A year-and-a-half after Cameron Indoor Stadium shut its doors in March 2020, Duke’s famous Cameron Crazies will be making their long-awaited return to Section 17. Of course, the college basketball season doesn’t officially start until the Blue Devils take on Kentucky at Madison Square Garden Nov. 9, but Friday evening’s intrasquad scrimmage promises to be a spectacle like no other.
One of the NCAA’s most decorated programs is hitting the hardwood once again much to the excitement of fans, players and pundits. As they all eagerly await tipoff, here’s what to look out for in this year’s Countdown to Craziness.
One last ride
Bombshell news broke earlier this year when head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that this season would be his last at the helm of Duke. With five NCAA national championships, 1,170 wins (most all-time in college basketball) and three Olympic gold medals, Krzyzewski will be exiting the college basketball world as one of the best to ever do it.
Krzyzewski enters his 42nd season as head coach this year and will no doubt be hoping to go out with a bang, especially given last year’s disappointing campaign. The general sentiment around this season is to “do it for Coach K” (although don’t say that to him) and players and fans alike will be in full force and full voice in support. Friday’s scrimmage is the first real taste of what we’ll see this season from Duke, so keep an eye out for how the team plays, what the on and off-court energy is like and how Krzyzewski acts on the sidelines. This is Krzyzewski’s Grateful Dead-esque farewell tour, and Countdown is the first concert.
In a blue-versus-white team scrimmage, the goal of Countdown this year is to assess where the team is at and give minutes to Duke’s new recruits. Once again, the Blue Devils flexed their recruiting muscle with three top-30 recruits and a ninth-straight top-10 class. This includes 6-foot-5 guard Trevor Keels, 6-foot-7 wing AJ Griffin and 6-foot-2 guard Jaylen Blakes alongside transfers Bates Jones from Davidson and Theo John from Marquette. All eyes will be on 6-foot-10 freshman Paolo Banchero, though, as the Seattle, Wash., native enters Durham as a top-three recruit and prospective No. 1 draft pick.
The teams for Friday’s game have yet to be announced but will be our first real glimpse at what Duke is made of. This is a squad brimming with talent and an exciting mix of new faces and returning veterans led by one of college basketball’s most adept coaching staffs, so there’s plenty for Blue Devil fans to be excited about. Keep an eye out on Banchero, Keels, and the rest of the new recruiting class (besides Griffin, who is out with a sprained knee) as they step onto Coach K Court for the first time, get officially introduced to the crowd and show a glimpse of what’s to come when the season gets into full swing.
The X factor
There are a lot of narratives surrounding this basketball season, from Krzyzewski to the new recruits, but in this game specifically the narrative is all in the name: Countdown to Craziness. Duke’s raucous fanbase is back for the first time since March 2020 with all the excitement and raw passion you’d hope for. Hundreds upon hundreds of students waited out all Sunday night for tickets and will finally be ushered back into Cameron Indoor Stadium in full force, facepaint and all.
There aren’t analytics that can back up the impact a home crowd has on a game, but Duke’s arguably greatest asset is its fanbase. The Blue Devils struggled last year and the lack of home support definitely contributed to that, but this year will be different. Expect a return of Duke’s famous vibrancy and loudness, a return of real crowd noise and a return of college basketball’s best student section.
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Expect a return to craziness.