Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Kyrie Irving watched at home on television when Duke beat Butler last month for the NCAA championship.
When the two schools square off in the rematch Dec. 4 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., Irving will play the point for the Blue Devils.
“It’s probably the best game next year because it’s a rematch of the title game,” the 6-foot-2 Irving, a McDonald’s All-American and co-MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic out of Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick High School, wrote by text.
The Blue Devils won their fourth NCAA title in Indianapolis on April 5 by beating the hometown favorite Bulldogs 61-59, as Gordon Hayward’s potential winning shot from halfcourt bounced off the rim.
Hayward, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, is testing the NBA waters and has yet to hire an agent. The Bulldogs return starters Shelvin Mack (14.1 ppg), Matt Howard (11.6 ppg) and Ronald Nored (6.0 ppg). Butler was the only team in the nation to post an unbeaten conference record (18-0) in 2009-10.
“It’s an honor for our program to be invited to play in the IZOD Center in December,” said Butler Head Coach Brad Stevens. “Obviously, the challenge will be great, as we have a tremendous amount of respect for Duke.”
Duke will return junior forward Kyle Singler, junior guard Nolan Smith, big men Miles and Mason Plumlee, freshman big man Ryan Kelly and sophomore guard Seth Curry, the younger brother of NBA rookie Steph Curry.
The Blue Devils alsofeature newcomers Carrick Felix, Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton.
“We are excited to play Butler next season in the Meadowlands,” said Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Given the outstanding game played between Duke and Butler in the 2010 NCAA Championship, there will be added interest in next year’s matchup. Surely, Coach Stevens will have his team ready to perform at a high level. We look forward to what will be a significant challenge.”
Duke is 18-1 all-time at the Izod Center, winning five regional finals there. Butler has never played at the Meadowlands, which is losing the NBA’s New Jersey Nets as a tenant. The Nets will play at The Prudential Center, home of Seton Hall University.
St. Patrick coach Kevin Boyle said he plans to take his whole team to see Irving, who helped the Celtics win the 2009 Tournament of Champions in that same building.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.