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HOOPS Preview: Notre Dame vs. Duke

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NOTRE DAME (11-9, 1-6 ACC) VS DUKE (17-2, 6-1 ACC)

Where: Purcell Pavilion (South Bend, Ind.)

Rankings: Duke is No. 2 in the AP Poll (before Monday's release).

TV/Time: ESPN, 7 p.m. ET.

Series Facts: Duke leads the all-time series 24-7.

Last Meeting: The Blue Devils defeated the Irish 88-70 on March 8, 2008 in the ACC Tournament.

The Irish will face their second-straight top-three opponent tonight in an ESPN matchup against Duke.

Notre Dame has now lost six of its last seven games following a blowout defeat at the hands of then-No. 3 Virginia. The Irish will aim for a better performance against the Blue Devils and Mike Brey's old boss Mike Krzyzewski.

Blue & Gold Illustrated takes a look at both programs before they meet later today.

NOTRE DAME OVERVIEW

Oh boy, that was ugly.

Beating Virginia was not going to be easy, but the Irish were essentially out of the game from the start.

Notre Dame began the game 0-of-9 from the field, which allowed Virginia to build a 12-0 lead and the Irish never recovered.

The Cavaliers led by double-digits for much of the game and when Notre Dame cut the deficit to 12 points early in the second half, Virginia put the gas back down to the floor to pull away.

Notre Dame shot under 37 percent from the floor while allowing the Cavaliers to hit over half their attempts.

Forward John Mooney was arguably the top player for Mike Brey going for his sixth-straight double-double and 12th overall with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Dane Goodwin tied the highest field goal percentage for the team’s regulars at just over 42 percent (3-of-7) for eight points.

Guard TJ Gibbs and wing DJ Harvey each added nine points while forward Nate Laszewski hit just one of his six three-point attempts for three points. Guard Prentiss Hubb also went 3-of-7 from the field to tie Goodwin with the percentage, but finished with one less point (7).

Freshman forward Chris Doherty scored his first points in an Irish uniform in the loss hitting both of his attempts in seven minutes of action.

Notre Dame had opportunities early to hit a couple of shots and make things interesting from the start. But, the Irish could not capitalize on those chances and lost their confidence early. It seemed as if the team felt once they were down early that the chances of a comeback were not likely.

The Irish did show some resiliency in the second half to make it nearly a single-digit game, but it was a little too late.

How will the blowout defeat impact the Irish going into another top-five matchup? It is no secret confidence is a key in these situations, and Notre Dame doesn’t have a ton of it right now.

DUKE OVERVIEW

Anticipation for Duke’s 2018-2019 season was amplified after the Blue Devils reeled in four five-star prospects during the 2018 cycle.

Mock drafts vary on the particular selection number, but many believe three of the quartet will be picked in the top-five of the upcoming NBA Draft.

That trio is led by freshmen forwards RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson with the former being consensus No. 1 prospect while Williams was a consensus top-five talent. Not too far behind was guard Cam Reddish, a consensus top-three prospect. Five-star point guard Tre Jones rounded out the talented quartet.

Duke’s freshmen have not disappointed with the group holding down the top four spots in scoring average for Krzyzewski. Both Barrett (23.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.9 APG) and Williamson (21.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 1.8 BPG) have been stellar this season ranking in the top-20 nationally in points per game to lead the Blue Devils.

Reddish and Jones have not scored at that same level, but are just as vital to the team’s success. Reddish is averaging early 13 points per game (12.8), while Jones is putting up 8.0 points and 5.6 assists.

Big man Marques Bolden, a former five-star prospect, has started 12 games for Duke and averaging 5.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in almost 20 minutes of action per game.

Off the bench, the Blue Devils rely on the trio of forwards Jack White (5.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and Javin DeLaurier (4.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG) and guard Alex O’Connell (4.6 PPG). Big man Antonio Vrankovic (1.8 PPG), forward Justin Robinson (1.5 PPG) and guard Jordan Goldwire could see some action as well.

With so much natural talent on the court, defending Duke is tough for any opponent. The Blue Devils rank No. 4 in the country averaging 87.4 points per game while giving up just 66.2 points on the other end. KenPom.com has Duke at No. 6 in adjusted offensive efficiency and No. 5 defensively.

Despite a poor 30.2 percent effort from the three-point line, the Blue Devils still rank No. 32 in field goal percentage at 48.2 percent shooting 58.8 percent on two-point attempts.

All of this has equaled to four wins over current top-25 teams (Virginia, Kentucky, Auburn and Texas Tech) with their two losses coming to top-five Gonzaga and Syracuse.

GAME OUTLOOK

If Virginia was the toughest test for the Irish this season, Duke supplants the Cavaliers in that regard.

Virginia has talent and a great system, but the Blue Devils possess more NBA caliber talent that is hard to match.

For the Irish, trying to find the best way to matchup to players with the skill set of Barrett, Williamson and Reddish will be tough to do. Each are long and athletic players with the ability to hurt you in multiple ways.

The biggest question for the Irish is who will guard each guy if they are playing man-to-man. Playing zone eliminates that worry and could be the best option for the Irish as Syracuse and Georgia Tech, in recent weeks, have had success against the Blue Devils when going this route.

Notre Dame has to get off to a much better start against the Blue Devils than they did versus Virginia on Saturday. Duke won’t make it easy on that end with the overall athleticism, especially in the starting lineup.

Prediction

Duke 87, Notre Dame 68

Going into this gauntlet of a two-game stretch for the Irish, I felt if Notre Dame were to pull off a massive upset that it would be on Saturday.

Sure, Virginia under Tony Bennett has Notre Dame’s number and is quite efficient on both ends. However, the Blue Devils possess more top-end talent to provide the versatility that not many, if any, teams can match.

Virginia’s pace can keep games closer than normal, but Duke plays at a much faster face (No. 15 in adjusted tempo) which can lead to more points and blowouts if the circumstances are right.

After watching how Saturday unfolded, it is tough to see the Irish pulling this one out.

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Talk about it inside Rockne’s Roundtable

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