The Blue Devils put on a clinic against N.C. State Saturday, but now they head to enemy territory to face Florida State. The Blue Zone has three keys to the game that can help propel Duke to a big road victory:
Florida State Fortress
The Seminoles are on a three game home hot streak, notching wins against Lipscomb, Louisville and, crucially, ACC-leading Miami. Florida State has been lethal at home and has lost just once in Tallahassee all season—a tight 63-60 loss to Syracuse. The Donald Tucker Civic Center has been an immense advantage for Florida State this year, and the Blue Devils enter the arena as an unwelcome invader.
The Blue Devils, on the other hand, registered a commanding away win at high-flying Wake Forest a week ago and edged neutral-ground victories against Kentucky and Gonzaga in November, with their only road loss of the season coming at Ohio State. Duke has been rolling so far but the atmosphere Florida State possesses will be a hurdle, much as Cameron Indoor Stadium often is for the Blue Devils’ visitors. Should Duke be able to block out the noise, ignore the sea of shouting Seminole fans and stick to the game plan that’s placed it in the nation’s top 10, it may just leave Tallahassee with another win. Conversely, if Florida State maintains its momentum and piles on crowd pressure, it may be a long afternoon for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and company.
Though the near triple-double from sophomore Mark Williams and the passing clinic put on by freshman Trevor Keels rightfully stole the spotlight in Saturday’s win against N.C. State, the double-digit emergence of Theo John was one many Duke fans will be eager to celebrate. The graduate transfer from Marquette has been a great utility player, taking the court and putting up respectable, if unremarkable, numbers and giving a rest to the likes of Williams or Paolo Banchero. Though his leadership qualities and bench energy have been crucial to maintaining the culture of Krzyzewski’s young roster, Saturday was his breakout game in white and blue.
The 6-foot-9 forward posted 10 points and 2 boards against the Wolfpack, joining five other Blue Devils in the double digits. He’s immensely physical and dominates around the paint, providing a useful rebound option and source for close points. If Williams or Banchero needs a rest and the game is tight, the Blue Devils have an ample, able and experienced replacement who can admirably substitute. It may just be Theo time in Tallahassee.
One player has been standout for the Seminoles this season: Caleb Mills. The 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore guard has averaged 13.0 points per game, leading his team in both scoring and minutes played. Additionally, Mills has gone 85% from the line and notched 19 3-pointers.
A team’s best player is most regularly its greatest threat, and that is most certainly the case with Florida State. If he shows out like he did in his 27-point showing against Louisville Jan. 8, he’ll be a handful for the Blue Devils. Mills should carry the Seminoles in this game and will be key to preserving his team’s three-game home unbeaten streak.
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Andrew Long is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.