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How Have Rumors of Zion’s Return Impacted Duke’s 2020 NCAA Tournament Odds?

The reports of Zion Williamson's return to Duke are greatly exaggerated. Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire.
  • The New Orleans Pelicans landed the #1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft
  • Some reports indicated that didn’t sit well with the man they are going to select, Zion Williamson
  • Is there any chance a spiteful Zion returns to Duke for his sophomore season?

The New Orleans Pelicans lucked into the #1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft on Tuesday and, apparently, Zion Williamson’s reaction was not overwhelmingly positive.

According to CBS Sports’ Kevin Skiver, “The presumptive No. 1 pick reportedly had to be “whisked” out of the room, and it got to the point where there was speculation about whether Williamson could go back to Duke for a season.”

Imagine the man who dominated college basketball like few others before him returning to school, one year older, one year stronger, one year faster. If there was any chance of that happening, the 2020 National Championship odds would not look like this.

2020 NCAA Tournament Futures

Team Odds to win 2020 NCAA Tournament at Bovada (May 15)
Duke +600
Michigan State +700
Kentucky +750
Virginia +750
North Carolina +1400
Villanova +1400
Michigan +1500
Gonzaga +1600
Kansas +2000
Arizona +2200
Memphis +2200
Louisville +2500
Oregon +2500
Auburn +3000
Texas Tech +3000
Tennessee +3300
Marquette +4000
Mississippi State +4000
Florida State +4000
Texas +4000

Zion Ain’t Coming Back to Duke

The story that shouldn’t be a story is being treated as such by sportsbooks.

Both Bovada and BetOnline have kept Duke steady at +600 to win the 2020 National Championship. If the powers-that-be at those sportsbooks thought, for even a brief second, that Zion might be back in Durham next year, the Blue Devils’ odds would be considerably shorter, like they were all of last year.

Williamson was historically dominant in his freshman season. His basic stats are impressive enough: 22.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.8 BPG. But his per-40-minutes numbers are just bonkers: 30.1 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.4 BPG.

The South Carolinian recorded a Player Efficiency Rating of 40.8! The best PER in a single NBA season is 31.82 by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962-63.

If Wilt was a man among boys back then, Zion was a man among toddlers suffering from inner-ear infections.

[Zion] recorded a Player Efficiency Rating of 40.8 [last season]! The best PER in a single NBA season is 31.82 by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962-63.

Unfortunately for Blue Devil fans, the rumors of his potential return were quickly put to bed, both by those in the business and those close to him.

On ESPN radio, his step father said, “Zion has always been taught: You accept the things that you can’t change, you change the things that you can change. And this is one of the things that he had nothing to do with. It’s the process of the NBA and certainly we’re excited about the Crescent City down there in New Orleans.”

The tweets from basketball writers came fast and furious, explaining the millions of very green reasons why Zion won’t be returning to college.


Don’t Bet Duke at +600

As my esteemed colleague Dave Golokhov wrote in April, betting Duke to win the 2020 NCAA Tournament now isn’t wise. Yes, they have another top recruiting class coming in, but it doesn’t include anyone comparable to Zion. Plus, in recent years, Mike Krzyzewski has really struggled to turns his groups of highly touted prospects into more than a sum of their parts.

In all honesty, it seems like Coach K is phoning it in these days. His recent teams have not run clean sets on offense and have relied on pure athleticism at the defensive end.

Even if Duke rockets to an ACC title and gets a #1 seed in March Madness, it’s likely that you’ll be able to get them at around +400 entering the dance. Any missteps along the way and this +600 number (or better) is going to be available in March.

I’m certainly inclined to take a wait-and-see approach with a team replacing its three top scorers, especially with upperclassmen Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier putting their names into the draft as well.

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Sascha has been a Number Cruncher, Editor, and Lead Oddsmaker for SBD for over four years, specializing in football, baseball, hockey, and basketball. He has been featured on USA Today's Draft Wire, Fansided, Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, and numerous additional local and national publications.