Duke completely dismantled and destroyed Kentucky 118-84 on Tuesday night to open the college basketball season. Their athleticism, speed, overall talent, as well as offensive prowess, were all on display against Kentucky. Three big-time freshmen played as if they were college veterans. Zion Williamson dropped 28 points along with seven rebounds while Cam Reddish put up 22 points with four steals, three assists and a couple of rebounds. Additionally, potential number one NBA draft pick R.J Barrett scored 33 points along with six assists and four rebounds. Duke looks insanely good, right now.
Duke looks insanely good, right now
Freshman Zion Williamson comes in as a freakishly great athlete who can seemingly do it all on the court. At one point, he blocked a shot but basically stole it directly from the shooters outstretched arms. Williamson can run the floor, shoot effectively, play solid defense and oh, by the way, he can dunk. At 6-7 285 pounds, his size will present a matchup problem for many players at the college level.
Another freshman, R.J Barrett, may actually be a better all-around player than Zion Williamson. Which, of course, is absolutely scary. The 6-7 202 pounds forward put his skills on full display against Kentucky. Barrett can pass, shoot efficiently, rebound and play solid defense.
As great as Williamson and Barrett are, it can be easy to forget about fellow freshmen Cam Reddish and Tre Jones. Jones is the brother of current Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones. He was rated as the number one point guard by most recruiting websites. Reddish, at 6-8 218 pounds, is a highly skilled forward who would be the best player on the majority of teams in the country. Junior Marques Bolden is a 6-11 center who will be starting alongside the four freshmen. Bolden will help provide defensive ability along with leadership for the young squad.
Beyond the freshmen and Bolden, quality depth is a concern. Junior forward Jack White played 30 minutes in the Kentucky game, scoring nine points and recording 11 rebounds. If he makes contributions off the bench consistently, that will be hugely important. Only two other players played double-figure minutes in the game against Kentucky.
What can keep Duke from winning it all?
Youth, inexperience, guard play and a potential lack of quality depth are issues that Duke may have to face. Rarely does a freshman-laden team actually win the national championship. Three freshmen started for the 2011-12 Anthony Davis led Kentucky championship team. Even the 2014-15 Duke title team had a senior, two juniors and a sophomore playing key minutes alongside four freshmen. That same year, Kentucky was undefeated with four freshmen playing primary roles, until they played a more experienced Wisconsin team in the Final Four. As of late, the teams that typically advance far into the NCAA tournament are experienced teams with senior or junior leadership. However, this Duke team is so dang talented that they could potentially overcome the youth.
Quality guard play is another factor that could cost Duke a national championship. Tre Jones certainly could develop into an All American type of point guard. The issue is, who will be the two guard? Or will it even matter since Barrett, Reddish, and Williamson are such accomplished scorers? They will need a player like Jordan Goldwire to at least chip in a few points every night off the bench. While Duke looks insanely good right now, they will need more.
Undeniably, this year is as wide open as any. Duke will make a deep run, but unlike what a lot of pundits think, they will fall short of a national championship. Of course, later in the year, that prediction could change. A Final Four run is clearly within the cards, however, the youth and lack of depth will likely catch up to them come tournament time. While Duke looks insanely good right now, can they keep it up?
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