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Next Up - Florida State

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Florida State is in town Tuesday night for a rematch after an interesting game in Tallahassee.

Duke won that game, 66-58, after an  odd 19-14 halftime score, and ripped off a huge 41-11 run in the process.  Odds are that won't happen this time.  Among other things, if FSU wins this one, their bid is locked in.

Florida State has gotten a superb year out of Toney Douglas. The 6-2 guard is averaging 20.6 ppg, 2.9 apg, and 4.1 rpg.  More importantly, he's had a phenomenal defensive year, and that's really what coach Leonard Hamilton likes to see, and this team is pretty well built for defense.

Douglas puts excellent pressure on the ball, and 7-1 Solomon Alabi is at the back of the defense and he's a terrific shotblocker.

Between the two, they have a number of impressive athletes:  Derwin Kitchen (6-4), Chris Singleton (6-9), Uche Echefu (6-9), and Pierre Jordan, (6-0) among them.  Jordan DeMercy (6-7) isn't as athletic but he's no slouch, and we think Luke Loucks (6-5) is going to be a really good player before he's done.

Hamilton has done a nice job with his team.  Not many people expected much from them this year. Certainly we missed the boat.  For the last several years we've thought they might get somewhere, and we were wrong. Then when we figured they weren't going to do much, they turn into an NCAA team.  Not bad.

Where they haven't always been great, though, is on offense, although Douglas is an obvious exception. He averages 20.6 ppg, but his team only averages 68.4.  That puts a lot of pressure on him to score, and he's also their best defender.  Echefu, Kitchen, Alabi, and Solomon average about eight apiece, which leaves around 15 for the bench.

Duke did a number on Douglas last time out, but they've made a lot of changes since then.  Nolan Smith has offered Duke excellent defense all year but he probably won't be available due to his concussion and he had been replaced in the lineup first by Greg Paulus and then by Elliot Williams.  Williams has added quickness and aggression and an offensive presence as well.  But we're sure Duke would really like to have Smith too.  He's a first-rate defender.

When Williams was moved into the starting lineup, some saw it as a measure of desperation.  Four games later, it looks more like a master stroke.

It frankly bugged us that people saw it as an act of desperation.  It's not like the guy is some novice.  This team isn't as athletic as some of Duke's past teams, although Williams makes a huge difference.  But with Williams in the lineup, interestingly enough, Duke's lineup is similar to the one Krzyzewski used in the Olympics.  Not talent wise, certainly, but in terms of the versatility and criticism that it has received.  Remember?

Only one post-player in Beijing - uh-oh!  The people who bought that didn't realize that what Krzyzewski was putting together was based on his Duke model - solid point guard play with good pressure on the ball, and lots of versatile guys to defend.

The fact that LeBron James could play any position, including center, sort of got overlooked, as did the versatility of Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

We're not suggesting anything but the philosophy is comparable.  Still, you'd think people would understand that a guy who completely overhauled USA Basketball might have a few more thoughts than a Hail Mary lineup change.

With Smith out, a lot of the defensive responsibility will have to shift, and some of it will likely fall to Dave McClure. Like most of Duke's players, McClure can play more than one position, and he might end up spending some time on Douglas.

Florida State may also have trouble matching up with Gerald Henderson, but a lot of people have had that lately.  However, Derwin Kitchen has become a more important part of the rotation since joining the team after Christmas and he may be their best man on Henderson.

And of course Tuesday is Senior Day, and will mark the final appearance in Cameron of Greg Paulus, McClure, and Marty Pocius, who has decided not to use his fifth year of eligibility.  We hope a really solid crowd turns out to root them on.  Paulus and McClure have both been real battlers at Duke, and while Pocius has never had huge minutes he's one of those guys that everyone really pulls for.  Let's give them a good send-off.

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