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It’s rare that a five-star player committing to Duke is a surprise, but Zion Williamson shocked the recruiting world when he announced his decision live on ESPN2’s SportsCenter Wednesday night. Duke’s recruiting haul is so good now that many are calling it the best class in history, rivaling the Fab Five of Michigan and Kentucky’s 2011 class of John Wall, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer, among others.
Duke has the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 8 overall players committed, including the No. 1 and No. 2 small forwards in R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, the top power forward in Williamson and the top-ranked point guard in Tre Jones.
It’s an embarrassment of riches for the most powerful recruiting program in the country, and they’re going to need it as most of the current roster will be off for the NBA after this year.
Like most expected, Duke, the second-youngest team in college basketball, has found its groove in conference play and now is riding a five-game winning streak into a widely anticipated matchup against No. 2-ranked Virginia. During the stretch of wins, Duke has played three road games and two home games, and won each by eight points or more. Four of the five wins have come by double digits, although playing two games against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, two of the worst teams in the conference, has certainly helped it find its way.
It has been a well-balanced scoring attack for the Blue Devils, with three different scoring leaders in the five games, including two 30-point performances (one by Marvin Bagley at Wake Forest and one by Gary Trent at Miami).
VIRGINIA GAME HUGE
When the Cavaliers come to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday for a 2 p.m. tipoff on CBS, it will be a matchup of the nation’s top scoring offense against the nation’s top scoring defense. The Blue Devils lead the nation in points per game at 92.1 and Virginia leads the nation in points per game allowed at 52.4 No team has scored more than 78 points against Tony Bennett’s pack line defense while Duke has yet to score fewer than 78 behind the quick tempo employed by Mike Krzyzewski. As the saying goes, something has to give and Duke is
going to try and speed UVA up from the Cavaliers’ typical slow pace of 58.4 possessions per game (slowest in the country) to a more typical Duke-paced game of 72 possessions per game, the 40th-fastest pace of play nationally. We’ll see which style of play wins out, but regardless fans are in for a treat.
CARTER PLAYING BEST BASKETBALL
The freshman big man doesn’t get as many headlines as his post buddy in Bagley, but Wendell Carter has led Duke in scoring (22.0 PPG) and rebounding (10 RPG) the last two games. A big reason for the improved stats has been Carter’s ability to stay out of foul trouble (just one foul in each of the last two games). Throughout the year, Carter’s tendency to commit fouls has led to limited playing time, but he seems to have gotten it under control a bit recently.
FOOTBALL RACING TO SIGNING DAY
Duke’s 2018 recruiting class doesn’t have the size or star power that 2016’s Top 35 class did, but the Blue Devils addressed some needs with their 15-man class that signed in the early period last month. However, they still need to add a few more guys to the group to get them to the 85-man limit and are targeting defensive backs and an offensive tackle for the last remaining spaces. As the clock ticks towards National Signing Day on Feb. 7, the Duke coaches have been out scouring the country looking to attract talent to the roster.
Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.