After months of slow news and other programs' individual announcements, the Blue Devils have finally released their upcoming non-conference schedule.
Duke's slate is fairly weak overall, but is highlighted by two December home games: Dec. 2 against Iowa and Dec. 15 against South Carolina, both in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Hawkeyes were the Big Ten runners-up last year, upsetting No. 3-seed Rutgers in the conference-tournament quarterfinals and No. 4-seed Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Led by WBCA and USBWA National Co-Freshman of the Year and recent FIBA U19 Cup MVP point guard Caitlin Clark, Iowa returns everyone from last year's second-best offense in the nation, per Her Hoop Stats. She's surrounded by center Monica Czinano, one of the most efficient and high-volume scorers in the country, plus three elite 3-point shooters. Don't be surprised if this is a top-10 matchups on both sides.
The Gamecocks, however, are far and away Duke's toughest opponent. South Carolina ranked No. 6 in the final AP poll, and have added the reigning ACC Freshman and Co-Defender of the Year in Kamilla Cardoso and the No. 1 freshman class in the nation. Sitting at a roster that goes 12-deep and features the No. 2 class of 2021 prospect in Raven Johnson, South Carolina should be a unanimous top-three team coming into this season.
There's not much meat on the schedule outside those two—Alabama was a seven-seed last March, but have lost their best three players to the draft and transfers; Troy made the tournament as an automatic qualifier, but despite nearly pulling off a 15-over-2 upset against Texas A&M, there's little reason to think that level of competitiveness is going to repeat.
With the top teams such as Stanford, South Carolina, and Connecticut playing at least a half-dozen top-tier noconference opponents each, Duke's schedule shows a clear strategy going in the other direction. With seven transfers and a 13-deep roster, it's reasonable to assume head coach Kara Lawson wanted as much of a runway as possible to figure out team chemistry and lineups.
A number of these games look to be fulfillments of Duke's outstanding contracts. The South Carolina game is a rescheduling of the 2018 matchup that was postponed after the winter storm and the UNC-Wilmington game is likely a makeup after the Blue Devils' Dec. 2020 game was cancelled when Duke ended its season. Additionally, Troy and Penn are likely the final legs of a two-game series arranged under former head coach Joanne P. McCallie.
The full schedule is listed below:
Nov. 4 vs. Wingate, exhibition
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Nov. 9 vs. Winthrop
Nov. 12 at Dayton
Nov. 14 vs. UNC-Wilmington
Nov. 21 vs. Alabama, in Fort Worth, Tex. for the Maggie Dixon Classic
Nov. 24 vs. Appalachian State
Nov. 28 vs. Troy
Dec. 2 vs. Iowa, for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge
Dec. 5 at Pennsylania
Dec. 15 vs. South Carolina
Dec. 21 at Charleston Southern