Justin Whitner | Staff Writer
Five NCAA championships, 12 regular-season ACC titles and 14 ACC Tournament championships.
Duke has a history of men’s college basketball excellence, and the expectations are great again after the Blue Devils improved to 15-2 on Jan. 19 with a narrow victory against Virginia in a top-five clash.
Mike Krzyzewski, the coach with the most final four appearances in men’s basketball, landed his best recruiting class: Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.
Williamson’s solid build and athleticism, Barrett’s versatility and Reddish’s shooting project them as top NBA draft picks in June.
The most essential piece to the puzzle might just be the point guard.
During a loss to Syracuse, Jones suffered a separated right shoulder injury that took him out of the game.
“You could see excruciating pain on his face,” Krzyzewski told ACC reporters. “We just tried to calm him, not that he was yelling or anything, but he felt that something could be broken. That’s how much pain he was in.”
Jones missed the Virginia game and is day to day. The Blue Devils need their playmaker back. He has one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in college basketball.
At 6-7, 285 pounds, Williamson is a load. Only one player in the NBA — 7-3 Detroit Pistons center Boban Marjanovic — weighs more. With a 40-inch vertical added to his collection of agility, handle and touch at the rim, there is no telling what the limit is for Williamson. He is first in the ACC in shooting percentage. Barrett, the No. 1 recruit out of high school, leads the ACC in scoring at 23.8 points per game. Williamson is right behind him at 21.5.
With great play from these freshmen, the forgotten player in the mix is Reddish. He has had some rough shooting nights but has shown signs that he can approach 30 points on any given night.
With Duke down two to Florida State and three seconds remaining. Reddish found himself wide open on the inbounds pass and drained the game-winning 3.
Michigan’s Fab Five went to two finals did not win a title.
The Blue Devils, with four fabulous players, are expected to at least reach the Final Four.
The question is: Is that all or could they win it all?