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Next Up - Notre Dame In South Bend

Duke faces some tough challenges in this road game

Notre Dame v Duke
DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 29: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski (L) of the Duke Blue Devils talks with head coach Mike Brey of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish prior to a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 29, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images
  • Date: 1/31
  • Time: 7:00
  • Venue: Purcell Pavilion
  • Video: ESPN

Duke heads from its Louisville triumph to Notre Dame, where the Blue Devils will face Mike Brey and Notre Dame Monday night with a share of first place in the ACC on the line. This is Mike Krzyzewski’s last visit to South Bend and since Brey used to work for him, there are a lot of emotions involved.

The game, originally scheduled for the first of January, is now on the last day of the month, due to Duke’s Covid outbreak.

Things have changed a lot since then. Notre Dame has emerged as one of the best teams in the league while Duke has had to get past Covid and, more recently, an injury to Trevor Keels.

This could be a particular problem against the Irish.

Brey has always had a potent three point attack and he spaces the floor brilliantly to get guys open.

This year, Dane Goodwin is particularly lethal. He’s hitting 50 percent from behind the line. Nate Laszewki is not far behind at 47.4 percent. And everyone else in the rotation, with the exception of Paul Atkinson, is competent.

If Keels were available - we don't expect him to be - he could do a solid job on Goodwin. But Wendell Moore can probably do alright if Duke chooses to put him on Goodwin.

They might opt to put him on freshman Blake Wesley, because Wesley is a major pain. A 6-5 hometown kid, Wesley has NBA talent and demands attention, which lets the other snipers, well, snipe.

We’d feel better with Keels available but Moore, AJ Griffin and Jeremy Roach are all excellent defenders and Joey Baker is solid off the bench.

We’re a bit concerned about tired legs. Moore and Roach got 38 minutes each against Louisville, while Paolo Banchero got 37 and Griffin 34. Mark Williams was limited to 23 due to foul trouble.

And that’s a concern here too.

Duke has vastly more flexibility with Keels. Bates Jones has been really solid and he’s a smart player, strong too, but he’s not on the same level athletically as his teammates. Duke essentially has a seven-man rotation right now.

Laszewski is going to pull Banchero away from the basket a lot on defense and Banchero has drawn some silly perimeter fouls all year. Williams got in early foul trouble at Louisville and picked up a third almost as soon as the second half started.

Theo John was a major asset at Louisville but Notre Dame presents unique perimeter challenges and he basically is a lane guy.

One thing that drove us nuts at Louisville was watching Duke miss free throws. Duke shot just 44.4 percent from the line, which is wretched. In a tighter game, that could have been a fatal flaw.

We’ve focused on the perimeter but Laszewski, who has been quite erratic this season, is capable of playing very, very well. Against NC State, he hit 4-5 threes and finished with 18 points. He had 16 against Virginia and shot 3-5 on threes.

But since ACC play, counting the Howard game, he’s had five games with seven points or less. We should mention though that Notre Dame has won all those games except for Virginia Tech.

Brey has also had decent production from Paul Atkinson, who transferred over from Yale. He’s averaging 11.8 ppg and 6.4 boards. Unlike every other rotation player, Atkinson hasn’t hoisted a single three all season.

And while you can't draw a lot from this, it’s still worth mentioning: a lot of Notre Dame’s wins have been quite close. They beat UNC by five, took overtime to beat Georgia Tech, beat Howard by just three and Virginia by four.

It doesn't really matter because if the Irish get hot from outside, you’re in trouble. And when you can rain threes, or even just threaten to, you can also get a lot of backdoor opportunities. Fortunately, Duke has one of the nation’s best shotblockers in Williams, who presents major problems inside - if he’s in the game.

If he’s in foul trouble in this one, as he was at Louisville, Duke has a major problem.