Kentucky and Duke Are Hopping on the Bronny James Recruiting Train

Bronny James Jr. may be the most talked about 14 year old since Justin Bieber. Definitely the most popular 8th grader in the recruiting world since Billy Gillispie offered one a scholarship. If you aren’t already to seeing him plastered all over the internet (or on the vino… SHEESH), get used to it. The class of 2023 doesn’t graduate for a while, but some top programs seem to already be sold on LeBron’s son.

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According to 247Sports and several other publications, Bronny Jr. already has standing scholarship offers from Kentucky and Duke. Of course, anyone with the same genes as one of the most athletic players to have ever lived is going to be attractive to just about every program. On top of that, he had a stellar performance at this year’s Nike EYBL tournament. Here is what 247Sports’ basketball insider Evan Daniels had to say about him:

“With his father looking on, James showed impressive feel for the game and incredible poise for his age. He was unphased by the circus like environment around him. James has a smooth shooting stroke from three, competed on both ends and played with energy. He finished with 11 points and his team left with a double digit victory.

“He’s going to be real special,” Emoni Bates, a top 2022 prospect, said about Bronny after the game. “He plays hard, he’s smart. He finds people. He’s going to be real good.”

The idea of projecting a rising freshman is difficult, and ultimately James’ continued skill development and physical growth will determine where he ends up, but at this stage the 2023 guard is tracking as a future high major prospect.”

Bronny’s recruitment will be one for the books. LeBron having not gone to college means it’s anyone’s guess as to where he ends up. LeBron grew up an Ohio State fan, played under Coach K for Team USA, and has spent a significant amount of time at Kentucky games. When Bronny ultimately does make his decision, the announcement video will be legendary. I expect no less than two helicopters.

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Zion to New Orleans, Even Though He Really Wants to Stay at Duke Another Year

Every college basketball fan’s worst nightmare was almost realized and we didn’t even know it. Zion Williamson actually wanted to go back to Duke for another year. Turns out, we actually have something to thank Coach K for. In a recent interview with Franklyn Calle of the Slam, he said:

“You get this college experience once,” he says. “If you’re in a situation like mine, where you’re one and done, I’m just trying to make the most of what I got. I love Duke, and honestly, I don’t want to leave. If I didn’t have as much at stake, I probably would stay for another year. But I can’t.

“Being at Duke was a dream come true for me. Everything about it. Looking to the sidelines, Whoa, that’s Coach K I’m playing for! Coach K is looking at me [and] telling me I’m built for this moment. I have a true brotherhood on and off the court. Everything was just a movie,” he says. “This was the best year of my life. So if I could come back for a second year I would, but unfortunately that’s just not the reality we live in. The reality we live in is [that] my ultimate dream is the NBA. It’s what I’ve been dreaming about as a kid so I have to pursue that. And I have to take care of my family.”

Probably didn’t want to take a pay cut.

The highest rated prospect since LeBron James not only went to college, but also had to be convinced to leave it. I get it. Playing for Duke and Coach K, experiencing Cameron Indoor and being the top story every single day had to have been incredible. But also, if I had to pick between having an incredible experience again or millions of dollars… I’m getting paid every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

This is absolutely insane to hear. Zion works his entire life to get himself to the place he is now and he really wanted to delay it for another year. Is cramming on Luke Maye really that fun? I would imagine so, but I wouldn’t pass up millions of dollars for that. Why would he want to risk another injury like the one he had a couple months ago just to lose in the first round to a 15 seed? He may be afraid of sharing the spotlight, because right now, it looks like he would rather play with Alex O’Connell than Anthony Davis.

Hate Is Learned, Especially in College Basketball

College basketball fans are the most passionate fans in America. Whether you went to that school, grew up cheering for them, or have no connection to them and just like them because they are good (Duke fans); one thing is for certain: you have learned to hate your rival school.

As a UK alum and born and raised Kentuckian, I grew up a Cats fan. I cried every year we lost in the tournament until I was about 13 and then again when we won in 2012. But with my love for Kentucky basketball came something else. I developed a deep hatred for teams like Louisville, Tennessee and, above all, DUKE. But here is the thing, I really don’t know why I hate them.

When it comes to Louisville, it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why I hate them. I mean, I have lived my whole live, excluding college, in that city. I don’t hate any other college there, just the University of Louisville. I have friends that go there (humble brag I have friends), have had a good time at UofL parties (humble brag I go to parties), and the Yum! Center has never disappointed. So, do I really hate that school because they beat Kentucky every now and then? YUP.

Then, there is Tennessee. No idea why I hate them. I never even gave that color orange a chance. It doesn’t deserve one, but still.

Then we have Duke. If you want to talk irrational, my hatred for Duke is definitely falls under than category. If you don’t know specifically why Kentucky fans hate Duke, I will bring you up to speed. In the year of our Lord 1992, Christian Laettner hit a last second turnaround jumpshot to put Duke in the Final Four and Kentucky out of the tournament.

That’s it. One shot that was entirely Kentucky’s fault for not guarding the inbounder or playing defense. Not only do I hate Duke because of this, I also hate Christian Laettner. And here is the worst part: I wasn’t even alive for this game. So something I did not experience nor was I able to understand until much later has left a lasting impression on me and left me with an irrational hatred of a school I never could have gotten into anyway.

I am not sure how rival schools work where you are from, but for me, a loss for Duke feels as good as a Kentucky win. Maybe as good as sex. I’m not sure though, I’ll let you all know when it happens to me.

The Team That Will Threaten Zion and Duke’s Hopes of a National Title

The East region of the NCAA March Madness might be the toughest. With the top 4 teams making it to the Sweet 16 (Duke, Michigan State, LSU, Virginia Tech), it honestly could be a toss-up for which team will make it out of there. We all know what the majority is saying though: Duke can’t lose. Duke with Zion Williamson is destined to win the National Championship this year, because no one could possibly stop him. Well, what if I told you there was a team in the East region that could threaten Zion and Duke’s hopes of making it to even the Final Four? No, this isn’t a 30/30, but it is something that is just as thought provoking. That team isn’t Michigan State or Virginia Tech, but rather the LSU Tigers.

I know what you’re thinking, “No way! LSU doesn’t have a head coach and they lost to Florida twice this year!” Just hear me out. Let me address the teams abilities first. So, LSU might be one of the most talented, athletic, and long teams in the country. They have both size and speed. Tremont Waters has established himself as one of the most talented point guards in the country; Skylar Mays has given the team the needed leadership and shooting ability that they desperately needed all year; Javonte Smart has emerged as one of the great young talents in college basketball with his new found confidence; Kavell Bigby-Williams is one of the only seniors on the team, but he has been the perfect 6’11” 250 lbs center that the team has needed; finally, the absolute freak of nature himself Naz Reid. Naz is scary good. He can eat you up down low or pop it from three. LSU is also a deep team with guys like Emmitt Williams, Marlon Taylor, and Darius Days. All of these guys help make LSU one of the best teams in the country.

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So then what are they so great at aside from having absolute athletes on their team? They can beat on both offense and defense. Where they might struggle from behind the three, they are one of the nationals leaders in offensive rebounding. When they get that ball down low in the paint they are almost automatic. They don’t get blocked often either. The fact that they spend a lot of time in the paint, LSU spends a lot of time at the free throw line. This is where they have had a lot of success this year averaging roughly 75%. On defense, they are lockdown. They are one of the nationals leaders in steals and blocks. It is very hard to get the shots you want against this very long and athletic team. One of LSU’s biggest struggles is following asleep on defense when the shot clock get to about 10 seconds, and also becoming too conservative on offense. They have a knack for letting teams back into the game because they try to park the bus and it never works for them. So, I think that those are one of the only things that you can do to take advantage of this team.

Next, addressing the Will Wade situation. Yes, I know that it is difficult to be successful when you don’t have your commander in chief, the guy that has led this team all season; however, they have still played very well. People forget, Tony Benford has been with the team all year. It is not like this guy has just randomly stepped in to take over a team that he knows nothing about. These players trust him to lead the team in Wade’s absence and can use this “Us Against the World” mentality to their advantage. No one has given them a look all tournament. I mean, they were one of the potential upsets in the first round. They’re playing great basketball, and have all the talent they need.

Obviously, for LSU to play Duke then both teams would have to make it to the Elite Eight. This is entirely possible. I think that these Sweet Sixteen match-ups (Duke – Virginia Tech and Michigan State – LSU) are going to be really fun. I just have never had confidence in Michigan State all year, and Virginia Tech has a very tough task ahead of them. Anything is possible come tournament time. That is why they call it March Madness, so that is yet to be seen. However, if LSU and Duke do play then I think LSU can have a lot of success against Duke.

Duke may have 3 of the top 10 NBA prospects in college basketball on their team with Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish, but that doesn’t mean that they are unbeatable. As we have seen throughout this year, Duke has struggled in some major scoring areas, mainly from behind the three. Duke might be the worst three point percentage shooting team in all of college basketball. That is not a joke. Their three point percentage is just above 30% (30.7%). That is atrocious. That is 329th/353 teams in college basketball. Yikes. They also don’t make their free throws, which is a cause for concern. Leaving points at the line can cost a team a game, and it almost happened to Duke versus UCF on Sunday. Zion missed the game tying free throw and luckily for Duke RJ Barrett was there to get the offensive rebound and make the layup. That could have been a completely different outcome had Tacko Fall not fouled out when he fouled Zion on that last play.

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The size and speed of LSU, coupled with their raw talent, would be something that Duke has not seen yet in this tournament. They may get a little of that against Virginia Tech, but LSU is a different animal. UCF was a challenge to Duke because of their ability to guard within the paint. That was something that forced Duke to shoot outside shots, which they cannot shoot well.

So, if LSU and Duke meet in the Elite Eight, look for the upset. LSU will control the paint and keep Duke from getting what they want inside and be forced to shoot threes. Duke is on upset watch. You heard it hear first.

Just a reminder that the last time LSU and Duke faced off during March Madness, the Glen “Big Baby” Davis led LSU Tigers beat number 1 Seed JJ Redick led Duke Blue Devils to advance to the Elite Eight back in 2006.

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-Parmesan Don

@soft7parm

ACC Tournament Final Prediction

First of all, this has been a really fun ACC Tournament. A lot of fun games. I have been tremendously surprised by the play of Florida State. I didn’t even think they would make it past Virginia Tech, much less Virginia. So that being said, let’s drive right into this championship game.

Florida State vs. Duke

When: 8:30 p.m. ET ESPN

Spread: Duke -8

Over/Under: 146.5

The only other time these teams met this year, it was a shootout. Duke ended up winning the thriller at Florida State 80-78. Duke still has more to show in this ACC tournament. Last night’s win over their biggest rival, North Carolina, was exhausting and full of emotion. I think that it might have taken a lot out of some of these guys, but now they have this confidence they didn’t have before the tournament. Duke has now gotten over the hurdle of beating North Carolina this season. If this were the regular season and they were playing at Florida State, then some might say that Duke is due for a letdown game. I don’t see that happening in this ACC Tournament final though.

That being said, Florida State has impressed me immensely. They have really made me eat my words time and time again in this tournament. I am shocked with the level of play they have had so far. I think that they can really carry their level of shooting and defensive abilities throughout the tournament into this game. As much as I’m going to hate saying this, Duke is just a much better team. I know I have been picking against Florida State all tournament long, but the addition of Zion Williamson back into the lineup has proven to be so effective. It is true how good Zion really is. I don’t think anyone in the country can have an answer for him. However, some credit for Florida State, I think that they are going to beat the spread. That’s a big spread for a conference championship game. This will be fun to watch and a close game throughout. Duke will be your 2019 ACC Tournament Champions.

Prediction: Duke 77 – 71 Florida State

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-Parmesan Don

@soft7parm

ACC Tournament Quarterfinal Evening Game Predictions

Louisville vs. North Carolina

When: 7:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Spread: North Carolina -7.5

Over/Under: 150

The Cards and Tar Heels split their season series 1-1. The first game they played, Louisville absolutely bitch slapped them, 83-62, at UNC. The second game, the Tar Heels got their revenge in the KFC Yum! Center, 79-69. As much as I want to say that the Cards can win this game, I don’t see them beating this UNC team twice. North Carolina is playing really, really strong right now. They are peaking at this time of the year. They have won 7 in a row with two of those games against Duke. In that stretch the least amount of points they scored was 77 against Florida St. So, Louisville is really going to have to use their good defense to force North Carolina into tough shots.

If the Cards can force them to miss shots then they might have a chance, but their offense will have to be on too. If Jordan Nwora makes his shots and they limit their turnovers, which will be tough, their is a chance. However, I think that is too much to ask, and I don’t think that it will work completely for the Cards. It may be a close game, but I don’t see anything good about this game for the Cards.

Prediction: North Carolina 79 – 74 Louisville

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Syracuse vs. Duke

When: 7:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Spread: Duke -11.5

Over/Under: 144

Duke and Syracuse split their season series 1-1. The first game Duke lost in Overtime 95-91 at home, and the the second game Duke handled Syracuse pretty easily, 75-65 at Syracuse. With Zion Williamson coming back for the tournament, fully healthy, Duke has their X factor back. Zion is the biggest game changer. His absence is the sole reason for their slide at the end of the season. He didn’t play because he wanted to become fully healthy and that is what Duke is going to get, a healthy Zion. That is scary. Zion, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish are going to be firing on all cylinders. That offense is going to be on and it will not let up. Syracuse may have a decent defense, but I’m not sure. Duke is not Pittsburgh. Duke is a different animal. I think think that this will probably be Zion’s “hey, remember me” game. Duke is going to roll.

Prediction: Duke 81 – 68 – Syracuse

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-Parmesan Don

@soft7parm

 

Five Teams That Could Win it All

For the past month or so, I have been giving gambling advice for college basketball and that will continue tomorrow, but today I want to dive into my top 5. One of the perks of gambling is it forces you to watch a ton of basketball which I have done. These do not go by the rankings, but these are the top 5 teams to fear in March, with number 1 being the predicted winner. Let’s get started.

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The North Carolina Tar Heels

Currently sitting at 24-5, the Tar Heels lead the ACC along with Virginia. They score 87.1 points per game and could get hot down the stretch. Carolina has the perfect mix with their team. They have seniors (Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye) who lead the team in most categories, they have a star freshman, Coby White, who leads the team in assists, and lastly they have a Hall of Fame coach on the sidelines. North Carolina is a team that has been there, done that and they have clicked at the right time. I see North Carolina surging in March. They could be the team cutting down the nets, if and only if, their bigs get better. They have the shooting, the have the experience, so what they are missing is big play. Luke Maye is awesome. He averages a double double and knows how to hit big shots (Kentucky 2017 Elite 8). However, there have been games this year were the bigs just aren’t effective. Against Kentucky is a prime example where Maye played decent, but the physical play from Washington and Travis put Maye in a blender. If they want to cut down the nets, they need better play from Maye and Brooks. I think they can lock it up down the stretch and could cut the nets.

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The Virginia Cavaliers

Currently sitting at 26-2 and ranked #2 with both losses coming against Duke, this Virginia team is poised to make a tournament run. For their program, they need it after last years embarrassing loss to #16 seed, the University of Maryland Baltimore College. Virginia is no different this year than they have been in previous years. They key on defense and struggle offensively from three point range which got them killed against UMBC. Behind Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter, their guard play is much improved; and between the two, they are sitting at 45% from three point range. As a team they are shooting around 40%, much improved for Virginia. But, in order for them to do well in March they need more consistency. Virginia can score 80 points one game and then 45 the next, winning both. But, in the tournament they’ll need consistency from their offense if they want to make it to the final weekend.

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The Gonzaga Bulldogs

The current #1 team in the nation sits at 29-2 with their biggest win coming against Duke during the Maui Invitational. Gonzaga is a team that is here every year due to their easy schedule and weak conference. In fact, their biggest conference game was this past weekend at St. Mary’s which they won by 15. They have two losses on the season and it will inevitably rise to 3 in the second weekend of the tournament. They score 89.8 points per game, which makes them the highest scoring team in the NCAA. What scares me for the Zags is the fact that they will have to play real teams. They do not play Tennessee Tech anymore, instead they play teams like Tennessee and North Carolina and they actually are facing real competition. Gonzaga has to make it past the sweet 16 to prove they are legit. But they need to turn their 3-point shooting around which is their only weakness. They’ll get beat early on if they can’t knock down 3’s, but I think they can get hot and reach that final weekend. This will help legitimize their program by cutting the net.

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The Duke Blue Devils

Currently sitting on a 25-4 record, this Duke team has everything it could ever need… when Zion comes back. I think it is more of a when rather than an if, so when Zion comes back, this team is changed. Duke will be fine. They gain nothing from him playing right now, much like Kentucky with Reid Travis, so Coach K should continue to sit Zion until the ACC tournament starts. Once he returns, good luck everyone else. RJ has come into his own and can play with or without Zion, so you know no matter what he’ll knock down 20. Reddish is playing with more confidence in himself and will continue to knock down shots. For Duke, Zion coming back will be everything they need. He opens the floor and allows RJ and Cam to find more open spots. However, Zion is not Duke’s most important player… Tre Jones is. If Duke wants to win the title, Tre needs to be healthier than ever. The game he was out, they lost handily to Syracuse. They looked like lost puppies. I think Tre is their key player and if he plays well mixed with Zion returning… watch out…

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The Kentucky Wildcats

Folks, the Cats are back. Currently sitting at 24-5, the Wildcats are in the driver’s seat. For Kentucky, everything is clicking at the right time. Ashton has begun to play better, as well as Nick Richards. They are the best rebounding team and have one of the best defenses in the nation. For Kentucky, they need to get Reid Travis back. Much like Zion for Duke, Reid changes every game that he is involved in. He is the bully underneath that allows PJ to run along the wing and make some threes. When Reid comes back in the next few games, Kentucky’s identity and their swagger will return. The key for Kentucky is consistency. Herro needs to knock down his open shots, same with Baker. Ashton needs to be the driver and play smart. His offense has been slacking recently as well as his defensive aggression. The X-Factor is PJ Washington. If PJ can play every game like that 6 game stretch (that ended Tuesday), this team will win it all. Kentucky can beat any team in the nation. They need to play their game. And if, IF, they are consistent from 3 and PJ is knocking them down, they will cut the nets down in April after getting their revenge on Duke.