Duke came out flat-footed in the first half of its opening-round game against a 16-seed North Dakota State squad, as the Blue Devils went to the locker room with just a four-point lead. Many players actually seemed bored and appeared to be simply matching the quality of the opposition, but that's never the case for the energetic Zion Williamson.
The superstar forward always puts forth maximum effort on the floor. He's arguably the most impactful freshman since Anthony Davis dominated in his lone season at Kentucky, showing he's more than just a flashy dunker.
When Williamson committed to Duke alongside fellow freshmen RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones, there was an assumption the big man would take a backseat offensively, as many imagined him as mostly a transition weapon. It wasn't long before the 6-foot-7 powerhouse turned into a household name, so much so that CBS Sports provided viewers with a "Zion Cam" during Friday's contest.
Williamson's athleticism has added to his popularity, but it's the intangibles that are essential to his success. A 285-pound forward speeding past guards and overpowering centers is a joy to watch. His ball-handling and vision have garnered comparisons to LeBron James, and very few players his size are capable of dominating a game on both ends of the floor.
Though his dunking still provides a jolt of electricity to fans of either team, it's Williamson's proven versatility that has turned him into a can't-miss prospect.
However, his biggest criticism has been his shooting, and understandably so. His mechanics are poor, as he gets very little elevation and shoots at an angle. Nonetheless, he's had moments when it looks as though he can become a serviceable 3-point threat despite his low volume - he's hit 17 of 54 attempts from behind the arc.
Perhaps Williamson's least discussed skill is his potential as a game-changing defender. Few can lock down all five positions as effectively as he can: his ability to rise and protect the rim or explosively play the passing lanes like he's Russell Westbrook is awe-inspiring. And the most enjoyable aspect may be his closeouts on perimeter shooters, as he's repeatedly sent 3-point attempts into the stands.
Game by game, Williamson's style of play has gained more appreciation. His college career can end in a heartbeat if the Blue Devils fail to advance in the one-game elimination tournament. Regardless, he's done his draft stock a service by providing a vision of what's to come in his very exciting future. And his generational athleticism will be sorely missed at the college level.