Three games, three shudder-inducing triumphs—and the number one ranking in the country.
Carnivorous and insane with talent, the 2018 Blue Devils must annihilate everything before them like killing machines. Like Luca Brasi or Anton Chigurh or the boomslang snake of Southern Africa.
Let us not speak in detail of the first week. Not needlessly. The things that were “accomplished” were necessary, but the severe measures were not taken without sympathy.
The barest responsible details:
On November 6, then number-four-ranked Duke faced off against then-number-two-ranked Kentucky. You can see that the present dynamic was unworkable, as both teams cannot both be victorious simultaneously, and so it was absolutely unavoidable that the Blue Devils did certain things to the Wildcats, much in the way that a Waring blender does things to a ripened plantain. The much-hyped debut of the Blue Devils’ freshman-led juggernaut impossibly surpassed expectation.
RJ Barrett, the six feet seven Canadian import and presumptive first pick in next year’s NBA draft, was so overcome by the high expectations and moment in the spotlight that all he did was drop thirty-three points, shooting 50 percent from the floor and adding six assists and four rebounds. His fellow first-year titan Zion Williamson—the presumptive second pick in next year’s NBA draft and indeed rumored to be a hybrid of man and immortal—chipped in twenty-eight on eleven-for-thirteen shooting with seven rebounds. Both players were so thoroughly dominant that the performance set into motion a season-long subplot as to which prospect will go first, and if that’s the biggest question coming out of your season debut, you might have some talent on the roster.
When the savaging of the Wildcats was over, the score read 118–84, reflecting two symmetrical halves in which the Blue Devils outscored Kentucky 59–42. There were no runs to make it close. There was no drama. Duke led 34–13 after ten minutes. The massacre bordered on ritualistic. Coach K called the spectacle of his young charges at play “magnificent,” the twinkle in his eyes belying traces of the barely sublimated madness that has always lain in his heart.
The rampage continued on Sunday with a cruel but fair 94–72 victory over Army and then again on Wednesday wherein a previously undefeated Eastern Michigan team was made to feel the lash, 84–46. Barrett and Williamson do not appear to be stoppable. Fellow freshman forward and possibly the number-three pick in next year’s NBA Draft (!) Cam Reddish has shown flashes of his immense potential as well, particularly during a twenty-five-point outing against Army. To point out the obvious, basketball only requires five players at a time, and when you have the three best players in the country, that’s enormously helpful.
When will they be tested? Perhaps on the 27th, when they host 3–0 Indiana, themselves coming off an impressive victory over Marquette? I don’t know. Honestly, we might be in uncharted waters here. Can this Duke team go undefeated? Should they be promoted European-soccer-style to some higher level of competition?
Check back here every week, and we will walk through history together.
The Record: 3–0
The Ranking: No. 1 (and get used to it)
Upcoming: Duke at San Diego State, Monday, ESPN 2