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Notre Dame Basketball: Duke Preview - ACC Championship

The Irish will try to win the ACC Tournament crown for the second time in three seasons.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-North Carolina vs Duke Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Even though they tried to make it close at the end, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-8, 12-6 ACC) outplayed Florida State on Friday night, as they won 77-73 to advance to their second ACC title game in three years. Senior guard Steve Vasturia had himself one heckuva night, as he poured in 18 points and was 4-5 from deep.

In the title game the Irish will get the enemy of everyone in the ACC — the Duke Blue Devils (26-8, 11-7 ACC). The Blue Devils made a furious comeback against North Carolina on Friday night to advance. Their comeback was led by some hot three point shooting. Sophomore Luke Kennard was perfect distance, and junior guard Grayson Allen was nearly perfect as he was 5-6 from beyond the arc.

These two schools faced each other once during the regular season. Duke won 84-74 in South Bend. Despite that loss, the Irish have played very well against the Blue Devils since joining the ACC four years ago. We should be in for a treat on Saturday night.

Game Notes

  • Duke leads the all-time series 21-7
  • Since joining the ACC, Notre Dame is 5-2 against the Blue Devils, including a 2-0 mark in the ACC Tournament
  • Mike Brey is 5-3 all-time vs. Coach K and Duke. He’s the only former Coach K assistant to beat Duke. Duke is 22-5 all-time vs. former Coach K assistants
  • Notre Dame is now 7-1 all-time at the Barclays Center, including a 4-0 mark this season.
  • The Irish will attempt to win their second championship in the Barclays Center this season. The took home the Legends Classic title back in November
  • The Irish will also look to win their second ACC Tournament title in three seasons. The Irish won back in 2015 in Greensboro, NC
  • Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Notre Dame is 15-4 against schools from the state of North Carolina
  • Bonzie Colson is averaging 15.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG in six career games vs. Duke
  • has Notre Dame as the favorite at -2

When: Saturday, March 11, 2017, 9:00pm ET

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

How to Watch: ESPN or WatchESPN

Previous Matchup

No. 20 Duke 84 - No. 21 Notre Dame 74

January 30, 2017 - Notre Dame, IN

The Irish were in the midst of a four game losing streak and not playing their best basketball by any stretch. Notre Dame made a run in the second half to cut Duke’s lead to one, but other than that the Blue Devils dominated from jump. Freshman Jayson Tatum had a monster night as he went for 19 points and 14 rebounds. The Irish really didn’t have an answer for Tatum. Grayson Allen had 21 points on 6-13 shooting and five rebounds. V.J. Beachem carried the way for the Irish — he had 20 points on 7-14 shooting. Steve Vasturia was held ineffective, as he was just 1-9 from the field for seven points.

Blue Devil to Watch

Jayson Tatum - 6’8”, Wing, Freshman

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Louisville vs Duke Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The reason I have Tatum here is because the Irish don’t really have anyone to matchup with him. I think Steve Vasturia and Rex Pflueger matchup well with Kennard and Allen. Tatum owned V.J. Beachem in the initial matchup. We’ve seen the Irish play a lot zone in this ACC Tournament. It worked well on Friday night against the Jonathan Isaac of Florida State, as they held him to five points on 2-7 shooting. Maybe we’ll see some sort of matchup zone against Duke, like a box and one or a triangle and two. The point is, if they can keep Tatum in check, you should like Notre Dame’s chances on Saturday night.

Keys to Victory

  • Defend, Defend, Defend: The Irish have been defending at a high level through the first two games of the ACC Tournament. The Irish held UVA to 0.96 PPP and one of the best offensive teams in the country in FSU to 1.00 PPP. Pflueger and Vasturia have done a superb defending opposing team’s best players. The Irish can win this thing if they keep on defending.
  • Feed Bonzie, FEED HIM: Notre Dame’s bread and butter is the three-point shot, so of course a key to an Irish victory is hitting three-pointers. The problem with that is Duke also knocks down threes with some success too. An area where Notre Dame can create an edge is with Bonzie Colson. Colson has a way of getting his no matter what. Amile Jefferson is a great player, but I think Colson should have the advantage against him on the inside.
  • Beachem and Vasturia: If you have read my previous previews for the ACC Tournament, you’ve noticed this has been a key for the first two games, but for good reason. The Irish need their leaders to step up. Beachem was fantastic in game one vs. UVA and Vasturia was much of the same vs. FSU. Notre Dame needs both of them to show up vs. the Blue Devils.

Pick to Click

Matt Farrell - 6’1”, Guard, Junior

Per my promise, I’m going with Farrell. He has been great so far in the ACC Tournament, and has played exceptional at the Barclays Center this season. The Irish will need him to keep doing that on Saturday night.


Notre Dame 79 - Duke 73

I’m going with my gut here. I really think like the Irish tonight. One of the best things that happened was Duke winning they way they did against North Carolina. Everyone is going to be picking Duke and talking about Duke. Notre Dame can play in that underdog role tonight, a role which they have excelled in the past few seasons. In fact, the Irish were the underdog in the first two games of this tournament.

Colson has shown up when the lights have been the brightest this season. Expect more of that from him and Vasturia. I also think the Irish have an advantage at the point guard position with Farrell, whereas Duke doesn’t really have a true point guard.

Lastly, the question going around Twitter on Friday night after the game was, “will the Irish wear the green or gold jerseys on Saturday?” The best moments over the past three seasons have come in them, the answer is easy...WEAR THE GOLD JERSEYS!