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ACC Showdown: Can upset-minded Duke surprise Notre Dame?

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The #14 Duke Blue Devils head into Thursday’s matchup against #8 Notre Dame with a tall task: beat the Fighting Irish in their own home.

NCAA Womens Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Notre Dame vs Duke Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not often you find a compelling matchup between the eighth and 14th-ranked team in the nation.

Yet, that’s what the No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and No. 14 Duke Blue Devils plan to give the Purcell Pavilion crowd Thursday night. Let’s take a look here at why your Thursday night should be spent glued to this game.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

For head coach Muffet McGraw and her Fighting Irish, the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center is the cure they need after a tough road trip. The current homestand with Duke and Virginia (Sunday) will be the first consecutive home games since December 2016

And for the Fighting Irish, it will be a welcome sight after playing 10 of the last 12 on the road (going 10-2 during that run, with losses to then no. 23 North Carolina State and Tennessee).

Duke also has not had the best of luck away from home this season. While the Blue Devils are 17-3 this season and 5-2 in ACC play, all three of those losses came on the road, with losses to unranked Vanderbilt, no. 6 Florida State and North Carolina State. The Blue Devils have had their struggles on Notre Dame’s home floor as well in their history, having never beaten the Fighting Irish at home.

Notre Dame is also riding a 36-game home conference winning streak, dating back to 2012, when they were a member of the now-defunct Big East conference.

DUKE HAS A CHANCE TO UPSTAGE NOTRE DAME

In the fabled history of the Duke-Notre Dame rivalry, Notre Dame has had the upper hand, holding a 13-1 advantage over the Blue Devils, including a close 68-61 loss last February in Cameron, North Carolina.

This season, though, might present the most talented squad that the Blue Devils have brought to Purcell Pavilion. Not only is Duke 17-3 heading into the matchup, but they are also the only team in the nation to beat then no. 3 South Carolina. Last week, Lexie Brown was named ACC Player of the Week after averaging 25.5 points per game, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.5 assists per game in wins over Boston College and Virginia Tech.

Duke has also been particularly hot from beyond the arc as of late, making seven or more three-pointers in the last two games. The team has made 108 of them on the season, with Brown, Rebecca Greenwell and Kyra Lambert accounting for all but two of them.

Duke and Notre Dame will tip off at 7 p.m. EDT, with live streaming available via ACC Network Extra and ESPN3.