Duke is appointment television whenever playing, but the trip to Florida State should actually be a good Game. FSU may not be an elite team, but it has size and length that will give the Duke freshmen all kinds of problems. Winning is another story for the Seminoles, who haven’t had many challenges at home this year.
The reason to go against the home team is because they were just throttled by Virginia a week ago. Their defense played well in non-Conference and then gave up 42 first-half points to the slowest team in basketball. Without defense, FSU has no chance in this Game. The difference with this Duke team compared to previous versions is that its defense is playing well and actually matches the offense in terms of efficiency ranking. The Blue Devils are not only scoring against everyone, but they’ve also been great at blocking shots and forcing steals, and have one of the best effective field goal percentage rates on the defensive end in the country.
That’s all bad news for a Florida State team that turns it over on more than 20 percent of possessions and doesn’t shoot it well from deep. Sure, this is a balanced squad with nine players scoring at least seven points and playing 17 minutes per Game. That’s often been FSU’s main advantage under Leonard Hamilton, but that’s often led to some inconsistent offensive performances. They have a few guys that shoot it better than 40 percent from deep, but PJ Savoy, who has taken the most threes by far on the team, is closer to 30 percent. The good news for FSU is that Phil Cofer is edging closer to 100 percent after returning from injury a couple weeks ago. His size and athleticism is exactly what’s needed along with Terance Mann.
Those two players will be key in trying to limit whatever Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson do. At this point, Reddish, mostly a shooter, has hit a bit of a freshman wall, but the same can’t be said for Williamson averaging 20.2 points and 9.5 boards per Game. The Seminoles will likely mix up how they defend those guys and stick with anything that works. The other question is stopping Duke’s backcOurt of Tre Jones (5.8 apg) and RJ Barrett (22.9 ppg, 6.9 rpb, 3.8 apg). It’s unlikely anyone in college basketball can straight up stop Barrett when he goes to the hole, but FSU has the bodies with Savoy, Trent Forrest, MJ Walker and Anthony Polite. Even Mann will likely see time on Barrett if it comes to it.
No matter what, Duke will get its buckets, but since Florida State doesn’t have to worry about foul trouble, it can body up a little more than other teams and that’s something different for the Blue Devils, especially with the bigs down low in Mfiondu Kabengele and Christ Koumadje. The other new thing is that this is the second true road Game for Duke and the first one came against lowly Wake Forest. If this Game is tight, it’ll be interesting to see how the Duke freshmen respond after it kind of panicked late in the loss to Gonzaga.
To win and maybe even to cover, the Seminoles need more offensively. They scored just 52 points at Virginia and that was after scoring the final 13 points of the Game. It wasn’t much better in the loss to Villanova as they had 60 points. Duke can be stopped to 70 or so points, but if FSU can only reach 60, there’s almost no chance it will win or cover.
Our Pick – Duke -7.5