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Frank Jackson scored 16 points against Miami and will likely continue to see an uptick in minutes ...

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Florida State



After suffering their second straight loss at Miami Saturday, the Blue Devils will hope to get back on track at home against Florida State Tuesday. The Seminoles, winners of their last two contests, handed Duke its third loss with a 16-point victory at home in early January. In a matchup that has major implications for seeding in the ACC tournament, here is a look at a key player from each team who could be the difference-maker in the game:

Duke: Guard Frank Jackson

With Grayson Allen hobbled by an ankle injury and his status for Tuesday’s game uncertain, Jackson will see an increase in playing time. The lone bright spot for the Blue Devils Saturday evening, Jackson scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field in 29 minutes of play. Jackson, who started the season scoring in double figures in eight straight contests, saw his role on the team diminish as more heralded freshmen returned from their injuries. However, he will find himself back in the spotlight during a critical time in Duke’s season with the postseason rapidly approaching.

Duke scored a season-low 50 points against Miami, averaging a dismal 0.81 points per possession. The offense looked disjointed and primary scorers Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum struggled to find their form, shooting a combined 27.8 percent from the field and 15.4 percent from downtown. In order to find open looks for his two teammates, Jackson must take advantage of his quick first step and ability to get to the rim. This will draw Florida State’s defense in and allow for kick-outs to two typically strong 3-point shooters. But Jackson, who committed three costly turnovers against the Hurricanes, must handle the ball with care, as the Seminoles are second in ACC in steals.

If Jackson can take advantage of his explosiveness, not only will he find scoring opportunities for himself, but also looks for other Blue Devils, which will likely decide the outcome of Tuesday’s game.

Florida State: Guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes

It is no secret Florida State struggles in true road games, having only won three of eight in conference play, and the margin of two of the victories was a mere two points. In their road losses, the Seminoles have surrendered 84.0 points per game, far more than their average points allowed of 71.4. In order for Florida State to win, they need to set the tone early with their defense, led by Rathan-Mayes.

The junior is a high-motor guard that plays with a lot of defensive intensity. He pressures the ball incessantly and has shut down opposing guards around the ACC. Rathan-Mayes’ stiff defense could not only hold the potent Duke offense at bay, but also create fast-break opportunities for the Seminoles. Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton has vouched for Rathan-Mayes to be nominated for All-ACC defensive team honors. If such a worthy defender shows up Tuesday night, it will be a long night for the Blue Devils, and Florida State will be one step closer to securing a double-bye in the ACC tournament.


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