Game Preview by @RandyDunson: Duke Blue Devils vs. Florida State Seminoles – February 24, 2016

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Abridged Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (20-7, 9-5 (T4)] vs. Florida State Seminoles [16-11, 6-9 (9)]

Thursday, February 24, 2016 • 7:00 PM • ESPN • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium

By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson.]

[Writer’s Note: As of this writing, I have heard nothing further about the status of Amile Jefferson, but given the Twitter chatter, might we see him in uniform on Thursday night? I definitely am not going to make that call, but the intrigue is ramping up.]

Endgame

Florida_State_Seminoles_Alternate_LogoDUKEFlorida State will look to end a late-season swoon Thursday in one of college basketball’s toughest places to play. The Seminoles will take their 4-game losing streak to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on a Duke team that has won five of its last six contests. The Blue Devils did lose to Louisville last over the weekend. FSU was defeated by Virginia Tech, 83-73, on Saturday.

Averaging better than 82 points per game, Duke is among the nation’s highest scoring teams. The Blue Devils have five players who average in double-figures scoring, led by sophomore Grayson Allen and freshman standout Brandon Ingram, who is a walking mismatch at 6-9. The Blue Devils have been without forward Amile Jefferson however, since early December.

Duke has won the last three meetings in the series with Florida State, but since 2002, the Seminoles have defeated a ranked Duke seven times. The most recent was in the 2012 ACC Tournament semifinals. Behind 26 points from Quinn Cook, Duke beat FSU 73-70 in a very close contest in Tallahassee last season. Devon Bookert scored a career-high 23 points to lead the Seminoles. The Blue Devils lead the all-time series, 34-9.

Key Players for FSU

  • Malik Beasley (Fr.-G) 16.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 48% FG
  • Dwayne Bacon (Fr.-G/F) 15.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1 SPG
  • Xavier Rathan-Mayes (So.-G) 11.8 PPG, 3 RPG, 4.7 APG

Key Players for Duke

  • Grayson Allen (So.-G) 21 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 49% FG
  • Brandon Ingram (Fr.-G/F) 17 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 BPG
  • Marshall Plumlee (Gr.-C) 8.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.1 APG

FSU Player to Watch: Malik Beasley

Along with Florida State’s late season slide has been the slide of leading scorer Malik Beasley. Despite being an efficient scorer for much of the season, Beasley is just 13-for-46 or 28 percent during FSU’s skid. Beasley has also shot just 33 percent from deep over that stretch while getting to the free throw line just 12 total times. For Florida State to have any chance on Thursday, it will need solid efforts from Beasley and fellow freshman Dwayne Bacon.

Match-up to Watch: Dwayne Bacon vs. Brandon Ingram

Dwayne Bacon’s 22-point effort was one of the few highlights for Florida State in Saturday’s 83-73 loss to Virginia Tech. Bacon is also FSU’s leading rebounder and perhaps its best attacker off the dribble. Like Beasley, Bacon has struggled recently for the Seminoles. Finding an answer for Duke’s Brandon Ingram will not be easy. Ingram is long at 6-9 and is stroking it at a 41 percent rate from beyond the 3-point arc. Long, athletic wing players like Virginia Tech’s Zach LeDay have given the Seminoles trouble.

Possible Starting Line-up for Florida State

F             Montay Brandon (3.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG

C             Boris Bojanovsky (6.4 PPG, 1.8 BPG

G            Dwayne Bacon (15.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG

G            Malik Beasley (16.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG

G            Xavier Rathan-Mayes (11.8 PPG, 4.7 APG

Possible Starting Line-up for Duke

F             Brandon Ingram (17.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG

C             Marshall Plumlee (8.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG

G            Grayson Allen (20.7 PPG, 3.6 APG

G            Matt Jones (11.2 PPG, 2.5 APG)

G            Derryck Thornton (8.0 PPG, 2.7 APG

Notables:

  • For the third time in four games on Saturday, Florida State allowed an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent as Virginia Tech shot at nearly a 53 percent clip. Georgia Tech shot nearly 54 percent against the Seminoles last week and on February 11; Syracuse shot an ungodly 62 percent from the floor.
  • In Saturday’s loss at Virginia Tech, Dwayne Bacon tied a career-high with five makes from 3-point land. Among FSU players, only senior Devon Bookert, who made six in a Jan. 2 loss at Clemson, has hit more treys in a game than Bacon.
  • With a victory on Thursday, Florida State would be guaranteed an 11th straight winning season. FSU would also equal last season’s win total
  • Duke employs one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks, ranking 17th in the NCAA in scoring offense (82.4) and second the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (121.2)
  • Duke features two of the top six scorers in ACC play, as Grayson Allen (21.1) ranks second and Brandon Ingram (18.2) is sixth in league play
  • Among ACC freshmen in all games this season, Ingram leads in scoring (17.0), three-point percentage (.408), rebounding (6.8) and double-doubles (7), and ranks second in blocks (1.5).
  • Duke averages 9.0 three-pointers per game overall and 9.3 per game in ACC play, both of which lead the league. Allen (60), Ingram (58), and Matt Jones (59) are bidding to become the first trio in Duke history to each make 70 threes in a season.

Prediction

It is never easy to play Duke off a loss. Now that Jones is expected back in the lineup, Duke can bring Kennard off the bench and have seven players instead of six in their rotation. The way Florida State is playing defensively, the Blue Devils should put up at least 90 points, 94-75.

Game Keys

For this game’s keys, let us focus on Duke’s rotation, albeit it there are always tweaks with each opponent.

Coach K is known for not using many players in his rotation, especially late in the season, but this season this has been taken to the extreme. Injuries and a lack of quality reserves have the Blue Devils effectively using only six players on a regular basis, and each had a major role to play in every game.

However, all six of these rotation players have one focal point that is more important than anything else. It is the area they need to concentrate on the most in order for Duke to be successful, since there is no one else there to do it if they struggle.

Let us look at what each of Duke’s six key players should be most concerned with as we head toward March.

Brandon Ingram – Take Care of the Ball

  • A matchup nightmare who regularly finds himself being guarded by someone either too small or too slow, 6’9” freshman wing Brandon Ingram can dominate a game inside and out
    • That’s assuming he doesn’t turn the ball over, which has become a problem of late
  • Ingram had 10 turnovers Saturday in Duke’s loss at Louisville, giving him 18 turnovers in the past four games
    • He’s at 57 for the season, most of any Blue Devils player, raising his turnover rate to 12.4 percent

Grayson Allen – Sustained Aggressiveness

  • No one needs to remind Grayson Allen what he does best, since there’s rarely been an offensive possession where he hasn’t been running all over the court
    • His boundless energy has enabled him to make a huge leap from his first season, sitting as Duke’s leading scorer at 21 points per game
  • Allen can score from all over, but he’s most effective when taking the ball to the basket
    • This either leads to layups in traffic, draws a foul or sucks in the defense to where he can kick it out to an open shooter on the perimeter
    • As a result, Allen is also the Blue Devils’ top assist man and most frequent free-throw shooter

Matt Jones – Leadership

  • Not having Matt Jones on the court against Louisville meant more than just missing his shooting, his ball-handling and his presence in the rotation
    • By the junior guard sitting out with an ankle injury, Duke was without its most experienced player in terms of minutes and start
  • Jones has become the mother hen of this Blue Devils team, even more so since Amile Jefferson got hurt in December
    • Marshall Plumlee has been around longer, but he’s in his first season starting and isn’t as much of a vocal leader, while Jones is the elder statesmen of a guard group in which two others are freshman and the other (sophomore Grayson Allen) didn’t play much in 2014-15

Marshall Plumlee – Stamina

  • Marshall Plumlee’s minutes have gone up in each season he’s been with Duke, from a scant 50 as a freshman to 375 last season
    • And then came this year, when he’s become a starter for the first time and, through circumstances outside his control, the Blue Devils’ only true post player for much of the season
  • The 7’0” senior has played more minutes this year (825) than in the previous three (678) combined, and it’s taken every bit of his energy to average 30.6 minutes per game
  • In ACC play that number is 35.8 minutes, with freshman Chase Jeter only occasionally able to step in for him for a minute or two here or there

Derryck Thornton – Ball-handling

  • Derryck Thornton should still be in high school, but instead he’s the only true point guard for the defending national champions
    • That’s a lot to ask of an 18-year-old player, and it’s why Duke didn’t turn to him much earlier in the year
    • Now that’s no longer an option, so Thornton has to come through whenever asked
  • This is best done by being careful with the ball—he has just 25 turnovers in 14 ACC games—and moving the ball around to the best option
    • This doesn’t always result in an assist, but he’s become adept at running the offense far more than at the outset when Matt Jones and Grayson Allen handled most of the point guard minutes

Luke Kennard – Making his Shots Count

  • Luke Kennard might be only shooting 33.1 percent from three-point range, but he’s arguably Duke’s best shooter when he finds the right spot
    • That’s included more and more two-point shots as the season has evolved, with him hitting 54.9 percent inside the arc, including 57.4 percent on twos in ACC play
    • The freshman is also Duke’s best foul shooter, at 89.4 percent (leading the ACC & the nation), and he’s learned when it’s better to draw contact rather than try to get off a contested shot that isn’t the best look