Two top-flight programs, two totally different non-conference schedules


Romeo Void, “Never Say Never”
Found on most compilation albums

Duke and Kentucky take different paths to begin 2016-2017 season reported in separate articles over the last two weeks that the preseason Number 1 team in Duke Blue Devils and the always heralded Kentucky Wildcats have as their opponents pecking all over the RPI board.

Starting with Kentucky, eight of their first 13 games will be against teams with RPI rankings of 150 or less:

Nov. 11: Stephen F. Austin

Nov. 13: Canisius

Nov. 15 vs. Michigan State (New York, Champions Classic)

Nov. 20: Duquesne

Nov. 23: Cleveland State

Nov. 25: UT Martin

Nov. 28: vs. Arizona State (Bahamas)

Dec. 1: vs. Hofstra (Brooklyn)

Dec. 3: UCLA

Dec. 7: Valparaiso

Dec. 17: vs. North Carolina (Las Vegas, CBS Sports Classic)

Dec. 21: at Louisville

Jan. 28: Kansas (Big 12/SEC Challenge)

On paper, there will be a handful of sexy matchups for John Calipari to salivate over, both early in the year and especially before Christmas.  UCLA and Arizona State are on the periphery of maybe cracking the 68 team field, but there will be lots of goodies to sort out by the time the fall chills penetrate most of the United States.  And don’t count out Valpo, since the Crusaders are basically starting over with favorite son Bryce Drew taking over for Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt.

Duke not exactly playing the best teams to begin the season

Normally, you would expect a Coach K team to stockpile with heavy hitters and playing the best competition right out of the gate.  Catching the Fab Five in Michigan during a classic December 1991 game on CBS was one of those cases.

Not so fast, fellow diehards.  Their schedule released on July 13 will more than likely not win the Dukies any brownie points from the Selection Committee.  I would not expect them to contend for another number 1 seed unless they somehow, someway win every game that they play.

Six of their first 13 games will be played at neutral sites, which the Committee of course uses a separate matrix to determine teams that are mired in the middle of the bracket.  In other words, if the unheralded opponent somehow gets hot from the floor, forces many turnovers and can convert all of their free throws–these teams might have a chance.  Otherwise, expect at least several blowouts by a minimum margin of 25 points–which I will not be spending that much time thinking about, let alone typing in this blog space.

On paper, the schedule looks like what Dick Vitale often says as, “Cupcake City”.  They are catching Florida in Year 2 of the post-Billy Donovan era and UNLV is not the same team that they were a few years ago when they were challenging for the Mountain West Conference title.  However, their clashes with Kansas and Michigan State could be on my Top 5 Games To Watch portion of my preseason blog come late October.

But that is another topic for another day.

Here is the schedule for the Blue Devils and all of those Cameron Crazies:

Nov. 11: Grand Canyon

Nov. 12: TBA, *See note below

Nov. 15: vs. Kansas (MSG New York, Champions Classic)

Nov. 19: vs. Penn State (Mohegan Sun Arena, Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off)
Nov. 20: vs. Cincinnati/Rhode Island (Mohegan Sun Arena, Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off)

Nov. 23: William & Mary

Nov. 26: Appalachian State

Nov. 29: Michigan State (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)

Dec. 3: Maine

Dec. 6: vs. Florida (MSG, New York for Jimmy V Classic)

Dec. 10: at UNLV (Las Vegas)

Dec. 19: Tennessee State

Dec. 21: vs. Elon (Greensboro, N.C.)

*(NOTE: Duke’s release initially included Marist as their Nov. 12th opponent, but they subsequently announced that game had not yet been confirmed.)

It will be very interesting to see where Duke will be pegged in the RPI rankings shortly after the first major wave of holiday tournaments come Thanksgiving weekend.



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