Will there be another Loyola-Chicago Cinderella race this year? May be. Scott Gleeson believes these five teams could shock the world of college basketball.
USA TODAY Sports
What is the best Duke team of all time?
The teams of Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill from the early 1990s?
The Jay Williams, Shane Battier and Mike Dunleavy versions of the early 2000s?
The team of Danny Ferry in the mid-80s? The Elton Brand team of the late 90s? J.J. The era of Redick? The unexpected team of the 2010 Jon Scheyer title? The 2015 title team?
Chances are, coach Mike Krzyzewski could look at his most talented team of all time this year.
The Blue Devils, at the top of this NCAA tournament, have two national players of the year in RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson (Barrett won the USA TODAY Sports Trophy, while Williamson is the favorite to win the Naismith POY ).
Williamson seduced by his strength and strength, while Barrett's finesse and talent for scoring led to a team of first-year players reinforced by two other elite freshmen – Cam Reddish and Tre Jones .
The Duke Blue Devils snuggle into the second half against the Florida State Seminoles as part of the ACC conference tournament at the Spectrum Center. (Photo: Jeremy Brevard, USA TODAY Sports)
Williamson's recent injury has raised doubts about Duke's status as a national title contender, but the return of the 6-7 star has changed the pitch: it's the Blue Devils tournament to lose.
But in a knockout tournament, teams that are not supposed to win can make it unimaginable.
Here are three main reasons why this heavily favored Duke team (+225 favorites by Westgate SuperBook) will not win the national title:
1. Bad shooting in three points. The Blue Devils rank 339th in the country in percentage of goals of three points and 220th in triple triples per game. This does not bode well in a tournament where the ability to shoot the three players can give new impetus to outdated teams having nothing to lose and where even the most bluish need to shoot well to advance. Duke's best outside shooter, Cam Reddish, is as slender as he is when he manages only 33% of the three. (Barrett and Williamson shoot at less than 32%).
In a defeat against Syracuse on Jan. 14, Duke fired 9 out of 43 (21%) out of three and fought Zone 2-3 of Orange. An area takes a seemingly dominant team like Duke out of his pace. Williamson orchestrates much of Duke's offensive in big defensive games, but to defeat the Blue Devils, they have to be prevented from playing, putting pressure on their perimeter play while limiting transition opportunities.
2. Inability to win close matches, lack of experience. When Duke defeated Gonzaga on Nov. 21, Barrett tried to play hero ball in the final seconds and his uncontrolled play was dismissed while other teammates watched the confusion. Although this moment came early in the season, it provided a snapshot to a group of 18-year-olds battling mature veterans.
Most of the time, these freshmen play as upper classes, but three years of experience with another blue blood (ahem, Michigan State) can exploit their youth. That's why the victory of the semifinals of the Blue Devils' ACC tournament on North Carolina was so crucial. He showed that this team can win close games. Even in this win, Barrett missed two free throws at the end, which could have been expensive.
3. Mounting pressure, Michigan State. The hype and rising expectations could play a role in this tournament. This does not necessarily mean that the Blue Devils will not be up to it. But in an East Regional where it is likely that Duke and Michigan State will meet in the Elite Eight, the Blue Devils have every opportunity to drop the accelerator pedal while battling their lower opponents in the first towers.
If Duke ends up attracting Michigan State, the Spartans play with a chip on their shoulders and feed on the brave goalkeeper Cassius Winston. And do not get me wrong, coach Tom Izzo is the kind of tactician that forces teams to pay if they do not bring the proper amount of hunger, maturity or powerful shot.