After a close 60-56 victory in the quarterfinals against Virginia Tech, the second-seeded Blue Devils resume their quest in the ACC tournament facing the third-seeded Florida State Seminoles.
Duke and Florida State played twice this season and split the two games, each team winning on the other’s home floor.
Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong in those two games and what the Blue Devils need to do in order to advance to Sunday’s championship game.
Florida State 76, Duke 73
- What went wrong — perimeter defense: In the game that snapped Duke’s 45-game win streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Florida State shot 7-of-14 from beyond the arc, including Michael Snaer’s 3-pointer as time expired to win it for the Seminoles. The Blue Devils have allowed opponents to make 50 percent of their 3-ponters just three times this season—in this game, against Temple and against Ohio State—and they lost all three of those contests. The Duke backcourt must pay close attention to Snaer, Deividas Dulkys and Ian Miller, all of whom are dangerous from beyond the arc.
- What went right — offensive rebounding: Duke grabbed 14 offensive rebounds against the Seminoles, led by Miles Plumlee, who grabbed six Blue Devil misses. They were able to convert those 14 offensive boards into 20 second-chance points, while Florida State had just six on four offensive rebounds. Overall, Duke outrebounded the Seminoles 33-30, making it the only game the Blue Devils lost this season when they pulled in more rebounds than their opponent. This anomaly shows that if the Plumlee brothers can control the glass, the team will be in great shape to win.
Duke 74, Florida State 66
- What went wrong — Plumlee fouls: Miles played well in this game, making 5-of-6 shots for 10 points while grabbing eight rebounds. But he registered three first-half fouls and fouled out in the second half, something that cannot happen this time around with an injured Ryan Kelly. Mason only played 17 minutes because he also picked up three fouls in the game’s first period. If the duo cannot stay on the floor, Duke will be in serious trouble.
- What went right — Andre Dawkins: The guard has endured fluctuating success in his junior year but found his touch in this game, making 6-of-9 3-pointers.When Dawkins finds his rhythm, the Blue Devils look virtually unbeatable, and he could see increased playing time in Kelly’s absence. Although he was silent against the Hokies in the quarterfinals, he has the potential the take over a game with his deadly 3-point shooting.
What needs to happen for Duke to win this time
- Stay out of foul trouble — If Mason and Miles Plumlee get in the same sort of foul trouble as they did in the game at Tallahassee, the final score could be far different this time around. Without Kelly, head coach Mike Krzyzewski has only three big men, with an undersized Josh Hairston as the third. Although Hairston played well against Virginia Tech, he cannot man the post by himself if his teammates are sent to the bench with fouls. Xavier Gibson and Bernard James may come right at the Plumlee brothers, who will have to balance strong defense with this need to stay on the court.
- Second-half Seth — Seth Curry went scoreless in the first half against the Hokies, but came alive in the second with nine points. Duke found itself trailing at points in the first 20 minutes of play and may find itself in a similar situation if the junior guard comes out slowly. When he establishes the pace of the game, the Blue Devil offense tends to be far more consistent. Facing a tough team, he needs to provide the sort of veteran presence that can carry a team.
Andrew’s Prediction: Duke 71, Florida State 64