Randy Dunson & Brian Horace Preview Duke (11-2) – Notre Dame (9-4)

Duke (11-2) – Notre Dame (9-4) Preview

Randy Dunson & Brian Horace

January 4, 2014

Snapshot

The Duke Blue Devils begin conference play as they visit the ACC newcomer Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday. This will be the first meeting between Notre Dame and Duke since the Blue Devils topped the Irish, 84-77, in the second round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament. It will be the 22nd meeting all-time between the two programs with Duke holding a 19-2 advantage in the series. The Blue Devils have won the last 11 encounters with the Irish. Notre Dame’s last win over Duke was a 70-66 overtime triumph on February 15, 1987, at the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Their Coach, Mike Brey, has a strong Duke lineage having served as an Assistant Coach under Mike Krzyzewski 1988-1995. The Duke Blue Devils have played well this season but this will be just their second true road game of the season and the first real road test. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have won 8 of their 10 home games this season but the level of competition has been weak.

In an 87-81 triumph over Canisius on December 29, Eric Atkins put up 30 points and seven assists for the Fighting Irish. He is putting up 13.2 PPG while also averaging 4.5 APG. In an 86-48 blowout of Elon on December 31, Jabari Parker put up 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Blue Devils. He leads the team in points with 21.4 per game, rebounds with 8.0 per game, and blocks with 1.3 per game. Duke will hope to exploit their strengths, which include an eFG% at 57.8 and TO% at 15.0.

Team Seasons Thus Far

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The Fighting Irish (9-4, 0-0) enter this game ranked No. 3 in the ACC along with Duke. They beat Canisius on December 29 with senior guard Eric Atkins leading the way with 30 points and 7 assists.

The Fighting Irish are led by senior guard Eric Atkins (13.1 PPG, 4.5 APG), junior forward/guard Pat Connaugton (13 PPG, 7.4 RPG), senior center Garrick Sherman (14.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG), senior guard Jerian Grant (19 PPG, 6.2 APG), and freshman guard Demetrius Jackson (7.3 PPG, 41.2 3P%).

Atkins was named the ACC Player of the Week for his performance in Sunday’s win over Canisius. He became the first Fighting Irish player to garner an ACC weekly honor. Atkins scored a career-high 30 points and played all 45 minutes in the overtime victory against the Golden Griffins. He was the first Irish player to score 30 points since Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough both netted 30 against Villanova in 2011. Atkins deposited a career-high six three pointers (on eight attempts) and finished 10-of-14 from the field. The six treys were a team-high total this season.

Senior center Garrick Sherman has scored in double-figures in each of the last 10 games. That is a career-best streak and the longest streak for any Notre Dame player this season. He is averaging career-bests in points (14.5) and rebounds (7.6) this season. Sherman has registered three double-doubles in the last five games. His three double-doubles are tied for the team lead this season. When he takes the court for his 14th start of the season on Saturday it will mark the third different conference that he played in during his collegiate career. Sherman played his first two seasons (2009-11) in the Big Ten Conference while at Michigan State and then transferred to Notre Dame following the 2010-11 campaign. After sitting out the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Sherman played last year in Notre Dame’s final season in the Big East Conference.

Notre Dame ranks eighth nationally and second in the ACC with a 1.68 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Irish have the country’s seventh-best assists-per-game mark (17.8), which is first in the ACC. They have dished off 20 or more assists in five contests this season and they have committed fewer than 10 turnovers in six games. Notre Dame also ranks 10th nationally in FT% (.763). That is the third-best percentage in the ACC. The Fighting Irish were 10-of-11 from the free throw line in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime in Sunday’s win over Canisius. They also are a good three-point shooting team. Atkins (142) and Connaughton (131) rank 12th and 14th, respectively, in Notre Dame history in three-point field goals made. Connaughton is 32-of-74 (.432) from three-point range this season, while Atkins is 25-of-60 (.417). Finally, the Fighting Irish are 125-11 in their last 136 games played at home. That .919 home winning percentage over the course of the last eight seasons ranks fifth nationally. Notre Dame is 60-5 (.923) in its last 65 home games.

Duke Blue Devils

Duke (11-2, 0-0) has won six consecutive ACC openers and is 26-7 in conference openers under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. They are currently ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press and No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Blue Devils are 79-21 all-time when ranked No. 7 in the AP Poll. Duke is playing its 225th straight game as a top-10 team in the AP poll. Duke is 186-38 (.830) in that span. They have won five straight games entering Saturday’s contest against Notre Dame. All five wins have been by double figures with the Blue Devils owning a +21.4 scoring margin in that span. Freshman Jabari Parker has scored in double figures in all 13 games with 10 games with 20 or more points scored.

In their last outing, Duke posted an 86-48 win over Elon on New Year’s Eve to improve to 11-2 on the year. Andre Dawkins led five Blue Devil double-figure scorers with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from behind the three-point arc. Jabari Parker notched his fourth double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds to go along with two assists and three steals. Rodney Hood (13), Quinn Cook (11), and Rasheed Sulaimon (11) also scored in double figures. Duke allowed a season-low 48 points, including just 18 points in the opening half of play. The Blue Devils also forced a season-high 22 turnovers, while holding Elon to 35.2 percent (19-of-54) shooting. They also knocked down 10-of-19 (.714) three-point attempts in the win, marking the seventh time this season the Blue Devils have made 10 or more three-point field goals in a game.

Duke leads the ACC in scoring (85.2 PPG) and FG% (.502). The Blue Devils have scored 80 or more points 10 times, while shooting 50 percent or better from the field on six occasions. Jabari Parker has scored 20 or more points in 10 of Duke’s 13 contests. His 10 20-point games are tied for the second-most by a Duke freshman. Gene Banks (1977-78) holds the school freshman record with 11 games of 20 or more points scored. Andre Dawkins is averaging 9.6 points in just 13.8 MPG this season. He leads the ACC in three-point percentage (.508) and is tied for third in three-point field goals (2.5 3PG). Dawkins is averaging 17.5 points while shooting 11-of-17 (.647) from three-point distance in the last two games. Quinn Cook has recorded two or more steals in each of the last five games and is now fifth in the ACC at 1.85 steals per game. Cook has 16 steals in the last three games with a career-high eight thefts against UCLA. Rodney Hood is fourth in the ACC in FG% (.543), tied for sixth in FT% (.833) and seventh in scoring (17.6 PPG). Hood and K.J. McDaniels (Clemson) are the only players to rank in the top 10 in all three categories. Amile Jefferson is averaging 7.4 points, 8.6 rebounds (3.4 ORPG) and 1.1 blocks per game over the last five contests. He has a pair of double-figure rebounding games in that span including a career-high 14 boards in the win over Eastern Michigan. Duke is allowing just 63.0 points per game since Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston were inserted into the starting lineup seven games ago. The Blue Devils allowed the opposition to average 75.7 points per game over the first six games of the season. The senior tandem has combined for 11 charges taken on the year. Parker (21.4 PPG) and Hood (17.2 PPG) are the top scoring tandem in the ACC (10th in the NCAA) at 38.6 points per game. Either Parker or Hood have led the Blue Devils in scoring in 11 of the first 13 games this season. Duke’s reserves tallied a season-high 45 points in the win over Elon. The Blue Devil bench is averaging 23.8 points per game with 12 individual double-figure scoring efforts. Duke is averaging 41.5 rebounds per game (including 14.0 offensive boards per game) over the last four contests. The Blue Devils have a +10.8 rebound margin in that span
Head-to-Head

One thing that we already know about this year’s Duke Blue Devils is that they can score a lot of points. They started the week averaging 85 points per game. They have the super freshman Jabari Parker who is leading the team in scoring. The question is whether this team can play enough defense to be a national title contender. They are allowing 70 points per game so far this season and that is with some weaker teams thrown into their schedule.

As noted earlier, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have won 8 of 10 at home but for those of you who follow the betting game, they are a pathetic 1-6-1 ATS at home. The point spread will not be the issue in this one though because the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be getting points. The team is averaging 80 points per game while allowing 70 points per contest.

With Jerian Grants dismissal from the team, Notre Dame will have to completely regroup and find new ways to score and to defend. Grant’s 19 points and 6.2 assists were huge for Coach Brey and so too are the loss of those numbers. Coming off of an overtime win against Canisius at home, Notre Dame could have the momentum it needs to give Duke a good look. As noted above, they have weapons in Atkins, Sherman who is their leading scorer in Grant’s absence, and Connaughton who has stepped up his game from last year by 4 points and 2 rebounds. Coach Brey will need to find some solid bench play to compete in the ACC, the talent is there, but can Coach Brey get them developed on a much quicker timeline? He will need to or Notre Dame could be looking a very long and disappointing inaugural ACC season for them and it will start with a loss against Duke at home.
Game Keys

Look for Notre Dame to try to do the little things well against Duke. While they still have the means to put the ball in the basket, the Irish will need to outrebound Duke and try to turn Duke over. With nearly identical numbers to Duke in rebounding, assists, and turnovers the Irish will have to win a couple of these phases to keep it close and increase their opportunities with extra possessions.

Notre Dame will also depend on its crowd; in fact they will need that crowd to be the loudest and most boisterous it has been all year. This is by far the biggest game Notre Dame will play this year in the regular season so look for a lively and wild atmosphere from the Irish faithful.

With this being Dukes first true road game, it is a distinct possibility Notre Dame can catch Duke a little off guard. Many criticize Coach K for his lack of true road games so if this game does not go in their favor look for those naysayers to say even more.

For Duke, if they can be methodical about their attack and weather whatever emotional story Notre Dame will throw at them they should prevail. Complacency is the enemy of Duke. This team on the glass has little room for error. Attacking the glass is important for Duke. If they can limit the Irish to one and done in shooting, it will be a good day. Keeping guys fresh and getting points in the paint will be big for the Devils in this one.
Key Stats

Key stats for Duke are to win the battle on the boards; the 50-50 plays and turnovers. We would also like to see Duke not depend but use the 3-point shot as a weapon. Look to go inside more, get easy looks at the rim to open up those shooters.

Bench production is also a stat that Duke fans should look to as a good marker in ACC play. Duke has been going deeper and trending toward more here and it allows those starters good rest  without too much drop off. If Sulaimon, Matt Jones, Jefferson, Dawkins, and Marshall Plumlee give good minutes this game will not be that close.
Endgame

We think  Duke’s depth will overwhelm the Irish down the stretch. Mike Brey is too good a coach to be blown out per se but Dukes attack will wear them down at some point. Duke should win this game without too much game pressure. The loss of Jerian Grant is huge for Notre Dame and will be a huge factor in Dukes victory.

Randy DunsonRandy Dunson & Brian Horace Preview Duke (11-2) – Notre Dame (9-4)