It turns out that no one, not even the Duke Blue Devils, are immune to the pitfalls present in the newly-expanded ACC. Duke went on the road for its opener, playing at Notre Dame in the latter’s first-ever ACC contest. The Blue Devils fell to the Fighting Irish 79-77, a result not many fans or experts alike saw coming.
Duke (11-3, 0-1 ACC) was supposed to be the team that didn’t need to worry about the ACC’s new acquisitions. Maybe Syracuse would be on Duke’s level, but Pittsburgh wasn’t thought to have the offense and Notre Dame wasn’t thought to have the defense.
However, the Blue Devils barely hit 40 percent of their shots against a Fighting Irish defense that had often struggled this season. Despite that, the Blue Devils had a 10-point lead (60-50) with 11 minutes and 39 seconds left on Andre Dawkins‘ 3-pointer. The Blue Devils then went quiet offensively, allowing Notre Dame to score the next 10 points and tie the game.
Freshman standout and ACC Player of the Year candidate Jabari Parker, who has been tearing up just about all opponents this season, was a mere mortal against the Fighting Irish, scoring just seven points and missing eight of his 10 shots from the floor.
This is a reality that Parker and his teammates are going to have to get used to. He is going to have many more great nights than poor ones, and tonight’s game is no indictment of his talent. But, it does show that even Duke, the team that is always in the mix for ACC and national titles and the team most people love to hate, has to get used to life in the new ACC.
If it’s hard for Duke to win at Notre Dame, imagine what it’s going to be like for Virginia, Boston College, North Carolina or Clemson? Saturday was Duke’s only regular-season chance against the Fighting Irish this season since the teams don’t play at Cameron Indoor Stadium. On January 27 and February 1, the Blue Devils must play back-to-back road games at Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
Life in the ACC wasn’t easy before all the new arrivals. But now, even for the Duke Blue Devils, the ACC is a nightmarish road of tough games and tremendous opponents that’s going to be tough to navigate — as Saturday’s loss at Notre Dame showed.
And just think, the 2012-13 national champion Louisville Cardinals will join the ACC next season. That’s something Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski probably doesn’t even want to think about right now, given the current state of the league. Neither does anyone else in the ACC.