Zion Williamson was college basketball’s best player by a significant margin before he suffered a knee injury in the opening minute of Duke’s first game with North Carolina. The freshman phenom then missed five full contests, and the bulk of six, before returning to the starting lineup. And now, somehow, he’s even better — evidence being how in the two games since returning, Williamson is a combined 26 of 32 from the field. He averaged 30.0 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals in a pair of wins over Syracuse and North Carolina. And, I think, just one day before Selection Sunday, the Blue Devils are serious contenders to be the No. 1 overall seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament should they beat Florida State in Saturday night’s championship game of the ACC Tournament.
Here’s why: Duke will, with a win over Florida State, improve to 29-5 with an 11-4 record in Quadrant 1 opportunities and a 17-5 record in Quadrant 1/Quadrant 2 opportunities. More importantly, the Blue Devils have only lost once when their four freshmen starters are all healthy and available. And considering their four freshmen starters are all healthy and available right now, and figure to be heading into the NCAA Tournament, the selection committee is going to have to take that into account. If Duke beats Florida State in the ACC Tournament title game, this one-loss-when-healthy team will own two wins over the school ranked No. 2 (Virginia) in Saturday morning’s updated CBS Sports Top 25 And 1 daily college basketball rankings, a win over the school ranked No. 3 (North Carolina), a 34-point win over the school ranked No. 5 (Kentucky), two wins over the school ranked No. 10 (Florida State), a win over the school ranked No. 11 (Texas Tech) and a win over the school ranked No. 22 (Auburn). That’s an incredible body of work. And all of this is why I decided to move the Blue Devils to No. 1 in the Top 25 And 1. When you consider everything that needs to be considered, it’s the most sensible thing to do.
So I did it.
My decision to jump Duke to No. 1 caused Gonzaga and Kentucky to drop one spot each, no fault of their own. Which means, right now, Gonzaga would be my fourth No. 1 seed. But if Kentucky or Tennessee wins the SEC Tournament, either will, at least in these rankings, jump Gonzaga. So keep that in mind as Saturday unfolds.