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Next Up - Notre Dame

Time: 2:00 || Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium || TV ESPN2

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Brandon Ingram on the move against Clemson
Brandon Ingram on the move against Clemson
Dawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Next up for Duke is Notre Dame, and if anyone has given Duke trouble lately, it's the Irish.

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Since joining the ACC, Notre Dame is 3-1 vs. Duke. Last year's game in Cameron was a blowout - Duke won by 30 - but otherwise, they've all been pretty close.

Notre Dame won the first game, the first ACC game for Mike Brey's bunch, 79-77.

This came not long after the death of Coach K's brother, Bill, who died on December 26th, 2014. Duke went to South Bend nine days later and afterwards, Coach K, uncharacteristically, admitted to being "knocked back" by his brother's death, which is entirely understandable. Losing a sibling is very different from losing a parent. But it was a bit surprising anyway. Krzyzewski has long had an iron will and we've only rarely seen it waver, notably of course in 1995, when he took his leave of absence for health reasons.

After that game, which Jerian Grant had to sit out after being suspended for academics, the teams didn't play again until last January, and twice after.

Notre Dame won at home 77-73, then suffered the Cameron blowout, and won in Greensboro as Duke's focus wavered for the last time before going on to the title.

And the thing is, these teams weren't all that far from meeting four times.

Notre Dame's tournament run was nearly as good as Duke's. We didn't think the Irish had a chance at beating Kentucky - it was a small team, remember, and UK was huge.

But it came down to a final, great defensive effort by Wille Cauley-Stein, who ran downcourt with Grant, step for step, and made an easy shot impossible. Not something your average 7-0 player could do.

Wisconsin was a great team but Notre Dame was playing beautiful basketball. It could've easily been an ACC final.

Both teams are off those high points obviously. Duke lost four starters and Notre Dame lost Grant and Pat Connaughton, both of whom were outstanding.

Brey does a great job of grooming his younger players though and now has Zach Auguste, Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia, VJ Beacham and  Bonzi Colson, all of whom have become better players.

But Notre Dame had a magical run last year and so far anyway, this year's not as good. The Irish are 11-5, with losses to Monmouth, Alabama, Indiana, Virginia and Pitt. Most of them were close - Monmouth was by two, 'Bama by one, Indiana by seven and Pitt by four.

Only Virginia was out of reach, with Notre Dame having lost by 11.

On the other hand though, some games were perhaps closer than you might have thought: Notre Dame beat Milwaukee by just eight, a crippled Illinois by just five, Loyola by 10 and Youngstown State by nine.

This year, Notre Dame is getting leadership from Demetrius Jackson, who has made a real effort to study leadership. At first he said he just yelled, but now he cajoles and charms too.

He's really the indispensable man for the Irish. He's the leading scorer (17.1), leading assist man (5.4) and steals (1.3). He's the second best three point shooter at 40%, behind Beacham, who is hitting 45.2%.

Auguste has become a solid big man as he demonstrated best against Kentucky last spring, where he scored 20 points on 10-13 shooting and gathered nine rebounds.

He's nearly averaging a double-double with 13.9 ppg and 9.5 rpg. He's much more consistent than he was previously, although he still fades out at times. He only scored eight against Loyola and fouled out, had just four against Iowa and nearly fouled out and Virginia just neutered him in Charlottesville, holding him to one point and two boards.

However he's also had 14 boards three times and double figure boards 10 times. He's become  very good player.

Vasturia is a junior now and the 6-5 wing gets more minutes than anyone except Jackson. He shoots well - 51% overall, 37.5% from deep - and averages 3.1 apg too.

The 6-8 Beacham - he's a junior too and VJ stands for Victor Junior if you were curious - has been useful. He's averaging 11.6 - all of Notre Dame's starters are in double figures - and he's becoming a better rebounder too, at just under five per game.

The most intriguing kid Brey has though, for our money, is Bonzie Colson.

Colson is just 6-5 but he's a bully around the basket. Colson is averaging 11.1 ppg and 6.9 rebounds.

Duke's problem, as everyone knows and as Clemson underscored, is depth and experience. Time will help experience, but there's just not much to be done about the depth.

Against Clemson, freshman Chase Jeter fouled out in four minutes, which really hurt. As a freshman, he just needs to defend and rebound, and really, if he doesn't rebound that well it's still doable. But he's needed on defense.

One hopes that Brandon Ingram learned a good lesson from his dumb foul with two seconds left in the first half. He had fifteen points and two fouls prior; he finished with 16 and four.

Marshall Plumlee probably wishes he had a couple of his back as well. In general, the senior big man has been a wonderful leader and has really matured. Occasionally though he reverts to his earlier self and does things like fouling 15 feet from the basket. It's fixable but worrisome.

Duke finished at Clemson with Jeter's five fouls in four minutes, Plumlee's four and Ingram's four. Matt Jones had three.

That's just not feasible with a six-player rotation.

So Duke's immediate goal is to avoid foul trouble and as it happens, Notre Dame's depth isn't that much better. The Irish go about seven deep with some spot play from the deep bench.

One bright spot for Duke at Clemson was the continued improved play from Luke Kennard. He is clearly more confident and more aggressive. He has the potential in any game to bring 20-25 points from the bench.

Will Brey continue his success against Duke? Or will the Blue Devils hammer Notre Dame at home again?

It's no sure thing, so we hope that Duke fans are ferocious. This is the sort of game where the fans might be the deciding factor.