No. 1 Duke back to Garden, California (4-0) awaits
Duke is No. 1 in the country again as the Blue Devils head back to New York looking to retain that status.
This is nothing new for Duke (4-0), which regularly makes stops atop the ratings and appears on the marquee at Madison Square Garden.
The 2019 crew is another largely new group, so this test could be different for the Blue Devils. They meet undefeated California on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, where the Blue Devils are 1-0 this season. They beat Kansas in the season opener at MSG as part of the Champions Classic.
Duke doesn't want to change its approach.
"Expect the same from this team -- being extremely hungry still," sophomore guard Tre Jones said. "Just extremely hungry, we're going up there with one goal in mind -- to come back with two wins."
This will be the 251st game for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski while directing a top-ranked team. He holds a 216-34 record in those games, just one victory behind former UCLA legendary coach John Wooden for most wins at No. 1.
This is the fourth season in a row that Duke has held a No. 1 ranking. The Blue Devils have been atop the polls at least once in 20 different seasons under Krzyzewski.
"There are a lot of so-called upsets in our sport," Krzyzewski said. "A lot of people can win, and you have to be ready to play all those people."
Duke has won this tournament in its previous two entries.
The first game of the 2K Empire Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project doubleheader pits No. 22 Texas against Georgetown. The losing teams from Thursday will meet on Friday, followed by Thursday's winning teams in the main event.
Jones is coming off a career-best 31-point outing in last week's game against Georgia State.
The Bears are traveling for the first time this season. California (4-0) has four home victories to its credit, including an overtime triumph against UNLV. This is the best start to a season for the Bears in four years.
California last had a 5-0 record in 2013-14 season, with an upset of then-No. 1 Arizona part of that early success.
First-year California coach Mark Fox expressed concerns after the Bears had to gut out a 54-50 victory against Prairie View A&M.
"This was attention-getting for hopefully our players and hopefully we can learn from it," Fox said. "I think that because we have been so good offensively that we felt like we could shoot our way to victory. You have to do more things than just shoot jumpers to win."
Sophomore guard Matt Bradley is averaging 20 points per game, including an 11-for-21 mark on 3-point shots. Junior forward Grant Anticevich posted a career-best 23 points against California Baptist.
The Bears are shooting 45.5 percent on 3s.
"It's a testament to how hard we've worked," Bradley said of the opening weeks. "We're 4-0 right now. I'm happy to say that."
California has won two of three previous meetings with Duke, though the Blue Devils won most recently in the 2010 NCAA Tournament's second round en route to a national championship.
These games will be Cal's only outings outside of the state of California until the Bears meet another Atlantic Coast Conference team -- Boston College -- on Dec. 21 in Las Vegas.
--Field Level Media
Updated November 20, 2019