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Will Notre Dame continue to play the role of ACC giant slayer?

 

Two upcoming games will play a decisive role in Notre Dame’s chances of winning an ACC regular-season title this winter. The Fighting Irish host Duke on Monday before traveling to Chapel Hill to play UNC on Saturday.

Since Notre Dame joined the ACC in 2013, the Irish have gone a combined 8-4 against North Carolina and Duke. Mike Brey’s success against the Tar Heels and Blue Devils includes a 3-1 record against the two powerhouses in the ACC Tournament.

Brey has yet to lose to his former mentor, Mike Krzyzewski, in the Joyce Center. The Irish are also a perfect 2-0 against the Blue Devils in the ACC Tournament. Overall, the Irish are 5-1 against Duke in the last three seasons. No other ACC program has come close to matching that kind of success against the Devils in recent years.

As a former Blue Devil assistant, Brey has unique perspective in taking on Duke.

In all five of its victories over the Blue Devils since joining the ACC, Notre Dame has shot 50 percent or better from the field. In turn, Notre Dame allowed Duke to shoot 50 percent or better just once — last year’s shootout in Cameron Indoor Stadium that the Irish won, 95-91. Notre Dame also managed to out-rebound Duke in three of those wins.

The Blue Devils have had some of their worst shooting performances in recent seasons against Notre Dame. Duke’s 3-of-17 outing from three-point range in the 2015 ACC Tournament semifinals comes to mind. So does last year’s ACC Tournament quarterfinal, in which Duke shot just 34.2 percent.

Notre Dame’s pick-and-roll offense has been a thorn in the side of both Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams. UNC’s inability to stop the pick-and-roll was particularly evident in its 90-82 defeat to the Fighting Irish in the 2015 ACC Tournament Championship Game. Notre Dame shot a healthy 54.2 percent that night, leading to the program’s first-ever ACC championship.

The Irish are positioned for another shot at an ACC title this winter. And once again, they’ll have to go through Tobacco Road.

Fortunately for Brey, his squads seem to have the blueprint for victory over UNC and Duke that few others possess.