The 2018-2019 college basketball season was looking very good for the Duke Blue Devils. They were able to lock up the number one recruit in the country, R.J Barrett, the number three recruit, Cameron Reddish, and the number ten recruit, Tre Jones. Any other college basketball coach in the nation would be content with that stellar recruiting class, but not Coach K. He decided to pursue Zion Williamson, the high-flying number two recruit and arguably the most famous high school prospect since LeBron James (Williamson has 1.1 million Instagram followers; nearly twice as many as Duke basketball has).
Williamson was one of the last highly touted recruits to decide where he was going to play college ball. He narrowed his list down to six schools and announced that he would make his decision on Saturday, January 20th at 8 pm. Of those six schools (Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Clemson, and Duke) Clemson was the clear favorite with the Blue Devils sort of in the background. He surprised the many viewers watching his highly anticipated decision on ESPN by choosing Duke. Him joining Duke immediately gives the Blue Devils the top recruiting for next year and possibly the best recruiting class of all time.
Each year Coach K seems to net a better recruiting class than the year before. His 2014 recruiting class featured the number 1, number 4, number 15, and number 21 ranked recruits. Then his 2016 class saw him improving upon that previous class by signing the number 1, number 3, number 10, and number 16 recruits. As if that wasn’t enough, he went out and got the number 1, number 5, number 6, and number 8 recruits in the 2017 class. All those previous top recruiting classes pale in comparison to this one. This marks the first time the top three recruits in a class will be going to the same school.
This will certainly be one of the most fun Duke teams to watch, even if not a single starter from this year’s team decides to stay another year. Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cameron Reddish can all score in bunches and do so in flashy ways. Tre Jones will make mesmerizing passes into tight spots and put plenty of opponents on skates as well. Marques Bolden should round out the starting lineup at the five spot and will bring physicality and an inside presence. Javin DeLaurier will come off the bench and make plenty of highlights given his leaping and shot blocking ability. Alex O’Connell will give the Blue Devils a deadly three point shooter and Justin Robinson will give them some floor spacing from the power forward position. Jordan Goldwire has proved to be capable of holding down the backup point guard spot and that should continue over to next season.
Now lets talk about where this Duke team will finish among the all-time ranks. Frankly, it is still way too early to even discuss this, but it will be a topic among many basketball fans for a while. The current college basketball season isn’t even into February yet, but fans are still going to look past this year and start focusing on next year.
Some people will overreact and say that the 2018-2019 team is the best college basketball of all-time, but that is way too premature. This crop of diaper dandies has yet to even practice on the same court all together. There are still plenty of questions regarding what the roster will look like next year. What is crazy is that Duke is expected to lose its entire starting lineup from this year, yet they are the early favorite for next year.
To be a great college basketball team you have to be a great college basketball TEAM. You can’t become an all-time great team if you are only going to be together for one year. To become one of the all-time greats, you have to play together as a team; something that only comes from experience playing together, no matter how great the coach is.
While this 2018-2019 Duke could flirt with greatness, they will not become an all-time great team. In order to become an all-time great team you need to win multiple championships; something that just doesn’t happen in this one-and-done era. This team will never be able to match the great Christian Laettner-Grant Hill teams of the early 90’s since there is no chance these players are going to stick around to try to form a college basketball dynasty. If that was not the case and each of these top recruits decided to stick around for all four years then sure, we could be talking about one of the best teams in college basketball history, Sadly that is not and will not be the case. Nevertheless, this 2018-2019 Duke team could go down as one of the most talented and entertaining teams in NCAA history.
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