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Next Up - Notre Dame

Duke plays #8 Notre Dame in South Bend. Game time is 7:30

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Take a good look because he's not dribbling.
Take a good look because he's not dribbling.
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Next up for Duke is Notre Dame, and unlike last season, when the Irish upset Duke, Mike Brey's team is cruising along at 19-2 with losses to Providence and Virginia.

Unlike last year, Notre Dame has Jerian Grant, who sat out most of the season after some academic shenanigans.

On the other hand, unlike last year, Duke has Coach K's full attention.

You'll recall that the Notre Dame game came shortly after Bill Krzyzewski died, leaving Mike as the last living member of his birth family and that afterwards he said he had been "knocked back."

Who wouldn't have been?

This year's game figures to be very different.

Notre Dame has Grant back, but also has a solid lineup with Pat Connaughton, Zach Auguste,  Dametrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia.

Notre Dame has some size on the bench, but that lineup is 6-10, 6-5, 6-5, 6-5, and 6-1 and that presents an obvious problem: how do you guard Jahlil Okafor?

We're not knocking Auguste, but so far Okafor has played some pretty tough teams and some excellent centers, and no one's really stopped him.

It presents a secondary problem which could go either way because Amile Jefferson has a four inch advantage which could be a disadvantage depending on how it works out.

But Okafor is the primary problem Notre Dame has to solve.

Notre Dame's track record against other big men this year isn't great: Michigan State's Branden Dawson had 16 points and 18 rebounds including nine offensive. That was an overtime win.

Georgia Tech's Charles Mitchell had 14 points and 12 boards the first time in a game which went to double OT.

In the rematch, Mitchell had just two points but grabbed nine rebounds, but Demarco Cox had 17 points and seven. Nineteen points and 16 rebounds is a lot to give up.

And against State, Kyle Washington had 12 and 6, Abu Malik-Abu had eight as did Beejay Anyay.

The Martin twins had 22.

Notre Dame's defense is ranked 153rd nationally.

Good thing Notre Dame's offense is so good.

Grant has a serious argument for Player Of The Year in the ACC: he's averaging 17.1 ppg and leading the ACC in assists at 6 .24.

Pat Connaughton is the best three point shooter at .453, but they don't mind chunking it up: he's taken 128, VJ Beacham has taken  69, Jackson 80, Vasturia 75 and Grant 97.

But we think there's a hidden factor in this game and that's last year's game.

Typically, when Duke loses, the next rematch is pretty intense. But that's not it entirely either.

What it is is this: Coach K said that he was not entirely there last year, which was quite understandable, and that he felt he let his team down.

Duty and honor.

It doesn't guarantee anything other than Coach K's total attention and effort, but unless we miss our guess, Notre Dame will get that and then some.