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Why Duke Won't Come Out and Play

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So Duke had kind of a bad week. First they visit scenic Winston-Salem, only to be stunned with a thirteen-point loss. Next they flew down for a vacation in Miami, only to fall behind by 20 and end up losing in the final minute. All of a sudden, Duke seems a little mortal outside of Cameron.

So why the difficulty on the road? It may have something to do with this date: February 25th, 2007. That, surprisingly enough, is the last time Kryzyewski brought his team into an opposing school's gym outside the ACC. (In this case, St. John's, which brought it to mind.) Duke's three away non-conference games this season were all at neutral sites, as was the Maui Invitational. Last season's Red Storm matchup was the only time Duke truly played an away game the ACC didn't mandate; the same goes for 2004-05. And 2002-03. In 1999-2000, 2001-02 and 2003-04, it was only the games mandated by the Big 10 challenge.

In the past nine seasons, Duke has played exactly 11 true away games outside of the ACC. Four of them were mandated by the Big Ten contract. Four more were against St. John's, who coincidentally play enough of their games in Madison Square Garden that it can be counted as a "home" court. Two were at Temple, while they were playing at the Wachovia Center, waiting for their own stadium to be built. (This year, Duke went back to Philadelphia, and played at... the Wachovia Center.) And the last was at Georgetown, who play at the Verizon Center, home of the Washington Wizards.

In that same time period, UNC went on the road 15 times by my count, including games at Arizona, Kentucky, Saint Louis, Southern Cal, Indiana, Cleveland State, Old Dominion, Connecticut, UCLA, Michigan State, Appalachain State, Louisville and Buffalo.

So outside of the ACC, Duke only plays at home or in NBA arenas. Is Kryzyewski ducking competition, like the friend who first pointed this out to me this weekend thinks? Maybe, but I'll throw another possibility out there. Duke needs the money. They play in the smallest gym in the ACC, and the Blue Devils have never had a large alumni base to draw from. They need all the revenue they can get, and if that means only whoring themselves out to certain venues and stacking the schedule with home games, so be it. But the limited competition - how much can you learn by playing Temple and St. John's every year - has to hurt them occasionally, and this might be one of those instances.