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No. 7 Duke visits Notre Dame on Saturday
By: Robert Livingston - StatFox
Published: 1/4/2014  at  4:09:00 AM
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Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center - South Bend, IN
Tip-off: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET
Line: Duke -5.5, Total: 150

Notre Dame begins its first season of ACC play on Saturday against one of the conferenceís toughest teams when No. 7 Duke makes its way to South Bend.

The Irish have suffered some disappointing losses to start the season, notably falling to unranked foes Indiana State and North Dakota State, both at home. They also lost to their only two ranked opponents (Ohio State and Iowa), and currently sit at 4-6-1 ATS overall, including a terrible 1-6-1 ATS at home. Duke's two losses have come against Kansas and Arizona, who were both ranked in the top five in the nation when the defeats occurred. Since the loss to the Wildcats, the Blue Devils have won five in a row (4-1 ATS) and are now 8-5 ATS this season. Their past two wins, against Eastern Michigan and Elon, came by a combined 61 points, but they have not played a true road game all season. Duke's offense ranks 14th nationally with 85.2 PPG, and it is making 50.2% of its shots (9th in nation). These two programs have met only once since Mike Brey, an assistant at Duke under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, took over as the Notre Dame head coach. That meeting occurred in the Round of 32 in the 2002 NCAA Tournament when the top-seeded Blue Devils overcame a seven-point deficit with about six minutes to play and beat the eighth-seeded Irish by a score of 84-77.

Can Duke win its first true road game of the season with relative ease? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 63% ATS (131-77-5) mark, including an eye-popping 70% ATS (96-42) record since Dec. 3. StatFox Zach is leading the way at 67% ATS (28-14-1) on Best Bets this season, including 75% ATS (21-7) since Dec. 3, while StatFox Scott is 64% ATS (27-15) for the season and 74% ATS (17-6) since Dec. 2. StatFox Gary is 63% ATS (26-15-2) for the season and 78% ATS (18-5) since Dec. 3, while StatFox Brian is 62% ATS (26-16-1) for the season and 68% ATS (19-9) in that same Dec. 3 timeframe. StatFox Dave is 59% ATS (24-17-1) for the season and 79% ATS (7-2) since Dec. 18.

Dukeís offense is led by dominant freshman PF Jabari Parker (21.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG), who often plays down low for the Blue Devils but has the athleticism to score from anywhere on the floor. He leads the team in rebounding and is also hitting an impressive 46% of his three-pointers, making 53% FG overall. SF Rodney Hood (17.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG) also has height and versatility (53% FG, 43% threes), and he and Parker form one of the nationís top-scoring duos. PG Quinn Cook (13.5 PPG, 6.3 APG) runs the offense for the Blue Devils, helping push the pace and make sure everybody gets their touches. He carries an impressive 3.2 Ast/TO ratio and also has at least two steals in five consecutive games and 16 in his past three contests. And off the bench, SG Andre Dawkins (9.6 PPG) is lethal from three-point range, hitting 51% of his tries (30-of-59). Although he hasn't gotten the playing time against top competition, averaging just 3.5 PPG in 7.3 MPG versus large-conference schools (Alabama, Arizona, Michigan and UCLA), he has feasted on smaller schools by averaging a hefty 16.5 PPG in 20.7 MPG against Florida Atlantic, UNC-Asheville, Vermont, Gardner-Webb, Eastern Michigan and Elon. Dawkins has not attempted a two-point basket in any of his past three games, and is averaging 17.5 PPG on 11-of-17 threes (65%) over his past two contests.

Notre Dame lost its leading scorer and passer when it suspended point guard Jerian Grant, who through the teamís first 12 games averaged 19.0 PPG and 6.2 APG. Now the offense should run through more through the post, where C Garrick Sherman (14.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG) and SF Pat Connaughton (13.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG) are both capable of putting up points. Sherman, a 6-foot-11 center, is more of a traditional post player with a 54% FG clip, while Connaughton, a swingman, can stretch defenses, hitting 2.5 threes per game on a 43% accuracy rate. On the perimeter, the loss of Grant will only place more pressure on G Eric Atkins (13.2 PPG, 4.5 APG, 3.4 RPG). In the teamís lone game without Grant, a scary 87-81 overtime win against 12-point underdog Canisius, Atkins was tremendous, scoring 30 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 6-for-8 from beyond the arc. He also had seven assists, but turned it over seven times in that game too, so others like freshman G Demetrius Jackson (7.3 PPG, 2.0 APG) will have to pick up the slack. In his past five games, Jackson has only two turnovers in 135 minutes on the court, but has just eight assists in this span.

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