Next up for the Devils is Florida State, a team which is fairly similar in some respects.
Like Duke, FSU is a smallish team. Like Duke, the frontcourt has been seriously weakened through injuries. And like Duke, FSU will try to push it.
In their last outing, Florida State only played eight players and started Matt Zitani, a senior forward you've probably never heard of. They also started Uche Echefu (anyone else wonder lately if he regretted picking FSU over UNC?), Isaiah, Swann, Toney Douglas, and Jason Rich and brought Ralph Mims, Julian Vaughn, and freshman Jordan DeMercy.
It's a far cry from what everyone expected from this team earlier in the year. 7-1 Solomon Alabi is out with injuries, Casaan Breeden decided to transfer to Charleston, where he'll play for Bobby Cremins, and Ryan Reid is still suspended although no one outside the program knows what for. And Julian Vaughn is barely playing due to a medical condition that is not, or at least was not, entirely understood (he was scheduled for tests in Cleveland). Chris Blake also transferred.
On the bright side, the 'Noles have a significant amount of experience between Rich, Swann and Mims, (seniors), and Douglas and Echefu (juniors).
Douglas, Swann, and Rich all are pulling 30+ minutes per game, and Echefu and Mims are averaging over 27.
Duke's strategy, then, seems pretty straightfoward: press Florida State as much as possible, take the ball to the basket as often as possible to draw fouls
Oh, and add offensive pressure through three point shots.
How do you fight fatigue when you're up against it like Florida State is? Well, the best way is get hot. We've all seen it: team A suddenly starts throwing up shots and the adrenalin starts pumping. Otherwise, they could be in real trouble.
That's pretty much what happened to them when they nearly upset Clemson. Florida State made it to the second overtime before just running out of gas. Jason Rich said he was too tired to even eat and Douglas had to get treatment (read: IV fluids) on Sunday.
Still, though, they were in it at the end, and Leonard Hamilton is no fool. He's stressing conditioning, understanding what his guys are up against, and he'll do the usual pacing tricks like planning timeouts around TV time outs and so forth.
We wouldn't put this one in the books just yet. Duke should have some advantages, but FSU is showing some gumption, and it's an experienced team. It should be a fun game, and whether FSU has any legs left in the last 5-10 minutes could be the deciding factor.