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Long hoops hiatus ending for Blue Devils

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After playing their first game in 11 days when Duke hosted Evansville on Dec. 20, the Blue Devils had another long gap between games for Christmas break between that contest and their Dec. 30 game against Florida State. While they didn’t have to play games, this break was a little different than the last one as they were also away from practicing after going home for the holidays.

SEMINOLES TOUGHEST HOME GAME YET

FSU will be Duke’s first ranked opponent at home this year, coming in at No. 24 with a solid 11-1 record including a win at Florida earlier in the season. Duke will be the Seminoles’ second top-five road opponent (after the Gators) and will present a tough test. They have a number of talented wing players who will present matchup problems for Duke’s relatively small guards (Grayson Allen and Gary Trent) on the perimeter. FSU is similar to Duke style wise, but gets more of its points from outside the arc.

Will Carter build on his streak?

Duke freshman Wendell Carter won recognition as the ACC Rookie of the Week after setting career highs in points (27), field goals (nine) and three-pointers (four). Carter is now Duke’s third-leading scorer at 13.7 points per game and second-leading rebounder with 8.4. He leads the team in blocks per game with 1.8 despite playing just over 24 minutes a game due to foul trouble. He set those career highs against Evansville in just 18 minutes of action. With FSU coming in as one of the 25 biggest teams in college basketball, Duke will need Carter and Bagley to compete on the blocks.

Allen moves into Top 25 ON DUKE SCORING LIST

With 16 points against Evansville, Grayson Allen is now 24th on Duke’s career scoring list with 1,646, passing Cherokee Parks’ 1,643 points (1992-95). Next in his sights are:

17. Nolan Smith, 2008-11 1,911

18. Dick Groat, 1950-52 1,886

19. Jeff Mullins, 1962-64 1,884

20. Bob Verga, 1965-67 1,758

21. Bobby Hurley, 1990-93 1,731

22. Randy Denton, 1969-71 1,658

23. Ronnie Mayer, 1953-56 1,647

Williamson set to make decision

Duke has commitments already from three of the top six recruits in the senior class (point guard Tre Jones No. 8, shooting guard RJ Barrett (No. 1) and small forward Cam Reddish (No. 3), but it is still looking to add more. Zion Williamson, the No. 2 overall player, told USA TODAY in a recent blog update that he’s looking to make his decision soon. If Duke can land him, and it’s an uphill battle against in-state program Clemson and Kentucky, it would have one of the highest-ranked recruiting classes ever signed in the modern era.

Quick Lane Bowl CHAMPS

Behind an MVP performance from redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones, Duke dominated Northern Illinois from kickoff to final whistle in Tuesday’s Quick Lane Bowl. Jones finished his day 27 of 40 through the air for 252 yards and two touchdowns, while also leading Duke in rushing with 86 yards on 16 carries and another touchdown. It was the final game for some of Duke’s veteran players, most notably running back Shaun Wilson, cornerback Bryon Fields, offensive linemen Austin Davis and Gabe Brandner, as well as defensive tackle Mike Ramsay, all multi-year starters for David Cutcliffe’s squad.

Most successful five-year run

Duke finished the 2017 season at 7-6, its fourth winning record in the last five years. It marks the most winning records during a five-year stretch for the program since four winning campaigns in five seasons between 1960-64.

Bright future ahead

Most of Duke’s offensive starters return next season, minus Wilson and the three offensive linemen, and there’s been a talent injection the last three seasons to make up for those losses somewhat quickly. Quarterback Daniel Jones will be back as well, and the team hopes he’ll be healthier this coming season than the last. The defense made major improvements and sees just two starters depart from a deep, talented unit that figures to be one of the ACC’s best next year. They’ll need it, as another difficult schedule awaits. Duke opens next season with Army on Sept. 1.

Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.

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