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Next Up for Duke Basketball: A Trip To Florida State

A treacherous road game in recent years too.

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Duke v Wake Forest
WINSTON-SALEM, NC - JANUARY 08: Zion Williamson #1, Javin DeLaurier #12 and Jack White #41 of the Duke Blue Devils huddle in the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at LJVM Coliseum Complex on January 8, 2019 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Duke won 87-65.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Next up for Duke is a visit to Tallahassee to take on Florida State, a trip that has proven difficult in recent years. It’s roughly equivalent to Clemson, where the Tigers are always capable of pulling an upset.

The Donald L. Tucker Civic Center - at least for big games like Duke and UNC - is a solid homecourt.

Florida State presents another interesting challenge because Leonard Hamilton likes to collect really tall players like Chris Koumadje (7-4) to gum up the inside. He surrounds them with very athletic guys - lots of them - and runs them in and out with alacrity.

This year’s Florida State team is deep as usual, with an 11-man rotation. The primary offensive threats are Terrance Mann, Trent Forrest, MJ Walker, Phil Cofer and PJ Savoy, but there are others who can score, including Dikembe Mutombo’s nephew, 6-10 Mfiondu Kabengele.

In Hamilton’s system, depth and defense are key. He likes to run guys in and out and run teams down.

It’s been pretty successful.

Since joining the ACC, Florida State had some success with Pat Kennedy, who burned out against ACC competition and minimal success with Steve Robinson, who returned to work for his old boss Roy Williams who had by then moved to the ACC himself, leaving Kansas for UNC.

Hamilton has had the most sustained success at Florida State since Hugh Durham roamed the sidelines and took his 1972 team to the national title game.

Duke will have some major challenges with FSU’s size and athleticism, but this FSU team has had some issues too.

Virginia just decimated the Seminoles in Charlottesville last week, holding FSU to just 15 made shots. For some reason, Florida State decided to press UVa’s scrubs at the end of the game which made it look a lot closer than it was: Virginia just killed them.

The Miami game was interesting too. For various reasons, Miami’s roster is gutted and the margin of error is razor thin.

In spite of that, FSU won by just six points.

Still, there’s no denying the athleticism Hamilton has at his disposal, and he uses it to funnel shooters at the big guys in the middle. He’s never had - at least as far as we can recall - a center who did much more than discourage shooters but it works well for him and it’ll be a challenge for Duke’s raft of 6-6 to 6-7 guys who like to penetrate.

If FSU follows the traditional route under Hamilton and is careless with the ball and Duke gets out in transition, it’s a huge advantage for the Blue Devils. If not, the Seminole defense, combined with the size of Koumadje and Kabengele, who could be the most talented big man Hamilton has recruited at Florida State, could make things very difficult.

FSU’s defense also makes three point shooting more important than it normally is. If Duke is hitting from deep, it’s a lot harder to deny penetration.

In a perfect world, Duke turns over Florida State, hits threes and runs away with the game. In a less perfect world, FSU frustrates a young Duke team and overwhelms them on defense.

Finally, although everyone said playing at Wake Forest was Duke’s first road game, it’s not entirely true. Wake Forest is incapable of seriously defending its home court and as Tre Jones said later, it wasn’t much of a crowd.

That won’t be the case anymore. The fans will come out in Tallahassee and even if FSU doesn’t play well, which happens periodically - it’s fair to say the program is uneven - they always play hard and Duke gets everyone’s very best effort, especially at home.

This will not be an easy game and Tre Jones is going to be very important. The more pressure he puts on the ball the better for Duke.

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