For the Noles to dance without needing a deep ACC tournament run, they need to win the final three games of the regular season. Kenpom.com gives FSU a 16% chance of winning tonight at Duke, followed by 51% and 61% in home games versus Notre Dame and Syracuse. Do the math and Florida State has roughly a 5% chance. Go back and watch FSU's defensive effort in the past couple of games, and 5% seems awfully high.
Regardless, it starts or ends tonight.
Duke (20-7, 9-5) has similar issues to Florida State, at least on the defensive end of the floor. Both teams have allowed 1.08 points per possession in conference play, and Duke's defense (87th nationally) is slightly worse overall that Florida State's (74th).
The primary issues for the Blue Devils are that they don't force turnovers (255th), and they don't rebound (302nd). They also allow the 2nd most points in the paint of any team in the nation. The one thing they do well is avoiding fouls (7th).
On offense, it's a different story, which is exactly what you'd expect from a team where every player but one was a McDonald's All American. And the one player who wasn't (PG Derryck Thornton) graduated early from high school, otherwise he would have been a burger boy as well.
Duke's offense is No. 2 nationally, and they shoot nearly 40% from the arc, which is a scary proposition for a team which has a perimeter that has decided to stop playing defense.
Sophomore Grayson Allen leads the Blue Devils at 21.0 points per game and will likely be a 1st or 2nd team All American. He shoots 43% from deep, but he rarely settles into becoming a jump shooter. Instead, he's always on the attack.
Brandon Ingram, the No. 3 recruit in last year's class, scores 17.0 per game, and at 6-8 with guard skills is a nightmare matchup. After a relatively slow start to his career, he's now scored 20+ eight times, and has been in double figures in every ACC game but one.
Freshman Luke Kennard (12.0) and sophomore Matt Jones (11.4) round out the double figure scorers. Jones is the better shooter (41% to 33%) but Kennard has shot 37% from deep in conference.
For Florida State to win they will have to exploit Duke's lackadaisical efforts on the defensive glass. With 6-9 Amile Jefferson out with an injury, only 7-0 Marshall Plumlee appears to want to rebound the ball. FSU will need to extend possessions not only to score, but to keep the ball out of the hands of the potent Duke offense.
The other key is an obvious one: play defense. This has been discussed ad nauseam of late, and if the young team wraps up shop on that end of the floor, then the NIT may even be out of reach.
The game tips tonight at 7 PM and will be broadcast on ESPN. Duke opened as an 11-point favorite, but the line has since been bet down to Duke -9.