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Next Up - Florida Gators

Time: 10:30 pm EST || Venue: Memorial Coliseum, Portland || Video: ESPN

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NCAA Basketball: Duke at Texas
Nov 24, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Marvin Bagley III (35) grimaces after scoring a basket during the second half against the Texas Longhorns at the Moda Center. Duke beat Texas 85-78 in overtime. 
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Things get real very quickly on Sunday as Duke takes on a tough and much more experienced bunch of Florida Gators.

If you were lucky enough to see the Florida-Gonzaga game then you’ll know what an absolute treat that game was. It was, in our opinion, the best game of the year so far and will be very hard to top.

Florida was absolutely sensational. Mike White (son of Duke A.D. Kevin White) has built a tremendous team and if this season goes like it appears it might, he’ll get consideration for the next major open job. Florida is a nice job, thanks to Billy Donovan, but if you had a chance between Florida and, say, Indiana, Arizona or UCLA, which would you take?

He’s making a strong argument for an elite job.

Against Gonzaga we saw a really remarkable effort. Florida’s backcourt of Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov will be a handful.

ACC fans may remember Hudson from Virginia Tech, where he started. Take a look at his stats: he’s clearly done well under White.

Chiozza is smaller than Duke’s Trevon Duval but he’s quick and occasionally magical. He’ll be tough for the Blue Devils to deal with and doubly so for anyone other than Duval.

Florida’s 6-2 Allen will likely stick to Duke’s 6-5 Grayson Allen. Florida’s Allen is a tenacious defender and is capable of defending just about any guard in the country.

Up front, Florida’s starters run 6-5 (Koulechov, a grad transfer from Rice), 6-8 (Keith Stone) and the 6-6 Hudson.

This should work to Duke’s advantage as the Blue Devils start 6-6 Gary Trent, 6-10 Wendell Carter and 6-11 Marvin Bagley.

Stone is more or less the post guy, backed up by 6-9 Kevarrius Hayes (Hayes actually gets more minutes but Stone started against Gonzaga).

Florida has a major disadvantage since big man John Egbunu is out. He could at the least lean on Bagley or muscle with Carter inside.

Sophomore Gorjak Gak is available too. It’s really interesting to see how many players who came from Sudan or whose parents did ripple through the basketball world. Like a number of them, Gak’s family went to Australia.

Let’s also remember that last year, Duke gave Florida a bit of a lesson in New York. Amile Jefferson had 29 points and 15 rebounds while Luke Kennard had 29. Jayson Tatum had 22 and while Matt Jones didn’t score, he played 36 minutes and defended all comers.

Well they’re all gone.

The only guys who played in New York last December 6th who are available to Duke are Allen and Marques Bolden.

It’s kind of amazing when you think of it because Duke has almost totally overhaul the team yet is widely regarded as the best team in the country.

A lot of that is due to Bagley who has proved to be a brilliant talent. Coach slapped his hand on the press conference podium earlier this year, twice very quickly, and said he didn’t have a word for it but that’s what Bagley does.

He gets off the ground for a rebound or follow shot as quickly as anyone. That slap-slap is funny but an accurate explanation of something difficult to describe.

Bagley is putting up numbers that would be remarkable for a fourth-year player. He’s averaging 21.1 ppg and 10.7 rpg and that’s counting the Michigan State game, where he got poked in the eye and only played 10 minutes.

Take that out and he’s averaging 24 points and 11 boards. He’s also shooting 60.8% from the floor.

Coach K said after the Texas game that he had coached the U.S. national team for a long time and that Bagley was “of that ilk.”

Let that sink in.

Consider this too. Duke has not yet played a high level game for 40 minutes and is very young. On the other hand, Florida is experienced, fast and potent: only New Hampshire has kept the Gators under 108 points this season.

Then again, as we’ve said before, you hardly ever get two great games in a row and Florida had to be great to beat Gonzaga.

We don’t think they’ll play that well again so our guess is that you’ll see an uneven and intense game between Duke and Florida that will go down to the last few minutes before one seizes a meaningful advantage - and even then it probably won’t be much of one.

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