The No.20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-4, 6-3 ACC) are going into arguably its toughest week of the season, as they take on the two behemoths in the ACC — Duke (16-5, 4-4 ACC) and North Carolina (19-4, 7-2 ACC). This week is also serves as the fork in the road in Notre Dame’s schedule. Will they go 0-2 and lose any shot of an ACC regular season title? Or will they pick at least one win and keep its title hopes alive? We shall see.
- Duke leads the all-time series 20-7
- Notre Dame is 5-1 against Duke joining the ACC in 2013-2014
- The Irish won last year’s regular season meeting at Cameron Indoor Stadium — 95-91. It was Notre Dame’s first win ever in Durham
- The Irish also took down the Blue Devils in the ACC Tournament last season. The Irish are 2-0 vs. Duke in the ACC tourney
- Mike Brey is 5-2 all-time vs. Duke
- Duke is 21-5 all-time vs. former Coach K assistants — all five wins belong to Mike Brey
- In last season’s meeting in Durham, Irish forward Bonzie Colson scored a career high 31 points and reeled in 11 rebounds. In four career games against Duke, Colson is averaging 17 PPG
- KenPom.com has Duke rated 14th, while Notre Dame is rated 24th
- Duke is 14th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 40th in defensive efficiency according to KemPom
- Vegasinsider.com has Notre Dame as a 2.5 point favorite
Where: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, Notre Dame, IN
When: Monday, January 30th, 2017, 7:00pm ET
How to Watch: ESPN or WatchESPN
No.21 Duke Blue Devils (16-5, 4-4 ACC)
Aside from Grayson Allen’s on court antics and Coach K’s absence for back surgery, Duke has gone through more turmoil off the court this past week. After a frustrating home loss to NC State last Monday, Coach K called a team meeting at his home. e banned his players from the locker room and from wearing Duke gear around campus. The Blue Devils responded with a come-from-behind victory at Wake Forest. They’ll look to bring that momentum to South Bend on Monday night.
Duke was the consensus No.1 team coming into the season and for good reason. They brought back stars such as Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Amile Jefferson. Duke also brought in the nation’s best recruiting class with the likes of Harry Giles (the nation’s No.1 recruit), Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Marques Bolden. They were the preseason favorite to win the ACC and a popular pick for the National Title.
Things haven’t exactly gone as the script had it though. Giles, Tatum and Bolden all started the season sidelined with injuries. Allen had to be suspended “indefinitely” for another tripping incident — it lasted just one game. Shortly after, Coach K announced he would have to step away for a few weeks while recovering from back surgery. Assistant coach Jeff Capel has taken over since.
Then Duke compounded its off court issues with losses to Virginia Tech, Florida State, Louisville and NC State, which has caused some to press the panic button. Now those teams aren’t cupcakes, but it was how Duke lost to them. Against VT, FSU and Louisville they really weren’t in the game. Then last Monday against NC State they blew a nine-point second half lead at home.
Despite all the tough losses and off court distractions Duke is still an immensely talented team and won’t be a pushover. Statistically this is a really good team, there aren’t too many weaknesses. It would not be surprising one bit if the Blue Devils recover from this tough stretch and are one of the teams to beat in March.
Three-point Shooting: The Blue Devils are shooting 35% from three-point land, which is not great, but not bad either. That ranks 106th in the NCAA. They have capable shooters with Kennard, Allen and Jackson.
Sharing the Rock: Duke is averaging only 13.2 assists per game. That ranks 132nd nationally, which is pretty much middle of the road. Despite this, Duke is still averaging 83 PPG.
Scoring defense: For the season Duke has done a good job of limiting points, but in conference play it has been a different story. In ACC play opponents are scoring 77 points a game against the Blue Devils, which is 10th in the conference.
Three-point Defense: Duke does a great job of defending and limiting opponent’s outside shooting. Teams are shooting just 30% (20th NCAA) from the outside against Duke. Duke also surrenders only five three-point makes per game — 12th nationally. In Notre Dame’s last two losses they have shot just 29% from the outside.
Scoring Offense: Duke has loads of offensive firepower. They are scoring 83 point per game — 16th nationally.
Defensive Rebounding: Duke does a good job of cleaning up on the defensive glass. They haul in 26 defensive RPG (75% of opponent’s misses), which ranks 26th in the country. Second chance points won’t come easy against this group.
Blue Devils to Watch
Luke Kennard - 6’6”, Guard, Sophomore
Allen may get more of the publicity, but Kennard is without a doubt Duke’s best player. Offensively, he is a complete player. He can put the ball on the floor and go to the rack or he can stand out on the arc and drain threes. This season he’s shooting 43% from three-point land — in conference play he’s shooting even better at 55%. Kennard is also almost automatic from the free-throw line — he’s 86% from the line. Kennard has upped his play in ACC action. He’s the conference’s second leading scorer at 20.5 PPG. He’s also hauling in 5.4 RPG and dishing out 2.6 APG. Last time out Kennard went for 34 points and was a perfect 10-10 in the second half (6-6 from three). If there is one player Notre Dame must contain, it is Kennard.
Amile Jefferson - 6’9”, Forward, Senior
Jefferson is perhaps the most important player on the Duke roster and the stats are there to back it up. Over the last two seasons Duke has a 17-12 record without Jefferson in the lineup — with him they are 24-4. Jefferson is Duke’s best post player. He’s averaging 12.2 PPG and is the team’s leading rebounder at 9.2 RPG — 5th best in ACC. He does a great job of getting to the rim. 82% of his shots have come at the rim this season and he’s converted on 66% of those shots.
Grayson Allen - 6’5”, Guard, Forward
Allen has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. From tripping opponents, to outbursts on the bench Allen has been put under a microscope this season. All the outside scrutiny could be one of the factors why his numbers have taken a hit this season. Last season Allen averaged 21.6 PPG — this season he’s down to 15.3 PPG. Last year he shot 41% from three — this season he’s all the way down to 32%. Nevertheless, Allen is a very capable scorer. He can go off for 20-25 points at any time. He does tend to fall in love with the three-pointer. 57% of his shots have been threes this season and as mentioned before he’s converted on just 32%. I’d expect Notre Dame to let him shoot until he forces the Irish to guard him differently.
Jayson Tatum - 6’8”, Wing, Freshman
Tatum is a projected lottery pick — DraftExpress.com has him going 5th overall to the Orlando Magic. He missed the first eight games of the season, but he has still managed to be the team’s second leading scorer and rebounder at 15.8 PPG and 6.4 RPG. The best aspect in Tatum’s game is ability to get to the rim and finish. He’s shooting 60% at the rim this season. Notre Dame needs to force Tatum into a jump shooter. He’s shooting just 34% and 29% on two-point and three-point jumpers this season. Tatum is prone to fouling. He’s averaging 3 fouls per game and has fouled out twice in his last three games. It would be wise of Notre Dame to attack him on offense.
Pick to Click
Bonzie Colson - 6’5”, Forward, Junior
Notre Dame is going to need a big game out the ACC’s leading rebounder. Duke has done a great job of defending the perimeter this season, but inside it is a different story. Against Duke this season opponents are scoring 58% of its points off two-pointers — that ranks 348th nationally. So despite Duke’s size advantage there will be opportunities to get post points — that is where Colson comes in. He’s without a doubt ND’s best low-post scorer. If he can get going early down low, it could open up opportunities on the outside for Notre Dame’s shooters.
Notre Dame 84 - Duke 79
I am a little torn on this one. On one hand I know Duke is not as bad as some people are making them out to be. At some point they’re going to turn the corner. On the other hand I’ve learned not to doubt this Notre Dame program, even when it looks like things aren’t going too well.
With all that said, I’m going with the Irish in another classic between these two programs. The Irish are going to be hungry after not playing that well the last two times out. The Purcell Pavilion crowd will be raucous as they welcome in the Blue Devils. The absence of Coach K will be felt once again for Duke.
Aside from Colson, I like senior guard Steve Vasturia to have a rebound performance after scoring just 5 points on 1-7 shooting vs. Georgia Tech.