Consider the first public words from Mike Krzyzewski, after the shoe explosion heard ‘round the basketball world.
“It’s an unusual night.”
Ain’t that the truth? A college basketball season is one long series of sudden and unexpected turns and drops. Here was Wednesday night to prove it anew. The thing was, not just in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
In San Diego . . .
Nevada took the court as the No. 6 team in the nation, winner of 10 in a row by a margin of 22 points a game, burying its victims during the streak with an 85.6 scoring average.
San Diego State shut the Wolf Pack down 65-57. It was the highest ranking opponent the Aztecs had ever beaten. Nevada is 31-5 the past 377 days. Three of the five defeats by San Diego State.
In Baton Rouge . . .
LSU had gloriously charged into the SEC lead with a 7-0 road record, three of the victories in overtime.
The Tigers went into overtime with Florida Wednesday night, too, only this time at home. Even better. Except, they lost.
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At Georgetown . . .
The Hoyas faced No. 17 Villanova, having lost nine in a row against the Wildcats. Plus, they were 0-7 against ranked opponents during the Patrick Ewing tenure. “My son brought that to my attention, by the way,” Ewing would later tell reporters.
Scratch all that. Georgetown 85, Villanova 73.
Mississippi State blew a 17-point lead in the second half, but there was Quinndary Weatherspoon at the line, with two free throws, 0.5 seconds left, and the score tied. He missed the first. Big pressure for the second. But that’s when a toy stuffed bulldog came flying out of the stands. Technical foul on Georgia. Extra free throw for Weatherspoon.
He made one, and Mississippi State got by, 68-67. A stuffed bulldog. You couldn’t make that up.
In Bloomington . . .
The Indiana athletic director apologized to Purdue and asked his student fans to knock off the obscene stuff. They had chanted profanities much of Tuesday night at Boilermaker Matt Haarms, who proceeded to beat the Hoosiers with a late tip-in. There’s a moral somewhere in that story.
WATCH: No. 15 Purdue beats Indiana on Matt Haarms' tip-in
In Lexington . . .
Kentucky announced Reid Travis, one of the main Wildcats with his 11 points and seven rebounds a game and 51.6 percent shooting, would be lost for at least two weeks. Knee sprain. How might that affect the recent Kentucky surge?
Meanwhile in Durham . . .
Everyone waits for the latest on Zion Williamson. The other places had their surprising developments, but this shook the earth. About a 7.9 on the college basketball Richter scale.
The images were all so stunning. His left shoe looking like a blown-out semi truck tire, lying on the side of an interstate. Williamson grabbing his knee, limping toward the locker room. The people in the stands looking on, the ones who had made such national news by spending thousands of bucks for tickets. President Obama looking on, commiserating.
UPDATE: Zion Williamson will not return. Knee.— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) February 21, 2019
Zion's shoe: destroyed 😳 pic.twitter.com/LqQ2te0Jay— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2019
The Duke-North Carolina hype had baked the landscape, especially the question of how the here today-gone tomorrow Blue Devil freshmen would stamp their legacies on the rivalry, since Wednesday would likely be their one shot in Cameron against the Tar Heels.
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And then, in 34 seconds . . . this? Talk about your mood killer.
“It would have been one he wanted to play his whole life,” Jack White said of teammate Williamson and the Carolina game.
Oh, yeah. The Tar Heels won, 88-72. Eighth time they took down a No. 1 ranked Duke team, fourth time in Cameron. That would normally have been the big news, except it wasn’t.
RECAP: Tar Heels roll over top-ranked Blue Devils; Zion Williamson lost to injury
The entire Duke narrative had changed.
Now, Krzyzewski has some adjustments to make, using coaching muscles maybe he didn’t expect to use this year. And Nike has some explaining to do. A planted left foot on a dribble move is not supposed to send a shoe to the dumper and its wearer to the training room.
Now, there will be national conversation concerning how hesitant Williamson should be about coming back at all, mindful of the millions that will be waiting on NBA draft day. Many voices will suggest he take a seat, and stay there.
Now, instead of this awe-inspiring force rolling over the ACC on its way to March, attracting a celebrity A-list wherever they appeared, the Blue Devils are a team with questions to answer, and a Zion-sized hole to fill in their aura. Maybe for a short time, maybe for good.
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It all happened so quickly Wednesday night. One minute, he was the face of the No. 1 ranked team, of the season, of the sport itself – with Duke the unquestioned team to beat next month.
Coach K: “They’re an outstanding team. They played with poise... We didn’t always play well tonight, but we played hard... We will learn from this and move on.” pic.twitter.com/ji0f7uAdIA— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) February 21, 2019
The next, he went limping out of sight, as Twitter blew up almost as quickly as his left shoe. The sharp curve sent all conventional wisdom about this season flying, like loose objects in a careening car. In 34 seconds, so much was different. An astonishing example that nothing – nothing – can ever be taken for granted in college basketball.