The ACC gets Big Monday started with a showdown between the no. 9 Duke Blue Devils and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Both teams enter this game 7-2 in ACC play and just half a game behind first-place Miami, making it a critical game in the regular-season title race. On the road, the Blue Devils are listed as 5.5-point favorites, with the over/under set at 143.5 points.
The Blue Devils head to South Bend riding a three-game winning streak that has them at 17-3 overall. Of course, Duke only beat Clemson by two points last week and needed a late run to beat Louisville on the road over the weekend. Also, two of Duke’s three losses this season have come on the road.
As for the Irish, they are coming off a home win over Virginia on Saturday, giving Mike Brey’s team ten wins in its last 11 games. At 14-6 on the season, it’s hard to believe that Notre Dame was once 3-4 on the season. But since then, the Irish have proven their worth with wins over the likes of Kentucky and North Carolina.
Notre Dame has shot to the top of the ACC this season because their players have developed more than expected, starting with junior guard Dane Goodwin. He’s averaging 15.6 points per game while making 50% of his three-point shots. Freshman Blake Wesley has also made an immediate impact, averaging 15 points per game and pushing more experienced guards like Prentiss Hubb and Ryan Cormac into complementary roles, giving the Irish great backcourt depth.
Meanwhile, Yale transfer Paul Atkinson has been a huge addition to the frontcourt, averaging 11.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. At times, he’s been a little up and down, although Atkinson is coming one of his best games of the season with 14 points and nine rebounds against Virginia. The Irish are also getting a lot of good production from Nate Laszewski, who makes 47% of his perimeter shots and averages 9.3 points per game but has scored at least 16 points in three of his last four games.
The Blue Devils look like Final Four contenders primarily because of Paolo Banchero and Wendell Moore. Banchero has lived up to the hype as a freshman, averaging 17.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game, with the offense often revolving around him. Moore, meanwhile, is giving Duke 14.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game, impacting games in a multitude of ways.
Meanwhile, Duke gets even more size from seven-footer Mark Williams, who has recorded three double-doubles in his last five games. Freshman A.J. Griffin is also a key X-factor for the Blue Devils because of his shooting prowess. He leads the Blue Devils in made three-point shots and is shooting 50% from the perimeter, helping Duke cope with the absence of Trevor Keels, who has missed the last three games with an injury.
Big and Little
The Blue Devils have a lot of size that Notre Dame might not be able to handle. However, the Irish can counter with shooting threats all over the perimeter. Given how well the Irish have played lately, this should be a tricky game for Duke, so bet on Notre Dame to at least beat the spread at home.
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