Duke men's basketball takes on Florida State on the road Tuesday night. In anticipation, the Blue Zone brings a player on each side of the court who can make a big impact:
Duke: Paolo Banchero
Florida State has had trouble this season getting an offense going. Their leading scorer, sophomore Caleb Mills, averages 13.0 points per game, and the team often struggles with the same issues of youth and immature play that plagued Duke against experienced teams like Miami. If the Blue Devils want to overcome the low-scoring Seminoles, freshman star Paolo Banchero will need to play two consistent halves in Tallahassee.
Banchero averages 17.9 points per game on the season, and he put up 21 Saturday against N.C. State while demonstrating his ability to bully-ball and drive to the rim for strong opportunities up close. But despite the high numbers, Banchero has struggled to find his rhythm for extended segments of games, making just one basket that wasn’t a free throw in the first half against Miami and dropping 20 of his 21 points against Gonzaga in the first half. Duke plays more confidently and better enters the latter half of games when Banchero is consistent, so his performance Tuesday will help give the momentum for a strong team effort.
He’ll also need to work hard to give Florida State’s 7-footers trouble at the perimeter. The Seminoles kept Miami guard Isaiah Wong in check in their last match-up, holding one of the Hurricanes’ premier scorers to only 10 points. Banchero’s athleticism and agility should help him find open opportunities and get around the Seminole defense, but if they shut him out, his ability to read the court and distribute the ball will help to give other Blue Devils scoring opportunities.
Florida State: Malik Osborne
Malik Osborne is a strong perimeter shooter for the Seminoles, and his success against Duke depends on whether he can get out of a recent cold streak. The red-shirt senior has shot 41.3% from the three this season, but after turning his ankle against N.C. State, he missed nine straight from behind the arc over several games.
However, Osborne also has experience running the show from the inside. When Florida State center Tanner Ngom suffered a concussion during the preseason, the 6-foot-9, 225-pound Osborne stepped into the role for the Seminoles. He was rather successful in this role, leading Florida State in scoring with 13.0 points per game for the team’s first five games. Some of his best highlights this season have been in the form of and-one jams into the basket, so if he can’t get hot from the perimeter, his versatility can still help him make a difference inside.
Florida State can rely on Osborne to perform well at important moments. A big dunk from Osborne got the Seminoles their first lead of the game against Miami Tuesday, and with 24 seconds left in the game, a wide open three from Osborne put Florida State up two, a vital moment in their one-point victory against the Hurricanes. The Seminoles will count on Osborne against Duke both wide and at the rim, and Duke must be prepared to shut him down when things get tight in Tallahassee.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Leah Boyd is a Pratt junior and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 117th volume.