Notre Dame Duke

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Notre Dame

vs.

Duke

College Hoops Pick

1/16/16

Notre Dame knew this season was going to be a bit tougher, but didn’t think they’d struggle this much out of the gate. The Fighting Irish made it to the Elite 8 a year ago and beat the likes of Duke and North Carolina en route to an ACC Tournament title. They finished with five total losses, but have already hit that mark in the early going.

For the most part, Duke has been Duke, annually one of the best teams in the country. However, the Blue Devils haven’t really challenged themselves all that much yet outside of their losses against Kentucky and Utah. Their best wins are against mediocre squads like Georgetown and Indiana, which shows how far they have to go. A recent road loss at Clemson should have fans worried a bit on their Tournament expectations.

As for Notre Dame, they look to be fighting for their NCAA Tourney lives every week. Non-Conference losses to Monmouth, Alabama and Indiana hurt, but a win over Iowa took away some of the pain. Still, the Irish can’t lose home Games against teams like Pittsburgh if they want to make the next level.

Duke is usually dominant at home and that was seen in last year’s 90-60 over Notre Dame at Cameron Indoor. The absence of Amile Jefferson could play a big role in this Game because he would be vital in stopping the active play of the Notre Dame bigs. He was missed sorely in the loss to Clemson as the Dukies were outrebounded by 12.

For the Irish to have a chance, Zach Auguste (13.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg) will need to have a big Game and he’ll likely be matched up with Marshall Plumlee most of the way. Plumlee has the size, which could be a factor on the offensive end because Auguste has an issue of getting in foul trouble. If that’s the case here, this Game could be over early.

against weaker defensive opponents, Grayson Allen (20.5 ppg) is close to unstoppable and Notre Dame will have a problem guarding him from the start. The size of the Duke backcOurt will be an issue for the Irish’s Demetrius Jackson, who has taken up the role of playmaker on the team. However, without much size or help outside of the starting five, the Fighting Irish continue to run into problems.

Duke hasn’t had many challenges this year and it’s unlikely this one will be too difficult unless all five Notre Dame starters can put in a good Game, while also playing above average on the defensive end. The Irish aren’t a good defensive team and that’ll come back to haunt them in a Game like this, not to mention Duke will be extra motivated coming off a loss.

Grayson Allen and Matt Jones are in line for good Games, and Notre Dame doesn’t really have anyone to guard Brandon Ingram on the perimeter either. The task will be left to VJ Beachem or Bonzie Colson and both guys are on the bigger side, which will be an issue against Ingram who’s made 33 three-pointers this year.

Notre Dame has some firepower, but don’t expect this to be the Game that Duke loses at home.

Duke 91 Notre Dame 74