Duke moves on to the third round of the ACC Tournament and will meet Florida State, and that’s certainly not going to be easy.
Leonard Hamilton has built a sturdy program in Tallahassee, one that can go toe-to-toe with any ACC team.
We haven’t watched them a whole lot this year and didn’t see them play Duke because that game was canceled due to an FSU Covid pause.
However, Florida State’s basic formula is not hard to understand and doesn't change much: get a lot of really good, preferably long athletes who can defend aggressively, toss in two or three guys who are as tall as you can find, rotate the more athletic guys in frequently and try to channel the opponent in to face the big thick guys in the middle. Offense is obviously required but secondary.
This year, FSU’s rotation goes about nine deep with MJ Walker topping out at 29.2 mpg. The other...what do you call them? Maybe chasers? are Walker, RaiQuan Gray, Anthony Polite, Scottie Barnes, RayQuan Evans, Malik Osborne, Sardaar Calhoun and Wyatt Wilkes.
The big guys are Balsa Koprivica (7-1/240), Tanor Ngom (7-1/236) and Quincy Ballard (6-11/240).
It’s not quite UNC on the inside but it will not be easy.
Additionally, Osborne and Barnes are both 6-9 and Gray is 260 lbs. and hardly a shrinking violet.
They also have considerably more experience - Walker and Evans are seniors while Wlikes, Polite, Osborne, Gray and Calhoun are juniors. Koprivica is a sophomore and Barnes is a freshman.
And Duke has to deal with this team after playing on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It’s going to be a real test.
There is some good news for Duke though.
First, the Blue Devils appear to have grown up a lot in Greensboro and are no longer playing like an uncertain young team. Mark Williams in particular is growing in leaps and bounds.
And second, Florida State has not played that well lately.
Look at their record since a mid-February pause. Wake Forest took them to overtime, Pitt, despite being erratic, kept the game close, losing by just seven. UNC surprised them, winning by eight and Notre Dame upset them with relative ease in the regular season finale.
On the plus side they beat Virginia by 21 and Boston College by 29. On the other hand though Virginia ended up losing three straight and Boston College was fundamentally crippled with only a handful of players available.
Is it winnable?
It’s winnable. But it won’t be easy.