Duke and Florida State have never met previously in an ACC Tournament. FSU also has not played Boston College, Miami, or Virginia in the tournament since joining the league in 1992. Duke leads 28-6 in the overall series with Florida State, including a victory in 1955. The Blue Devils won both meetings this season.
If FSU wins, Leonard Hamilton would become the first African-American head coach to win the ACC championship. This is the fifth straight year a black coach took a team to the finals, following Georgia Tech’s Paul Hewitt in 2005, Boston College’s Al Skinner in 2006, NC State’s Sidney Lowe in 2007, and Clemson’s Oliver Purnell in 2008.
Every year there’s considerable talk that the ACC Tournament will be close and exciting. Sometimes that forecast is borne out. Certainly the first 10 games of the 2009 ACC Tournament qualified. Six games have been decided by six or fewer points. The combined victory margin was 67 points. Pending the outcome of the finals, that would rank as sixth-best in the event’s 56 years. The quarterfinals were the second-closest ever (4.25). The semifinals tied for the tenth-smallest average victory margin (4.5).
Duke has recently been characterized as a three-man team, heavily reliant upon the scoring of Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler. So far, in two ACC Tournament outings, that trio accounted for 76.7 percent of Duke’s points. Yet such concentrated production is more common than it seems. North Carolina got 76.5 percent of its scoring in its two ACC Tournament games from Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough, and Deon Thompson. Georgia Tech got 74.3 percent of its scoring from three players. Through two games, FSU got 70.1 percent of its points from Toney Douglas, Derwin Kitchen, and Solomon Alabi.
Florida State is now 25-8, matching the most victories by the program since joining the ACC in 1992. The school record is 28 wins, set in 1972.
Duke is 27-6, the 17th time in Mike Krzyzewski’s 29 seasons the Blue Devils have won at least that many games.
Should FSU win the ACC Tournament, it would mark the sixth time the league’s top shotblocker helped lead his team to the title. Solomon Alabi paces conference players with 2.2 blocks per game. He has four rejections in two games in the ’09 tournament. Since the ACC began reporting blocks in 1977, the other rejection leaders who played for the league champions were Duke’s Mike Gminski in 1978, Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan in 1995 and 1996, and Duke’s Shelden Williams in 2005 and 2006.
Duke made 33.2 percent of its 3-pointers in its first 25 games. Since Elliot Williams moved into the starting lineup against St. John’s, the Blue Devils are converting 38.2 percent of their threes, including 18 of 42 (42.9 percent) in the ACC Tournament. They hit 15 of 42 (35.7 percent) from 3-point range in two meetings with FSU this season.
Duke’s 18 made 3-pointers in two games ties for seventh-best by any team in an ACC Tournament.
Boston College’s one made 3-pointer (on eight attempts) in its first-round victory over Virginia tied for the second-fewest conversions in an ACC Tournament game. Georgia Tech missed all three of its 3-point tries against Virginia in 1987, the first year the shot was officially part of the rules throughout college basketball.
Florida State averaged 3.4 more turnovers than assists over 33 games this season. That includes two games in this year’s ACC Tournament in which FSU averaged three more turnovers than assists (27-33). Meanwhile opponents averaged 5.3 more turnovers than assists on the year, but in the ACC Tournament it’s a wash (24-25), thanks mostly to North Carolina’s 12 assists compared to seven turnovers.
Six of Duke’s last eight opponents entering the ACC Tournament made at least half of their field goal attempts, including 30 of 60 by Florida State in a loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 3. But in reaching the finals for the 28th time in school history, the Devils held Boston College to 38.3 percent shooting and Maryland to 39.7.
FSU outrebounded both opponents in its ACC Tournament games. Duke was outrebounded in each contest it played.
A battle of biblical proportions could occur in the low post this afternoon if Solomon Alabi meets David McClure. Come to think of it, Alabi, the FSU center, has a seven inch height advantage over Duke’s McClure. That could create more of a David and Goliath situation.