DURHAM, N.C. – The Florida State men’s basketball team has a golden opportunity to reverse its recent fortunes.
But it won’t come easily.
The Seminoles visit No. 15 Duke on Thursday (7 p.m., ESPN) looking to snap a four-game losing streak and regain some positive momentum as the calendar inches closer to March.
The Blue Devils have had an uneven year by their standards, with a 20-7 overall record that includes the program’s first three-game losing streak in nine years.
But they seemed to turn the corner in February, reeling off five straight wins – including three against Top-15 opponents Louisville, Virginia and North Carolina – before blowing a late lead in a rematch against Louisville last week.
Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, who agreed to a two-year contract extension on Wednesday, said he doesn’t see much difference between this year’s Duke squad and any of the others he’s coached against during his 14-year tenure in Tallahassee.
“They are a typical Duke team,” Hamilton said. ‘If you go back and check what I said three, four, five years ago, I probably said the same thing I’m saying today. They’re a good basketball team, well coached and loaded with talent.
“And,” Hamilton added with a laugh, “they always have a Plumlee.”
That would be 7-foot, 250-pound senior center Marshall Plumlee, who ranks among the ACC’s top 10 in both rebounding (8.6 per game) and blocks (1.6 per game) while averaging 8.2 points per game.
And he’s the only Duke starter who doesn’t average double-figures.
Grayson Allen (20.7 PPG), the ACC’s second-leading scorer, and freshman Brandon Ingram (17.0 PPG) are among the rest of a lineup which scores more than 82 points per game.
Ingram, a 6-9, 195-pound freshman, is considered one of the top prospects for this year’s NBA draft.
Hamilton said he also expects injured Blue Devils Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson to play on Thursday. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski already confirmed that Jones is expected to play.
Jefferson has been out since December with a foot injury, but there have been rumblings around Durham that he could return soon.
“So we’re going to get them at their strongest and their deepest,” Hamilton said. “… So it leaves us with only one thought: We’ve got to be at our best in order to go in there, and then some. We’ve got to play better than we have played. We’ve done that before. So we’ve got to rise to the occasion.”
FSU is looking for its third victory at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. The first two were among the most memorable wins of the Hamiton era. Eventual first-round pick Al Thornton led the Seminoles to their first win in Durham in 2007, and Michael Snaer silenced the Cameron crowd with a buzzer-beater that helped spur FSU to an ACC tournament championship in 2012.
“The fact that we’re playing them at Duke, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a fight,” said freshman Dwayne Bacon, who scored 22 points at Virginia Tech last week.
“So we’ve just got to come in ready.”