As Zion Williamson’s scoring average and field goal percentage continue increasing, so too does the chance he will set a new program record for points in a season while the Duke basketball team wins a national championship.
With 20 games in the books and 20 more possible, Duke basketball freshman Zion Williamson has 439 points. While fellow freshman R.J. Barrett bests that with 471, Williamson is averaging nearly two more points per game than Barrett in ACC play (25.1 to 23.3) and seems to be on his way to surpassing Barrett in points shortly.
Williamson is also averaging 5.3 fewer minutes of playing time than Barrett for the season and has attempted 138 fewer shots. These numbers, or just a working set of eyeballs, suggest that Duke’s best recipe for success on offense is for Williamson to take the most shots — but maybe not just yet (more on this to come below).
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Assuming the Blue Devils advance to the championship game of both the ACC and NCAA tournament while Williamson simply averages, across the remaining 20 games, a quarter of a point more than his total from Duke’s 83-61 win at Notre Dame on Monday — 26 points on 10-for-12 shooting — he will finish the season with 964 points.
The program’s individual record for points in a season is 964, set by sharpshooter J.J. Redick during his 36-game senior campaign in 2006.
So can Duke play 20 more games with Williamson breaking Redick’s record by averaging at least 26.3 points the rest of the way?
Is it in Duke’s best interest to have Williamson attempt the necessary number of shots to do so?
So why hasn’t coach Mike Krzyzewski implemented game plans to ensure Williamson does average more than 26 points per game?
Well, that is about his average point total as of late (scary thought: Williamson’s average attempts have not increased, but his efficiency has, suggesting his game is improving). However, the GOAT coach must be holding out until March to surprise opponents by unleashing the true scoring prowess of his GOAT player.
Williamson is shooting 68.1 percent from the field for the season (an insane 71.8 percent across Duke’s 7-1 start to conference play). Yet despite his being able to simply get to the hoop for an easy dunk, lay-up, or pair of free throws no matter if he catches the ball in the post or on the perimeter — and seemingly no matter how many defenders are guarding him — the Blue Devils have yet to test out the following experiment:
Feeding Williamson on every single possession and telling him not to bother passing.
Why haven’t they at least tested this experiment for a five-minute stretch?
No test is necessary. Krzyzewski likely already knows the experiment would work to near perfection and doesn’t want to let opponents know what’s coming in March and April.
So here’s how Redick’s record should fall:
Williamson should continue to average fewer shot attempts than Barrett — the ideal season-long decoy — until Duke plays at UNC on March 9. This second meeting between the rivals (always the final game of the regular season) has historically been the contest in which Coach K begins showing all of his cards, probably in order to put into practice his plan for ensuing tournament play and to continue experiencing the sweet joy of shocking the Tar Heels.
In the Dean Dome that day, the 6-foot-7, 285-pound native of Spartanburg, S.C., should start showing what happens when he plays with more selfishness on offense. That day should coincide with Williamson’s first game attempting more than 20 shots, thereby likely resulting in his dropping 40 or 50 points.
Then Williamson should continue putting up such lofty totals all the way until April 8 (it certainly seems the Blue Devils would be far more likely to advance to the title game if he does so).
That may be all it takes.
It’s a simple plan.
It’s a plan that would force Redick to say goodbye to his program record for points in a season while his program record for points in a career (2,769) would be thankful that Williamson doesn’t stick around in Durham two more seasons (three seasons is surely all Zion would require for that record to also fall).
And it’s a plan that would give the Blue Devils their best chance to win the program’s sixth national championship.
Williamson’s next chance to put Redick’s record in further danger comes when No. 2 Duke (18-2) hosts St. John’s (15-5) on Saturday at noon (on ESPN).