Duke vs. Florida State, ACC championship: 3 things we learned as Zion Williamson leads Blue Devils to conference title

Zion Williamson and the Blue Devils took home the ACC crown on Saturday night.

Florida State played Duke to a draw through the first 20 minutes of the ACC tournament title game on Saturday night, slowing down a powerful Blue Devils offense by fronting Zion Williamson in the paint and closing out on their shooters. FSU looked like it had a blueprint to beat Mike Krzyzewski’s team. Unfortunately for the ‘Noles, Duke’s talent took over the second half.

The Blue Devils flexed their might after halftime, running away with a 73-63 win to capture their 21st ACC tournament championship.

Zion Williamson was excellent again, finishing with 21 points and five rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. His best play of the game might have been a pass:

Co-star R.J. Barrett had 17 points, nine rebounds, and four steals in the win. Point guard Tre Jones(18 points) also shined.

Though Duke only shot 2-of-14 from three-point range, it was still able to run away with a victory against a top-15 overall team. Mfiondu Kabengele led Florida State with 14 points.

Next up for both teams is a trip to the NCAA tournament. But first, here are three things we learned in the ACC tournament title game.

Duke might have locked up the No. 1 overall seed

Jay Bilas said on the ESPN broadcast that Duke would lock up the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament with a win against Florida State. It’s quite an ascent for the Blue Devils given that they weren’t even guaranteed a No. 1 seed before beating North Carolina in the ACC semifinals on Friday.

If it happens, it’s proof that the committee is valuing how Duke played with Zion Williamson in the lineup. The Blue Devils were only 3-3 in the games he missed with a sprained knee. It’s no secret that Duke is a different team with Zion in the lineup.

As long as Williamson is healthy, Duke has the highest ceiling of any team in the country. We’ll see if they play to it when the big dance starts next week.

Florida State is good enough to crash the second weekend again

The Seminoles were one of the biggest surprises of of last year’s tournament, making a run all the way to the Elite Eight as a No. 9 seed after going only .500 in ACC play during the regular season.

FSU isn’t sneaking up on anyone this year. The ‘Noles are ranked No. 12 in the AP Poll at the moment and should be a protected top-four seed after upsetting Virginia in the semis of the conference tournament. Florida State has no star — its leading scorer, Mfiondu Kabengele, comes off the bench — but its a team full of veteran players with positional size and strength who play both ends of the floor under Leonard Hamilton.

The ‘Noles went cold in the second half against Duke, but they proved in the ACC tournament this isn’t a team to sleep on. Watch out for Florida State over the next two weeks.

Duke needs Tre Jones to cook

When point guard Tre Jones is playing at his best, Duke is operating at another level. Jones might be the best on-ball perimeter defender in college basketball, but he’s also a valuable scorer for the Blue Devils. He proved that on Saturday.

Jones ended the night with 18 points, six assists, and four rebounds on 8-of-14 shooting. He was the first of Duke’s star freshman foursome to commit, and Williamson and Barrett have given him credit for bringing everyone together. If Jones was the lead recruiter for this Duke team, he might be the real MVP.

Jones watched his older brother Tyus win a national championship at Duke in 2015. He’s trying to be next.

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