CHAPEL HILL, NC – Kenny Williams smiles because all night was so much fun – the win, the three charges he brought to knock Duke's star player into trouble, sending the senior night – but more again because he knew the investigation was imminent and he really wanted to give a precise answer.
Of course, North Carolina beat Duke decisively on Saturday, less than a month after doing the same thing at Cameron Indoor. And of course, the win from 79 to 70 gave the Tar Heels a share of the ACC regular season title, pushed them into the position of winning a seed of a seed in the tournament. the NCAA and offered the seniors a new victory under a big top against a rival. But this lingering note of what's left though: Duke did not have Zion Williamson, so what does it all really mean?
"We are playing the cards we have dealt," Williams said. "No matter what people say, there will be no asterisk on these two games.There will be no asterisk on this banner that says we are the champions from ACC. "
In other words, give a little respect to the heels. This team is a true contender in the championship, with a first-year guard who seemed much more explosive and dynamic on Saturday than Duke's five-star rookie selection, and a trio of seniors who bid farewell to their home court. attaches by offering the kind of veteran of stability, Duke has so clearly missed in recent times.
And yet, here too, there was Mike Krzyzewski. It's all about this asterisk. He praised the UNC, praised the solid Williams game and Coby White, did not say anything that could serve as material to the board. But Duke 's coach also does not want to relive these past six games, led by defeats against UNC, as being anything but a water stride exercise.
"We have a reset button," he said. "If Zion is healthy, we will have a chance."
Krzyzewski also emphasized this point. Williamson will participate in the full training on Monday and Krzyzewski is expecting him to come back for action when Duke will play his first match of the ACC tournament on Thursday. And, if it goes well, Friday could offer a third installment to this year's rivalry, either a chance to prove an asterisk is warranted, or that stretch in which Duke fell 3 out of 6 without Williamson in good health that illuminate all the weaknesses of the star. freshman had kept hidden.
And to be sure, there are flaws. Duke lacks an outside shooter, an Achilles 'heel for the offensive without Williamson' s presence in the paint. RJ Barrett had to bear the charge and, even at his best, he was incoherent from the outside. Even with Cam Reddish (he was sometimes a force on Saturday), Krzyzewski noted that Duke had only two scorers. Even though Williamson is back in the mix, UNC is clearly the most versatile offense.
"We have so many weapons, and it's so hard to stop – you have to pick your poison," Williams said. "We can beat you inside or we can kill you, and it's a big advantage for us because you do not know what you'll get."
Zion Williamson is scheduled for his first full training since his knee injury last month, but Duke could be without Bolden Brands next week due to a sprained MCL that he suffered against UNC.
A defeat in his last game in the regular season is losing much hope to the SEC and a Tennessee seed.
Whites fought at Cameron but dominated Saturday. UNC embarrassed Duke in the paint in his first game, before defeating 12 three-point shots in Saturday's win.
Barrett got his points in both games – 33 at home, 26 at Chapel Hill – but North Carolina made him work for everything.
"In the handshake line, I think I've gained a little respect from RJ," Williams said afterwards. He said: "You must learn to play defense like that."
Then there is Duke, who appeared to be without a rudder at the attack without Williamson, a unit of a note that lives and dies because of Barrett's ability to get to the basket. The Blue Devils combined to shoot less than 35% of their two games against UNC. Is Williamson really good enough to significantly reduce that number?
"When you play in a certain way all year round, and then you have to adapt to a main player, you have to move forward and learn," Barrett said. "We know how good we are when we are all together."
And that's true. Duke twice beat Virginia, demolished Kentucky and seemed to be the favorite of the match before Williamson's shoe exploded at the opening of the first game of his first match against Carolina. In 18 ACC games, the real starting five has been healthy for only half. So maybe all of this was nonsense.
But then, that always meant something for North Carolina. He put the Tar Heels back in the limelight and allowed this unit to take a big step forward, gain self-confidence and showcase a versatile skill set. And even if Williamson comes back, Cameron Johnson bet that his guys still have a little something in reserve.
"I do not think we played our best game and if everyone is hot, I think we will be extremely difficult to stop," said the senior Tar Heels. "You can not just beat them twice, and whatever ends up shaking. [in a third game]we will be ready. "