College basketball freshmen used to have to play an entire season or pretty close to it to become legendary. Then Zion Williamson came along.
In 14 games, Williamson already has become must-see TV any time Duke has played. He is a regular on SportsCenter highlights, usually with spectacular dunks, including last weekend’s 360-degree slam against Clemson that came at you from countless angles. And if you missed any dunks, there’s always YouTube.
Still, the 6-foot-7, 285-pound forward would rather that you don’t identify him as merely a dunker. He showed other aspects of his game Tuesday at Wake Forest when he became the first Duke freshman to post a line of 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Included in that package were three three-point baskets.
“I kind of hate being classified as a dunker,” Williamson said in a story on ESPN.com. “Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] wouldn’t have recruited me if I was just a dunker. But I guess people on the outside don’t understand that. I can’t play to impress other people. I’m playing to get better for myself and my teammates and hopefully make a run for a national championship.”
He’s doing a good job of it. For the season, he is averaging 20.9 points and 9.5 rebounds and shooting 68 percent from the field. A number of NBA general managers salivate at the thought of making Williamson the No. 1 choice in this year’s draft.
Something happened to Gonzaga after it dropped back-to-back games last month to ranked opponents, Tennessee and North Carolina.
The Bulldogs have ripped off six straight wins since that time with an average margin of 41.5 points, a run that included a 61-point win last month over Denver. The latest victory, 67-36, came Thursday night against Pacific.
Coach Mark Few knows it’s going to be tougher now that West Coast Conference play has begun.
“We’re going to have some really tough outs in this league,” he said. “The league has done a great job in the nonconference season. It looks to be like it’s the best league out West, which it’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that. I think we can say that now. We’re going to be challenged.”
A big challenge will come Saturday night when the Zags visit San Francisco. The Dons are off to a 2-0 start in the WCC for the first time in 12 years, and are 9-0 at home.
Murry Bartow was 13 years old when his father, Gene, succeeded the legendary John Wooden as coach of the UCLA dynasty in 1975. The elder Bartow stayed just two years before going into a less pressurized situation at UAB, where Murry played for and coached with his father.
He met Steve Alford when he was a graduate assistant under Bob Knight at Indiana in 1987, and the two stayed in touch. Alford hired Bartow last offseason to be on his staff at UCLA, but after 13 games, Bartow became the interim head coach after Alford was fired.
“I’ve been in the business a long time and I’d been let go twice out of two jobs, so I’m not naïve to the situation,” Bartow said in an interview with ESPN.com. “I thought this would be an important year, but I was honestly surprised at the timing" of Alford’s firing.
Bartow and assistant coaches Duane Broussard and Tyus Edney decided that the Bruins would try to take better advantage of their speed and athleticism. They’re 3-0 so far, including Thursday night’s 87-84 overtime win at Oregon in which UCLA rallied from 17 down in the second half.
We’re all familiar with Tacko Fall, the 7-foot-6 center from Central Florida whom Temple has seen a few too many times in the AAC. He attracts a lot of attention and, this season, so do his shooting percentages.
Fall is hitting 80 percent (64 of 80) of his shots from the field but just 27.9 percent (19 of 68) from the free-throw line. The field-goal percentage is comparable to his career mark of 73.6 percent entering this season, but his career free-throw percentage of 48.4 percent is taking a hit.
A long and painful era of Pittsburgh basketball might have ended this week. The Panthers defeated Louisville, 89-86, in overtime Wednesday at Petersen Events Center to break a 23-game losing streak in ACC play that dated almost two years.
Virginia is one of the last two Division I unbeaten teams entering the weekend, and Friends' Central graduate De’Andre Hunter is making a significant contribution. The 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore guard is second on the Cavaliers in both scoring (14.1 points per game) and rebounding (5.1 per game), and leads the team in free-throw shooting (80.3 percent). Another impressive statistic is that Hunter is averaging one turnover for every 31 minutes of playing time.
Duke at Florida State, Saturday at 2 p.m., ESPN: The Blue Devils have played tough opponents such as Gonzaga, Auburn and Texas Tech at neutral sites, but this will mark their first true road game outside of North Carolina. The Seminoles force an average of almost 17 turnovers.
Seton Hall at Marquette, Saturday at 2 p.m., FoxSports1: This game matches two of the premier guards in the Big East -- and maybe the country -- in the Pirates’ Myles Powell and the Golden Eagles’ Markus Howard. Marquette is coming off a 106-104 overtime win at Creighton.
Tennessee at Florida, 6 p.m., ESPN: The Volunteers won their first two SEC games by a combined 70 points. They’ll be playing at one of the SEC’s more difficult road venues, but the Gators are struggling to the point that coach Mike White is tinkering with his lineup.
Texas at Kansas, Monday at 9 p.m., ESPN: The Jayhawks will miss 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike, who is out for the season with a hand injury. However, Dedric Lawson has more than picked up the slack, averaging 19.5 points and a Big 12-best 11.3 rebounds entering the weekend.
Virginia Tech at Virginia, Tuesday at 8 p.m., ACC Network: The Cavaliers, one of two Division I unbeatens at the start of the weekend, lost three games all last season and one of them came on their home court against the Hokies. Tech enters on a nine-game winning streak.
Markus Howard, Marquette, G, 5-11, 175, Jr., Chandler, Ariz.
Howard set a Big East Conference record Wednesday night by scoring 53 points in the Golden Eagles’ 106-104 overtime win at Creighton, going 15-for-26 from the field with 10 three-point baskets. It was his third game of 45 points or higher this season, all since Dec. 1. His previous career high had been 52 in January of last season at Providence.