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Harry Giles will hope to build on Friday's breakthrough performance, when he made several big defensive ...

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Notre Dame



After overcoming a double-digit deficit for the second straight game against a top-10 team, the Blue Devils will face off against the Fighting Irish in the ACC championship game Saturday. Notre Dame knocked off top-25 sides Virginia and Florida State to advance to the finals, and Duke will look defeat the Fighting Irish for the second time this season after a 10-point victory Jan. 30 in South Bend, Ind.

Duke: Forward Harry Giles

If Duke hopes to accomplish four wins in four consecutive games—a feat yet to be accomplished in ACC tournament history—head coach Mike Krzyzewski's team will need Harry Giles to contribute meaningful minutes again. In the semifinal matchup against rival North Carolina, Giles was a major contributor in two critical stretches that allowed Duke to first close the gap, and then extend the lead. With Duke leading 75-70 late in the second half, Giles had a huge block and then ran the floor to slam home a lob from Grayson Allen and extend the Blue Devil lead to seven. Although he only scored six points, the freshman big man pulled down seven rebounds to go along with four blocks and a steal.

Duke plays a very short bench and is especially thin in the frontcourt. With Amile Jefferson’s need for rest for extended stretches and foul trouble concerns across the board, Giles will likely be thrown into the game for key periods once again. If he can follow up on arguably his best performance with a high motor and defensive intensity to show flashes of his high school brilliance, Giles could potentially be vital in leading the Blue Devils to their 20th ACC tournament title.

Notre Dame: Forward Bonzie Colson

Although the Blue Devils managed to pull out the victory against the Tar Heels, they were torched on the boards. Duke allowed 18 offensive rebounds and was outscored 32-10 in the paint in the first half alone. Notre Dame may be able to take advantage of Duke’s subpar performance in the paint with another strong performance from Bonzie Colson.

Colson is averaging 17.1 points per game this season to complement 10.2 rebounds per game. Although listed as only 6-foot-5, Colson plays much larger that his height suggests. At 225 pounds, he uses his strong frame and nifty footwork to create space for himself down low, usually culminating with a smooth jump-hook or floater. With his ability to shoot from outside as well—hitting 6-of-10 attempts from downtown in the last four games—the junior is a versatile threat that can cause fits for Duke’s bigs.

If Colson makes his presence felt early in the contest and helps the Fighting Irish win the rebounding battle—they lost on the boards 38-26 in the first matchup—Notre Dame could win its second ACC tournament title in three years.


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