ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 09: Ian Miller #30 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates with Okaro White #10 and Michael Snaer #21 of the Florida State Seminoles during a second half timeout against the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes in their Quarterfinal game of the 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Conferene Tournament at Philips Arena on March 9, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The next hurdle in FSU's quest for a 1st ever ACC Championship is a big one. The Duke Blue Devils have won back-to-back-to-back ACC Titles and 10 of the past 13. Duke won a close game vs Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals to improve their record to 27-5. It is thought that they need to win this Tournament to have a shot at a #1 seed in the big Dance.
This will be the third meeting this year, and the first postseason meeting since these two teams played for the ACC Title in 2009. In January FSU famously ended Duke's 45-game home winning streak. But then Duke took the rematch 74-66 in a game where Duke hit a season high 13 3-pointers (in 28 attempts).
The recipe for defending Duke is a simple one: contain Austin Rivers. He has a variety of next-level moves he uses to get open, he can penetrate and he can bury threes. Expect him to get by whoever is guarding him. This is partially by design, as FSU will pressure the ball when he has it to keep him from living on the three. But this opens up drives and here is where FSU's elite defense will be put under the most pressure. It's absolutely necessary for help-side defenders to commit to stopping the drive, but if Duke executes properly there's a lot of things that can happen and most of them are bad for the Noles. Rivers can kick for the three, he can dump the ball into the post when Bernard James (or whoever else) steps out to cut off the drive, or he can split the defender and draw the foul.
That's the bad news. The good news is that he's still a freshman and is capable of mind-boggling lapses in decision making.
When FSU has the ball, look for them to spread the defense with ball reversals and then attack on the dribble. Outside of Rivers Duke doesn't have much perimeter defense, and so taking advantage of their guards is the key to the attack. FSU will want to get up and down the court, and barring a turnover meltdown this will be a highly entertaining game to watch. FSU fans hit the lottery with the ACC matchups (Miami, Duke and then with a win either NCST or UNC), because none of those teams try to slow FSU down.
The key to winning is as simple as the key to stopping Duke: hit the threes. In FSU's win at Duke they made 7-14 (50%), and in the home loss only made 4-15 (27%). FSU comes in hot, having made 27-51 (53%) in their past three games.
The official tip-time is 3pm EST, though expect it to tip closer to 3:30. It will be broadcast on ESPN/ESPN3 and theacc.com. As I write this no line has been released in Vegas, but Pomeroy has Duke -2.