ESPN has been rating basketball recruits since 2007.
For the first time, one school has landed commitments from Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on that list.
Massive power forward Zion Williamson of Spartanburg, S.C., stunned recruitniks and Clemson fans alike when he committed to play for the Blue Devils and coach Mike Kryzyzewski last week, spurning his home state Tigers and the University of South Carolina and by-passing other contenders such as North Carolina, Kentucky and Villanova.
Williamson, a 6-foot-6 and 270 pounder who can run the floor like a guard, was ESPN’s No. 2-ranked recruit in the nation. Duke already had verbal commitments from No. 1 R.J. Barrett and No. 3 Cameron Reddish, both forwards, plus the nation’s top-rated point guard by most services, Tre Jones.
Duke has signed 11 top-three players on ESPN’s list since 2007. The next nearest team has signed four. The Blue Devils also are sure to have the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class for the fourth time in five years.
Landing Williamson, Barrett, Reddish and Jones also shows that Kryzyzewski apparently has bought in completely to the “one-and-done” concept. The core of his 2014 national championship team, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, all left after one season. Last year, Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Frank Jackson left Duke after one season and Luke Kennard after two.
Few expect Marvin Bagley III, the ACC’s leading scorer and rebounder this season, Wendell Carter Jr. and Trevon Duval to stick around after this season — which opens the door for Williamson and the rest of the 2018 class to step right in.
Saturday’s game between No. 2 Virginia and No. 4 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., will contrast the best defensive team in the ACC (the Cavaliers) against the best offensive team (the Blue Devils).
Through Tuesday’s game, the statistics bore that out, and it isn’t close either way. Duke has the ACC’s leading offense with 92.1 points per game (almost six points ahead of No. 2 Virginia Tech) and UVA had the top scoring defense, allowing only 52.4 points per game (more than 10 points ahead of No. 2 Miami).
The Blue Devils have scored 80 or more points a league-high 15 games in a row, the seventh-longest streak in league history. The Cavaliers have not allowed more than 68 points in a game this season and have held six of seven league opponents to less than 60 points.
Duke is first in the league in scoring margin (plus-19.3 points) because of its offense. Virginia is second (17.2 points) because of defense.
The key is likely Duke’s defense. Virginia isn’t as offensively-challenged as last season and is fifth in the league in shooting (.470) and second in 3-point shooting (.394). Duke is ninth in field-goal percentage defense (.409) and 13th in 3-point percentage defense (.351).
Tar Heels weak on the road
North Carolina’s 80-69 loss at Virginia Tech on Tuesday dropped their road ACC record to 1-3 — already as many road losses as last season.
It was the second double-digit loss on the road (Virginia beat the Tar Heels 61-49) and in all three cases, it will be the only regular-season meeting, so UNC doesn’t even get the chance at revenge, unless they meet up in the ACC Tournament.
The pattern is easy to decipher: the Tar Heels don’t shoot well away from the Smith Center. In the three ACC road losses, they shot a combined 37 percent, 10 percentage points worse than their opponents.
It won’t get any easier late in the second. UNC plays three of its next four games at home, but finishes the regular season with four of the last six on the road, including trips to Louisville and Duke.
The Syracuse trio of Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard continue to lead the ACC in minutes played by a wide margin. Battle is averaging 38.21 minutes per game, Brissett 38.00 and Howatrd 37.53.
Boston College is the only other team with three players among the top-10 in minutes, Ky Bowman (fifth at 36.75), Jordan Chatman (seventh at 35.16) and Jerome Robinson (10th at 34.65).
To illustrated Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton’s desire for a deep bench, not a single Seminole player is among the top-25 in the ACC in minutes played. The team leader is Terence Mann, at 29.2 minutes per game.