Duke-Notre Dame Preview
Notre Dame's methodical pace in last year's ACC tournament semifinals stymied eventual national champion Duke before it won the program's first conference tournament title.
The Fighting Irish approached this season's meeting much differently, creating a frantic yet efficient offensive battle while winning at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
No matter the style, Notre Dame boasts consistent success rarely seen against the 19th-ranked Blue Devils and can win for the fifth time in six matchups in Thursday's quarterfinal round.
Mike Brey is the only one of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's former assistants to beat him, and last year's victory in the ACC tournament might be the sweetest. Demetrius Jackson scored 15 points in the 74-64 win before the Irish (20-10) beat North Carolina in the championship game.
''I was just reminiscing on what it felt like to cut the nets down,'' Jackson said. ''I just want to go out and have that feeling again with my team.''
Notre Dame's NCAA Tournament run ended in the Elite Eight, while Duke (23-9) went on to win Krzyzewski's fifth national title. The Irish are hoping another ACC championship can boost them for another deep tourney run, but they'll have to get through the Blue Devils again in a matchup of two of the country's most efficient offenses.
Bonzie Colson, averaging 11.4 points, scored a career-best 31 off the bench and Jackson added 24 in a 95-91 win over then-No. 9 Duke on Jan. 16. The Irish shot 50.0 percent while taking 22 more shots than in last year's conference tournament meeting and committed only six turnovers.
They did just enough to outscore the Blue Devils, who shot 51.8 percent while getting a season-best 30 points from Luke Kennard and 25 from fellow freshman Brandon Ingram.
''Maybe we take some semi-bad shots. I don't care. We're going to roll,'' Brey said of the Irish's up-tempo style. ''It has us playing downhill, and we get some easy buckets in transition instead of playing against a set defense.''
The Irish struggled with their shot in blowout losses to Florida State on Feb. 27 and then-No. 7 Miami on March 2, setting season lows for points in back-to-back games. They bounced back Saturday, though, beating North Carolina State 89-75 to secure a double-bye as the fourth seed.
Duke finished the regular season with three losses in five games and wound up with the fifth seed, then hung on to beat the Wolfpack 92-89 in Wednesday's second round behind 22 points apiece from Ingram and Kennard.
The Blue Devils finished at 52.4 percent from the field but also allowed N.C. State to shoot 55.4 percent, the highest for an opponent this season.
''We shot the heck out of the ball, and it's a good thing we did,'' Krzyzewski said. ''It's the best we've played offensively in about three weeks.''
Grayson Allen added 19 points but again became the center of controversy. He was called for a flagrant foul late in the second half for grabbing the jersey of Anthony "Cat" Barber to try to prevent a fast break.
Marshall Plumlee finished with 17 point and 10 rebounds despite taking a shot to his nose that caused it to bleed.
''Marshall's been a great emotional leader for us all year long," Allen said. ''To see him come in, and he's got blood dripping down his face - I mean, it fires the team up.''
Duke has won a record 19 ACC tournament titles but none since capping a run of three straight in 2011.