Duke will open ACC play against Notre Dame after a remarkable Irish victory over Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech was up 47-26 when Notre Dame started to fight back and when Chris Clarke shoved Matt Farrell and drew a technical with 7:45 left, Notre Dame cut the lead to 54-50.
It was, basically, a collapse by Virginia Tech and the Hokies had thoroughly outplayed the Irish for most of the game. However, the Irish collected themselves and became what coach Mike Brey says they are when they are healthy: as good as anyone in the country.
It won’t be an easy game for Duke.
Brey’s offensive system is precise and makes you pay for minor mistakes. Over the last few years, Duke has struggled as much with Notre Dame as with anyone in the conference.
This game is particularly interesting though in many respects.
First, though young, Duke is magnificently talented. Marvin Bagley may prove to be a generational talent. Wendell Carter has been superb, particularly down the stretch. Gary Trent is a lethal three point shooter and Trevon Duval has emerged as a tremendous ball hawk out of the zone.
Grayson Allen is the only senior but Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier (who has been starting lately), Jack White and Alex O’ Connell have become useful players off the bench.
Notre Dame counters with precision, vast experience and a brilliant offensive system. Mike Brey finally has most of his guys healthy (although not freshman DJ Harvey) and the Irish could be about to pull off an epic season reversal.
They were unimpressive against Pitt but still won and had an awful first half against the Hokies yet still won that too.
And Duke? Can they pull off that upset?
Well they could, but there are some things working against the Irish.
On Tuesday, Notre Dame’s starters played 23, 33, 37, 38 and 38 minutes.
And against vs. Virginia Tech they played 16, 36, 39, 40 and 40 minutes.
We’re pretty sure that Brey hoped/planned to rest his guys somewhat against Pitt and in particular Colson, who is still getting in game shape after sitting out for weeks with a broken foot.
He’s doing better than many expected, but not as well as Notre Dame partisans might hope:
|Wed 2/28||vs Pitt||W 73-56||21||6-10||.600||0-2||.000||0-0||.000||9||1||3||0||0||1||12|
|Sat 3/3||@ Virginia||L 62-57||37||9-20||.450||3-8||.375||3-4||.750||15||0||1||0||3||1||24|
|Tue 3/6||vs Pitt||W 67-64||33||5-14||.357||0-3||.000||9-10||.900||6||0||3||2||2||0||19|
|Wed 3/7||vs Virginia Tech||W 71-65||36||4-14||.286||2-5||.400||2-5||.400||7||0||2||1||2||0||12|
Note that his FG% has gone down in each game. He’s hit five threes - three against Virginia and two against Virginia Tech - but one of those Wednesday night was a desperation shot against the Hokies. He’s 5-18 from deep. It’s not a huge issue but he’s a solid three point shooter when fully healthy.
And note too that in the tournament, against one weak and one small team, he only managed six and seven rebounds.
Bonzie is still Bonzie and he may be the most unique talent in the country. But no one can come back and be 100% on the court and no one can get back into game shape and play 35+minutes back-to-back-to-back and not pay a price.
Duke’s obvious strategic goal is to wear Notre Dame out. Physically, that’s likely to happen. The starters are all pulling heavy minutes and Colson, Matt Farrell and Rex Pflueger have all had injuries this season.
In short, Notre Dame has a champion’s heart but winning three games in three days with your starters pulling heavy minutes including one who is fresh off an injury is asking a lot. Four wins would essentially be impossible although a win over Duke might guarantee Brey’s bunch an NCAA bid.
The Irish shot 34% against a pathetic Pitt team and 37.7% against a tough but small Virginia Tech squad. Against Pitt, they missed 35 shots. Against Virginia Tech they missed 33.
And against the Hokies, they made just 20 shots including 10 threes. That leaves just 10 shots for the game that weren't threes and that’s against a small team.
If Duke controls the boards as they are capable of doing, Notre Dame’s odds are not good. And with their guys pulling such heavy minutes, that means the threes may not go down as well either (against the Hokies they didn’t start falling until the game was well into the second half).
So how did they manage to pull off two wins in Brooklyn despite not playing well for three out of four halves?
Two things basically: they took care of the ball and got to the line a ton - and converted.
Against Pitt, Notre Dame shot 26-31 from the line and had just six turnovers. And against Virginia Tech, they racked up 21-25 from the line and had just 11 turnovers.
So aside from rebounding, Duke has to try not to put the Irish on the line, where they can score without being defended. It should go without saying that that also means staying out of foul trouble. Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear fouled out and he was the only inside presence for the Hokies.
Finally, may we remind you that in the previous game, in Durham, despite not having Colson and Farrell, Notre Dame hung around for a good bit of the game and were down just eight with 12:40 left.
By the end of that game they seemed broken, beaten and resigned to their fate.
If they were then, they certainly aren’t now.
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