Duke (24-5) vs Florida State (22-7)
Durham, N.C. - Cameron Indoor Stadium
TV: Raycom / Tip: 8:00 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: ACC Nickname: Seminoles Colors: Garnet and Gold Head Coach: Leonard Hamilton (7th season) Career Record at Florida State: 128-92
Projected Starters: 31 Chris Singleton (6-9, 220, Fr.) – 7.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg 41 Uche Echefu (6-9, 225, Sr.) – 8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg 32 Solomon Alabi (7-1, 245, Fr.) – 8.1 ppg, 2.1 bpg 22 Derwin Kitchen (6-4, 197, So.) – 8.4 ppg, 2.3 apg 23 Toney Douglas (6-2, 205, Sr.) – 20.6 ppg, 2.0 spg Key Reserves: 2 Jordan DeMercy (6-7, 205, Fr.) – 3.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg 1 Xavier Gibson (6-11, 225, Fr.) – 2.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg 42 Ryan Reid (6-9, 235, Jr.) – 5.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg 4 Deividas Dulkys (6-5, 195, Fr.) - 3.8 ppg, 1.0 rpg
Storylines For Florida State:
How They Got Here:
The Blue Devils appeared to be headed for another late season swoon - losing three of four games - before head coach Mike Krzyzewski juggled his starting lineup by inserting freshman Elliot Williams at the off guard position and sliding Jon Scheyer to the point. Since that time the Devils have won four straight contests and have seized control of their own destiny with regards to post season seeding in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.
Meanwhile the Seminoles have been the surprise team in the league this year. Florida State, which was picked among the also-rans in the preseason polls, has run out to a 22-7 record and a top 25 national ranking under teh guidance of likely ACC Coach of the Year Leonard Hamilton. The Seminoles enter Tuesday night's game having won three of four including a 13 point victory over Clemson on Saturday.
This will be the 34th overall meeting between the two programs. Duke holds a 27-6 lead and has won two straight including an eight point victory in Tallahassee in January. In that game Gerald Henderson scored a game high 25 points to help the Blue Devils build a 46-21 lead with 12:45 remaining in the game only to watch Florida State begin to rally - cutting the lead to six before Duke put them away late in the game.
Duke combo guard Nolan Smith is a game time decision after suffering a mild concussion against Maryland last week. Smith missed Saturday's game at Virginia Tech with lingering symptoms.
Hamilton's Team(s) Unafraid Against Ranked Teams:
The Seminoles may be young, but that youth doesn't show against top ranked teams. This season Florida State has played three games against top 25 opponents - posting a respectable 3-4 record in those contests. Of those seven games, only two were not against a top 10 opponent with two of them coming against top three teams. It should come as no surprise that Hamilton's young guns are ready to play against the nation's best. In the first seven seasons of his tenure, the 'Noles have won 14 games over top 25 opponents including a wins over Duke when the Blue Devils were ranked No. 1 (2006) and No.5 (2003).
The Secret of Hamilton's Success:
Is really no secret at all. The reason for Florida State's unexpected success in 2009 starts on the defensive end of the floor where the Seminoles lead the ACC in scoring defense (64.2 points allowed per game) and field goal percentage defense (38.8%) while ranking second in blocked shots (5.9) and fourth in steals per game (8.7). With the defense holding teams within striking distance, FSU has improved its offense as well - hitting 6.4 perimeter shots per game including 25 in the last three contests. In addition the offense is getting a boost at the charity stripe - shooting 84% as a team from the free throw line over the last four games.
The ACC Player of the Year?:
Senior Tony Douglas is making his case for all kinds of awards including ACC Player of the Year, National Defensive Player of the Year, and the Bob Cousy Award. Though he's scoring at a career best clip, for Douglas it all starts on the defensive end of the court. He has now earned 225 career steals in 124 career games (1.8 spg) and ranks 18th in ACC history with 182 steals in 93 games as a Seminole for a 1.96 steals per game average since his playing career as a Seminole began during the 2006-07 season. That defensive prowess was in full display against Clemson when the senior blocked Demontez Stitt's lay-up attempt with 14 seconds remaining to put the game away.
On the offensive end Douglas has worked on diversifying his attacking style and the work has paid off. Douglas began the season ranked 51 in school history in scoring with 904 points as a Seminole and enters Tuesday's game against Duke ranked ninth in school history with 1,500 career points in his 93-game Seminole career. Much of that offense comes from the perimeter where he's been lights out over the last three games - hitting 13 of his last 23 attempts including 9 of his last 13.
With such a complete game at both ends of the floor, it's no wonder that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is so impressed:
"Toney Douglas is a superb player," said Coach K. "This kid is a beautiful basketball player. He creates havoc with his defense. There is not a better on the ball defender – I mean he has got to be a candidate for National Defensive Player of the Year."
Man In The Middle:
Freshman center Solomon Alabi is already among the top shot-blocking players in the Seminoles' program history. Entering the Duke game the 7-1 Alabi has blocked 73 shots for his career- good enough for 14th on the school's all-time list. Offensively he's coming along as well, averaging 10.3 points per game over his last seven contests to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. From the field he's shooting 54% in this stretch.
Watch Out For...
Derwin Kitchen has heated up tremendously over the last four games and enters the game against Duke having scored 14.0 points per contest in those contests. Over the last four Kitchen is shooting a staggering 62 percent from the field and 73% from the perimeter. The most impressive thing about these numbers is that Kitchen is doing it on a limited number of shots - making just an average of 5.6 shots per game. It's not just the scoring column that's been filled up either. He's averaging 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.0 steals - giving Florida State a very dangerous and efficient secondary weapon.
It's going to be an emotional night in Cameron Indoor Stadium as the Blue Devils say goodbye to three players - David McClure, Greg Paulus, and Martynas Pocius. It is entirely possible that the emotion is channeled into an inspired performance that propels Duke past Florida State and locks up, at worst, the No.2 seed in the ACC Tournament. Then again it's always tough to play on senior night and Duke has struggled in the past. That being said, none of the three players - aside from McClure - are expected to play "starters minutes", meaning Duke should be able to overcome any emotional letdowns. The key will be the play of freshman Elliot Williams on Toney Douglas and Duke's ability to counter the Seminoles' size in the paint. In the end this game is important to both teams, but Duke has the homecourt advantage.
Florida State 68