There are few teams college basketball fans are more excited to see than No. 4 Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski’s heralded freshman class of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.
In an interview with NCAA.com's Andy Katz on this week’s March Madness 365 podcast, Coach K validated that there’s good reason for the hype — especially with Williamson’s supreme athleticism and ability to throw down backboard-rattling dunks. Krzyzewski said he can impact a game “in every way.” Here's what else he had to say:
“I know coming out of high school people were so amazed with his dunking, but he’s a really good basketball player,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s smart. He can handle. He has guard skills. He’s an amazing athlete and (has) ability to fluidly move in the air, on the court. He’s a beautiful athlete to watch and one of our best passers.”
All four freshmen started in Duke’s two exhibition games against Division II opponents Virginia Union and Ferris State and will likely have the same role throughout the year for a team projected as a national championship contender.
But the question remains whether or not there is a veteran presence on Duke and whether or not the Blue Devils will need it. As good as Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones were on the 2015 national championship team as freshmen, the leadership and play of Quinn Cook was paramount to that title run. Krzyzewski said it might come from more experienced players like Jack White and Javin DeLaurier. Expect that to be a question surrounding the Blue Devils when their season tips off on Nov. 6 versus Kentucky in Indianapolis.
A team that doesn’t have leadership questions is the reigning ACC regular-season and tournament champions Virginia Cavaliers, which Katz said has the roster capable of winning a national championship.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett also joined the podcast and said that in addition to having guard De’Andre Hunter back healthy with juniors Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Braxton Key — a transfer from Alabama that was recently approved to play this season — he noticed a drive in himself and his players following the loss to No. 16-seed UMBC that he has never seen before.
“It sparked a fire in me that I wanna compete at a higher level. I want this program to taste a level of success that it never has.”
You can listen to the entirety of Katz’s interviews with Krzyzewski and Bennett in the latest episode of March Madness 365.