March is a great month. It’s my birthday and all that — I’m turning 25 this year WHAT THE FUCK — but it’s great for sports as well. March Madness is the greatest postseason in sports, and if your favorite team goes a long way, it bleeds directly into baseball’s regular season. That is the best-case scenario. The worst case is your team loses its first round game on March 18th and you are stuck without a sports team playing meaningful games for a couple weeks. Life can be so harsh.
This year Duke might have its best team I’ve ever seen. At least since I was 11 years old (Battier, Williams, Boozer, Dunleavy, Duhon), or 1999 (Elton Brand, Battier, William Avery, Trajan Langdon, Corey Maggette).
In the pantheon of great Duke teams, I’d put this unit below the 2001 and ’99 squads, and the legendary ’91-’92 teams, but aside them I think they hold their own. The only thing this season’s Duke team lacks, compared to the greats of the past, is a truly great senior. Quinn Cook (15.9 points/game, 2.9 assists/game) is the only scholarship senior on roster and, even though he’s an absolute pit bull on the court, doesn’t profile as a killer during the NCAA Tournament when the games slow down.
This is the greatest Duke team I’ve ever seen, but their season really rests on the shoulders of two players: Jahlil Okafor (obviously, because duh) and Justise Winslow. Okafor is a man among boys at the collegiate level, and such has been proven by his 18.2/9.6 production line and 66.3% field goal rate this season. There isn’t a big man in the sport that can handle him one on one.
No, the real key to Duke’s Final Four quest is Winslow. Chad Ford’s number 12 overall selection in his 2015 mock draft, Justise has averaged 12.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game in his freshman year. During Duke’s current 9-game winning streak, Winslow is averaging 16.5, 8.9 and 2.0, which includes games against #2 Virginia, #10 Notre Dame and #15 North Carolina. On the season, the Blue Devils have generated perhaps the best resume in college basketball, with wins at Wisconsin, at UVa, at Louisville, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Stanford, UConn and UNC. No other powerhouse has played a schedule like that, and to come out of it 26-3 so far?
If Duke isn’t a #1 seed I won’t particularly care, because it doesn’t change them as a team… by this point I know how good they are — good enough to beat anyone in the country. This has been proven.
The dream scenario is they win out and meet an undefeated Kentucky team in the National Championship. There isn’t a better, more must-see matchup than that. The national player of the year (Okafor) against what will go down as one of NCAA Basketball’s best teams of all-time if they win it all (Kentucky).
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