The Blue Devil scheduling has been masterful of late. Duke always seems to mix in the right number of high major match-ups with mid-majors favored to produce strong seasons en route to their NCAA Tournament berths. There's also the preseason tournaments, the ESPN scheduled events such as the Champions Classic and ACC/Big10 Challenge, and the usual end of year match ups in New York to consider.
Even so, there's enough room in the schedule for some early season, high major non-conference games. Here's some that could make sense and provide great experience and spectacle for the Blue Devils.
Home and Home Series:
Duke v. Arizona: The Devils and Wildcats met in the championship of the preseason NIT this year with Arizona taking home the victory. It was Arizona's second straight victory over Duke and the fifth in the nine game history between the teams. Duke and Arizona played a home and home series in 1990 and 1991 with Duke winning 78-76 in Cameron and Arizona winning 103-96 in double overtime in 1991. With Coach Sean Miller building a strong program in the desert complete with numerous McDonald's All-Americans coming to town each year, this series would provide an annual match-up between two of the nation's best teams. Unlike some of the other power programs, there is no entanglement between the ACC and Pac-12 which would guarantee match-ups outside the teams making their own schedules.
Series: Arizona leads 5-4
Streak: Arizona won 2
Duke vs. Stanford: This one is a long shot as the Cardinal are coached by former Blue Devil player and coach Johnny Dawkins, and Coach K has stated he dislikes coaching against his former players. Still, a battle of the nation's top two high major academic institutions would be fun to see. Both schools have smaller arenas that have reputations for being incredibly tough on opponents, which would provide great theatre. It'd also provide a chance for each school to experience the hospitality of the other as the programs have met just twice - both times on neutral floors. Also, Duke has never beaten Stanford.
Series: Stanford leads 2-0
Streak: Stanford won 2
Duke v. Gonzaga: It'd be a match-up of the face program of the high majors and the face program of the mid-majors. Once again, Duke has never faced the Zags in either Cameron Indoor or at Gonzaga's McCarthey Athletic Center where opponents were just 9-129 from 1999-2009. Overall, the teams have met just twice - both within the last seven years. Duke won both contests on neutral floors (by and average of 21.0 points per game).
Series: Duke leads 2-0
Streak: Duke won 2
Duke v. Florida: Since John Wooden's historic streak at UCLA, there have been only two programs to win back-to-back national titles: The Blue Devils in 1991-1992 and Florida in 2006-2007. A matchup between Duke and Florida in Cameron Indoor Stadium and the 12,000 seat O'Connell Center would provide each team a chance to play a high major opponent in an extremely hostile environment. The last time Duke traveled to Gainesville for a road game against the Gators was 1937. Florida last invaded Cameron Indoor in 1998 during Duke's buzz saw run through he regular season (the game ended 116-86). A coaching matchup between Billy Donovan and Coach K would be fascinating to watch as the two compete for players on the recruiting trail each summer with both getting more than their fair share of elite prospects. Currently the Gators are on a run of three consecutive appearances in the Elite Eight.
Series: Duke leads 12-4
Streak: Florida won 1
Duke v. DePaul: For no other reason than to play a Chicago area program in Chicago. Certainly Duke could play Michigan State in Chicago as part of the Champions Classic, or perhaps another Big 10 program in the ACC/Big10 Challenge, but facing the Blue Demons would provide another chance for Duke to head to some of the program's most fertile recruiting ground at least one extra time during the season. There's a case to substitute Northwestern here with the Wildcats recently hiring former Duke player and coach Chris Collins, but as noted above Krzyzewski would likely take a pass on an annual series against his former player and assistant. Illinois could also be substituted here, but there's also a chance Duke could be paired with the Illini as part of the Challenge. That leaves DePaul, a program who is relying on former Clemson coach Oliver Purnell to turn things around after the Jerry Wainwright era (60-95). The teams actually played a home and home series in 1998-1999 with Duke winning both games. The last meeting featured Nick Horvath banking in a three pointer at the buzzer to give Duke an 84-83 win in Cameron.
Series: Duke leads 4-0
Streak: Duke won 4
Duke v. Connecticut: The Huskies and Blue Devils certainly have a history over the last few decades beginning with Christian Laettner's other shot in the 1990 Regional Final. (Watch Here). Since that game Duke is just 2-4 against the Huskies with each game being played on a neutral floor. In fact, the teams have never played at the other's home arena in a series dating back to 1963. Much like Kentucky and Baylor's idea of a men's and women's double-header, ESPN would surely love the idea of having the Blue Devils and Huskies do a home and home series between the four programs. The women already play annually, and adding the men's teams to the fray would be a slam dunk for ratings and hype. With the ACC passing on UConn in the latest round of conference musical chairs, there's little chance of scheduling restrictions.
Series: Duke leads 5-4
Streak: Duke won 1
Duke v. Baylor: The Bears have turned into one of the more talent-rich programs in the country thanks to head coach Scott Drew. A series against Baylor would afford Duke some additional face time in Texas where the Blue Devils have picked up a high school All-American in the last three recruiting classes (Rasheed Sulaimon, Matt Jones, and Justise Winslow). The teams have met only once, in the 2010 Sweet 16 when Andre Dawkins' outside shooting helped Duke to an 11-point victory. If Duke is going to do a home and home series with a team from the Lonestar State, there will certainly be pressures and preferences to make the opponent Texas (both Nike schools while Baylor is sponsored by Adidas), but from a pure competition standpoint it'd be hard to pick the Longhorns over the Bears. Baylor's home court is similar in size to Cameron (sitting just over 10,000) and the Bears are usually one of the more athletic teams in the country.
Series: Duke leads 1-0
Streak: Duke won 1
Duke v. Villanova: If you're going to hit cities such as New York and Chicago, it makes sense to also to schedule games in Philadelphia where there's both fertile recruiting ground as well as alumni presence. Duke scheduled Temple 11 times between 1999 and 2012, and went 10-1 in those games. The lone defeat being a 78-73 loss in 2012. And while the Owls are a fine program, a chance to face the Wildcats may provide a fresh take on a geographically appealing series. In the same time period Duke has faced Temple 11 times, the Blue Devils have faced the Wildcats twice - in 2000 when Duke won at home by 13, and then the 2009 Sweet 16 matchup when Villanova's guards tore Duke's overplay defense apart to the tune of a 77-54 win.
Series: Duke leads 7-4
Streak: Villanova won 1
Note: There are obvious programs to add here such as Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State. However, Duke is assured of playing at least one of the first three as part of the Champions Classic, while the games against the Hoosiers (or Ohio State) are always near the top of the ACC/Big10 Challenge priority list.