The wait is over: college basketball returns tonight, and what way to start it other than a face-off between the premier programs of the NCAA? The Champions’ Classic pits Duke and Kansas against one another this year, both teams sitting atop the polls at #4 and #2, respectively. A young team will begin on a big stage, and it’s time to see how they’ll handle it.
Duke previewed the season with Countdown to Craziness then two exhibition games: Northwest Missouri State and Fort Valley State. NWMSU gave Duke a run for their money, and though they were reigning Division II Champions that doesn’t excuse a near-disaster for the Blue Devils. Duke scratched out a 6-point victory at 69-63. The emotion from the first game, however, seemed to be taken out in the second, unfortunately for FVS. Duke brought down the hammer on them, 126-57.
Duke is facing an experienced Kansas team, something we lack. A major focus will be rebounding, as the Jayhawks bring back a strong frontcourt including very productive big man Udoka Azubuike. Azubuike will provide a sufficient challenge on both ends of the court for Vernon Carey, Jr, the most renowned of Duke’s incoming freshman class and assumably starting center.
You can catch the start of the season tonight on ESPN at 7:00 ET. You won’t want to miss this.
With both electrifying play and persona, Zion Williamson has collected accolades across the board in college basketball; now, his stock of awards includes one that spans all college athletics. ESPN awarded him Best College Athlete for the 2018-2019 year as expected. Zion Williamson is no longer simply a basketball star, but has been for a while an ambassador of our sport to the world.
Congratulations, yet again, to Zion on one of the most incredible college years we’ve been lucky enough to witness. New Orleans has gained a phenomenal young player and man and he’ll always be part of The Brotherhood.
Tired of all the speculation over Zion’s NBA future? Well, we’ve got a Zion article that doesn’t deal with any of that: ESPN’s Mina Kimes looks into not the player but the person. She notes that the Williamson family has mostly avoided the spotlight, turning down a lot of interview requests including that for the story she wrote. But Spartanburg Day, the 450-student school in Spartanburg, SC, that he attended, holds not only Zion’s trophies but his story from high school. Zion did not attend one of the big “basketball schools” for high school such as Montverde Academy in Florida like his roommate RJ Barrett, but instead a small school in South Carolina. Additionally, he interviews one of Zion’s favorite teachers from high school, Mr. Bill Pell, who taught him a creative writing course. The human behind the player is something that we haven’t seen much before and is a really cool guy. Anyway, here’s the article.
Wait, what? Now I don’t want to overhype anything, seeing as last year’s 4-0 start was the last of that streak, but I find this pretty darn awesome: Duke is listed by ESPN’s Mitch Sherman as a playoff contender. Now, this guy also says Virginia Tech is “wounded”, which is followed by saying that we could stay undefeated for a while (they’re up next at home), and even a group of beaten-down Hokies is no picnic, so I’m not fully believing him. But hey, he’s been hired by the best sports reporting group in the biz, hands-down, so he can’t be that wrong. And get this: just ten teams are ranked ahead of us. This is great news for a program that, let’s be honest, before the arrival of our savior, David Cutcliffe, was an absolute afterthought. Even with all of the injuries, I truly feel that we can be something good this year. Daniel Jones is officially back and we’ll see how tonight goes.
Also, you’ll need an ESPN+ subscription to read this article, but here’s the part we’re looking for: the computer says Duke in the playoffs in simulation 2,173. The odds aren’t great, plus, it’s listed as the “wackiest” outcomes, and the most likely one is that we win out, including the ACC championship. Also included is simulation 4,839 where we go with one loss but defeat Clemson in the ACC championship in dramatic fashion to get in (the author, Seth Walder, made the dramatic fashion part up but with these two teams that’s not unlikely).
Bleed blue. Virginia Tech: tonight, 7pm ET on ESPN2. Go Duke.
Despite the NCAA trying to at least make an appearance to put the students first, the reforms that the NCAA put in place yesterday were not well received by fans or organizations and participants who were reportedly blindsided by the changes. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a report on NBA and USAB executives’ surprise at the changes, who did discuss the matter, but neither organization believed they had come to any consensus with the NCAA. USA Basketball intends to expand the sport of basketball, not confine it to “elite players” for the sake of determining who is allowed to have an agent. The organization would prefer that this job is left to the NBA instead.
Myron Metcalf spoke of his dismay on ESPN, in addition with SBNation’s Ricky O’Donnell and Duke Basketball Report’s JD King. The changes obviously attempt to address the issues that the FBI’s investigation surfaced, but do not address them. Really, all I can say is that at least they made an attempt. One major issue? Players who want to return to school must have attended the NBA Combine to be permitted to do so, which only includes a handful of players. If a player attended the NBA Combine, the player is likely to be drafted. Look at the list below:
The four players who would have been eligible to return to school this year under new rules: – Rawle Alkins (Arizona) – Trevon Duval (Duke) – Brandon McCoy (UNLV) – Malik Newman (Kansas)
ESPN+ will be streaming Duke’s Canadian tour next month. “+” costs $4.95 per month (which you can buy for just the month of August if you want). Duke will take on Ryerson University on August 15 (7pm), the University of Toronto on August 17 (7pm), and McGill University on August 19 (3pm).
In addition to the tour, ESPN+ will also hold a documentary series, “Earn Everything”, about Duke’s training programs. We’ve had a few inside looks but no full episodes from the Official Duke Men’s Basketball Twitter, but otherwise you’ll, again, have to buy ESPN+ to be able to watch it.