Look out college hoops: Duke is just getting started

Look out college hoops: Duke is just getting started

INDIANAPOLIS – Kentucky fans flooded the streets and pubs of downtown Indianapolis before they filled Bankers' Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

Zion Williamson cuffed Nick Richards' shot in midair and threw a dude to RJ Barrett for a transitional transition during the worst – and most embarrassing – loss of Kentucky coach John Calipari's career, Big Blue Nation left the building.

"My nerves were pretty calm," Williamson said about his attitude Tuesday's 118-84 victory and his debut as a college player.

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In the Champions Classic, Duke punched Kentucky in the face. The Blue Devils won by 34 points, but it feels like a million. Williamson, Cam Reddish and Barrett – perhaps the top three picks in next summer's NBA draft – combined to score 83 points. Tre Jones had seven assists and no turnovers.

The Duke freshmen, the no. 1 recruiting class in America via ESPN, were everything we'd imagined they'd be – and more. Williamson created a separate SportsCenter show. Barrett played like the no. 1 pick he's projected to be. Reddish mismatches and impressed, too. Jones made it all flow.

"I'm really proud of my guys," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. And they responded. "They were magnificent." "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."

Zion Williamson dominated on both ends and showed much more than his highlight-reel dunks. Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Duke's dominance of Kentucky added another chapter to Krzyzewski's recent stronghold on the one-and-done talent pool. Yes, Calipari starts the trend, but Krzyzewski now owns it.

Tuesday's win has been smoldered in Duke's favor since Kentucky's most recent national title in 2012.

Those Kentucky fans who streamed through the concourses after Williamson plucked Richards' shot from the air seemed perplexed, not just stunned by the result.

Like, what the hell did we just watch, and can it be stopped?

Before we analyze the hammer, let's consider the nail.

This was Kentucky. The Kentucky Wildcats. The team that drew the No. 2 recruiting class in America. The same Kentucky squad was seen on the Bahamas over the summer after adding all-Pac-12 first-time Reid Travis. The No. 2 team in America.

This is the program that has made four trips to the Final Four under Calipari. The Wildcats do not get many black eyes. They dish them out.

That's why the ease of Duke's effort in the Champions Classic should terrify the college basketball landscape.

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In his debut with the Blue Devils, RJ Barrett records 33 points as Duke beats Kentucky by 34.

Krzyzewski has assembled a program that's ready to excel in a climate that now favors small ball. Villanova has made two of the past three national titles with a lineup that featured ball handlers and shooters at every spot.

This season, Duke could use the same formula to chase Krzyzewski's third national title of the one-and-done era. But his small-ball lineup features a potential top five pick at three spots.

It's all started with Williamson, a quagmire for Kentucky because of that no player at this level can match and ball its ability to make it difficult to defend. Duke outscored Kentucky by 29 points when he was on the floor Tuesday, via ESPN Stats & Information tracking.

Calipari said Williamson's effort against Kentucky's big bodies was unexpected.

"It did not bother him," he said.

Barrett is just across the street from Indiana Pacers' practice facility and claim a spot in the rotation tomorrow. Calipari tried different matchups against him. It did not matter. He did not have a player on his roster who could handle the Canadian star.

"It's difficult because he's a physical player and he puts it up in the ref's hands a lot of the times, as far as he's attacking you and he makes it difficult to guard without fouling and he puts a lot of pressure at the rim "Travis said about Barrett, who finished 4-for-8 from the free throw line.

Reddish took advantage of the space created by his teammates success while acting as a disruptive defensive force with four steals. Jones did not make many mistakes, while Kentucky's guards committed six turnovers.

This is not a game full of ball screens and sophisticated schemes.

Krzyzewski just spreads the floor and dared Kentucky to pick up a collection of top 10 picks.

That's the reality for any team that wants to face this duke squad in 2018-19. The Blue Devils are unique and dangerous everywhere.

The hype was promised as much.

Right now, however, the Duke team could become.

It's the beginning of the season. Tuesday night, we all know how this season will end.

"They're a very good team," Calipari said. "If they play like that, they're not losing many, if that's who they are."

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