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X Factor: Wendell Carter Jr.'s ability to stay on the floor key for Duke against Florida State

Wendell Carter Jr. has struggled with foul trouble at times this season.
Wendell Carter Jr. has struggled with foul trouble at times this season.

After a losing start to ACC play at Boston College three weeks ago, Duke finally gets into the meat of its conference schedule, opening at home with No. 24 Florida State Saturday. With the Seminoles coming to Durham, the Blue Zone takes a look at a pair of players who could be key to their respective teams' success Saturday afternoon:

Duke: Forward Wendell Carter Jr.

If it wasn't already clear what the first-year big man can bring to the table for this Blue Devil team, look no further than his dominant performance against Evansville. Carter put up 27 points in just 18 minutes, hitting four 3-pointers—more than he'd hit up to that point all season. The Atlanta native continues to diversify his game, as he has already proven himself in the post. His ability to step outside will only open up more space for Marvin Bagley III to operate down low and allow both Trevon Duval and Grayson Allen to drive at the hoop.

Against Florida State, Duke should have a modest size advantage—although the Seminoles' 7-foot-4 center Christ Koumadje has already been ruled out, the visitors will have 7-foot Nigerian freshman Ike Obiagu. 

Beyond Obiagu, however, the next tallest player stands at just 6-foot-9. Although Carter will have to avoid foul trouble against a deep and athletic Florida State side, if he can stay on the floor, he will be crucial as the Blue Devils look to control the paint to secure their first ACC win.

Florida State: Forward Phil Cofer

What a difference a year makes.

After averaging a miserable 2.9 points per game in just 12.5 minutes last season, Cofer has emerged as a senior leader for the Seminoles, setting the tone on offense. He has scored in double-figures in seven of 11 games and racked up 12 boards in Florida State's upset of then-No. 5 Florida. 

With the Seminoles limited size-wise, Cofer typically operates in a stretch-four role with the occasional appearance at center. Against Duke, they'll need him to lead a gang rebounding effort—Florida State ranks second-to-last in opposition offensive rebounding percentage among ACC teams, ahead of just Pittsburgh. But in just 11 minutes last season at Cameron Indoor, Cofer hit two of his three field-goal attempts for four points, so the Blue Devils will need to make sure they lean on their size to keep the Seminoles' best post player in check.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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