DURHAM, NC – Duke begins the new season ranked No. 2 on the strength of 4 returning starters and one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.

And coach Jon Scheyer’s team won’t waste any time taking those expectations out for a spin.

They’ll face No. 12 Arizona at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday before heading to Chicago to take on No. 4 Michigan State in the State Farm Champions Classic. That made Monday’s only tune-up against Dartmouth a more important game than just your typical opening game beatdown of an overmatched opponent.

The Blue Devils did what they had to do by taking down the Big Green 92-54 with a performance that left Scheyer with positive vibes about the starting point to his 2nd season as coach of his alma mater.

“I don’t think we played a 40-minute game, but I thought we played close to it,” he said after watching his team shoot 64% from the floor while holding Dartmouth to just 33.9%. “There’s plenty we can clean up and do better. Then the goal for Friday is to get closer to that, and for next Tuesday to get even closer. From then on, keep making strides throughout the entire season. But I did think overall we were ready.”

Star big man Kyle Filipowski led the way for Duke with 25 points while senior guard Jeremy Roach added 14 points.. But the most promising aspect of the victory was the ease with which some of the newcomers fit in with the veteran core.

Freshman guard Caleb Foster had the best debut with 15 points off the bench. Classmate Jared McCain started, but played only 15 minutes because of foul trouble. He still managed to score 8 points and look comfortable on both ends of the floor.

Sean Stewart and TJ Power played lesser roles, but because of the depth and talent on the team, Scheyer will be able to bring them along at their own pace.

“I think we’re really dynamic this year,” sophomore guard Tyrese Proctor said. “Our backcourt is probably the best in the country and we’ve got guys coming off the bench with fresh legs. Obviously, we have our core back from last year, but this is a new group and it was good to get some familiarity on the court and win under our belt.”

Duke’s impressive start was one of 10 takeaways from on a perfect opening night to ACC basketball in 2023-24.

Here are the rest:

9. Fantastic freshmen

When it comes to college debuts, it doesn’t get much better than the one Pittsburgh’s Carlton “Bub” Carrington had Monday. The 6-5 shooting guard put up 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 100-52 rout of NC A&T.

It was only the 5th triple-double in school history and 1st by a Panther since Ricardo Greer did it in 1998.

Carrington was 7-of-12 from the floor (4-of-7 3-pointers). He was all set to come out of the game with just over 5 minutes remaining. But when coach Jeff Capel learned he was only 1 assist from making history in his debut, he sent him back out onto the court to get it.

“He (said), ‘You’re going back in. You have to get what you have to get,’” Carrington told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after the game.

Carrington wasn’t the only ACC freshman to make a splash in his debut Monday.

Markus Burton, the only 1 of Mike Brey’s recruits to stick with new coach Micah Shrewsberry, led the Irish with 29 points in a 70-63 win against Niagara. The 5-11 point guard broke a 51-51 tie with 7½ minutes remaining, starting a run in which he scored 13 of his team’s next 15 points on the way to a 70-63 victory.

8. Winning debuts

All 3 of the ACC’s new head coaches won their openers.

Adrian Autry had the easiest time of it, leading Syracuse to an 83-72 win against New Hampshire in the Orange’s 1st game in 47 years without Jim Boeheim as their leader. Sophomore guard Judah Mintz, one of Boehiem’s holdovers, helped ease the transition by scoring 20 points.

It took a little longer for the Damon Stoudamire era to get into high gear at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets led Georgia Southern by only 1, 32-31, at halftime. But with returners Miles Kelly and Deebo Coleman leading the way, they took off in the 2nd half for an 84-62 victory. Kelly finished with 25 points and Coleman had 17 for Tech, which outscored the Eagles 53-31 over the final 20 minutes.

Shrewsberry’s Irish got off to an even slower start. They trailed 12-2 to start the game and spent the rest of the half playing catchup. They finally took the lead midway through the 2nd half and on the strength of Burton’s outburst, finally pulled away for the win.

7. Big night for bigs

The biggest men on campus got off to a good start all around the ACC.

The group of players 6-10 or taller who carried their teams to season-opening victories is led by Boston College’s Quinten Post. The league’s Most Improved Player in 2022-23 got off to a massive start in 2023-24 by scoring a career-high 31 points, to go with 11 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in an 89-70 win against Fairfield.

Filipowski, last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year began his push to upgrade to Player of the Year with a 25-point, 7-rebound performance in which he went 10-of-12 from the field. He scored 10 of his points in the first 5 minutes of the 2nd half and did it so efficiently that Scheyer admitted that he “didn’t know Flip had 25 until after the game.”

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot also had 25 points in a win against Radford, while adding 13 rebounds for his 69th career double-double, moving him past NC State’s Ronnie Shavlik into 3rd-place all-time on the ACC list behind Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan (with 87) and Virginia’s Ralph Sampson (84).

Clemson’s PJ Hall opened with a 20-point, 5-rebound effort in Clemson’s 78-56 thumping of Winthrop, and NC State’s DJ Burns finished with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in a win against The Citadel.

6. Unexpected offense

NC State coach Kevin Keatts brought in 7 transfers to help replenish a roster that lost over half of its offensive production from last year’s NCAA Tournament team. Two of the least heralded were the stars of the Wolfpack’s opening 72-59 victory over The Citadel.

Senior point guard Michael O’Connell was brought in for his playmaking ability and junior big Mohamed Diarra is being counted on mostly for his rebounding. And both performed those tasks admirably. O’Connell had a team-leading 7 assists while Diarra was the top rebounder with 14.

But both added an unexpected scoring element to the Wolfpack’s win. O’Connell, who has never averaged more than 7 points per game in his college career, scored 14 in his State debut while Diarra, who averaged 3.2 points per game at Missouri last year, added 10, including a pair of 3-pointers.

5. Pack line doing fine

Virginia coach Tony Bennett voiced concern during the preseason about his team’s ability to pick up the concepts of his trademark pack line defense because of all the new players. The Cavaliers lost 7 members of last year’s team to graduation or transfer.

Bennett need not have worried, based on Monday’s performance against Tarleton State. His team held the Texans to just 33.3% shooting, including a 3-of-13 effort from beyond the 3-point arc, while also forcing 16 turnovers on the way to a routine 80-50 victory.

Reece Beekman, the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year, also showed he has an offensive side by leading the team with 16 points.

4. Late Wake-up call

Wake Forest opened up some eyes last Sunday by beating Alabama in an exhibition game. But when the regular season began Monday night, the Deacons started their game against Elon as though they had their eyes shut.

They fell behind by as many as 21, at 36-15 with 7:04 left in the 1st half before waking up from the slumber. Steve Forbes’ team outscored the Phoenix 28-19 before the end of the half to narrow the deficit to 12, then outscored Elon 58-23 in the 2nd half to pull away for a 101-78 victory.

Junior guard Cam Hildreth led the way with 33 points while Andrew Carr added 24 and Hunter Sallis 19. But it was defense that changed the game for Wake. After allowing Elon to shoot 63.6% and go 9-of-14 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes, the Deacons clamped down and held their opponent to 26.9% and 1-of-9 the rest of the way.

3. Win is in the Cards

Sometimes all it takes is a little luck to change a team’s fortunes and get it headed in the right direction. Louisville coach Kenny Payne is hoping that will be the case for his team after it escaped a 2nd straight opening night loss to a mid-major opponent.

The Cardinals trailed for most of the game against UMBC before finally forging ahead in the final 3 minutes. They took a 2-point lead on a put-back by JJ Traynor with 7 seconds remaining but left the door open for the upset-minded Retrievers when Skyy Clark fouled Khydarius Smith with 2 seconds left.

Smith made the first free throw, but missed the second, to give Louisville – which won only 4 times all last season, the badly-needed 94-93 victory.

2. Hurricanes already at Category 5

If Monday’s emphatic 101-60 beatdown of NJNIT is any indication, Miami won’t have to worry about suffering a post-Final Four hangover. Even without ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong and 2nd-leading scorer Jordan Miller, the Hurricanes didn’t miss a beat in their opening game of the new season.

Wooga Poplar took on a bigger piece of the scoring load by leading the way with 21 points while Norchad Omier picked up a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double that also included 4 assists.

Newcomer Matthew Cleveland – a transfer from rival Florida State – had a successful debut posting 16 points and 10 rebounds that will start the process of making up for the damage he did to his current team a year ago. Cleveland handed Miami its only home loss of the season last February by hitting 35-foot buzzer-beater.

1. All they did is win, win, win …

It wasn’t always pretty. But as Al Davis, the infamous owner of the Oakland Raiders, used to say: “Just win, baby.”

And that’s what the ACC did Monday.

All 14 conference teams that played, won. Sure, they were all playing what would be considered lesser opponents – none of whom played in the NCAA Tournament last year.

But after suffering defeats at the hands of Stetson (Florida State) and Bellarmine (Louisville) on opening night 2022, it’s still a major step forward for a league battling to regain its stature to avoid a black eye or 2 right out of the gate