Duke gets its first huge road test this weekend as they travel to Tallahassee, Florida to take on #13 Florida State. #4 Virginia shut down the Seminoles, but don’t take that as any indication for this game as they’ll be looking to establish themselves as a major threat in both the ACC and on the National level, something for which they’ve been close to but never legitimate for. An excellent November was followed by a more meager December and early January, but it’s not going to be easy.
Florida State: Résumé, Players to Watch
The Seminoles come in with a 13-2 record, 1-1 in ACC play. The two losses came at Virginia and vs. Villanova in the AdvoCare Invitational Championship, with the most impressive win probably being an 81-60 throttling of in-state rival Florida, whom most thought would be at least competitive.
Florida State returns multiple players from last year’s upset Elite Eight run. One notable is 6-8, 230 F Phil Cofer, who gave the Blue Devils some serious trouble from three last January before we pulled out, 100-93 (the score being explanatory of the nature of the game!). While most would certainly say that the Blue Devil defense last year was not nearly as efficient as this year. Cofer is currently averaging just 7.4 PPG as he slowly comes back from an injury that kept him out the first 10, having played his most minutes all season last week against Miami, but we all know that if you give him space, he’ll shoot it and probably make it, too. Matchup-wise, there will be rotation, but mostly RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish will probably take him on.
One major issue, though, is that this year we’ll face a guy significantly taller than all of our guys: Christ Koumadje. The senior, native to N’Djamena, Chad, is 7 ft. 4, one of the tallest players in the NCAA. He only averages 16.8 minutes but Coach Leonard Hamilton may take a shot at our absence of height, especially when 6-11 center Marques Bolden takes a rest.
Florida State is pretty stacked. Cofer is just the start: Terance Mann is averaging 11 points, while David Nichols and PJ Savoy add fire off the bench. This is a tall, deep team that will attempt to use our weaknesses against us in a very anti-Blue Devil environment.
Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett Look to Keep Going
After having a monster, NPOY-worthy performance in Winston-Salem, Zion Williamson looks to continue his electrifying performance in Tallahassee. He recently said that he hates being “classified as just a dunker”, and if he keeps putting up games like that, I doubt he needs to worry. Today, though, he’ll see a frontcourt that he hasn’t seen in the past: as mentioned, the 7-4 Christ Koumadje and 6-10 Mfiondu Kabengele. However, after going 3-4 from three against Wake Forest, he’ll probably try to stretch out the big men with an improving shot.
RJ Barrett continues to average over 20 PPG, a major factor who, if possible, is sometimes overlooked as Zion shines! The great thing about this team, however, is that they don’t seem to care. Zion and RJ are great friends, regardless of how many times that they’re compared to each other.
Defenses Attempts to Slow Offenses
Florida State isn’t just tall and deep– they’re forcing turnovers on 25% of their opponents’ possessions. Duke will need to be careful when handling the ball, especially on those pitches down the court that sometimes don’t go as well as might have been hoped. Duke, on the other hand, is one of the top five efficient offenses and defenses in the country. The Blue Devils lead the country in blocks per game at 8.6, with a recent showing of 13 against Wake. FSU has only been stolen from on 7.6% of their possessions, including having played Virginia! It’ll surely be a tougher task on defense for us against a team very good at handling the ball.
Duke Blue Devils @ Florida State Seminoles
Date: Saturday, January 12
Venue: Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, Tallahassee, FL
TV: ESPN (Sonic Blockbuster)