Previewing the 2003-2004 Hoops Schedule

With no fewer than 11 letter winners returning for the 2003-2004 season, including four starters, head coach Mike Krzyzewski has good reason to set the usual lofty goals in March for his Blue Devils. The road to the madness will once again roll through some of the toughest programs in the country along with the usual grind of the ACC slate.

Before heading off to Alaska for the annual Great Alaska Shootout beginning November 27th, the Devils host Horizon League foe Detroit in the November 22nd season opener at Cameron. Last season the Titans finished with an 18-12 record including a win over Western Kentucky.

The Shootout field is arguably as weak as it has been in the past, sproting teams such as host Alaska Anchorage, Houston, Liberty, Pacific, Purdue, Seton Hall and Southwest Texas State. The Blue Devils open with Pacific on the 27th. Should they get past the opener, Duke faces the winner of the Houston-Liberty match up, followed by the championship round on the 29th.

Upon finishing up in the Great White North, Duke will head to what looks to be the toughest non conference game of the season against the Michigan State Spartans in the Breslin Center as part of the annual ACC-Big10 Challenge. The Spartans, coming off an impressive 22-13 campaign that included a run to the Elite Eight, return most of their roster including super sophomore forward Paul Davis. Head coach Tom Izzo added a much needed point guard in the form of Illinois high school standout Shannon Brown and local Detroit product Brandon Cotton, which has propelled MSU to a spot in many preseason polls' top five, with some ranking them as high as number two.

After the Michigan State game, the Blue Devils will have a chance for revenge against St. John's in Cameron. Last season Duke blew a double digit lead as the Red Storm battled back behind Marcus Hatten's super effort in a 72-71 victory at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Next up are a pair of mid majors as Portland and Princeton visit Cameron on the 14th and 17th of December respectively.

The last game before the Christmas holiday is the last major non-conference battle before the Madness of March. Duke will travel back to MSG to face the Longhorns of Texas. Despite losing National Player of the Year TJ Ford to the NBA Draft, head coach Rick Barnes as his usual stable of hardnosed competitors on a squad that has garnered a preseason top 15 ranking.

The Davidson Wildcats return to Cameron for a post holiday test on December 29th before the ACC schedule kicks off with a trip to Clemson on January 3rd. A non conference match up against Fairfield follows on January 6th.

After the game against the Stags, Duke will begin a rough stretch of conference games beginning at Virginia, followed by home games against NC State and Wake Forest before heading to College Park to face the Terrapins on Jan 21st.

Before they finish up the first round of ACC contests, the Devils will travel to the MCI Center in Baltimore to face off against the Georgetown Hoyas on Jan 24th.

After the trip to the Northeast, Duke finishes up the ACC's first round with a home game against Florida State followed by road games against Georgia Tech and then a trip down 15-501 to welcome Roy Williams back to Tobacco Road in the Dean Dome on February 5th.

The second round of the ACC follows the same schedule as the first, with a non conference game against Valparaiso coming after five straight conference battles against Clemson, Virginia, at NC State, at Wake Forest, and Maryland. Valpo's visit to Cameron is the start of a three game series between the two schools that will send Duke to the United Center in Chicago next year, followed by a return to Cameron for the series' final game during the 2005-2006 season.

After Valpo, Duke will continue the drive for a sixth straight ACC Championship by finishing up the conference schedule by trying to avoid a third straight set back in Tallahassee against Florida State, then home games against Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

Overall the Blue Devils will once again be the nation's most watched team as each of the 29 regular season contests will be broadcast including 27 appearances on national television courtesy of ABC, CBS, the ESPN family, and Fox Sports Net. Raycom and Jefferson Pilot Sports along with regional Fox Sports Net will pick up the other games - Nov. 22 vs. Detroit (Fox Regional), Jan. 6 vs. Fairfield (Raycom/JP Sports) and Jan. 15 vs. N.C. State (Raycom/JP Sports) – broadcasting to regional television audiences.

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