Zion Williamson and the Duke Blue Devils were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Michigan State over the weekend. On Tuesday Williamson was named to the Associated Press All-America team.
This season Williamson averaged 22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.2 blocked shots, and 1.8 steals. The Duke phenom also had a 69.3 field-goal percentage and was one of the stars of the NCAA tournament. It’s probably a safe bet that Williamson’s college basketball career is over. So where does he go?
The committee has spoken. The field of 68 is official. Millions of people across the world are creating their brackets right now. Numbers are being crunched, guts are being trusted, and everyone is picking their Cinderella. What should you look out for when creating yours?
Tonight’s ACC Championship game features two programs with vastly different histories. Duke is looking to win its 21st ACC title. Florida State, on the other hand, is aiming to bring home its second. Both teams are coming off of huge wins. Last night, Florida State took down 1 seeded Virginia, then Duke defeated rival North Carolina. The earlier matchup between these two teams ended in dramatic fashion, with Cam Reddish hitting a game-winning three as time expired. Can Florida State get their revenge?
Season Series: 1-0 Duke
Duke is without Marques Bolden due to a knee injury.
There are no reported injuries for Florida State.
Three Keys for a Duke win:
Ball Movement. Florida State is a deep, athletic team full of long, aggressive defenders. Duke will struggle all night if they play heavy iso ball. They have to keep the ball moving around the court if they hope to score with any consistency.
Limit Fouls. Florida State is comfortable going deep into their bench. They had 9 players play at least 11 minutes against Virginia. The Seminoles rank 30th nationally in percentage of bench minutes used, according to KenPom.com. Duke is the exact opposite, ranking 228th. Their usual rotation goes 8, maybe 9 players deep. They cannot afford to get into foul trouble.
Hit Threes. Last time these teams faced off, Duke shot 11-24 from three. Keep in mind that they played the second half of game one without Zion Williamson due to an eye injury. Another hot shooting night could bode well for the Blue Devils, especially with their biggest inside threat back on the floor.
Three Keys for a Florida State win:
Utilize depth. Florida State is one of the deepest teams in the country. The roster is full of high-energy, long, aggressive players that can overwhelm teams with their chemistry. There is very little drop off between lineups, and that can make them extremely difficult to plan for, especially for a shorter bench like Duke. Both teams are playing their third game in as many days, so expect coach Leonard Hamilton to make a steady flow of substitutions.
Force turnovers. The Seminoles come into this game ranked ninth in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Their identity lies on that end of the floor. Forcing turnovers and getting run outs will be essential, and will help them wear Duke down throughout the course of the game.
Control the paint. In the first meeting, Florida State won the rebounding battle 36-27, holding Duke to their second lowest total of the season. FSU grabbed 16 offensive boards as well, which was the second most allowed to an opponent by Duke. Another effort like that, combined with a concerted effort to clog the paint on defense, will put Duke in a tough spot, having to rely on their perimeter shooting.
Other Game Notes:
Both teams play exceptional defense, with Duke being sixth and FSU being ninth in defensive efficiency. (KenPom)
The matchups between these two teams over the past few years have been very close games. The last four games have been decided by an average of 4.5 points per game.
This game has huge implications in the NCAA tournament. Duke is attempting to make a case for a 1-seed, and a win here should solidify that. Florida State is currently projected as a 4-seed in the West portion of the bracket, but could move to the 3-seed, overtaking LSU after their loss to Florida in the SEC Quarterfinals.
In the second of two semifinal games Friday, Duke and UNC continue their rivalry and face off for the third time this season. The teams share a dramatic history and the rivalry is considered the greatest in college basketball. Duke is looking to see how they match up with their big 3 all healthy. UNC is looking to beat Duke three times in a season for the first time since 1976. Both teams are aiming to advance to the ACC Championship. IT DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS!
No season in college basketball is created equal. Last year’s unpredictable nature in which top-ranked teams fell from grace at a higher clip than ever before, was certainly not expected to be duplicated one year thereafter.
While that narrative proved to be true, storylines and plot twists alike were in abundance once again as we now find ourselves on a crash course for what many believe to be the greatest tournament in all of sports.
With conference tournaments set to get juicy in the coming 48 hours, we look back on who stood out amongst the rest en route to my college basketball regular season awards for the 2018-2019 season.