No matter how you slice it, Stetson is not a competent basketball team.
According to KenPom.com, the Hatters are the 339th-best squad in all of college basketball. Stetson certainly does not pass the eye test either, as the Hatters have not beaten any of their Division I competitors on the season.
Despite Stetson’s subpar resume, its contest against No. 3 Duke on Saturday night is still must-watch material for one reason: the sensational play of the Blue Devils’ top-ranked freshman class, Zion Williamson, Tre Jones, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish.
“I see this after every game, people just don’t know how good Tre is just because of the hype the other three of us get,” Williamson said. “Tre is our leader on the court. He facilitates the offense. He’s so unselfish, he’s so special.”
Jones, who entered the year as a less-heralded recruit than Williamson, Barrett and Reddish, dazzled during Duke’s 90-69 victory against Indiana on Tuesday night, putting up 15 points and a team-best 8 assists, all while turning the ball over zero times.
The Apple Valley, Minn., native serves as the efficient and unselfish floor general that the Blue Devils so desperately missed last season. Compared to his predecessor at the point guard position, Trevon Duval, Jones puts up more points per game on a better field goal percentage and 61 percent less turnovers.
Another surprise for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad comes in Jack White. The junior captain was used only sparingly in his first two seasons—he averaged just 6.1 minutes per game a year ago. Yet, Krzyzewski has turned to White as a key contributor so far as the first man off the bench.
The Australian is exceeding all expectations in his role as sixth man. White is second on the team in rebounds per game with 6.7, and his 149.2 offensive rating is the sixth-best mark in the country.
“He’s doing everything right—playing defense, rebounding, doesn’t need the ball for a long time, but he’s done that in every game, so he’s going to play a lot,” Krzyzewski said. “Really, he’s like a starter. We have like seven starters, because Javin [DeLaurier] and Marques [Bolden] can do it, and Jack can take any of those guys’ positions except Tre.”
In the first half against the Hoosiers, the Blue Devils played some of their strongest defense of the season, using a press to force Indiana into numerous turnovers and contested shots.
This opening period marked a significant improvement in comparison to that of Duke’s previous contest, in which the Blue Devils yielded 47 points in the first half of their 89-87 loss to then-No. 3 Gonzaga.
“As you could see in the Gonzaga game, when you play lackluster defense, they can get better shots. We contest, it’s good to contest but it’s not really effective,” Williamson said. “When we’re forcing them to catch the ball further away from the three-point line to start the offense it makes it harder to score.”
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Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Tuesday night’s matchup came for Duke came at the free-throw line. The Blue Devils went just 17-for-29 from the charity stripe, with Reddish’s 2-for-7 performance “leading” the way for the team.
Duke’s .652 free-throw percentage is good for just No. 276 nationally, and Reddish is the only Blue Devil in the starting lineup converting more than 70 percent of his attempts.
“Free throw shooting was just so bad. So bad,” Krzyzewski said. “I mean, there’s no nice way to say it.”
Unfortunately for Stetson, a subpar day from the free-throw line for Duke is unlikely to be enough to allow the Hatters to pull off a massive upset. Stetson, which lost all five of its starters from an already below average 12-20 squad, simply does not have the athleticism to match up with the Blue Devils.
Additionally, the Hatters seem unlikely to catch fire from outside, as they hit just 27.4 of their looks from beyond the 3-point line, with Ricardo Lynch impressively hitting just 4 of his 27 attempts on the year.
Stetson will take on Duke Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and hopes to miraculously snap its seven-game losing streak.