Duke basketball: The five greatest defensive teams under Coach K

Duke basketball guard Jason Williams and forward Shane Battier (Ezra Shaw/ALLSPORT)
Duke basketball guard Jason Williams and forward Shane Battier (Ezra Shaw/ALLSPORT) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball freshman Zion Williamson #1 blocks a shot by Raiquan Gray #1 of the Florida State Seminoles during the championship game of the 2019 Men’s ACC Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 16, 2019, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

32-6 (14-4 ACC). 4. player. 434. Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. Lost in Elite Eight. 2018-19 Blue Devils

The 2018-19 Blue Devils came up one win short of playing in April, but the shortcoming was not the defense’s fault. In fact, had Duke’s shooting prowess matched its prowess at shutting down opponents’ shooters, there’s no doubt the season would have ended with a win for what was arguably Mike Krzyzewski’s all-time most athletic squad.

There was freshman forward and eventual Naismith Player of the Year Zion Williamson, who averaged 2.1 steals and 1.9 blocks, coming out of nowhere on the road to swat away any last hopes of eventual champ Virginia. There was Zion pinning a Notre Dame layup against the backboard. There was Zion hitting his own head against the backboard when blocking a Princeton shot.

There were Zion’s countless swipes of opposing guards, forwards, and centers that led to his countless fastbreak oohs and aahs. Rather than describe them all, though, why not just check the tape:

There was freshman point guard Tre Jones locking up one opposing point guard after another on his way to collecting 1.9 steals per game. There was freshman wing Cam Reddish (1.6 steals per game) using his go-go-gadget arms and superb instincts to disrupt opponents’ passes. As for the interior, junior big men Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier, despite frequent foul trouble, held their own with clean-up duties, combining for 3.0 blocks per game.

Plus, though not his specialty, freshman guard R.J. Barrett — 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks per game — played a key part to the team’s defense by way of his own ideal athleticism, length, instincts, and willingness.

Had this ACC Tournament Champion added “NCAA Champion” to its portfolio, there’s no doubt it would have leapfrogged at least one or two of the following defensive powerhouses under Coach K…