No. 1 total seed? That’s for the committee to determine.
Best group within the nation? Just attempting to get higher.
The favorites to win all of it? Still have six video games to play, my man.
OK, it is Duke. They’ve been right here earlier than, and the lingo is engrained, even for the freshmen who’re dwelling all this for the primary time. They anticipated to be right here, champions of the ACC and once more atop the school basketball universe.
The loopy factor, although, is that none of that appeared significantly seemingly only a week in the past.
With Zion Williamson sidelined, Duke did not seem like a title contender. The Blue Devils dropped three of six with out their greatest star, narrowly escaped a house loss to lowly Wake Forest and have been completely demolished by their greatest rivals twice. The flaws — poor shot choice, brutal perimeter taking pictures, a skinny bench, the shortage of a veteran presence — all appeared so apparent.
Then Williamson returned, and all these issues have been swept below a 6-foot-7, 285-pound rug.
“When Zion was out, teams were really doubling down on RJ [Barrett], when he was attacking things,” level guard Tre Jones mentioned. “So with Zion being back, they leave me even more now, and I was able to step up and make plays, and that can open it up for them to play their games, too.”
Consider this: Duke had 44 factors within the paint Thursday in opposition to Syracuse. That tied for probably the most the Orange had allowed all season. A day later, Williamson & Co. posted 50 within the paint in opposition to North Carolina, probably the most the Heels had surrendered in eight years. On Saturday in opposition to a Florida State group that downright embarrassed Virginia within the lane and on the boards within the ACC semifinal, Duke as soon as once more dominated the paint, ending with a 42-18 benefit over the Seminoles. That, too, tied a season excessive allowed by FSU.
Can’t shoot from the perimeter? Maybe it does not matter.
“We believe we’re a good offensive team,” coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned. “We’re more balanced, and we have a lot of confidence. They have confidence in one another.”
Per week in the past, Duke regarded just like the clear second banana behind seemingly 1-seeds in UNC and Virginia. Now, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Blue Devils on the prime of the heap, headed to Columbia, South Carolina, for the primary spherical of the NCAA event, a homecoming for Williamson, a Spartanburg, South Carolina, native.
Per week in the past, Barrett regarded like a lone scorer attempting to hold a group on his again. In the ACC event, Barrett went by stretches of brutal play, and none of it mattered. Williamson was dynamic. Bench gamers resembling Jordan Goldwire and Antonio Vrankovic had an impression. Jones, the defensive wizard, blossomed right into a respectable scoring risk.
Duke regarded like a brand new group — or, extra to the purpose, Duke regarded like its outdated self.
“We talked to each other about, we came too far to lose,” Williamson mentioned of Saturday’s championship sport.
Krzyzewski joined the refrain downplaying the impression of seeding on Saturday, however he provided reminders main as much as this sport that Duke had its beginning 5 on the courtroom for simply half its ACC video games this season.
In reality, with that beginning 5 on the courtroom, Duke has only one loss all season — to a different seemingly 1 seed, Gonzaga, by two factors in November. Williamson, Barrett, Jones and Cam Reddish had all of seven video games of school expertise below their belts again then. They’re a bit extra seasoned now.
Still, it was onerous to stroll away from Friday’s slender win over North Carolina with any sense of inevitability. Sure, Duke seems dominant once more. And no, not even Florida State’s monsters might corral Williamson within the paint. But there’s that nagging feeling that the Tar Heels let the third installment of this yr’s collection get away, and someplace alongside the road, they could have one final crack at their nemesis.
So sure, this week’s ACC event proved that Duke once more belongs on the prime of the ladder. But it did not cement that they’re going to be climbing one other ladder to chop down the nets in Minneapolis.