|2Duke Blue Devils
|ESPN2 | 1st – 18:08
Jon Scheyer and Tommy Lloyd both took similar journeys to becoming first-time head coaches, working for successful programs and crossing paths while recruiting.
The relationship between Scheyer and Duke is a major factor in their highly-anticipated game against Arizona at their notoriously intense arena on Friday. This type of high-profile game is becoming more challenging for coaches to arrange due to the length of conference schedules, the pressure of earning NCAA Tournament bids, and the risk of job security for coaches.
Lloyd expressed this week that it is much more challenging than people may think. He acknowledges the common sentiment among college basketball fans of wanting certain changes, but emphasizes the intense difficulty of implementing them due to the sport’s commercialization.
The matchup between Duke and Arizona at Cameron Indoor Stadium marks the beginning of a two-game series, with the Blue Devils set to travel to Tucson in 2024. However, it seems that these types of games are being replaced by neutral-court matchups, such as the Champions Classic or CBS Sports Classic, as well as conference showdowns that occur every year on the schedule.
Organizing these matches involves attempting to fit them into a limited number of available time slots amidst ongoing changes within college sports. When Duke makes the return trip next year, Arizona will have already departed from the Pac-12 to join the Big 12.
Over the past two years, there has been a lot of change and uncertainty regarding our conference schedule and the teams in our conference,” Scheyer explained on Thursday. “Tommy and I discussed the importance of getting this done early on. This will benefit both our fans and our players. Therefore, the process was smooth and only required a few conversations.”
However, consider the changes taking place at North Carolina, a rival of Duke, as an illustration of this evolution.
North Carolina, who recently revealed a plan to play Kansas in 2024 and 2025, used to have a longstanding arrangement with Kentucky, both dominant teams in the sport. This agreement alternated between their home bases of Chapel Hill and Lexington from 2000-2014. However, the two teams now meet on neutral grounds in the CBS Sports Classic, where they are joined by UCLA and Ohio State on a rotating basis.
The Blue Devils have a 20-game schedule in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They face off against either Kansas, Kentucky or Michigan State in the Champions Classic. They also have a game in the ACC/SEC Challenge, which this year involves a trip to No. 14 Arkansas, making a total of 22 games.
Including three games in a four-team round robin event in November, there are only six remaining spots before reaching the NCAA limit of 31 regular-season games.
Scheyer mentioned that not having a complete understanding of the team’s roster at this point in the year makes the decision to play risky, but also bold. Both teams will gain valuable knowledge from tomorrow’s game and that is the reason for wanting to play it. Ultimately, the players are eager to compete in challenging games like this.
Scheyer is currently in his second year as the replacement for the retired Hall of Famer, Mike Krzyzewski. He was a member of the Duke basketball team that won an NCAA championship in 2010 and also served as an assistant coach in 2015. Prior to his current role, he worked under Coach K for nine seasons.
Lloyd has been a part of Arizona’s team for three seasons now, following a 20-year stint on Mark Few’s staff at Gonzaga. During his time at Gonzaga, the team experienced a transformation from a mid-major to a dominant powerhouse, making appearances in the NCAA championship game in both 2017 and 2021.
In July 2022, the schools revealed the series, following Scheyer’s appointment and Lloyd’s successful first season as head coach, which resulted in 33 wins and receiving The Associated Press men’s national coach of the year award.
Scheyer expressed his desire to discover similar games in the future. Lloyd, on the other hand, found it exciting that prominent teams were willing to compete on each other’s home court, although he acknowledged that this may not be common.
Lloyd stated that the process was simple and expressed a desire for all processes to be as easy.
John Marshall, an AP Basketball Writer, provided information for this report.
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