Oh Brother. Duke Is Really, Really Good.

Oh Brother. Duke Is Really, Really Good.


While you were watching election results, college basketball got started, and the best team was immediately determined in a Blue Devil wave. Yeah, it’s Duke.

Duke, inexplicably ranked only No. 4 in the preseason polls, destroyed No. 2 Kentucky on Tuesday night, 118-84, in Indianapolis, on a neutral court.

Duke haters may have rejoiced in the off-season when they realized the team would lose its top five scorers, including three N.B.A. first-round picks, Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter and the player those fans most loved to hate, Grayson Allen.

So a down year for Duke? Hardly. Coach Mike Krzyzewski managed to land the top-ranked high school player, R.J. Barrett, and the second-ranked player, Zion Williamson, and the third-rated player, Cam Reddish.

And how did the freshmen do on Tuesday with the sometimes challenging transition to college ball? Barrett had 33. Williamson had 28. Reddish had 22.

It was over by halftime. Duke won the first half, 59-42. Then, as if to prove it wasn’t a fluke, it won the second half, 59-42, as well. Shooting nerves? Duke shot 59 from 2 and 46 percent from 3. Rookie mistakes? Duke had only four turnovers to Kentucky’s 15. Did the refs help? Actually, no. Duke shot only 29 free throws to Kentucky’s 38.

Even Duke can’t win every game with three players, but guard Tre Jones, another freshman, also looks like a keeper, dishing out a game-high seven assists.

“You start four freshmen, no matter how talented they are, you never know what they’re going to do in this environment against an outstanding team and great program,” Krzyzewski told reporters. “And they responded. They were magnificent.”

Next up for Duke is a home game against Army on Sunday. How much are the Blue Devils going to win that one by?

College basketball fans hoping for a competitive season are already scouring the top 25, desperately looking for the team that can take down the Blue Devils. Villanova is the defending champion, but lost its top four scorers. Some people are saying this is finally Gonzaga’s year for a deep tournament run. Kansas is the nominal No. 1 team and has a freshman sensation of its own, Quentin Grimes, who had 21 in a 5-point win over Michigan State on Tuesday.

But after Tuesday’s Kentucky game, every team out there seems a little feeble compared with Duke.

Even though it might seem that way, Duke actually doesn’t win every year. It has just two national titles in the last 10 years, and has not made the Final Four for four seasons. Last season, the team lost eight games and fell in overtime to Kansas in an N.C.A.A. Regional final.

This year may be a different story. Though all three of the super freshmen will soon be off to the N.B.A., possibly as the top three picks in the draft, for one season, at least, Duke is going to be close to unstoppable.

Is there any hope at all for the many Duke haters out there? Hmm, what if they draw Maryland-Baltimore County in the first round? Those are the kind of straws fans will need to grasp at this season.



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