Today, the Duke Blue Devils travel to South Bend to face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the first game of ACC play. This will be the first ever ACC game for Notre Dame and it will be a tough task as they face the #7 Blue Devils. Duke will be in a tough and hostile environment in Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. The Fighting Irish come in at 9-4 but do not have a marquis win, while Duke comes in at 11-2 and have played many good opponents in Kansas, Arizona, Michigan, and UCLA. Here is a breakdown of Notre Dame’s starting lineup:
In their last game against the Canisius Golden Griffins, Notre Dame’s starting lineup looked as follows: junior Pat Connaughton (6-5 guard), senior Eric Atkins (6-2 guard), freshman Demetrius Jackson (6-1 guard), senior Tom Knight (6-10 forward), and senior Garrick Sherman (6-11, 255lbs center). This is a big matchup problem for the Blue Devils. They can handle the guard play, but there are two men down low in Knight and Sherman who have size and muscle on Duke’s “bigs”. Duke does catch a break though, as Notre Dame’s leading scorer, Jerian Grant, has been suspended by the school for academic violation. The 6-5 senior from Bowie, Maryland was averaging 19 PPG and 6.2 assists per contest.
Their next leading scorer is Garrick Sherman with 14.5 per game and he also leads the team in rebounds with 7.6 per game. Guard Pat Connaughton is the next leader with 7.2 rebounds a game. Grant was the leader in assists as aforementioned and the next leader is Eric Atkins with 4.5 per game. Atkins is coming off a career performance in their last game, finishing with 30 points and 7 assists in the OT win. The Fighting Irish have not played against a lot of quality competition, but did have contests at #23 Iowa (98-93 loss) and a home loss to #3 Ohio State by only a slim margin of 3 points.
This is going to be a tough game for Duke and they key is going to be the post play. As previously stated, Notre Dame has two true big men in their starting lineup who will test Josh Hairston, Amile Jefferson, Jabari Parker, and Marshall Plumlee. If Duke can hold their own down low, I feel they can be very successful. If they can’t, it could be a long day for the Blue Devils. I do feel that Duke has the advantage in guard play, with Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton, and Rodney Hood as well as the shooters like Andre Dawkins, Rasheed Sulaimon, and others coming off the bench. With the size and strength of the starting 4 and 5 of Notre Dame, Coach Krzyzewski might have to play Marshall Plumlee, which he has been more and more lately, to combat the size. I see the matchups to look as follows:
Cook-Jackson, Thornton-Atkins, Hood-Connaughton, Parker-Knight, and Hairston-Sherman. If Duke boxes out and limits second chance opportunities, they will have a very good chance at winning this one in their first true road game of the season. Duke is also a very young team, so they will have to rely on guys like Dawkins, Hairston, Thornton, and Cook to make sure the younger guys don’t get rattled by the crowd early on in the game.