26 February 2019 11:30

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Steph Curry Has High Praise For Zion Williamson: "He's Unreal"

Zion Williamson is causing waves for the Duke Blue Devils Williamson, 18, has been causing waves for the Duke Blue Devils this year. "He's unreal," Curry said of Williamson, who has been projected to be the first pick of this year's NBA draft. he plays Steph Curry on Zion Williamson Zion Williamson is expected to be the first pick of this year's NBA draft Count ESPN's Jay Bilas among the avalanche of media members who believe Duke is the nation's best team. Talking on the late-night SportsCenter Monday, Bilas was asked which college basketball team was "the one team constructed best for a title run?" But when you've got Zion Williamson, who put up 32 in his last game and then RJ Barrett had a triple-double in his last game with no turnovers, that's extraordinary. It's beyond its years and it's going to take an extraordinary effort to beat this team.

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Indeed, most felt that Duke had the most NBA talent heading into the season by virtue of the No. 1 class in the 247Sports Composite, one that included four five-star players, including the Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 15 players in the country. But while those players were all expected to entice NBA teams at the end of the year, there was some question as to how quickly, and how well they would fit together. It hasn't hurt that Zion Williamson has been one of the most efficient college basketball players of the last 25 or so seasons, and he's maintained that level of efficiency while carving out a massive role for himself and exploding as the likely No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Add in that Jones — a star freshman in his own right — threw himself into on-ball defense and creating for others as opposed to looking for his own shot, and the Blue Devils have fit together well. Statistics website KenPom has been tracking teams since the 2001-02 season, and Duke's efficiency margin isn't just tops this year, the Blue Devils are the second-best team over that time period.

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That certainly doesn't guarantee a title; the best team rarely wins, and the one team with a margin better than Duke's is 2014-15 Kentucky, which lost in the Final Four. Every season brings us great college basketball teams. Almost every year we're treated to a good team from Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, and Gonzaga. While the season is far from over, it seems to be abundantly clear that this year's Duke squad featuring Zion Williamson is one of those teams. Despite the fact that they've got two losses to their record (thanks to Syracuse and Gonzaga), fans are lining up to see this sure-thing phenom in action during his (presumably) only college season.

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If you don't believe us, just look at what's happening with the ticket prices and attendance numbers for the Blue Devils' upcoming games. The average ticket price right now for the game is hovering around $4,000. Again, for perspective, tickets for last year's national championship game between Villanova and Michigan were going for as low as $67 right before tip-off. ESPN Gameday is in town for this showdown between the two ACC schools, but they're not the only ones who want to see Zion when he's in town. It should be noted that the previous record was also a Syracuse-Duke game in the Dome, but the record has stood since 2014 because there hasn't been an opponent who could push the needle since then.

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Whatever you think of his chances in the NBA and his destiny to become a superstar, there's no denying that people want to see Zion Williamson right now. Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball ("Start 2019 Over Again" T-shirts sold separately at Vanderbilt, which hasn't won since New Year's Eve): Wednesday night we welcome Zion Williamson (21) to the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, also known as the only thing in college basketball bigger than he is. Playing Carolina is the next stage of his elevation, with the NCAA tournament and NBA draft on the horizon as stages three and four. Williamson is the No. 1 draw in the sport, playing for the No. 1 team, likely on his way to being the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Michael Jordan (22), merely the GOAT, saw his ACC career come to a bitter end when No. 1 North Carolina was upset by Duke in the 1984 ACC tournament — the only time Jordan lost to the Blue Devils in seven meetings.

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It's also the only time a top-ranked Tar Heels team has ever been beaten by Duke. It's unfortunate that Williamson will have just this season to be part of the rivalry, thus robbing Carolina fans of developing the contempt that comes with familiarity. If Williamson becomes the No. 1 pick, he'll be the fourth in Duke history, following Kyrie Irving (2011), Elton Brand (1999) and Art Heyman (1963). (Of course, if Williamson isn't the No. 1 pick, teammate R.J. Barrett might be the fourth Dukie instead.) Of those, Irving has the strangest Duke-UNC history, having never played against the Heels. Irving played just 11 games as a Blue Devil, missing most of his only season with a ligament injury in his right big toe.

Duke's Zion Williamson (1) celebrates after he scored against North Carolina State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. The annual hope is that Duke and Carolina don't just play twice, but throw in a postseason meeting as well in the ACC tournament. If the rivalry didn't have juice before then, it probably did after — Carolina won the first three meetings by 22, 27 and 25 points, then Duke won the ACC tourney matchup by two. The one thing there has never been, surprisingly, is an NCAA tournament game between Duke and North Carolina. HOW TO SEE DUKE-NORTH CAROLINA IN PERSON FOR FREE ("Security is simply in another stratosphere," he told The Minutes.) The Duke scam would have ranked second if he tried to pull it off straight, by going through one of the well-guarded main entrances. Villanova head coach Jay Wright yells to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgetown, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Philadelphia. Each week The Minutes will shine a light on a player doing big things at an out-of-the-way program. "When we went in the gym, my goal was to make him the best shooter to ever play basketball," Mike Davis told The Minutes. Despite growing up around the game, and memorably being carried around while wearing an Indiana basketball jersey when Davis was coaching the Hoosiers to the 2002 Final Four, he resisted diving into the sport. That became a package deal, and at a spindly 170 pounds, Antoine Davis became the No. 2 scorer in the nation at 26.5 points per game on a rebuilding Titans team — despite being the focus of every opposing gameplan. "They're playing two people on him, face-guarding him, run-and-jumping him," Mike said. "I've been coaching basketball a long time and I've never seen defenses like this on him. The Rebels take a four-game SEC winning streak to South Carolina on Tuesday, their longest league winning streak in four years. Dunleavy is 24-62 at Tulane, 8-40 in the American Athletic Conference, and this season is the worst of the three — the Wave is 4-20, 0-12 in the league, and lost twice at home last week by a combined 58 points. Zion Williamson is the betting favorite to be chosen number one overall in this year's NBA Entry Draft. At 6'7" and 292 pounds, Zion is an unmovable force that dominates on the court with the Duke Blue Devils night in and night out. NBA players are already starting to take notice of Williamson, including LeBron James and most recently Steph Curry, who has made it clear what he thinks of the prospect. "He has a lot of hype around him and he's unbelievably talented, but you can't teach his passion and the way that … he plays. Williamson has helped Duke achieve immense success this season as the team is currently ranked first in the country and are among the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament in March. Zion is averaging 22.4 points per game and just over nine rebounds, making him one of the top scorers on Duke. Duke freshman Zion Williamson has had a special season in his likely to be lone year on a college campus. Williamson's Duke teammate RJ Barrett has the second-best odds at 11/2, with ascending Murray State point guard Ja Morant just behind at 13/2. The No. 5 player in the 247Sports Composite, Williamson has had one of the most efficient seasons in recent memory, averaging 22.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 68.3 percent from the field. Barrett arrived at Duke as the No. 1 player in the 247Sports Composite, and showed exactly why in finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in Duke's last game. He leads the Blue Devils in scoring at 22.7 points per game, while he's also handed 7.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per contest. Ja Morant may be the hottest draft prospect at this time, a player who drew some preliminary interest after a box score stuffing freshman year that saw Morant average just shy of 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Like Williamson, Morant's dunks have become common SportsCenter fare, though his best attribute may be his vision: He's averaging 24.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 10.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game.