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FSU Basketball: #1 Duke Comes to Town

The #1 ranked Duke Blue Devils (15-0, 2-0) bring their 25 game winning streak to Tallahassee for a nationally televised game. Florida State (11-5, 1-1) is reeling, having lost three of four. The Noles last beat the Blue Devils in February 2007 (on the night J.J. Redick had his jersey retired), and have dropped five straight to Duke.

Duke plays basketball to win, as they outspend FSU 3-1, and most other teams in the ACC at least 2-1. They have great facilities, an elite coaching staff, and the best talent in the conference. The Blue Devils have five consensus top-20 recruits where the rest of the ACC has seven combined. One of those – freshman Kyrie Irving – is out with a toe injury.  Two others – seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith – are on their farewell tour. Both are moving up the career stat charts at Duke, and Singler, barring injury, will finish as one of the top four scorers in school history, and will return sometime next year to have his #12 jersey hung from the rafters.

The state of Oregon seems to produce one top-20 player every year, who then leaves the state, and Singler was that kid four years ago. For his career he’s averaged 16.5 PPG and can score from anywhere on the court. He also might be the best offensive rebounding wing in the conference. With Irving’s injury he and Nolan Smith are becoming more of a 1-2 punch, taking over 53% of the team’s shots when they’re on the court. Of course, Duke is deep enough to beat you with many players on any night. Sophomore Seth Curry takes 60% of his shots from beyond the arc, and hits almost 45%. Sophomore Andre Dawkins’ shooting has just been stupid, and he leads the country in eFG%. And then there’s the 6’10" Plumlee kids who present match-up problems. All of this adds up to the #2 offensive team in the country, averaging 1.22 points per possession (PPP).

Unfortunately for the ACC Duke doesn’t slow down on the defensive end. In a defensive conference which has 4 elite defensive teams, Duke may be the best of them (the others are FSU, Maryland and UNC). For the year they’ve surrendered .83 PPP, which at their pace of 73 possessions per game, gives up 13 fewer points than the average NCAA defense.

In short, FSU is in trouble. I’d like to predict the game plan but FSU’s rotation has been seemingly random of late, so the only guarantee is that Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen will get minutes, and that Terrance Shannon’s haircut will get attention. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. The only real defensive weakness for Duke is allowing offensive boards, and FSU grabs almost 40% of their missed shots. Otherwise FSU is obviously going to have a great game (relative to expectations) on the offensive end. Currently the Noles shoot 33% from 3, 66% from the line, and turn the ball over on 24% of their possessions. If their line looks like that tonight then they lose, regardless of defensive performance.

Pomeroy has Duke by 12 (87% win), though Vegas has a surprisingly soft line of Duke -8.5. Typically Pomeroy and Vegas are within a point and a half of each other. The game tips at 9pm on ESPN and is sold out.