TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Consider it a polling quirk.
Or a scheduling quirk.
Last week, the Florida State men’s basketball team visited the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers.
On Saturday afternoon, the Seminoles will host the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils.
Hey, if the Coaches Poll (which has UVA No. 1) and the Associated Press (which ranks Duke first) can’t agree on which team is the nation’s best, perhaps they should just ask Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton at about 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Not very many times do you have the opportunity to play against two No. 1-ranked teams in one week,” Hamilton said with a laugh. “The basketball, ACC gods think very highly of Florida State.”
Hamilton had his tongue in his cheek when he said that, and, no, Florida State’s place in the current college basketball landscape probably didn’t play much of a factor in the Seminoles’ schedule.
But there’s still plenty of reason to think that Florida State will present Duke with a formidable challenge.
For one thing, FSU is 13-2, ranked 13th nationally and last year made a run to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight – the same round in which Duke finished.
The Seminoles are talented, experienced and, perhaps more than anything, deep.
Ten different players scored in Wednesday’s win over Miami.
“To us, it’s just another game,” senior guard P.J. Savoy said. “The media is hyping it. Our fans are hyping it. We’re excited to play, just as any other game.”
Maybe, but it’s unlikely to feel like just another game inside the Tucker Center on Saturday.
While the Seminoles have hosted some fine atmospheres already this season – the opener against Florida and an ACC-Big Ten Challenge game against Purdue both got awfully loud – things could rise to another level once FSU and Duke tip off.
The game is a hard sellout, meaning that every single seat is accounted for.
Student tickets were snapped up in seconds, and Savoy said that it’s hard to walk around campus without hearing “Beat Duke” from his fellow classmates.
Even Hamilton, a 30-year veteran with friends and contacts in every last corner of the basketball world, said his phone is buzzing with ticket requests.
“I didn’t take their calls,” he said with a laugh.
Duke, meanwhile, will be playing in just its second true road game of the season. The Blue Devils beat Wake Forest, 87-65, last week.
“We saw that against Florida, we saw that against Purdue, the effect that the crowd can have on a game in a positive way,” FSU senior David Nichols said. “We need to use that to our advantage.”
Indeed, because while Virginia last week challenged the Seminoles with what might be the best – or at least most effective – system in college basketball, the Blue Devils will bring what might be the nation’s best roster.
Despite losing all five of last year’s starters to the NBA (eye-popping stat: Ninety-seven of the 100 points Duke scored last season against FSU are no longer on the team), the Blue Devils have reloaded with young talent.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski this year added the top three overall prospects in the ESPN 100 – forwards R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish – as well as No. 17 prospect Tre Jones.
All four are in Duke’s starting lineup and two of them, Barrett (22.9 points per game) and Williamson (20.9) rank Nos. 1 and 2 on the ACC’s scoring leaderboard.
“They’re exceptionally talented,” Hamilton said. “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.”
The Blue Devils have NBA-caliber players across the roster, but Williamson is most often the one in the limelight.
Thanks to his highlight-reel dunk videos making rounds on social media, Williamson was something of a celebrity before he even set foot on Duke’s campus.
And the 6-7, 285-pound South Carolina native’s star has only continued to rise since the start of the college basketball season.
Williamson ranks in the ACC’s top five in scoring, rebounding (9.5, third), shooting percentage (.679), blocks (26, fifth) and steals (31, second).
ESPN’s Sportscenter this week ran a top-10 countdown of Williamson’s best dunks.
Maybe a bit much for a player whose career is six weeks old, but Hamilton believes that Williamson is worthy of the hype.
“(Williamson is) probably the most phenomenal talent that’s been in the ACC since Michael Jordan,” Hamilton said. “And I think he brings a different dynamic to their team, Zion Williamson, and especially as a freshman.”
The Seminoles, though, are unlikely to be intimidated.
They went toe-to-toe with the Blue Devils in a 100-93 defeat in Durham, N.C., last season, and blew Duke out, 93-78, when the two last met in Tallahassee in 2017.
Five players from that game – Terance Mann, Phil Cofer, Trent Forrest, Christ Koumadje and Savoy – are still on Florida State’s roster and know exactly what it takes to beat a team like Duke.
“Our preparation is the same,” Savoy said. “(We) focus on what we need to focus on, which is our principals, our defensive style. …
“We know the task at hand and what it takes to get to where we want to get to. That’s our main focus.”