The usual script for tonight's game between No. 16 Florida State and No. 4 Duke has taken an unusual turn.
The Blue Devils, of course, are used to providing motivation for their opponents, used to playing with the largest target on their backs and in front of the largest and loudest crowds.
This time, though, it will be Duke looking to exact a little revenge on the Seminoles, who broke Blue Devil hearts with Michael Snaer's buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave FSU a 76-73 victory in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 21.
Each team sits at 10-2 in league play and tonight's winner will rejoin North Carolina in a tie for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I think any team, when they lose to somebody, there's a little bit more incentive to beat the team the next time you play them,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
“We're all really anxious to get down there to Tallahassee,” Blue Devils star freshman Austin Rivers said. “They're a great team and they play hard and they're well coached, but so are we. And we're on a run right now, we're playing really well. We're really anxious to get down there and play them.”
In fact, both FSU and Duke have been on impressive stretches since their first meeting. The Seminoles (19-7, 10-2) have won six of seven since Jan. 21, and 10 of 11 overall. Meanwhile the Blue Devils have lost just once in their eight games since losing to FSU, and sit at 23-4 for the season.
The buzz around Tallahassee has perhaps even eclipsed Florida State's game against North Carolina last month, which featured a visit from ESPN's College Gameday and an eventual 33-point drubbing of the Tar Heels.
FSU has announced that not a single seat in the Donald L. Tucker Center is unsold – student tickets were snatched up in a mere 15 minutes – and t-shirts reading “Beat Duke” have been on racks at apparel stores near campus.
“You can tell a lot of people are excited. They know it's a big game,” Snaer said. “It gets you pretty excited, the atmosphere around here. The fans are going to be into it, everybody's looking forward to it and our team is looking forward to it.”
Once the hype wears off, though, the Seminoles will still be tasked with finding a way to beat Duke for a second time – which is never an easy task. FSU has never swept the Blue Devils but has won their previous two meetings, dating back to last season.
Four of Duke's probable starters score in double digits with Rivers' 15 points per game leading the way.
The freshman son of NBA coach Doc Rivers, who hails from Orlando, has scored in double figures each of the last 10 games.
“There's no question he's an elite player,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.
“He can do a lot of things,” FSU guard Ian Miller said. “He's got the pull-up (jumper), he can get to the rim. We're just going to have to play team defense, play hard defense and I think we can slow everybody down.”
Rivers, who said he knows “probably hundreds of kids” that attend Florida State, knows what to expect from the Seminoles. It's still fresh in his mind from the last meeting.
“It was a hard fought game, the last game we played them. It was back and forth. They were able to get that last shot up and hit that game-winner, which was devastating, kind of. And it kills us because if we win that game or he misses that shot, we're 11-1 and we're No. 1 in the conference.
“One shot changed it all.”
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