By: Jared Karten (Sports Correspondent)
With four of the top 20 freshmen in the recruiting class of 2018, the Duke men’s basketball team is looking to continue their dominance on the court as they approach March Madness.
With freshmen such as rim-rattler Zion Williamson, slasher R.J. Barrett, sharpshooter Cam Reddish, and the defensive magician Tre Jones, people have little doubt they will showcase their talents in the tournament.
On the first day of the 2018-19 college basketball season, the fourth ranked team in the country, the Duke Blue Devils, tipped-off against the second ranked Kentucky Wildcats, in what people expected to be a close game. Williamson and Barrett stole the show at Bankers Life Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, combining for 61 of their team’s 118 points in Duke’s 118-84 blowout win.
Junior Cameron Baker says that the Blue Devils will go all the way. “They should end up National Champions. You don’t see this level of talent and this level of experience that often,” he said.
Junior Aaron Karten said teams need experienced players to go far in the tournament and that skill is not always everything. He said, “Duke doesn’t have the experience they need to be successful in the tournament. You see teams such as Gonzaga and Villanova going far every year due to their diverse and experienced roster who’s been in the tournament before. I do think Duke is the most talented team in the tournament, but talent can only get you so far.”
“There’s only one ball, and you can take a finite amount of shots. As a Duke basketball player, you can’t focus on getting your normal amount of shots. To be successful, they need to share the ball and take smart shots,” added Baker.
While Duke has these outstanding talents, they will need to maximize these talents if they want to go far.
Freshman Ryan Baker said that while Duke is the most talented team in the school’s history, they will be playing equally talented teams. “I love Duke basketball, and I believe this is Coach K’s most talented team ever with this outstanding freshman class. However, they can’t stop there. There are extremely talented teams they will need to face in the tournament such as Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, etc. In order to beat these teams, they need to use these talents to their highest ability.”
Despite having a talented team every year, Duke has been upset in the tournament before. The 15 seed Lehigh upset the 2 seed Duke in 2012, 75-70, and 14th seed Mercer upset the 3 seed Duke in 2014, 78-71.
Often, electrifying teams go down early, ending their season and keeping the underdog’s hopes alive. Last season, the 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers lost to the 16 seed UMBC Retrievers in an improbable upset for the Retrievers. However, despite the skepticism, Duke could evade the historic upsets and win the tournament, adding onto their impressive record of 22-2.