The Duke Blue Devils were more than impressive in their opener against #2 Kentucky, beating them by 34, and scoring 118 points. Their star freshmen, RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones, lived up to the hype. No freshmen scaries for this crew, as Barrett had 33, Zion with 28, and Reddish had 22. This Duke team is disgusting, and they play like seasoned veterans. So, can anyone beat the Dukies?
Along with Duke, Kansas had an impressive week one win over #10 Michigan State, but was overshadowed by Duke’s win. Kansas is lead by returning starting center Udoka Azubuike, who is absolutely impossible to block out. Azubuike has a back-court veteran counterpart in LaGerald Vick. Vick is an athletic 2/3, who this season has shown signs of an improved shooting game. Alongside Vick is the freshman Quentin Grimes, who has been lights out from three thus far.
Another feature piece for this offense is Dedric Lawson, the transfer from Memphis. the 6’9″ power forward brought a spark to the Jayhawk offense against the Spartans, with his biggest contribution being his assistance rebounding against a tall, physical Michigan State team. Kansas is flooded with talent on the offensive end, and also have the rim protectors to do it on the defensive side as well. If the Jayhawks can find another shooter, Kansas might be Duke’s biggest threat.
Mark Few always has the Bulldogs in the mix for championship contention, and this season is no different. Rui Hachimura has looked like an All-American thus far, and he has plenty of help at the point guard position in veteran Josh Perkins. Perkins is a top tier guard not only in the PCC, but in the entire country. Gonzaga has these two all-stars, and have Killian Tillie on the IR. When Tillie comes back, Gonzaga will be back to the dominant rebounding and paint scoring team they have been in the past. The Bulldogs match up size wise, but who can be the clutch guy that can put them over the top? Rui Hachimura.
Hachimura, again, has looked like a first team All American talent. His 7’2″ wingspan makes him an obvious miss match for any other power forward in the country. The junior’s experience should also help his clutch gene, having made deep runs in the NCAA tournament his previous two seasons. In addition to their talent, Gonzaga plays a tough non-conference schedule this season, playing Texas A&M, Illinois, Tennessee, and North Carolina, which will make them more battle tested than past years. The Gonzaga Bulldogs have a great chance to actually be a legit national championship threat.
The long and athletic Volunteers are here to show the basketball world they are a force to be reckon with. My favorite to win the SEC, Knoxville has a serious championship contender. The Vols are seemingly even with the Duke in one aspect of their game: athleticism. Tennessee could have problems scoring against Duke, but everyone else in the country would also. Where Tennessee’s strength lies is their size, having only one player on their roster under 6’2″. Tennessee, similar to Gonzaga, has the ability to rebound the ball with tremendous efficiency, giving them lots of second chances down low.
If the Vols start to get more production from their stars, they could be unbeatable in SEC play. Guys like former SEC player of the year Grant Williams, Senior Admiral Schofield, and Lamonte Turner should be their three main scorers, with facilitator Jordan Bone in the mix as well. If Grant Williams can become the clutch guy he can be, Tennessee will be a real scary sight. The Vols have Gonzaga at home in a few weeks, which will show the rest of the country, fully, what they’re made of.
I don’t think anyone in their right minds would pick anyone to dethrone the Blue Devils right now, but if I had to make a pick on who it would be, it’d be one of these three.