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No. 9 Florida State manhandles No. 7 Duke

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For the second time this season, No. 7 Duke went on the road and got smacked around, this time losing to No. 9 Florida State, 88-72, in Tallahassee.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes led the way with 21 points.

It’s the 12th straight win for the Seminoles, who are one of just two undefeated teams left in the ACC, while Duke falls two games off pace. This is just the second true road game for the Blue Devils, and they played it without their leader on the bench (Coach K) and their leader on the floor (Amile Jefferson).

Does this say more about Florida State or Duke?

Here are four takeaways from the FSU win:

1. It’s time to count Florida State as an ACC title contender: There’s really nothing else to say about this.

The Seminoles have more than proven that they are capable of competing with anyone in the conference. They handled Duke easily on Tuesday just three days after they handled Virginia Tech on this same floor. That came a week after they went into Charlottesville and knocked off Virginia, which is never an easy thing to do. They’re 15-1 on the season, they’ve won 12 straight games and are a three-point loss to Temple away from being one of just two undefeated teams left in the sport.

What makes Florida State so dangerous is that there really isn’t a single strength that you can identify with this team. They are excellent in transition but they have the offensive talent to be able to execute in the half court. They are dangerous when they get out and press, but their bread-and-butter defensively is tough, aggressive man-to-man in the half court. They have a ton of size, length and athleticism along their front line but they are probably at their best when they play small-ball.

Given that every other ACC contender has proven themselves to be vulnerable, why can’t FSU win the conference title?

2. They did all this and their all-american didn’t play well: Jonathan Isaac is the best NBA prospect on Florida State’s roster. On Tuesday night, Rathan-Mayes was the best player on the Florida State roster. But throughout the season, Dwayne Bacon has been their guy. He leads the team in scoring and, after struggling with his efficiency throughout last season, has become a much more effective shooter while cutting down on his turnovers.

None of that was apparent against Duke.

Bacon finished with 13 points, six boards and five assists, but he was 6-for-15 from the floor and turned the ball over seven times. He didn’t play all that well. It happens. What doesn’t happen quite as often is to see a team like the Seminoles beat a team as talented as Duke is on a night where the best player on their roster doesn’t have a good game.

3. So does that mean we should be concerned with Duke?: Yes, because Duke’s defense is a major, major issue right now, particularly their defense on the interior. For as talented as Harry Giles III and Marques Bolden are, they are not yet anywhere close to being good enough to be the defensive anchor on a team that wants to play small-ball with four guards. For starters, their understanding of positional defense and where they are supposed to be on rotations is about what you would expect from a pair of freshmen that entered Tuesday having played a combined 125 minutes this season. Watching them defend ball-screens is as cringe-worthy as watching the most awkward scenes from The Office.

And it wasn’t just their positioning that was an issue. Duke is soft. Florida State on Tuesday was bigger, they were more physical and they were tougher, and that played as big of a role in the outcome of this game as anything. It might sound weird for some people to hear this, but Duke could really, really use a Plumlee – any Plumlee – right now.

Some of that will change when Amile Jefferson gets back from this foot injury, although if Duke’s recent history with defining injuries is any indication, we’re not going to know when he’ll be back until he’s announced in the starting lineup. Jefferson is as good of a positional defender as you’re going to find at the college level. But he’s also about 6-foot-8, meaning that he’s not exactly a shot-blocking presence and he’s not exactly going to push around anyone in the ACC. His presence did nothing to keep the Blue Devils from getting poleaxed by Virginia Tech.

This has been an issue with past Duke teams. In 2014, they couldn’t solve it and got upset by Mercer in the first round of the tournament. In 2015, they went on to win the national title.

4. So don’t totally abandon this team just yet: Duke has played just two games with their ideal starting lineup – Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, Amile Jefferson and Harry Giles III – intact. Tuesday night was just the second time that this group has played a true road game, and it came without their leader on the bench (Coach K) and their coach on the floor (Jefferson).

We were all ready to give up on Duke in 2015 when Angel Rodriguez and Manu Leconte looked like Steph Curry and Russelll Westbrook when Miami beat Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, and that team got it figured out.

This team will probably get it figured out, too.

But as of now, Saturday’s trip to Louisville looks like quite a daunting task.

Kentucky fans flood Facebook page of official John Higgins’ company with negative reviews

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Unhappy with how John Higgins performed at his part-time job, Kentucky fans did their best trash him at his full-time gig.

The Facebook page of the referee’s Omaha-based roofing company was flooded by Big Blue Nation with negative comments and reviews after they were displeased with the official’s work in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.

Not only did fans leave obviously fake and vulgar comments on the page, they also deluged it with one-star reviews to drive down its average significantly.

Once again, the Internet is struck by its proportionality problem. What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.

When there’s so many general complaints about the state of officiating in college basketball, it’s also not helpful to do something like this to one of the referees generally considered to be one of the country’s best. It’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for prospective future officials to follow the career path if it brings this level of negative attention to you off the court.

Report: North Carolina to miss out on NCAA events through 2022 if HB2 not addressed by Thursday

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North Carolina is in danger of losing out on hosting NCAA events through 2022 if the state does not make changes to HB2, the controversial so-called “bathroom bill” by Thursday afternoon, according to the leader of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree, the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”

“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

The NCAA, as it reminded North Carolina last week, is making its determinations on hosts for events from 2018-2022 this week. There was movement last week at the North Carolina statehouse for a compromise on the bill, but that apparently stalled out, the News & Observer reported, though there remain efforts to make progress on a pact.

Should lawmakers not reach an agreement in time, the state’s flagship basketball programs will be without an NCAA tournament home-court advantage that they have often enjoyed. HB2 just this past year moved the first and second rounds out of the state and to South Carolina, where No. 2 seed Duke lost to the seventh-seeded Gamecocks in their home state.

Clearly, there’s much more to consider here than NCAA tournament implications, but it’s another reminder of the economic impact the bill has made in North Carolina. This week, The Associated Press estimated it will cost the state $3.76 billion over a 12-year period.

Baylor’s Freeman to graduate and transfer

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Baylor is losing one of its contributors over the past three seasons.

Al Freeman, a 6-foot-3 guard, will graduate and transfer to another school, the Bears announced Tuesday.

“Al has been a tremendous student-athlete and made great contributions to our program over the last four years, and we’re thrilled that he’s going to complete his degree at Baylor,” Bears coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “He’ll always be part of the Baylor family, and we’ll be rooting for him as he continues his career.”

Freeman, who redshirted his freshman year due to a broken wrist, started 57 games during his career in Waco and averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, but made just 22 this past season and saw his minutes slashed.

As a graduate transfer, the Charlotte native will be immediately eligible at his next program for his final collegiate season.

Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner declares for NBA Draft

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Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner has declared for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent.

“First let me start by saying these three years at Xavier have been the best of my life,” Sumner said in a statement. “I have certainly been presented with some ups and downs but they have only served to make me a stronger person. This decision was very hard for me because of the love I have for X. After weighing my options with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I want to thank Coach Mack and the rest of the staff for believing in me and giving me a chance when no one did! I’ll always be grateful for that. Xavier Nation I will always love you!”

Sumner, a 6-foot-6 point guard with dynamic athleticism and first round potential that averaged 15.0 points, but he is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered in January. He’s likely to be a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

This is a big loss for the Musketeers, but it’s one that they planned for. After his eruption last season, most expected him to put his name in the draft this season.

Duke freshman Harry Giles III declares for NBA Draft

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Harry Giles III has declared for the NBA Draft after playing just one season at Duke.

“Playing in the NBA has been my goal for as long as I can remember, and I’m so excited to take the next step in that journey,” Giles said. “My time at Duke has been a dream come true. I’ve built so many strong relationships here and I have so many people to thank, from my teammates and coaches to our medical staff and strength coach. I can’t understate how proud I am to be part of the Duke Basketball program forever.”

Giles played in 26 games for the Blue Devils. He started six games and averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Giles. At one point considered to be the best player in the loaded Class of 2016, Giles has dealt with a pair of devastating knee injuries already. He underwent a third surgery right before the start of the season and never seemed like he was fully able to get back to being the player he was when he was in high school.

This is the right decision for Giles to make, as there is still some uncertainty regarding the health of his knees. Were his struggles due to the fact that he was tossed right into the middle of a college basketball season after having sat out for 14 straight months, or was this simply a result of knees that no longer allow him to be the player that he used to be?

He might still end up being a first round pick this year. At the very least, he’s make some guaranteed money if he can get into a camp. Maybe returning to school could have helped vault him into the lottery in 2018, but another year like this year would’ve firebombed his draft stock.

“With his uplifting personality and love for the game, Harry Giles has been a joy to coach,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is only beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can be on the basketball court. Harry has an exciting NBA future ahead of him and we are here to fully support him as a member of our brotherhood.”

I know I’m not alone when I say I hope that Giles gets healthy and succeeds in the NBA.