The second-ranked Blue Devils stare down a daunting early season test Friday night against No. 12 Arizona at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Ahead of the action, The Chronicle's beat writers are here to offer their predictions about whether Duke can emerge victorious in the teams' first meeting since 2013:
Andrew Long: Duke 71-68
Duke arguably could not face a fiercer fire-and-ice than its turnaround from Monday’s matchup with Dartmouth to Friday’s against Arizona. The Wildcats are perennially one of the country’s most dynamic and daunting foes, led by a talented up-and-coming head coach in Tommy Lloyd and a seemingly endless stream of imposing big men and talent acquired internationally (including the now-departed Azoulis Tubelis and Bennedict Mathurin). This year, the Tucson, Ariz., outfit comes to Durham boasting a squad favored to win the Pac-12, a towering center in Oumar Ballo and a familiar foe to the Blue Devil faithful, as former North Carolina guard Caleb Love looks to haunt Duke fans once more with his deep shooting.
However, I think the Blue Devils are simply a deeper and more complete team. For all of the Wildcats’ shooting prowess, the likes of Tyrese Proctor and Jeremy Roach have proven themselves to be capable scorers, and rookies Jared McCain and Caleb Foster both impressed in their debuts Monday. That’s not to mention Kyle Filipowski or the likely return of Mark Mitchell, meaning Duke will be at full strength. These early season contests are always hard to predict and Arizona will certainly make things difficult, but I see the Blue Devils continuing their unbeaten home run with a statement win.
Rachael Kaplan: Arizona 79-75
The Blue Devils’ first test is early this year. Conference rivalries aside, as Duke and North Carolina are always must-see TV, this is the toughest challenge head coach Jon Scheyer has brought to Cameron Indoor, and it’s not close. Even with the small sample size, Arizona’s offensive potential is sky-high. It made 46 of its 72 shots from the field, had eight double-digit scorers and notched 26 assists in its curtain raiser against Morgan State. No matter the strength of their opponent, the Wildcats proved that they can score. While Love didn’t show out in the opener, the former Tar Heel has a history in this stadium, and is sure to return with a vengeance. With Mitchell not quite at 100%, the Blue Devils’ defense will suffer. The power of the Cameron Crazies won’t be enough to pull their team through this one, and Scheyer’s perfect home record will be blemished.
Mackenzie Sheehy: Duke 77-72
It’s true that there are a lot of things working against Duke come Friday’s matchup as it will be the team’s second regular-season game and the on-court chemistry amongst the squad is still a work-in-progress. However, there is one factor that rings true above all the others — there is no place like home for the Blue Devils. Duke did not lose a single game at home last year, proving that some magic exists within the hardwood of Cameron Indoor. On top of that, in the Blue Devils’ lone clash with Arizona at home in 1990, Duke emerged victorious 78-76. While the Wildcats will certainly prove to be a challenging opponent, they too will only have one regular-season contest under their belts. With both squads still in the early stages of defining their respective team identities, it could be anyone’s game, but Duke has the Cameron Crazies on its side to push it to victory.
Ranjan Jindal: Duke 72-66
It is always difficult to predict these marquee early nonconference matchups as teams are just getting their feet wet to start the season. Arizona is built like a championship team, with an experienced backcourt surrounding elite center Ballo. The one thing that could change this result is the Wildcats’ 3-point shooting ability, which can immediately silence the Cameron Crazies. However, Duke went undefeated at home a season ago, and I think the Blue Devils’ experience is going to be key in this contest. If Mitchell is good to go, he will provide necessary wing length to guard some of Arizona’s shooters. Duke’s backcourt looked solid against Dartmouth and this unit should lead the Blue Devils to a close victory Friday night.
Dom Fenoglio: Duke 69-62
While both teams bring some serious offensive firepower — Arizona scored 122 in its first game of the season — I think that this will be a relatively low-scoring affair. Early-season miscues were clear in Duke’s first showing, as its guards struggled with foul trouble, and if last season’s Nov. 15 loss to Kansas is any indication, this game may turn sloppy. While both teams bring experience in the backcourt, adjusting to a new season takes more than just one game. Friday will likely be a war of attrition, and I think the home crowd at Cameron Indoor will be enough for the Blue Devils to edge it out. The free-throw battle will be something to keep a close eye on, as this game could very well be decided on the margins.
Sophie Levenson: Arizona 73-69
Arizona is a team that reminds me all too much of Tennessee. It’s big, it’s physical and it’s full of veteran talent. When Duke plays nonconference basketball, it can falter; it fell in last year’s March Madness and was beat up by teams like Purdue and Kansas. Additionally, one of the toughest components to this matchup is that these teams haven’t met in 10 years. For all the ways these teams are strangers, Love, however, knows Duke. The North Carolina transfer will step into Cameron Indoor for the fourth time Friday, ready to guard the same Roach he’s been slotted against all too many times. At this point in the season, Duke is simply under too much pressure with too little practice under its belt to make the magic needed to beat the offensively talented Wildcats happen.
Jonathan Levitan: Duke 64-60
As I mentioned not long ago in our preseason predictions, I consider Duke to be in an enviable position early this season with its reliable backcourt and returning talent. For as skilled as the Wildcats are, and for as clean as they looked in their demolition of Morgan State, that familiarity is tough to compete with on the road in Week 1 — especially at Cameron Indoor.
The key to this matchup is whether the new and improved, fully healthy Filipowski can handle his first big defensive test as Duke’s full-time center. The 7-foot sophomore showed fans enough explosiveness in an otherwise uninformative Monday win against Dartmouth to suggest that he can slow Arizona’s Ballo while Mitchell’s expected return keeps the Wildcats’ talented ball-handlers at bay. Expect Duke to lead wire-to-wire without ever quite pulling away.
Micah Hurewitz: Duke 74-66
Arizona played a mean game against Morgan State Monday night in its season opener — dominating on both sides of the ball and showcasing a tough lineup composed of experienced guards and the forceful Ballo. The Wildcats caused a ton of turnovers and connected on their deep shots, offering Duke its first, and arguably toughest, homecourt battle of the season. The Blue Devils have a core who have played very well together, and add in Mitchell, and Duke has a pretty complete team to compete with Arizona’s strengths. Proctor will be key to facilitate the offense and Filipowski will have to play strong to keep the Wildcats off the glass. It’s gonna be a tough fight, but Duke should get its first win against Arizona since the 2001 national championship game.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.