Check out our Top Plays in today’s “Fab Five” video:
No. 1 Duke at No. 13 Florida State
When and Where: Saturday, Jan. 12, Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, Tallahassee, Fla., 2 p.m. EST.
College basketball has rarely seen the likes of Zion Williamson, but the Duke freshman phenom has not seen a frontcourt like the one he will encounter Saturday when No. 13 Florida State tries to take down the top-ranked Blue Devils.
Williamson continues to shine
The legend of Williamson, a nimble basketball savant at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, continues to grow after yet another standout performance in a season full of them.
The star forward recorded his fourth consecutive double-double with 30 points and 10 rebounds, and also added five assists and four steals while shooting 13 for 16 in Duke’s 87-65 romp at Wake Forest on Tuesday night.
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) January 9, 2019
“Coach is always telling me to shoot the ball, and at first I was like, if it’s not falling, I’m really not going to shoot it,” Williamson told The Associated Press after also hitting 3 of 4 from 3-point range. “Even when I miss, they say, ‘Keep shooting. You can make it.’ … Even after I shot one over the rim, they were like, ‘Z, shoot another one,’ and I got it right back and made it. I think my confidence shooting 3s is getting a lot better.”
More importantly, the Blue Devils (13-1, 2-0 ACC) breezed through their first true road game after losing to Gonzaga in the finals of the Maui Invitational and wins over ranked foes Kentucky and Texas Tech at neutral sites during non-conference play.
For all the publicity Williamson gets, fellow freshman RJ Barrett continues to have an equally spectacular season under the radar. He contributed 21 points and seven assists and actually leads Duke in scoring at 22.8 points per game. Williamson is averaging 20.9 points while shooting 67.9 percent, and the duo are the only set of Division I teammates averaging 20 or more points.
Photo of the only player in the ACC ranked among the league's Top 10 in scoring, Top 15 in boards and 10 in assists
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) January 9, 2019
Duke went 5-4 on the road in ACC play last year and posted a 2-1 mark against ranked opponents in hostile venues. The Blue Devils did not play in Tallahassee, though, and took an 88-72 beating in their last trip in the 2016-17 season.
The Blue Devils are third in the country in scoring at 90.9 points per game and 17th in overall shooting at 49.8 percent.
Seminoles look to combat Williamson with size and depth
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton has turned the Seminoles (13-2, 1-1) into a team no one wants to face because they are often deep, large, and athletic. But Hamilton knows the size of the challenge Duke and Williamson bring.
“They’re exceptionally talented,” Hamilton told the school’s official website Friday. “They’re as deep as any team in the ACC. And they’re extremely well coached by the winningest coach in the history of college basketball.
“I think that puts them in the category of being special.”
After finishing one win short of the Final Four last season, Hamilton’s squad again fits all those attributes and sports at least two players with the size to counter Williamson in 6-10 role player Mfiondu Kabengele and 7-4 starting center Christ Koumadje.
Last season’s leading returning scorer and 6-8 forward Phil Cofer is rounding into shape after missing the first 10 games with a foot injury and averaged 7.4 points in his first five contests.
The Seminoles evened their conference record by beating the Hurricanes. Wednesday night. David Nichols and PJ Savoy combined to score 23 points off the bench, picking up the offensive slack for a starting five which totaled just 27 points on 11-of-33 shooting.
— FSU Hoops (@FSUHoops) January 10, 2019
Florida State limited Miami to 37 percent shooting overall and 4 for 18 from 3-point range. The Seminoles have won all five games they have held an opponent under 40 percent and are limiting teams to 42 percent shooting and 67.7 points per game.
Hamilton’s team is 2-1 versus AP Top 25 opponents, beating Purdue and LSU at neutral sites before last Saturday’s 65-52 loss at then-No. 4 Virginia. Florida State has taken down Duke three times when it entered Tallahassee as the top-ranked team in the country, beating the Blue Devils in 2002, 2006, and 2011.
Florida State is:
- 2-5-1 ATS in its last eight games vs. above-.500 teams.
- 1-7-1 ATS in its last nine home games.
- 1-9 ATS in its last 10 games vs. ACC opponents.
- The under is 9-3 in its last 12 games vs. above-.600 teams.
- The under is 10-2 in its last 12 home games vs. Duke.
- The under is 6-2 in its last eight games vs. above-.500 teams.
- 13-6-1 ATS in its last 20 road games vs. teams with an above-.600 home record.
- 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games as a favorite between 7-12.5 points.
- 6-0 ATS in its last six games vs. above-.500 teams.
- The under is 12-3-1 in its last 16 games following a straight up win by 20 or more points.
- The under is 6-2 in its last eight games vs. Florida State.
- The under is 8-3 in its last 11 games vs. ACC opponents.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
While Williamson versus Florida State’s frontcourt is the main event, the undercard of Barrett against Terance Mann is also one to watch as a pair of 6-7 wing players match up. The argument here is not that Duke is light years better than Florida State and will cover, but that the Blue Devils have multiple elite scorers who can get the ball in scoring positions thanks to freshman point guard Tre Jones, who averages 5.9 assists.
The Seminoles will defend well as Hamilton’s teams always do, but with Cofer not all the way back from his foot injury to be that potential go-to scorer, this game feels a little too far for Florida State to cover or upset Duke.
Prediction: Pick: Duke -7
Full-Game Total Pick
As opposed to its titanic contest versus Gonzaga in Maui where Duke and the Bulldogs finished at 176, this game will be hard-pressed to reach 156 given Florida State’s defense and length. The other issues are the Seminoles turning the ball over nearly 15 times per game and shooting 32.7 percent from 3-point range.
The Seminoles have the size to bang on the boards, but they must also still prevent Duke from running out in transition. That means a slower pace that will allow the under to hit here. This line has also moved up to 158 points, furthering confidence in the over because even if Duke reaches 80 points, the expectation is Florida State would not get 70.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 158 points
Half-Time Side Pick
This is a flyer based on the Seminoles defense delivering here. Florida State has not trailed in any of its six home games and held Florida, Purdue, and Miami to an average of 27.0 first-half points. The Seminoles may not lead at halftime, but they should keep it close enough to sneak a back-door win.
Prediction: Pick: Florida State +4
Half-Time Total Bet
For all of Duke’s prowess offensively, conference life still takes some getting used to. The Blue Devils have totaled 73 and 76 first-half points in their first two ACC games, with the latter coming at shaky Wake Forest. With Florida State coming off a trademark first half in which it combined with Miami for 62 points, the under is the play.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 74.5 points