If you’re like me, you sat on your couch after the Duke-Kentucky game Tuesday night dazzled, amused, astonished, and above all else thinking, “Welp, the college basketball season was fun while it lasted.”
Those were reactions of the heart. My head tells me Duke isn’t going to play like that every night. It tells me we’ve seen great teams get smashed by 30 in November and go on to win conferences and go to Final Fours. It tells me a collection of teenagers will have its ups and downs.
But, dude, did you see that game?
No. 2 Kentucky was the higher-ranked team. Kentucky has seven five-star prospects on its roster, and they’re a mix of lottery-bound freshmen and returning veterans. This is expected to be one of John Calipari’s best teams, and during the Michigan State-Kansas broadcast earlier in the night, Dick Vitale told the audience he felt strongly the Wildcats would win the national championship this year.
Then Duke scored 118 points on them. If you saw the game, you know it could’ve been 140 if Duke had wanted it to be. Duke played at whatever pace it wanted. Confirming what everyone watching the game was thinking, Jay Bilas kept saying Duke was “toying” with Kentucky.
That was especially true of R.J. Barrett, who more or less did whatever he wanted to do against Kentucky.
This wasn’t some deal where Duke got real hot at the beginning of the game, nor was it one of those where it was a 13-point game most of the night and things fell apart at the end. Duke smashed Kentucky for every single one of the 40 minutes. There was never a moment where it looked like Kentucky belonged on the same floor as Duke .
And what it looks like we are on our way to seeing in this 2018-19 Duke team is one of those things that comes along in sports that everyone can’t stop watching and talking about … and eventually grows to hate.
This is Tim Tebow, this is the 2007 New England Patriots, this is Trae Young, this is this year’s Alabama football team. As a pure spectacle, this Duke team is the biggest thing to hit college basketball since Kevin Durant (at a minimum), but probably since the Fab Five. The Blue Devils are going to dominate college basketball coverage this year, and that will get exhausting.
The polls already need to be rearranged. Kansas is No. 1, and looked very deep and very good in a win over No. 10 Michigan State on Tuesday, and doesn’t really deserve to drop. But put it this way: If the first rankings were coming out next week, Duke might get every single No. 1 vote.
Top 3 (by me):
My head tells me there is a team out there with a smart enough coach and smart enough players to frustrate Duke, it’s just difficult to imagine a team successfully guarding R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson for an entire game. Kentucky couldn’t do it for an entire minute. Duke’s physical advantage over, again, a team with multiple future first-round picks on it was so startling I find myself questioning, in the warm light of day, if I really saw what I thought I saw last night — a massacre that wasn’t so much cold-blooded as accidental.
The spasm the rest of the basketball world and I are having right now is an emotional reaction to some sports gore none of us saw coming. It was just one game, but it’s going to take a minute to process.
In the meantime, it looks like this could be a long year.