SHUT DOWN

Evan Abrams of The Action Network has some tips for finding a method for Marschwahnsinn. Here's how to play smart at the NCAA tournament.
USA TODAY sports

CHARLOTTE – At the end of a week designed to restore Zion Williamson's state of health and establish Duke's status as the nation's No. 1 national team for Selection Sunday, there remains only one question.

Can the Blue Devils shoot well to win six games in the NCAA tournament?

Mostly it does not matter. It was certainly not Saturday when Duke won the ACC tournament title and defeated Florida State 73-63, even though he only scored 2 out of 14 from the 3-point line and brought enough stones to the outside of the tournament Refresh Spectrum Centers again.

But at the start of the big tournament, Duke still looks beatable, if not vulnerable, as he is only characterized by significant weakness – one that could well come into play in a unique environment against a team of similar quality.

Of course, Duke is not the team to pity. Although the Blue Devils suffered five defeats this season, there was only one – two points ahead of Gonzaga on November 21st – when they had their full number of players.

No college team since winning Kentucky with Anthony Davis in 2012 had such a strong duel player as Williamson, and the five starters of the Blue Devils included two more likely top-10 drafts in Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett.

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Still, 3-point shooting is a problem. Duke came in at # 333 on Saturday with a 3 percent percentage (30.6) and has done nothing this weekend. Even as Williamson in a three-game tournament run (81) had set a Duke rookie score for points, the Blue Devils achieved a total of only 14 of 57 points from a distance.

It is unlikely that any team will close Williamson because he is just too big, too active and too determined to score if he gets the ball in the paint. Most of the time, Duke will have enough of an offensive base to win, as was the case on Saturday, when the Blue Devils bowed 61 percent of their shots.

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However, there is also a danger in these sections when Barrett and Reddish settle in the vicinity, as was common in this season. In fact, after Florida State Duke had taken the lead from 14 to 9 and stayed 9:25, Barrett missed two jumpers – none of whom were close to it – and let the Seminoles bounce off the door slamming them in the face.

It was never particularly dangerous for Duke to lose the lead on Saturday – he never got closer than 63-58 – but the Blue Devils missed many opportunities and relied heavily on their defense.

This is of course the blueprint for every opponent from here. In a way, it was the whole season: Bring out Duke as many threes as possible and hope for the best.

When Duke beats them, the Blue Devils are virtually unstoppable. If not, Kentucky, Tennessee, Gonzaga, Michigan State, and the rest would love to find out what happens.

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