CHARLOTTE – At the end of a week that helped restore Zion Williamson's state of health and bolster Duke's status as the nation's No. 1 team for selection on Sunday, there's nothing left more than a question.
Can the Blue Devils shoot well enough to win six games in the NCAA Tournament?
Most of the time, it does not matter. It's certainly not Saturday that Duke won the CAC tournament title, defeating Florida State 73-63, while scoring only 2 of 14 in the 3-point line and throwing enough bricks to resurface the center of the spectrum.
As the big tournament begins, Duke still seems beatable, if not vulnerable, because of his only significant weakness – a ball that could absolutely come into play in a one-on-one scenario against a team of similar quality.
"I'm proud of my guys," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who won his 15th title at the ACC tournament. "They beat three outstanding opponents and tonight it was a physically defensive, very difficult match, and our guys still played a good defense.
"They played and competed better and harder than I thought, they would be able to do it now."
In some ways, Duke has to face such competition because, despite all his talents on paper, he can not count on pretty basketball most of the time.
Duke, of course, is not a team to complain about. Although the Blue Devils had five losses this season, only one – two points from Gonzaga, on Nov. 21 – came when they had their full squad.
No college team since Kentucky's title win with Anthony Davis in 2012 has been dominated by a two-way player like Williamson, and the Blue Devils' group includes two more top-10 picks in the top 10 selections in Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett
Still, shooting in 3 points is a problem. Duke arrived Saturday at the 333rd national rank in percentage of 3 points (30.6) and did nothing to erase this worry this weekend. Even when Williamson set a CCA rookie record for points in a three-game tournament (81), the Blue Devils were only 14 out of 57 in the overall long-term standings.
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It is unlikely that a team will be able to close Williamson because he is simply too tall, too active and too determined to score when the ball goes into the board. Most of the time, this will give Duke enough offensive base to win, as was the case on Saturday, when the Blue Devils scored 61% of their shots in the arc.
"I think that's what they are," said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton. "They have the ability to be rebuffed and tilt, and Zion can miss a check, but he overthrows him almost faster than anyone can realize that the shot was missed. It's a very, very tough match. "
But there is also a danger in these sections when Barrett and Reddish set up and miss the perimeter, as they were inclined to do this season. In fact, after the state of Florida reduced Duke's lead from 14 to 9 with 9:25 remaining, Barrett missed two riders – who were not ready to return – allowing the Seminoles to block door and snap their face.
Duke was never particularly threatened to lose the lead on Saturday – he was never closer than 63-58 – but the Blue Devils missed many chances and had to rely mainly on their defense.
In some ways, this suggests that Duke's cap is higher than what he has shown so far, which is understandable given that Williamson missed six games before the CAC tournament and various other plays have been aligned throughout the season. In other respects, this indicates that every night against a quality opponent will be a failure.
"It's difficult to determine our potential, so I try not to do it," Krzyzewski said. "I just want us to play as well as we can. We played during half of the conference without our full complement. It was therefore important to play these three games. "
What Duke had to face Saturday will of course be the blueprint for all his opponents from now on. In a sense, it's been all season: Make Duke shoot as many as possible and hope everything goes well.
When Duke hits them, the Blue Devils are practically unstoppable. Kentucky, Tennessee, Gonzaga, the state of Michigan and the rest would like the opportunity to know what's going on.