The 4th-seeded Florida State Seminoles face the 3rd-seeded Duke Blue Devils at 8:30 PM in Charlotte, NC on Saturday aspiring for revenge and respect. A new champion will be crowned in the ACC Tournament, and the showdown will be broadcast on ESPN. The Blue Devils opened as an 8-point favorite, while KenPom predicts Duke to win 77-71.
After a dominant performance over Virginia on Friday, the Seminoles look to ink in a new record. If Florida State prevails, the ’Noles will have 28 wins on the season for the first time in program history. Besides avenging a heart-breaking, buzzer-beating loss to Duke at home this season, Florida State hopes to take down the Blue Devils in an ACC Tourney title rematch after coming up short in 2009. The Seminoles’ sole ACC title, however, occurred shortly after in 2012 when Florida State beat the Duke in the Semis picking up its first ACC Championship victory by taking down the Tar Heels in Atlanta.
The Blue Devils are 28-5 overall, 14-4 in the ACC and coming off of a wild win over rival North Carolina. Duke is currently No. 3 per KenPom, No. 3 in the NCAA’s Net Rankings, and No. 5 in both the AP and Coaches Polls. According to KenPom, the Blue Devils also have the 6th best offense and 6th best defense when adjusted for opponent. The Seminoles are 27-6 overall, 13-5 in the ACC. Florida State is currently No. 14 per KenPom, No. 15 in NCAA’s Net Rankings, No. 12 in the AP and No. 13 in Coaches Polls.
True freshman star Zion Williamson made his much anticipated return to the court at the start of the ACC Tournament after he was sidelined for six games due to a mild ankle sprain. In his return, he’s looked unstoppable. Williamson scored 29 points going 13-13 from the field, while adding 14 rebounds, five steals, and one block in Duke’s first game against Syracuse. He backed that up by dropping 31 points on UNC, scoring the game-winning put-back on his own missed shot.
After the victory, Coach K said he hopes his team (Duke) has “enough left in the tank” to play Florida State. While Williamson is clearly healthy, the Seminoles could possibly have the edge here with its deep bench due to the short turnaround. Florida State has 10 players averaging 10 or more minutes this season, and in its victory over Virginia, the Seminoles didn’t have a player amass more than 32 minutes. In contrast, Duke had three players play 35+ minutes, two playing a full forty in their victory over the Tar Heels.
Let’s not forget fellow Duke true freshman, RJ Barrett, as he is the team’s leading scorer averaging 23.1 points per game. The Blue Devils have not only one, but TWO players ranked in KenPom’s list of top-10 players of the year. Barrett and Williamson are No. 3 and No. 4 respectively, and the duo leads a Blue Devils’ team that has the fourth-best efficiency on the inside with a shooting percentage of 58.7%. Is is important that the Seminoles display the same defensive dominance they had over Virginia early in order to take control of this game.
Barring any shoe blow-outs or eye injuries, the Seminoles need to shoot well from a distance, if they want to be victorious in Saturday’s showdown. Duke is a very talented team, but doesn’t really have a threat from deep, and the Blue Devils rank near the bottom in the nation averaging only 30.5 percent from beyond the arc (334th out of 353 teams). If Florida State is able to force Duke into taking those tough shots, the Seminoles will likely find success assuming FSU gets hot from deep. The Blue Devils are also not that great from the line converting at just 68.9%. They missed some key free throws down the stretch last night, but North Carolina didn’t make them pay. One area FSU can have some success against Duke is on the offensive glass. The first times these teams played, the Seminoles had 17 offensive rebounds, leading to 16 second-chance points. However, Duke can get after the offensive glass, as well (13th nationally in o-reb%), and the Blue Devils scored 19 second-chance points on 15 offensive rebounds. The most important thing, though, is turnovers, specifically when Florida State is on offense. The ’Noles turn it over on 19.3% of possessions (228th), while the Devils love to get steals (4th nationally) in order to get out and run. If FSU can keep Duke in the half-court on O and force the Blue Devils to make jumpers, it could very well mean a second ACC Title for Leonard Hamilton and Co.
Let’s see if the Seminoles shock the world for the second straight night and further establish themselves as NCAA tournament contenders.
Be sure to chime in before and during the game in the comments section below.