Why even bother with the NCAA Tournament?
Before we start: I reserve the right to write about any team in college basketball, and basketball in general, because…well, I live in Indiana, and basketball is king.
Is anyone surprised by what we’ve seen so far this season? I could have written this over a year ago when Zion committed to Duke and gave them four of the top 12 recruits.
Now, to be fair, I FULLY want the NCAA Tournament to still be played. March Madness is my absolute favorite sporting event, and I treat those first four days of the tournament like the biggest holiday of the year.
That said, this team has been nothing short of special. The 23-point comeback at Louisville this week was just ridiculous. I looked at the score early in the second half, saw Duke was down by 16 at that point, and decided not to turn it on. Instead, I went to bed.
You can imagine my surprise.
As much as I hate to write this, the 2015 Kentucky squad was special. That roster was just unreal. But even though they started the season 38-0 (how’d that season end, by the way?), I think this Duke team has more pure talent than that UK squad, and it’s hard to argue that Duke doesn’t have the best coach in college basketball.
As an opposing coach, how do you game plan for Duke? Of course you have to focus on Zion Williamson, but then what about RJ Barrett, the #1 rated recruit in that class? Sure, focus on RJ. But what about Cam Reddish, the #3 recruit? Not to mention, Tre Jones, the starting point guard, was the 12th-ranked recruit.
It’s almost not fair.
I went to Indiana University for my formal education, and I love the Hoosiers. I wish I could write this story about them, and how incredible they’ve been…but that’s just not reality.
In reality, I would be absolutely shocked if Duke does not win the 2019 NCAA title. Of course, writing this in mid-February is a dangerous game to play. You could all come right back here in a month if Duke loses and shove it in my face. I can take that.
There are some excellent teams in the NCAA this year, including Virginia, Tennessee, Gonzaga, and Kentucky, just to name a few. I just don’t think I would bet against Duke in any of those matchups. They’ve already beaten Virginia twice, and they demolished Kentucky on the season’s opening night. One of Duke’s two losses came to Gonzaga in Maui, so there’s an argument to be made there, but if those two teams were to meet again, I’m just not positive that the Zags could pull it off twice in a year.
But that’s what makes March Madness so special. Anything can happen…literally anything. We used to say anything* could happen (the exception being a 16 seed upsetting a 1 seed), but UMBC erased that asterisk last year.
I would be devastated if Duke lost to a 16 seed in the opening round (assuming they finish the season strong and get a #1 seed), but I’ll never rule it out. Not anymore. I don’t trust anything in March except for the team I draw out of a hat during a school-sanctioned competition.
But let’s be real. It certainly seems that at the end of the year, the only thing we’ll see is more of this.