DURHAM, N.C. -- Mike Krzyzewski has coached in five different decades, which has allowed him to sit courtside and watch literally the best players on the planet -- everybody from Michael Jordan to LeBron James, from Tim Duncan to Kobe Bryant. At this point, he's basically seen it all. And yet, by his own admission, Duke's Hall of Fame coach still finds himself, just like the rest of us, amazed by Zion Williamson.
"That move he made fullcourt when he dunked with the right hand -- holy mackerel," Krzyzewski said following Saturday's 72-70 win here inside Cameron Indoor Stadium that doubled as Virginia's first loss. "I thought he was going to lose the ball. And then ... boom. And ... boom. ... He's just a really unusually great player."
Have you seen that sequence yet?
If not, check it out ...
As you can see, there are four Cavaliers focused on Williamson in transition. Kihei Clark and Kyle Guy are chasing him, Ty Jerome is trying to slow him down, and Jay Huff is waiting at the rim. None of that mattered. Williamson crossed-up Jerome -- who is two inches smaller and 90 pounds lighter -- and got past him no problem. That was the first boom. Then Williamson tomahawked on Huff so hard Virginia coach Tony Bennett immediately removed the 7-foot-1 forward from the game, presumably so his team's medical staff could make sure Huff was still alive. That was the second boom. And it was the latest in a long string of highlights that makes you remind the person next to you that somebody Williamson's size -- he's 6-7, 285 pounds, by the way -- should not be able to do the things Williamson consistently does at his size.
It made Coach K say "holy mackerel."
"My teammates were just saying, 'Get the ball and go,'" Williamson explained afterward. "So whenever I got the ball, I just went."
There are lots of reasons Duke won this rare matchup of top-ranked teams -- Duke is No. 1 in the AP Top 25 Poll, Virginia is No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll -- but the biggest reason is the simplest reason. It's because Duke has the two players projected by most to go first and second in the 2019 NBA Draft, and they both played, against Virginia, like players who deserve to go first and second in the 2019 NBA Draft. Williamson took 16 shots, made 10 and finished with 27 points and nine rebounds. Barrett took 19 shots, made 11 and finished with 30 points and five rebounds. Add it up, and what you'll realize is that Williamson and Barrett combined for 57 of Duke's 72 points while nobody else on the roster reached-double-figures. And the latter didn't matter. Because the Blue Devils' simply relied on their two superstars to be great and create a win the same way the Houston Rockets often rely on James Harden to be great and create wins.
Such is the strategy until Tre Jones returns.
The freshman point guard did not dress Saturday after suffering a shoulder injury in Monday's loss to Syracuse, but he is expected back sooner rather than later. In the meantime, Duke will allow Barrett to be the primary ball-handler, and Williamson to be super-human, and it's a recipe that'll likely work well considering the Blue Devils' next five games are all against sub-45 KenPom opponents. In other words, if they can beat Virginia without Jones, they can surely beat Pitt, Georgia Tech and anybody else they might have to play without Jones. So his shoulder injury that looked bad when it happened, but isn't considered too bad now, will likely end up costing Duke only one game -- specifically the game against Syracuse.
Either way, Duke is now 15-2 overall, 4-1 in the ACC while Virginia is 16-1 overall, 4-1 in the ACC. Both lost this week but should remain high in the AP Top 25. Both are still competing for No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Both are undeniable contenders for the national championship.
The rematch is in 21 days.