Another tough schedule for No. 6 Duke
The way Joanne P. McCallie sees it, her Duke team won’t play
many easy games in March or April.
So the Blue Devils can’t afford themselves many early-season
Once again, No. 6 Duke has lined up a brutal nonconference
schedule to prepare for the rigors of the postseason. The Blue
Devils will face four teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated
Press preseason Top 25, and how well they handle those opponents
might go a long way toward determining just how good Duke will
”It’s all hard,” McCallie said. ”And, frankly, if you’re
going to win six games in a row at the end of the year, well you
just better get used to hard.”
The defending Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champions
will face No. 5 Xavier, No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 9 Kentucky at
Cameron Indoor Stadium and will visit top-ranked Connecticut.
That’s in addition to taking on an ACC schedule that has three
other nationally ranked teams.
It’s all part of McCallie’s plan to prepare her team to make
deep runs in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. Her first three Duke
teams reached the ACC title game, and last year’s group won it,
then advanced to the NCAA regional finals and finished 30-6.
”We could schedule to be 20-0. We could do that,” McCallie
said. ”I’ve seen schedules that look like they’re going to be 20-0
based on what I’ve seen. …
”But the bottom line is, I think (playing a tough schedule) is
what we’ve got to do,” she added. ”Why are we waiting? I’m not
going to break any win records at Duke. I’m not into, ‘Gee, let’s
win a bunch so it looks good.’ The idea is all about March and
This Duke team, which for the first time since 2005 picked in
the preseason to win the ACC, might be more balanced than its
immediate predecessors, with legitimate threats both inside and
Guard Jasmine Thomas is the ACC’s preseason player of the year
after a junior year in which she averaged 16 points and became the
second Blue Devils with 100 steals in a season.
They also appear set in the paint with 6-foot-4 senior Krystal
Thomas and 6-5 sophomore Allison Vernerey underneath.
”The beauty of playing with Allison is that she is very easy to
flow with,” Thomas said. ”We complement each other very well,
because we are very opposite. She can get down there, run the floor
with the guards, whereas I am much more the power, more physical
post. … It works really well to have two bigs offensively and
defensively in the lane.”
The biggest question mark might be how well a talented
recruiting class, picked by some services as the nation’s best,
picks up the system and meshes with a solid group of returning
veterans. Guards Chelsea Gray, Tricia Liston and Chloe Wells and
forwards Richa Jackson and Haley Peters make up the class, and
behind them, McCallie said the Blue Devils tossed up 40 3-pointers
during the annual Blue-White scrimmage.
”We have rims in our eyes and springs in our arms,” McCallie
quipped. ”We had to get that out of our system, which is, ‘I think
I will just shoot at any time.’ That mentality, we’ve got to have a
little bit of a plan behind what we do, and we have to work
together to create what I consider our shot, and we haven’t done