Blue Devils Will Give Notre Dame Backers Hell in ACC Tournament

Thursday, March 8, 2018 1:22 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 8, 2018 1:22 PM UTC

National No. 5 Duke (25-6) plays Notre Dame (20-13) Thursday at 7 ET in the ACC quarterfinals. The Irish are desperate to fulfill their NCAA Tournament hopes. Does that make them worth backing as sizable underdogs?

Duke Blue Devils vs. Notre Dame Fighting IrishFree NCAAB Pick: DukeBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Duke and Notre Dame meet for the fourth consecutive year in the ACC tournament. ND's success in this matchup stands in inverse relation to its need to rely on making three-pointers. Throughout these years, Duke has always enjoyed a strong perimeter defense, ranking either in the top 50 nationally or in the top five among ACC teams in opposing three-point percentage. In 2015 and 2016, only the opposite could be said about its interior defense. In these years in which the Irish won and covered against Duke in the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils allowed the highest point distribution from inside the arc in the ACC. In the same years, the Irish ranked in the top five in two-point percentage. The Irish succeeded in 2015 and 2016 against Duke because they weren't bothered by Duke's strong perimeter defense. Instead, they shredded Duke inside.

Enter 2017 & '18. Notre Dame developed a different offensive focus and its success against Duke changed accordingly. In two losses against Duke, the Irish went 13-for-46 (28.2%) from three.

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Regular-season results have been absolutely predictive of postseason results between Duke and Notre Dame, the one exception being a Duke slaughtering of ND in 2015 in which ND, like many other teams, didn't bring its A-game to legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium. This year, Duke dominated the Irish 88-66 on Jan. 29. That game unfortunately can't provide NCAAB bettors with too much insight because two Irish stars, point guard Matt Farrell and forward Bonzie Colson, were both injured.

But the matchup comparison is decisive, even if tonight's personnel is more talented for ND. This year's Irish attempt the second-highest proportion of threes. Duke ranks third in opposing three-point percentage. Its defense is also more well-rounded this year, ranking first in opposing two-point percentage. Center Wendell Carter leads Duke with a block percentage that ranks 64th nationally.

Bettors should not expect Farrell and Colson to produce a different ATS result tonight. Farrell does not have the lethally athletic ability that his predecessor Demetrius Jackson did in 2016 to penetrate inside and kick the ball out to another three-point shooter. Duke's defense has been playing more zone lately and has been extremely stingy towards three-point shooters, which does not bode well for Farrell, who primarily shoots from three. The Blue Devils have held their last five opponents to combined 29-for-118 (24.5%) from three. Colson will be gassed. He was gassed Wednesday even in the first half because he had played the day before against Pittsburgh, and his conditioning is still subpar after such a long injury absence. He was totally ineffective in the first half against Virginia Tech on Wednesday, and Duke's proclivity to push the pace on offense will hurt him. Besides, Carter and Duke's variety of strong rim defenders, who rank 23rd nationally in block percentage, will challenge Colson.

Notre Dame required a 21-point comeback to shock Virginia Tech. The Irish may enjoy a fine start tonight because they are the more seasoned team, having just played two games in two days. But the exhaustion will catch up to them -- they will not use their legs enough when attempting threes and will struggle against Duke's transition offense. When the Irish were missing shots against Tech, they were being shredded by VT's transition game. So a good Duke defense will help a team that thrives in transition. The Blue Devils' offense ranks second nationally in efficiency and plays with the 50th-quickest tempo. They can struggle with turnovers, but the Irish defense ranks 13th in the ACC in forcing turnovers. The Blue Devils rank in the top 50 nationally in both three-point and two-point percentage.

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