whose guards are better known for their offense.

What’s going to be Duke’s biggest test?

Duke’s strength down low will be especially tested. Aggie bigs N’dea Jones and Ciera Johnson combined to average both 19.7 points per game and rebounds per game last year, figures that Blue Devil coach Joanne P. McCallie likely envies. McCallie is known for placing high priority on rebounding, spending plenty of time on pure rebounding drills every practice, but it will be a long day for Duke if Blue Devil forwards/centers Jade Williams and Onome Akinbode-James can’t come down with the ball.

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