Check out our preview of Duke Basketball’s huge conference matchup on theroad tonight with FanSided’s Florida State site Chop Chat.
The Blue Devils will take on a hot Florida State Basketball team on the road. Duke will be missing head coach Mike Krzyzewski as he recovers from surgery as well as their inside presence and leader Amile Jefferson, who has been ruled out with a right foot injury. Both teams are playing well heading into this Top 10 matchup, and we caught up with Florida State Basketball expert Frank Urbina at Chop Chat who gives us some great insight into the Seminoles’ great season so far and previews tonight’s big game:
1. What has led to Florida State having one of their best seasons in program history and receiving a Top 10 ranking? Can the Seminoles sustain this success during ACC play?
Chop Chat (@frankurbina_): It’s been a multitude of things. First and foremost, the recruiting has significantly improved for FSU. The team has two guys who are projected to go in the first round of next year’s draft in Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac. And Xavier Rathan-Mayes, the team’s point guard, has been a known commodity in the ACC since scoring a ridiculous 30 points in four minutes against a good Miami team a couple of seasons ago. Coach Leonard Hamilton has amassed a deep team, with both talent and experience. Further, Hamilton has gotten his team to buy into playing defense again. With the shift into recruiting more talented players, for whatever reason, the team’s defense took a major hit. After winning the ACC in 2012, FSU spent four years in limbo because they just could not defend anymore. Between 2013 and 2016, the team’s best defensive ranking according to KenPom was 54th in the country. But this year, the defense has seen steady improvement as the young guys have adapted to the college game. And currently, they rank 26th in defensive efficiency.
As far as the sustainability, we are about to find out. FSU is two games through a six-game stretch that finds the team playing against all ranked opponents. After beating Virginia (in Charlottesville), and Virginia Tech, the Seminoles now face Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Louisville in a row. So we’re about to see if this team is a legit Final Four contender, or just a really good team in the ACC. I’m somewhere between those two, and think the team is good enough to finish top four in the conference.
2. Who’s been the most impressive player for Florida State so far this year?
Chop Chat: Without question, Dwayne Bacon. Though he almost certainly would’ve been drafted after his freshman season, Bacon came back for his sophomore year to improve his all-around game. Primarily, his shooting. Thus far, returns are extremely positive. Bacon’s draft stock is sneaking back into first round contention. Currently, he’s averaging 18 points per game, on 48 percent shooting, and 37 percent from deep. He was absolutely brilliant against Virginia, scoring 26 points in the second half alone, including the game-winning three with two seconds left. And that game, to this point, was the Seminoles’ biggest win of the season. Suffice to say, FSU would not be 15-1 had Bacon taken his talents to the NBA.
3. FSU has always been known for having tough defensive teams under Leonard Hamilton, but which Blue Devil will present the biggest challenges for the Seminoles?
Chop Chat: It’s almost hard to pick, considering that Duke is full of former McDonald’s All-Americans and future NBA lottery picks. I’m going to go with Luke Kennard, though. Kennard has such a smooth game, and can beat you from anywhere. He draws fouls, makes his three-pointers at an absurd 46 percent clip, and is averaging 20 a game. FSU does have a couple of guards in Trent Forrest and CJ Walker who are really good perimeter defenders, but they’re just freshmen. They haven’t seen anyone like Kennard yet, and will most likely struggle to slow him down.
4. What will be the biggest key to determine Florida State winning or losing this game? Who wins and what’s your prediction for the final score?
Chop Chat: Defense. If the Seminoles can manage to get stops against Duke’s potent offense, they may have a chance to pull off the massive home win. Smart money is still on Duke, though. Even though they’ll be without Amile Jefferson, Duke has more than enough to cover for his absence. And despite FSU’s improved talent, few teams in the country can match Duke’s roster. I think it’ll be a high-scoring, fun game, the end result being Duke 87 – Florida State 81. Thanks for having us, guys. And good luck tonight. Go ‘Noles!
Duke and Florida State will face off in Tallahassee tonight at 8:00 pm. Be sure to stay tuned to Ball Durham for all of your news, updates, and analysis on the Blue Devils this season and Let’s Go Duke!