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Key three: Duke men's basketball must mentally prepare for Florida State

Vernon Carey Jr. will be essential if Duke wants to win the battle on the glass
Vernon Carey Jr. will be essential if Duke wants to win the battle on the glass

Coming off a miracle overtime win against North Carolina, Duke has to regain focus quickly in preparation for Florida State Monday night. The Blue Zone breaks down three keys for the top-10 matchup:

Mentally prepare for a new kind of challenge

Duke’s most recent victory at North Carolina was a thriller for many reasons. It took a lot for the Blue Devils to complete the comeback in regulation as well as overtime, with the Tar Heels' inability to shoot free throws a major factor. North Carolina missed 17 free throws, hitting them at a 55.3 percent clip. No team can expect to win a game shooting that poorly from the charity stripe.

Duke cannot anticipate the same from Florida State. Not only are the Seminoles the best free throw shooting team in the ACC (77.7 percent), but they also sit only one spot behind Duke in the NCAA rankings (eighth). This will be Duke’s first ranked matchup since its loss to Louisville and the team's first matchup against a top-10 team since the season opener against Kansas. The Blue Devils have to be in the mindset that they won’t get the same opportunities they did in Chapel Hill, and they can’t afford to give up as many opportunities either.

Force Devin Vassell to beat Tre Jones

Part of the reason the Seminoles have been so lethal this season is because they are a very well-rounded offense. Despite only having three guys averaging more than 10 points per game, they have eight players averaging at least five, meaning scoring can come from anyone if they are given the opportunity. 

Sophomore guard Devin Vassell has had a breakout season, becoming head coach Leonard Hamilton’s go-to guy. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to tear down Duke by himself. If the Blue Devils don’t allow as many Florida State players to get involved and force Vassell to try and take over the game, this will put him in an unfavorable matchup against an elite defender in Tre Jones. Duke’s star sophomore guard has become one of the best on-ball defenders in the country and is a nightmare one-on-one matchup for any player. 

Be tough on the offensive glass

The Blue Devils need to remain strong on the offensive boards. This is something they have done exceptionally well all season (mainly through Vernon Carey Jr.) but could not figure out throughout the first half against North Carolina. Duke eventually used offensive rebounds to its advantage in the second half, but its lack of aggressiveness over the first 20 minutes nearly cost the team the game.

Much of the Blue Devils' offense revolves around second-chance points. Their subpar 3-point shooting hasn’t hurt them too deeply because they have been so good working for the offensive rebounds. Without it, as seen throughout much of the contest against the Tar Heels, Duke ends up in disarray. So to overcome a fierce challenger, the Blue Devils need to once again be aggressive on the offensive glass.

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