Three points: Keeping it simple, rookies' performances will bolster Duke men's basketball against Notre Dame

Sophomore Mark Mitchell led the Blue Devils with 21 points in their last game against Syracuse.
Sophomore Mark Mitchell led the Blue Devils with 21 points in their last game against Syracuse.

After earning its first win of 2024 against Syracuse, No. 14 Duke men’s basketball is on the road again to face off against Notre Dame. Before the contest, the Blue Zone breaks down three keys to a Blue Devil victory:

Keeping it simple 

As was evident in the Blue Devils’ win over Syracuse Tuesday night, 3-point shooting continues to be a double-edged sword. While Duke went 0-of-9 from beyond the arc in the first half — allowing The Orange to stay close in the competition — the team went a perfect 8-of-8 in the second half of the contest. The Blue Devils have proven themselves to be all about momentum — when they're hot, they're hot. However, these momentum swings cannot propel Duke to victories on its own. In losses to Georgia Tech and Arkansas, its runs came too late in the game to establish any sort of security. The Blue Devils should not expect a shooting match in their contest against the Irish, a team that suffers in offensive efforts. Instead, head coach Jon Scheyer’s squad can control the game early by keeping it simple and driving to the rim. Duke can take advantage of opportunities created by breakdowns in play, but the team has fallen victim to forcing the difficult shot when a safer option exists in the paint. 

All eyes on the rookies 

While Notre Dame may be struggling heavily on the offensive end of the court, freshman guard Markus Burton was recently named ACC Rookie of the Week. The Mishawaka, Ind., native received the honor after strong performances in back-to-back wins against Marist and in-conference opponent Virginia. The 2023 Indiana Mr. Basketball recipient put up 21 points against the Red Foxes and leads the team with his average of 15.9 points per game. 

With all eyes on Burton to propel the Fighting Irish offense, the Blue Devils can turn to their own freshman guard Jared McCain to match their opponent. Although his early performances on the court were shaky, the five-star recruit proved he just needed time to adapt to the Duke system. Since leading the team to a statement win against Baylor in the Big Apple, McCain is 52.4% from 3-point range and averaging almost seven attempts per game. As the freshman’s confidence grows, it will be interesting to see how he tests a struggling Notre Dame team. If McCain gets going, he can bring the team the energy it needs to take advantage of a program in the rebuild. 

A defensive effort  

When your team ranks worst in the ACC in offense, field goal conversion and 3-point conversion, there is nowhere else to turn but the defense. That’s exactly what head coach Micah Shrewsberry is doing with his team. They might wear the same jerseys, but the blue and gold squad the Blue Devils will see Saturday is a completely new opponent. The Irish only return four of their players from last year’s team, losing all of their significant offensive production. As such, Shrewsberry has placed an emphasis on building a strong defensive effort, one that must be led by an energized Notre Dame roster. 

The challenge the Fighting Irish pose is heavily dependent on whether their squad is actually willing to fight. Shrewsberry has called out the team for their lack of effort and energy, often leading to an entire breakdown in their play. If Notre Dame comes out ready, Duke can expect a physical matchup, calling for players like Mark Mitchell and Kyle Filipowksi to battle in the paint. On the other end of the court, the Blue Devil defense should force an unskilled offense to take dangerous shots, preventing the Irish from driving to the basket.   


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