Preview: FSU begins ACC play with showdown against No. 4 Duke
Time: 2 p.m.
DURHAM, N.C. — Duke finally has a chance to move out of last place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Blue Devils have been there since Dec. 9, when they played in their only conference game so far and fell at Boston College.
But Saturday, the league schedule kicks into gear for most teams and the fourth-ranked Blue Devils are back in action to take on No. 24 Florida State at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“I know exactly what’s ahead,” Duke senior Grayson Allen said of the rigors of ACC play. “It’s going to be very tough, especially starting off with Florida State right when we get back from break.”
Duke (12-1, 0-1 ACC) lost earlier in the month at Boston College, an outcome that dropped the Blue Devils from the No. 1 national ranking that it held since the preseason.
The result also meant that Duke spent three weeks at the bottom of the standings. At least the Blue Devils, who have four freshmen in the starting lineup, received a taste of ACC play.
“We still have not won a conference game,” freshman forward Marvin Bagley said. “That’s how I see it and that’s my motivation. I think that’s the rest of the team’s motivation — to get our first conference win and continue to get conference wins.”
Florida State rolled at times in the pre-conference slate, including posting a blowout victory at Florida.
Since losing to Oklahoma State on Dec. 16, the Seminoles have won twice by defeating Charleston Southern and Southern Mississippi.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said the team seems to understand what it’s supposed to be doing.
“This team has the ability to be a pretty good basketball team,” Hamilton said. “I’m still going to reserve my opinion until we become more consistent and connected.”
And against Duke that task is usually even tougher. Florida State is likely to have at least one freshman — center Ike Obiagu — in the starting lineup.
The Seminoles are 11-1 for the sixth time, including the second season in a row.
But Florida State’s ACC slate calls for the first four games against teams either ranked or previously ranked this season with North Carolina, Miami and Louisville following this league opener on the schedule. So the Seminoles won’t be easy into conference competition.
“We still have a lot to learn,” Hamilton said. “We have principals that we are trying to accomplish offensively and defensively. They know exactly what they are. It’s one thing to know them and another thing to go out and execute them and be consistent with them. A lot of it is because we depend on a lot of guys who haven’t played a whole lot. It’s a lot of game slippage. We’re at a point now, though, that we don’t have very much room for error.”
Duke won its last 10 ACC home openers.
After the loss to Boston College, the Blue Devils put an emphasis on defense and communication. They’ve played only once across a 20-day period, which included final exams.
“Defense and communication, that’s the two big things we’ve been working on,” freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. said. “I think we’re in a good place right now.”
Florida State is coming off last week’s romp past Southern Mississippi, when it racked up 19 baskets from 3-point range. That’s one short of a school record.
This is the third time Duke takes on a ranked team, defeating Michigan State and Florida last month.
Duke leads Florida State by a 36-10 margin in the all-time series.