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Next Up - Florida State And How To Watch

The Seminoles have had a tough year to date but don’t count them out.

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Jimmy V Classic - Duke v Iowa
 NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 06: Dariq Whitehead #0 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on during the second half of the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Madison Square Garden on December 06, 2022 in New York City.
Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Date 12/31 || Time 1:00 PM || Venue Cameron Indoor Stadium || Video ESPN2, SlingTV

The herky-jerky nature of the exam and holiday break makes for a bumpy stretch of road in the college basketball season: you're out of the non-conference season, more or less, and then just disrupted.

Things crank up again after Christmas of course, and that’s what we will see in Cameron Saturday as Florida State comes calling.

This is a bit different than recent games between these two. Duke and FSU have put on some tremendous games in recent years. Remember the Michael Sneer buzzer beater in Cameron? How about Cam Reddish’s thriller down there?

This one could still be really good - ACC games always have that potential - but Duke hasn’t really hit its stride and Florida State is off to a 4-10 start.

Part of the problem has been injuries. Leonard Hamilton likes to have a deep roster and he started the season with some serious injury issues. That was compounded when 6-10 freshman Baba Miller was forced to sit out 16 games (he should be back for Georgia Tech next Saturday).

But that hasn’t been his only problem.

The talent probably isn’t as good as it has been lately - Miller should change that - and his roster is less experienced. We’re not trying to pick on anyone, but last year, Kentucky transfer Cam’Ron Fletcher averaged 16.3 mpg.

This year?

He’s getting 29.6.

We’re sure he’s improved, but it’s rare to see one of Hamilton’s players get heavy minutes like that. And Matthew Cleveland is pulling 32.6 while Darin Green leads the team with 32.9.

(Update - we didn’t realize that Fletcher had an injury too. He’s been out since the Virginia game. We haven’t seen his status for Duke).

Hamilton also likes to have a number of big men and that isn’t the case now, although Miller will help when he’s back. Right now, 7-4 Naheem McLeod is the best big. Jaylan Gainey, a 6-10 transfer from Brown, is out for the season with a knee injury. Freshman Cam Corhen is holding his own but he’s still a freshman. Freshman De’Ante Green has to play, but he’s only getting 5.4 mpg.

The core of the team - Green, Cleveland, Fletcher and Caleb Mills - are pretty good, midsized players.

We should probably list Jalen Warley there too. He showed some real potential last year.

Injuries have played a role in Florida State’s struggles, but clearly that hasn’t been the only factor.

Of course Duke has had its own issues. The much-vaunted transition has gone fairly well in general but like Florida State, injuries have hurt Duke - just not as badly.

Dariq Whitehead has only recently gotten close to game shape. Dereck Lively was slowed by his own injury and hasn’t shown his full potential on offense. Defense is a different story: he really changes things for Duke when he’s on the court.

And of course Jeremy Roach’s toe issues has been a serious concern. He sat out for 10 days prior to the Wake Forest game and wasn't nearly himself in Winston-Salem.

We expect that Whitehead and Lively will be fine and play well (they both missed the Wake game due to illness) but Roach’s status is a wildcard. He’s shown brilliance when he’s healthy. Duke really needs him.

Obviously roles are changing and shifting to deal with these situations and with a young team, that means opportunities, but it can also be problematic. Kyle Filipowski has been brilliant but when Lively was out, Wake Forest was able to mostly shut him down. A healthy Whitehead would have helped as well, and a healthier Roach would have too.

That’s not to criticize anyone; it’s just that roles aren’t fully established and can’t be until everyone is fully healthy and ready to go.

So this is a really interesting game. Florida State, as we mentioned, has struggled but they are improving.

In the last six games, FSU lost to Purdue 79-69 but gave them a great game, then fell at Virginia 62-57, beat Louisville handily 73-53 (not a big surprise), took care of SC Upstate 80-63, lost to St. John’s 93-79 and nipped Notre Dame on the road 73-72.

Earlier, you could reasonably assume they’d probably lose.


Not so much, particularly if Roach is still limited.

In the other words, if you think this is going to be an easy game, you should probably think again.

As per usual, we’ll add links as we find them.

FSU basketball searches for 1st road win over Duke in a decade