The Notre Dame Fighting Irish basketball team announced their entrance into the ACC in a big way. They stunned No. 7 Duke in a tight game at home, letting the conference know that the Irish were coming. The Irish own a 10-4 record, and start out 1-0 in the ACC.
It may have been just one game, but it came on the heels of Notre Dame losing its best player in Jerian Grant. After two straight close games, one going into overtime the other ending in a bad loss, the Irish managed to regain some confidence.
Grant was dismissed for academic reasons following the loss to Ohio State. Notre Dame went on to face Canisius a week later, and ended up being pushed into overtime. The win required Eric Atkins putting in a career day with 30 points. The Irish pulled away in OT, winning 87-81.
Following close call against Canisius, it looked like the Irish were going to be easy pickings in the ACC, especially for a team like Duke. The Blue Devils had won five straight games and didn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.
The Irish churned out an inspired performance. Garrick Sherman, Pat Connaughton, and Atkins all scored in the double digits. Duke’s Quinn Cook and Rodney Hood both scored over 20 points, but no other Blue Devil was in the double digits. Even Jabari Parker was held to just seven points off 2-for-10 shooting.
Duke held a slight edge at halftime, and pushed that lead early in the second before Notre Dame came storming back forcing the Blue Devils to play catch up.
It was a quality win that the Irish desperately needed. They have the talent and depth to be in the top fourth of the conference this season and a win like that gives the players confidence that they can do it without their former leading scorer.
Jan. 7th – North Carolina St. at Notre Dame, 9:00PM ACC Network
The Irish get to push their momentum this week with another home game. NC State comes to South Bend at 10-4, having recently lost to Pitt at home. This team is average across the board, but can shoot the ball very well. Tight defense will be key for the Irish as all the players in the Wolfpack’s starting five shoot 42-percent from the field or better.
They are not good from the perimeter, but convert 50-percent of their shots inside the arc. NC State is also solid on defense. They hold opponents to 28-percent shooting from the three-point line and play tight man coverage.
TJ Warren leads the Wolfpack in scoring with nearly 24 points per game. The sophomore forward is also pulling down eight rebounds per game. The problem is that outside of him, the team struggles to score. Two other players are averaging in the low double digits, but that’s all. Keeping Warren out of the low post, and denying him the ball, will be key for an Irish victory.
Notre Dame has shown some versatility lately, and an ability to overcome adversity. They should win this game by a comfortable margin.
Jan. 11th – Notre Dame at Georgia Tech, Noon ACC Network
The Yellow Jackets are 9-5, with a game at Duke this week before hosting the Irish. They lost to Maryland in the ACC opener. Tech is a physical team that rebounds well, but suffers from poor shooting leading to low scoring output. They have multiple scoring options, but no real go-to player on offense.
The Irish haven’t had many away games this season. The bulk of their play has been at home, or neutral sites. How they respond to a truly hostile, conference opponent will tell you a lot about this team. They are worse than NC State, but being on the road this game is basically a toss up. Home court in conferences like the ACC (or Big Ten) are extremely valuable and can account for a 10 point swing in the home teams favor.
Notre Dame should win this game, but it will all depend on how well the team travels in the new conference. If the Irish want to be competitive in the ACC, then knocking off the weaker teams is key for future success.
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