Duke hosts Florida State Saturday for its last game of 2022. Before the matchup, the Blue Zone takes a look at a player from both sides capable of leading their team to success:
Duke: Ryan Young
He may not be the flashiest player on the floor, but graduate student Ryan Young offers the necessary consistency and leadership the Blue Devils need to get back to their winning ways. Despite Duke's disappointing loss against ACC opponent Wake Forest Dec. 20, the transfer from Northwestern once more demonstrated his poise inside the paint, going 5-of-6 inside with 10 points on the night. What was more impressive, however, was his team-high nine rebounds, helping the team compensate for lacking a full roster.
Coming off the bench, Young’s low-post presence has been a mainstay in Duke’s offense. Averaging 21.2 minutes on the floor each night, the 6-foot-10 center has made the most of it through his dependable performances, as he leads the team with a 71.7 field goal percentage. He is by no means the leading scorer in averaging 7.2 points per game, but Young’s offensive production is almost a sure thing when he goes to the basket.
Perhaps more impressive are his signature rebounding abilities. Young’s ability to create second-chance points off the offensive glass is second to none, as he grabs 3.2 offensive rebounds a game, a team-high. Defensively, even though he plays second fiddle to freshman phenom Kyle Filipowski, the Stewartsville, N.J., native still demonstrates toughness and grit that opponents find dangerous.
While his consistency is certainly a big asset, Young's most significant contribution comes in the form of one thing: his age. As a graduate student, Young is one of the oldest players on the team that actually sees the court. With that title, his experience becomes invaluable. Coming off an upset to the Demon Deacons, the center has the means to help his team bounce back. With so many young guns on the roster, it is up to guys like Young to show them how to have a short-term memory and move on. In fact, the key to a win against Florida State will rely on Duke living in the moment and keeping the past in the past.
Young may not get the most minutes or have the biggest plays Saturday, but his stability and steadfast production as a member of the Blue Devil roster will be crucial to a victory.
Florida State: Matthew Cleveland
After splashing onto the college basketball scene in his freshman season, sophomore guard Matthew Cleveland is already on track for greatness once more in his 2022-23 campaign. Averaging 13.7 points per game, his 6-foot-7 frame pairs with his elite skill set to create a menace on the wing for the Seminoles.
Effective near the rim, Cleveland’s ability to create shots for himself makes him a problem inside the paint. He is one of the most consistent players on the Florida State roster, making 47.1% of his field goals. Nonetheless, what really makes him stand out is his incredible rebounding. His domination of the offensive glass and relentless defensive prowess helps him earn 6.7 rebounds per game in generating second-chance points for the Seminoles.
While Florida State may not be a basketball powerhouse in the ACC, Cleveland continues to stand out within the conference and remains on the national radar. Earning the ACC Sixth Man of the Year Award in 2022 in his breakout freshman season, the Atlanta, Ga., native also earned ACC Freshman of the Week honors in early January and late February. Above all, his national status was cemented when the sophomore was once again named to the Julius Erving Award Watch List for the top small forward in college basketball after being named to the list last year.
However, Cleveland has some weaknesses the Blue Devils can exploit to put him in tough positions to knock down shots. While he has improved in his 3-point shooting since last season, Cleveland boasts a 42.1% conversion rate from beyond the arc off of 19 opportunities. Forcing him into long-range situations may help Duke lessen his impact on the floor while allowing it to capitalize on its own sharp-shooting talents.
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Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.