The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-8, 3-5) and the Duke Blue Devils (18-3, 6-3) will square off Monday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils have been hot lately, winning five of their last six, with their only slip up coming in the form of a 65-63 home loss to the second-ranked Virginia Cavaliers. The Irish, on the other hand, are in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
Monday’s contest is pivotal for both teams for different reasons. For Notre Dame, it is a chance for them to capture a signature win to add to their resume in hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. It is a big game for the Blue Devils if they want to stay in the race for an ACC regular season title.
Notre Dame Outlook
Everyone on the floor must contribute for the Irish if they want to upset Duke on the road.
It all starts with sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs, who is averaging a career-high 15.4 points per game to go along with 3.3 assists. On the interior, big-man Martinas Geben, averaging 10 points and 8.1 rebounds, will need to be a force both offensively and defensively for the Irish. Sophomore John Mooney will be an integral part of the offensive attack for Mike Brey, as he can stretch the floor, shooting 43.2 percent from downtown.
On the defensive side of the ball, junior guard Rex Pflueger will look to disrupt the flow of the Blue Devils offense by slowing down whoever he guards. He must look to play aggressively on the defensive end while also staying out of foul trouble. If Pflueger can force a few turnovers and give Notre Dame extra possessions, that can pay huge dividends if the game is close down the stretch.
The Blue Devils are led by freshman sensation Marvin Bagley III, who is averaging 22 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
What makes Bagley such a special player is that despite his six-foot-eleven height, he can stroke it from beyond the arc. He is shooting a respectable 33.3 percent from three, complemented by a very impressive inside game, making 66.1 percent of his two-point attempts.
In a game where Notre Dame will give Duke all they can handle, I believe that Duke has too much firepower and will eventually pull away to secure a victory over the Irish in front of their home fans.