#4 Duke @ #8 Notre Dame, 7:30pm, ESPN
Line: Duke -1.5, over/under 149.5
Duke (17-2, 4-2 ACC)
- 81.6 points per game
- 63.9 points against
- 49.9% field goal shooting
- Led by Jahlil Okafor (18.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks), Quinn Cook (14.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists), and Tyus Jones (10.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.1 assists)
- Road wins against Wisconsin (80-70), Wake Forest (73-65), Louisville (63-52), and St. John's (77-68)
- Road loss to NC State (87-75)
Notre Dame (19-2, 7-1 ACC)
- 81.9 points per game
- 63.2 points against
- 52.1% field goal shooting
- Led by Jerian Grant (17.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.2 assists), Pat Connaughton (13.9 points, 8.3 rebounds), Demetrius Jackson (13.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists), and Zach Auguste (13.7 points, 6.6 rebounds)
- Home wins over Michigan State (79-78 OT), Florida State (83-63), Georgia Tech (83-76 2OT), Miami (75-70)
- Home loss to Virginia (62-56)
Simply put, Duke isn't going to win many games when they give up 87 points in regulation. Notre Dame isn't going to win any games when they only score 56.
Duke attempts 56.7 field goals (66th) and 24.9 free throws (17th) per game/ Notre Dame attempts 56.5 field goals (78th) and 19.4 free throws (214th). Both teams want to score a lot of points, and defense is definitely going to be secondary tonight. As I write this, the line opened at 149.5. I am in. Lock it down.
As for the scoring breakdown, here is how Duke gets their points:
- 50.7% from twos (177th-most)
- 27.9% from threes (192nd)
- 21.4% from free throws (148th)
That's a nice balance for the Devils, and it makes sense because (1) they have a great balance of inside and outside scoring and (2) they have elite-caliber players at every position. For the Irish:
- 50.0% from twos (206th-most)
- 32.8% from threes (66th)
- 17.2% from free throws (328th)
On the whole, you'd like to rely more on free throws than three pointers. Obviously, there will be times where the longball just isn't falling. Surprisingly enough, that is not the reason ND got its two losses (they shot 7-21 against Providence and 10-24 against Virginia).
Notre Dame lost those games because they didn't play defense well enough to win. Virginia shot 49% from the field and 45.5% from three, and they held the Irish to 33.9% from the field (including just 28.5% from two-point range). If the Irish weren't so hot from three, that game could have been really ugly. Against Providence, the Irish shot a pretty respectable 50% from the field and 33.3% from three, but PC shot 56%, including 14-19 from the field for 38 points (!!) out of LaDontae Henton.
It's easy to expect the Duke-ND game to play out similar to the Providence-ND game. Both teams are going to score a lot, but Duke might be able to hold ND in check by enough to steal the game.
But, in the words of Lee Corso, not so fast: ND actually has a pretty staunch defense. They allow opponents to shoot 44.1% on twos (63rd) and 33.3% on threes (144th) They also allow just 12.7 free throw attempts per game (2nd) - and that figure drops to 10.4 in their home games.
Ultimately, I think Duke will prevail. ND allows its opponents to shoot threes at a decent clip, and Duke will likely finish the game making more than a third of its threes.
That's not why I think Duke win, though. That rests on the shoulders of Jahlil Okafor, who will be going up against an ND team that features 0 players averaging a block per game. Connaughton is their leading blocker (0.9 per game), and he is only 6'5". Of the other three Shamrocks averaging half a block per game, two are also 6'5" and one is Auguste (0.8 per game for the season, 1 total in his last 4 games, 5 total in 8 ACC games).
Okafor is going to go berserk tonight, and Duke is going to win easily because Notre Dame is going to have to double team him. And guess what happens when Cook, Rashee Sulaimon, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones, and Matt Jones get open looks? Well, they are a combined 132-346 from deep this year (38.2%, which would be good for 37th in the country if those 5 were a team).
I like the over tonight. At least one team is going to be in the 80's. What worries me about over 149.5 is the potential for one team to not get out of the 60's. The play is Duke -1.5, and we will see where they set Jahlil's points.