Thursday afternoon Duke and Utah moved one step closer to completing their respective non-conference schedules, as it was announced that the two programs will meet December 19 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The two teams have only met four times, with the most recent meeting being a 63-57 Duke victory in the Sweet 16 on their way to the national title in late March.
Both teams will have different looks when they take the court at Madison Square Garden. The Blue Devils calling upon a talented recruiting class to help account for the loss of four starters from that national champion squad, and while Utah returns more the Runnin’ Utes have to account for the loss of talented guard Delon Wright.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, one of the reasons that Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak wanted to get this done was to give his rising seniors (Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge, Dakarai Tucker and Jeremy Olsen, who won’t be able to play for medical reasons but remains part of the program) the experience of playing in “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
Bringing those players back, Krystkowiak said, is another reason Utah is glad to land a game in the best-known arena in the country’s biggest media market.
“We have four seniors who have really helped build our program and who we’re going to miss after Senior Night rolls around,” he said. “We want to take them to Madison Square Garden. We want to take them to New York around Christmas, which not everyone has been fortunate enough to experience. There’s nothing like it.”
Utah returns three starters from last year’s team in Loveridge, Taylor and rising sophomore Jakob Poeltl, and Duke’s lone returning starter is rising junior Matt Jones. However both teams have other players with starting experience, as Chris Reyes was part of Utah’s starting lineup for a significant portion of their season with Amile Jefferson being in a similar position for Duke.
This is a matchup that will help both teams as they prepare for conference play, and it will help their respective resumes come March as well.