What we learned from Friday’s elite
All in all, Friday’s Elite was a fun event that showcased the best of esports and its players. The hype surrounding the tournament should only continue to grow; but for now we’ll take a look at what we learned from it.
The “duke basketball ranking” is a list of the top teams in college basketball. The rankings are based on a formula that takes into account both winning percentage and strength of schedule. The team with the best record receives the number one spot, while the rest of the teams are ranked from two to fifteen.
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The epic clash between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 5 Duke in Las Vegas on Friday had to make up for any college basketball fan who was upset by Gonzaga’s wire-to-wire thrashing of UCLA on Tuesday night. The Blue Devils triumphed by a score of 84-81 in a game that seemed like a late March or early April grudge fight on Nov. 26.
The matchup between future NBA lottery picks Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga and Paolo Banchero of Duke was one of the game’s must-see moments, with Banchero (21 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including 20 points in the first half) coming out on top statistically, while Holmgren (16 points on 8-of-13 shooting) showed flashes of his potential No. 1 pick brilliance. Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Andrew Nembhard (6 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds) were both impressive in the game, as were Duke’s Mark Williams (17 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks) and Wendell Moore Jr. (20 points, 6 assists, 4 steals).
Gonzaga’s first regular-season loss occurred on February 22, 2020, when the Bulldogs were defeated by BYU.
Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway, and Joe Lunardi of ESPN’s college basketball crew discussed what they observed from the Zags and the Blue Devils, as well as which club is best positioned for a high seed on Selection Sunday.
On Friday night, Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga and Paolo Banchero of Duke were both featured prominently in the performance. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire photo
What about Duke’s or Gonzaga’s performance on Friday night surprised you the most?
The most shocking aspect of the game, in my opinion, was that both teams remained competitive even when their stars were out for extended periods of time. After picking up his second foul at the 10-minute mark, Holmgren was forced to sit out the most of the first half. Strawther (20 points), a sophomore from Las Vegas, shone in front of friends and family members who had come to see him play. Rasir Bolton, a transfer from Iowa State, scored 15 points.
Banchero struggled with what seemed to be cramping difficulties for Duke in the second half, forcing him to return to the locker room and lose substantial time. After scoring 20 points in the first half in one of the most overpowering performances I’ve seen from a rookie, he didn’t appear like the same player when he returned. Other players, though, stepped up to the plate. Gonzaga struggled with Williams’ length. With around 30 seconds left, Drew Timme’s bucket was well guarded by the youthful big. With Banchero out, Moore assisted Duke in maintaining a lead. Down the stretch, Jeremy Roach made several important plays. More than anything, I believe we learned this season that both teams have a handful of significant co-stars. Neither team faltered in the face of hardship. That’s a positive indicator.
Paolo Banchero confirmed his lottery-pick status before being forced to sit out the second half. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire photo
On Friday night, what did we discover about Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren that we didn’t previously know?
Is it possible that Banchero’s cramping is a thing? I don’t believe he’ll ever be a chronic cramper in basketball, but this is Duke’s second huge game of the season, and Banchero’s second game in which he’s had to leave for a prolonged stretch of time in the second half. Banchero, on the other hand, produced one of the most remarkable first halves of any player in college basketball this season. He was aggressive on offense, seemed at ease from the perimeter, and led the break with the ball in his hands — he was great. In the opening 20 minutes, he scored 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting with three 3-pointers.
The only two aspects of Banchero’s game that have been questioned are his 3-point shooting consistency and if he could be a little more decisive with his attacking plays. He shot 3s in a steady pace in the first half and attempted a couple of catch-and-shoot attempts. And after he had the ball, he moved rapidly. Although the isolation setups from the elbow and mid-post positions are successful, he moved much more aggressively versus Gonzaga in the first half.
I’m not sure what Holmgren showed (or didn’t show) us that we didn’t previously know. Even was smooth with the ball in his hands, had a good 3-point release despite shooting 0-for-3 from beyond the arc and missing a wide-open corner 3 late in the game, and he blocked shots. He struggled with foul trouble early on, but he improved his discipline in the second half and only remained on the bench for the last 20 minutes. On the offensive glass and finishing near the rim, he displayed some toughness and aggression. One thing to notice is that Williams had a significant influence on the game in the first half, potentially overshadowing Holmgren. We already know where Holmgren has to develop, namely his strength and physique, and that didn’t alter on Friday night.
Paolo Banchero takes a 3-point shot and makes it.
Duke has won stunning victory against Kentucky and Gonzaga in its first month. Is there any reason why this squad shouldn’t win a national championship, and if so, what is it?
There’s no cause at all. First, Duke demonstrated that it isn’t only Banchero who can beat Gonzaga. After a 20-point first half, cramping and maybe a Bulldogs adjustment or two restricted the projected No. 1 selection in 2022 to a single free throw the rest of the way. Moore (20 points, six assists, and four steals) and Williams (20 points, six assists, and four steals) led the Blue Devils to victory (17 points, five blocks and two steals).
Second, this bunch is unlike some previous Duke teams in recent memory. For a long time, Mike Krzyzewski’s teams have been consistently good on offense. Nonetheless, defense has tended to set his national championship candidates apart from the “ordinary” Elite Eight teams in Durham.
Holding Gonzaga to 81 points in a 79-possession game, and particularly pestering the Bulldogs into 17 turnovers, is unquestionably good defense. When the Zags handed the ball away on their ultimate bread-and-butter play, a Nembhard pick-and-roll with Timme establishing the screen, they knew they were in for a long night. Against Gonzaga, six Duke players had at least one steal, and Williams is clearly one of the top rim defenders in the country. Coach K has a good chance of winning his sixth national championship with that sort of defense and Banchero’s scoring and explosiveness.
— Mr. Gasaway
Chet Holmgren makes a bucket after his own miss, prompting Duke to take a timeout.
What holes did Duke uncover in Gonzaga’s game on Friday?
Although not everyone has a Banchero or Williams up front, Duke’s first-half play might serve as a model for slowing Gonzaga down in the future. However, there were some concerning signals. In the opening 20 minutes, Duke defeated Gonzaga in the transition game. The Blue Devils regrouped defensively, preventing the Zags from scoring easy baskets off of turnovers and forcing them to play in the half-court. Then, on the flip side, Duke was successful in defeating Gonzaga downcourt, while the Zags made some errors in terms of getting back and setting up in a half-court defensive.
Another key difficulty for Gonzaga was foul trouble, which resulted from Duke’s aggressiveness at the rim. When Texas faced Gonzaga in the first half, it avoided the paint entirely, and UCLA struggled to finish at the rim. Gonzaga’s perimeter defenders were able to be more aggressive and disrupt the opposition’s attack as a result. But Duke had three powerful drives in Banchero, Trevor Keels, and Moore, and they went right after Holmgren and Timme — and Williams was the Blue Devils’ go-to post player. Timme’s fourth foul on an ill-advised reach-in in the second half, just as Gonzaga was gaining momentum, altered the game.
Three-point shooting and turnovers were two more offensive difficulties for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs aren’t particularly good outside shooters, but they have such a strong passing game that they can keep teams chasing shadows in the half-court. When the game slowed down and Gonzaga needed to make shots, though, they didn’t fall. The Zags were just 6-for-21 from three-point range. So far this season, Nembhard has been perhaps the finest point guard in college basketball, but Duke’s ball-screen coverages against him have limited his time to make choices and find teammates. Nembhard has the best pace control in the nation, but Duke has pushed him to make faster choices.
Having said that, I’m not particularly worried about Gonzaga’s future. Duke is a real national championship contender, but the Bulldogs had difficulties making baskets and were plagued by foul trouble. Even so, it was a one-possession game.
In transition, Andrew Nembhard delivers a beautiful pass to Rasir Bolton for the layup.
According to ESPN’s latest Bracketology forecast, Gonzaga was a solid overall No. 1 seed, while Duke was also a No. 1 seed. What does this outcome mean for both teams in terms of their brackets?
When Duke defeated Gonzaga, we watched a pair of No. 1 seeds in action, and both would be on the top line if Selection Sunday were today. The win secured the Blue Devils’ position, while the Bulldogs, who started the game as the clear No. 1 overall seed, didn’t fall far enough to fall off the top line.
The more telling question is: how probable is it that each of these teams will be a No. 1 seed in four months? Even if Gonzaga loses, the odds are still in their favor. The Bulldogs will be favorites in all of their remaining games. The same cannot be said for Duke, who will take on Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday. In non-league play, it is the Zags’ or Blue Devils’ sole genuine away game.
According to our tournament odds table, Gonzaga has a three-in-four probability of becoming a top seed, while Duke has a little better than 50/50 chance. Unofficially, I can’t think of three better teams in college basketball than the Blue Devils and the Zags, and it would take at least three to knock them off the top of the bracket.
Watch This Video-
The “duke vs gonzaga highlights” is a video that was uploaded to YouTube on Friday, March 22nd. It was the first game of the Elite 8 between Duke and Gonzaga. The video has been viewed over 2 million times as of this writing.
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