Sunday, March 15, 2009

5 things to watch in ACC final

Five things to watch in Sunday’s ACC championship game as Duke seeks its 17th title and Florida State plays in its first final:

1. Gerald Henderson’s mid-range game. During Duke’s 84-81 win on March 3, Henderson had difficulty scoring in the lane over 7-foot-1 Solomon Alabi and the rest of the Florida State’s huge front line.
Henderson ultimately won the game for the Blue Devils by making a big 3-pointer, getting fouled and scoring in transition in the closing minutes. But in this game, he will most likely need to hurt Florida State where it’s vulnerable – outside the lane but inside the 3-point arc.
And Henderson, who was 3-for-14 from the field Saturday against Maryland, hasn’t been making many of those shots lately.

2. Florida State on the boards. In the teams’ two previous meetings, both won by Duke, Florida State has been plus-9 and plus-3 in the rebounding margin.
Considering Florida State’s significant size advantage, that’s as it should be. Each time they have played the Seminoles, Duke’s players have talked about having to fight and claw for every rebound, because they understand how important it is.
The larger the rebound differential gets in Florida State’s favor, the more likely the Blue Devils are to lose.

3. Forcing Toney Douglas right. Florida State first-team All-ACC guard Toney Douglas is unlike many right handed players in that he prefers to work on the left side of the floor.
For some reason he is most dangerous when he drives on the left wing and pulls up for a jump shot there. As counterintuitive as it sounds, Duke’s best bet to control Douglas might be to force him to the right side of the floor and his strong hand.

4. Duke’s fast-break points. On March 3, Florida State outscored Duke 16-2 on the fast break.
That shouldn’t happen when you consider that the Blue Devils have a smaller, quicker team. During the Jan. 10 meeting at Florida State, Duke opened up a double-digit advantage by pushing the ball up the floor for easy baskets with point guard Nolan Smith.
Smith might be asked to reprise his earlier role after recovering from a concussion that kept him out of the game the second time these teams met.

5. Jon Scheyer’s new role. When Smith is in the game, Jon Scheyer can move over from his point guard spot to the wing and get some 3-point shooting opportunities that have eluded him recently.
That’s good news for Duke, because Scheyer has been hot recently. It might be a good idea for Florida State to keep ACC defensive player of the year Douglas glued to Scheyer instead of using him to harass Smith at the point when Smith is in the game.

- Ken Tysiac