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Maryland at Duke 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN)

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With UNC postponed, Duke prepares for tough stretch

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/02/13/20/59/1peUvf.Em.138.jpeg|238
    Harry Lynch - hlynch@newsobserver.com
    North Carolina coach Roy Williams greets students waiting in line for Wednesday’s game, which was later postponed.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/02/13/20/59/LqZv1.Em.138.jpeg|201
    Chuck Liddy - cliddy@newsobserver.com
    Duke’s Jabari Parker (1) and Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas vie for a first-half rebound at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse on Feb. 1.

Four games. Eight days. As a result of the postponement of Wednesday’s scheduled matchup of Duke vs. North Carolina, that’s what awaits the Blue Devils starting Saturday.

There weren’t many options available for rescheduling the game against North Carolina – Feb. 20 was the only date that would let both teams avoid playing back-to-back nights, so that date was picked pretty quickly, UNC spokesman Steve Kirschner said in a radio interview. The two schools, along with the ACC, decided against trying to push the game back one day, to Thursday, because the wintry weather was supposed to continue (and it did, as snow and freezing rain layered on top of the ice-snow mix that fell on Wednesday).

The only other option the school has was to stage a home-and-home series on the final weekend of the regular season – something UNC and N.C. State did in 1991, when the start of the Gulf War delayed the first game. But Kirschner said there wasn’t much interest in that, something Mike Krzyzewski echoed in a segment from his XM radio show released to the public. Krzyzewski also said on his show that the rescheduled Duke-UNC game will be played at 9 p.m.

So Duke will get a few extra days’ rest before hosting Maryland on Saturday. Three days later, the Blue Devils will go down to Georgia Tech. They will then have a quick two-day turnaround for the Thursday night game in Chapel Hill, and the highly anticipated rematch against Syracuse will tip two days after that, on Feb. 22.

ESPN has already moved the game against the Orange back one hour, to 7 p.m., so the cable network can cover the rematch “more in-depth,” according to Donna Ditota of the Syracuse Post-Standard. Stacking that game less than 48 hours after the rivalry affair in Chapel Hill will be an emotional test for the young Blue Devils.

Krzyzewski spoke about the difficulties of leaving a tough game in the past after Duke’s wins against Wake Forest and Boston College last week. The Blue Devils hosted the Deacons three days after their overtime loss at Syracuse and traveled to Boston College last weekend.

“We felt we should have won,” Krzyzewski said of the Syracuse game, noting the opportunities Duke had to win at the end. “Those are huge emotional things to get over.”

The UNC-Syracuse stretch will mimic the NCAA tournament format, when teams play two games in three days. And, on the second and third weekends, it’s two quality teams in three days, just like this stretch for Duke.

The Blue Devils’ upcoming stretch is just another new element in an ACC season full of them. The Blue Devils made road trips to all three new conference schools – three of the original 12 ACC schools made all three trips to Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. With the addition of ESPN’s Big Monday games, the Blue Devils have had just two Sundays off since the start of the calendar year, a break from the traditional schedule.

“Expansion, and the newness of Monday, Tuesday, Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday games creates an uneven structure for all this kids that you have to be careful about” Krzyzewski said after the Boston College win. “So there can be a variance in performance as a result of that type of, kind of illogical thing.”

The schedule does lighten up after the Syracuse game next weekend. Duke hosts Virginia Tech, the ACC’s worst team on Feb. 25 and then has its scheduled open weekend, like every ACC team, before traveling to Wake Forest on March 5. The Blue Devils’ regular season concludes three days later against the Tar Heels.

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley
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