Duke

Does Duke have a legit chance to land Zion Williamson? And your other questions ...

Duke forward Marvin Bagley III, middle in blue, gets possession of the ball over Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr. during tipoff of the game on Nov. 14. Duke won, 88-81.
Duke forward Marvin Bagley III, middle in blue, gets possession of the ball over Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr. during tipoff of the game on Nov. 14. Duke won, 88-81. TNS

Through the first five games of the season, No. 1 Duke (5-0) is rolling.

Having beaten No. 2 Michigan State last week, the Blue Devils will spend Thanksgiving weekend on the West Coast for the Phil Knight Invitational (PK80).

About twice a month, I’ll answer your questions about Duke basketball. You can tweet me @jonmalexander, or email me at jalexander@newsobserver.com.

On to your questions:

@J_Hill93 What is Duke’s legit chances with Zion (Williamson)?

JMA: Zion Williamson, the No. 2 recruit in the nation, has Duke in his final five schools. The recruiting pitch for the 6-6, 275-pound forward from Spartanburg, S.C., has been that he can fit in with R.J. Barrett (No. 1 recruit), Tre Jones (No. 6) and Cameron Reddish (No. 4), all of whom signed last week.

At Duke Williamson would play the same role LeBron James did in the 2012 Olympics, according to a blog Williamson wrote for USA Today in September. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was the coach of the USA team in 2012 that won a gold medal in the London Olympics. LeBron often played the stretch-4.

I think Duke has a really good chance to land him. I could easily see Marques Bolden starting at the 5, Williamson at the 4, Barrett at the 3, Reddish at the 2 and Jones at the 1.

Does Duke have the best chance to sign Williamson? I think that is still unclear. He seems to be taking his time in making that decision, which he should. He’s also heavily considering Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and Clemson.

@ElissaMarks should we expect Jordan Tucker to get more PT this season? Or will it be minimal?

JMA: You’re right, Tucker, the 6-7, 212-pound freshman forward, has not played much so far this season – only one out of Duke’s five games. But generally, the main reason a player isn’t getting much time on the court during games is because they haven’t performed well enough in practice, or their peers have outperformed them.

But it’s still early. Krzyzewski seems to be experimenting with different lineups, outside of the starters. For instance, 7-foot center Antonio Vrankovic, a junior, got some early playing time on Friday. He also played some against Michigan State, but didn’t play against Utah Valley.

Jack White, a 6-7, 226-pound sophomore forward, played against Southern after not playing against Michigan State. I believe at some point this season, Tucker’s number will be called, and if he performs well, he may play more.

@Mr_JFlow Super early in the season, but what teams stand out to you as real challenges to Duke this year? Was the MSU win a fluke or the first big test to pass?

JMA: I think UNC will always be a challenge for Duke, simply because they are rivals. The Tar Heels are not as good as they were last season but did return some key players from their national championship team.

The rest of the teams that could be challenging for Duke aren’t on its regular-season schedule, but could end up being factors in the NCAA tournament.

So far, Arizona looks really good. Junior guard Allonzo Trier is leading the country, with 30 points per game through three games, while also shooting 70 percent from the floor. Freshman Deandre Ayton, who I saw play when his high school team came to Raleigh for the John Wall Invitational last year, seems to be an unstoppable force. The 7-1, 250-pound center is averaging 18.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

And then there’s Kansas, which has a pretty balanced attack, and is a veteran team. They have a good mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores.

I don’t think the Michigan State win was a fluke. Duke lost its most talented player, Marvin Bagley III, midway through the first half, had off games from both freshmen Gary Trent Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr., and still won. Throughout the game, even when the Blue Devils were down, they looked like the better team.

And Michigan State is talented.

@Hackey4Duke Has Coach K ever employed a zone for an entire game before last night?

JMA: In my very short time, covering Duke, I haven’t seen it. So I asked my colleague Stephen Wiseman, who covered Duke basketball for The Herald-Sun for seven years. Here’s what he says:

“In my time covering Duke, which started in 2010, the only game I remember being close to the Michigan State game in terms of zone usage was in 2015 at Louisville. That Blue Devil team was teetering, coming off consecutive losses to N.C. State, 87-75, and Miami, 90-74, before heading to Louisville. Duke’s man-to-man defense had been shredded in those two losses.

“So Krzyzewski switched things up and Duke played zone while winning 62-52. The Cardinals shot 29.5 percent overall while making just 4 of 25 3-pointers. That win halted Duke’s free fall. The Blue Devils went back to their man-to-man defense for the majority of the rest of the season and won the national championship.”

Jim Hindshaw writes in an email: If NBA & NCAA do away with one-and-done in college basketball, will Duke’s 3 recruits/signees be free to enter NBA draft ?

JMA: I highly doubt it. The NBA and the Commission on College Basketball have had only a discussion. No formal process to do away with the one-and-done rule has been started. Reddish, Barrett and Jones have already committed and signed to play for Duke next season.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander

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