Notre Dame is set to take on Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
After Duke squeaked by NC State on Wednesday afternoon in the second round of the ACC Tournament, the Notre Dame basketball team finally knew who they would face in the quarterfinals. Most teams would fear taking on the mighty Blue Devils in a postseason tournament, but if there is one team that should open the challenge with open arms it is the Fighting Irish. Over the last five games against Duke the Irish are 4-1, and that includes a win in last year’s ACC Tournament. Notre Dame took down Duke in Cameron Indoor earlier this season in a game where Bonzie Colson dropped 31 points off the bench.
The Irish could be catching the Blue Devils at the right time as they did stumble down the stretch. Duke lost 3 of their last 5 regular season games and had to scratch and claw to beat a 16-16 NC State team on Wednesday.
Now some could argue that Notre Dame didn’t played that well down the stretch either. The Irish have lost 3 of their last 5 as well. They did seem to get things turned around though against NC State last Saturday as they took down the Wolfpack 89-75.
The Irish will have their hands full with Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram. Allen has been performing at a high level ever since last year’s Final Four. For Allen’s standards, he did have somewhat of a quiet game in the previous matchup with the Irish. He took only 11 shots and scored 18 points, three less than his average. Expect him to be at the focal point of everything Duke does. Ingram is a potential top three pick in the NBA Draft. He’s as talented as anyone in the country and could easily come out a burn the Irish for 20-25 points. The duo of Allen and Ingram combined for 41 of Duke’s 92 points against NC State.
As for the Irish, look no further than star guard Demetrius Jackson. Look for him to finally come out of his offensive funk. We saw signs of it against NC State when he scored 10 straight points for in the second half. He performed real well in this tournament last season. Last year he averaged 12.6 points and shot 57% from the field as he was named to the ACC All-Tournament Second Team. If Jackson can lead his team through March his draft stock will skyrocket.
In order for ND to pull out the W it all starts on offense. It’s no secret that the Irish don’t play with a defense-first type mentality. Simply put, the Irish are going to have to make shots. They can’t be the offense we saw against Miami, Florida State or Georgia Tech. If we get the offense they played against NC State, then I’ll take my chances with the Irish. The Notre Dame offense will need to be clicking and the defense will need to get just enough stops.
This is certainly a winnable game for the Irish. This isn’t the same Duke team as they were last year as they have no real inside threat outside of Marshall Plumlee. Both teams are pretty similar in that neither have much depth at all and both play an optional style of defense. One should expect a lots of scoring. Both teams rank in the top 10 in KenPom in adjusted offensive efficiency, but both also rank in the 100s in adjusted deffensive efficiency. After all these two teams did play to a score of 95-91 back in late January.