Ladies and gentlemen, we didn’t want this game to be a must-win, but that’s currently where we are.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team plays the #7 Duke Blue Devils on the road on Saturday afternoon, and with the TOUGH one-point overtime loss on Tuesday at the Virginia Cavaliers, the Irish are now 15-9 overall, 6-7 in ACC play, and in DESPERATE need of resume-defining wins.
The Blue Devils come into this as an incredibly daunting opponent — 21-3 overall, 11-2 in the ACC, ranked 7th in the country, and hot off two big wins (an exciting buzzer beater win over the downtrodden rival Tar Heels on Saturday and then a 5-point win over 8th-ranked Florida State on Monday).
With only 7 conference games remaining and just a couple remaining chances to beat tournament teams, Notre Dame NEEDS to pull off a major upset here if they want to be in bubble discussions come early March.
Do they stand a chance of doing so? Will Duke blow the Irish out at Cameron Indoor?
Let’s dive into the details and see what we can figure out.
- ND and Duke will be meeting for the 33rd time, with the Blue Devils leading the all-time series 27 to 5 (per Alan Wasielewski, Associate Athletics Communications Director)
- Mike Brey is 5-7 with ND against his former boss Mike Krzyzewski, with a 5-6 record against him since the Irish joined the ACC; ND started ACC play 5-1 against Duke, but has lost the last 5 meetings (per Alan Wasielewski)
- Notre Dame is 1-8 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, with the lone victory coming in 2016 in a 95-91 victory where Bonzie Colson scored 31 points (per Alan Wasielewski)
- Duke is currently #3 overall in the KenPom.com rankings, with the #8 offense and #10 defense; the Irish, meanwhile, are #53, rating 32nd on offense and 108th on defense
- Notre Dame leads the country in turnovers committed per game (9.75), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.74), and fouls committed per game (12.4), and is 8th in the country (and 1st in the ACC) in assists per game (17.0) (per Alan Wasielewski)
- John Mooney is tied with William & Mary’s Nathan Knight for the nation lead in double-doubles this season with 20; Mooney also is 2nd in the nation in rebounding, leading all major conference players with his 13.0 average (per Alan Wasielewski)
- Mooney has secured a double-double in 20 of 23 games this season (87%), which is currently besting the highest percentages from the past 20 years, held by Blake Griffin and Kenny Adeleke at 85.7% (per Alan Wasielewski)
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium — Durham, North Carolina
When: Saturday, February 15th at 4:00 PM ET
How to Watch:
- TV — ESPN: Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Dick Vitale (analyst), Kris Budden (sideline)
- Radio — Notre Dame Radio Network: Jack Nolan (play-by-play), Zach Hillesland (analyst); available locally on WSBT AM/FM and worldwide on und.com
#7 Duke Blue Devils (21-3, 11-2 ACC)
No different than just about any other year, the 2019-2020 Duke Blue Devils are a force to be reckoned with, considering their stock of blue-chip underclassmen.
This year’s squad features true freshman center Vernon Carey Jr., a 6’10”, 270-pound behemoth from Florida who’s averaging 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game.
He shoots an uber-efficient 58% from the field and even has the skill to step out and knock down 38.5% of his three-point attempts. Simply put, this guy is really, really good.
Also per usual, the Blue Devils have an elite point guard to go along with their star big man, as sophomore Tre Jones is ensuring that the Jones family (his older brother is Tyus) continues to terrorize the ACC with their productive, efficient brand of basketball. Jones has been a more lethal scorer than his brother ever was at Duke, scoring 15.6 points per contest while also dishing out 6.6 assists (13th in the country, 2nd in the ACC), pulling down 3.9 rebounds, and snagging nearly 2 steals per game.
His long range shooting isn’t sparkling at 32%, but he shoots 43% overall and is dangerous enough to still beat you in a variety of ways. The Duke offense goes as Jones goes, as he’s the conductor that makes things move.
In addition to the All-ACC talent of Carey Jr. and Jones, Cassius Stanley and Matthew Hurt both chip in double-digit scoring averages and some pretty reliable shooting.
Stanley is a long (6’6”) freshman wing averaging 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 50% from the field and 33% from deep. He will be a tough match-up for guys like Rex Pflueger and Dane Goodwin on Saturday.
Fellow true frosh Hurt is a 6’9” forward averaging 10.5 points per game on 49% shooting overall and 40% shooting from three-point land. He also grabs about 4 rebounds per game, just for good measure.
Other key role players include 6’6” freshman forward Wendell Moore Jr., who hit the buzzer beater against North Carolina last weekend (7.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 45% FG, 36% 3P), and 6’7” sophomore forward Joey Baker, who shoots 41% from three and 92% from the charity stripe while scoring about 6 points per game.
Guards Alex O’Connell and Jordan Goldwire and forwards Javin DeLaurier and Jack White round out the main rotation. O’Connell and Goldwire combine for 9.7 points per game, with Goldwire shooting a very strong 39% from deep, and the DeLaurier/White combo chips in 7.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and high-percentage shooting from the floor — especially in DeLaurier’s case with 61%.
In terms of how Duke’s season has gone, obviously the overall and ACC records speak for themselves. However, diving into the details, these guys have beaten some VERY good teams. They opened the season by beating #3 Kansas, and have also managed to take down Michigan State and Florida State this year.
However, there is SOME hope for ND fans, as the Blue Devils have lost to Stephen F. Austin and Clemson this season, meaning it doesn’t necessarily take an elite team to bring down a super-talented but very young Duke squad like this one.
With that said, it’s tough to imagine how this ND team will be able to actually topple a team that rates in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. The Irish will need to shoot the lights out in a hostile environment and limit second chance points, which they really struggle to do (besides John Mooney, of course). I think the Irish could hang around for a little while, but ultimately this feels like a game that Duke wins by double digits.
Blue Devil to Watch
Vernon Carey Jr., Center, Freshman
Carey has been the best player for Duke this year, and considering ND’s relative lack of depth down low, he may have a field day at the hoop similar to Jalen Smith of Maryland back in December. Juwan Durham, Nate Laszewski, and John Mooney will be asked to slow him down, but with limited fouls to spend and not always the strongest defensive ability with those three, Carey could have a huge day if the Irish aren’t careful.
Dane Goodwin, Guard, Sophomore
If the Irish are going to stand any chance against one of the highest-scoring teams in the country, they will need some of the inconsistent sophomore class to step up and pour in some points on Saturday — especially someone who hasn’t been performing recently, to give the team a boost. Enter Goodwin, who has been absolutely horrid in road games this season. Just look at his split here between Away games and everything else:
- Home/Neutral: 13.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.5 spg, 48% FG, 42% 3P
- Away: 7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.1 spg, 31% FG, 30% 3P
This would be one helluva time for Dane Goodwin to turn that around and have himself a big-time performance on the road. The Irish could reeeeeeally use it.
The Irish have played just about everyone close in ACC play, but a top-10 Duke team at Cameron Indoor is just a different situation. I think Jones will do a good job getting into the lane to get the Notre Dame defense off-balance and open up Duke shooters around the perimeter, and Vernon Carey Jr. will have himself a strong day inside. The Irish won’t get TROUNCED, but they will not be able to lose another heart-breaker on Saturday.
Duke wins this one 83-68.