SportsPulse: Sunday's selection is only a few days away. Scott Gleeson from USA TODAY informs you about the teams that still have to work on this championship weekend.
CHARLOTTE – They were standing on the steps around the Spectrum Center's player's elbow on Ellenbogen's elbows, some of them jostling for an angle, others holding cell phones high above their heads.
It's not often the case that a conference tournament has a moment of "remembering where you were", especially before the game actually begins. But on Thursday night there was another energy here at the ACC tournament. There followed a noise that followed Zion Williamson from his first appearance on the ground until the first thundering, over-the-edge break-in that marked his return to his final standings of 29 announced points and 14 rebounds in Duke's 84-72 win Syracuse.
"Bro, you did not miss it," Duke Watchman RJ Barrett said to a laughing Williamson as he picked up a boxing score at the Postgame press conference, causing Williamson to cover his face with the copy in front of him.
In fact, he did not.
After missing out on six games over a three week period, he released It was a national debate over whether Williamson should play again. This season's most exciting college basketball player of the decade was not back from a knee injury on Thursday, as most people would return from a knee injury.
Like everything Williamson has done since he began his college career, he was an outsized, otherworldly comeback for 13 out of 13 years, designed to drop his jaw and expose the NBA leaders to the May 14 lottery. which promises to change the direction of a franchise and several others to curse their luck.
"There was never a pressure to hurry back until I was done," Williamson said. He added that he had never considered switching off for the season. "I felt ready a few days ago and it was good to come back."
Williamson's performance after a 22-day dismissal was not just a reminder of why Duke rose to first place in February and the national championship looked favorite if it is perfectly healthy. It emphasized the gap between Williamson and any other prospect in college basketball.
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At Williamson, it's not just the unique body, the power with which he can finish the tour, or his occasional flash of skills around. Williamson just loves to play – a simple but essential element of the entire package he brings to a basketball team, and one that was lost by the amount of Twitter people who set out to shut him down after his leftist Nike exploded in February was. 20.
"I wanted to have every game out there," Williamson said. "I see my brothers fighting out there and wanting to go to war with them.
" Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but I knew that I came back all the time. "
Of course, if he did return, it would be a different pair of shoes than the Nike PG 2.5, which was loosening at the seams, which was an interesting subplot.
On Thursday, Duke published a photo of Williamson Some White Nike Kyrie 4s tied up, but these were not typical off-the-peg shoes.
Duke manager Mike Krzyzewski said the day after the game in North Carolina, Nike sent "their best people" to find out what happened China, to personally oversee the production of a stronger, more stable version, and he said they would also ensure that Williamson regularly changed his shoes, as they suspect the same pair of shoes will be used in several games that helped them fell below the weight of Williamson's 285 pounds
"They returned within a week with another alternative to make sure that everything was done right, "said Krzyzewski.
"We have a very close relationship, we believe it's the best shoe we would not be with."
Williamson said, "The shoes were incredible in this game."
Equipped with these Williamson sprinted with stronger shoes, bouncing back and popping on the ground before exiting. He pushed the balls away, battled his way to bounce back, demanded Lup-Dunks, and smiled at his team-mate after every positive game.
That makes the whole thing so interesting and differentiates him as a potential generation talent. To become number 1 in the NBA draft, Williamson did not have to return at all. And as he did that, he played as if his future revenues depended on it.
"I've been in the game for over 50 years and have seen many great players," said Jim Boeheim, Syracuse coach. "I'm not saying he's better than these guys, but he's a different player, he can do things nobody did in this game, there are no guys like him."
About the only thing Williamson did not do was shoot free throws well (2-for-9). But when you bring together five dunks, make five steals and score two double-double rebounds in the first half, the show is more or less over.
Even though you just had to see his first viral moment to understand that Williamson had actually returned – a bargain halfway, a start of a step into the free throw line and an attack on the edge just two minutes into – he went on and definitely offered a few more. That's exactly what he is.
And though Thursday was massive for Duke, recalling that the mid-size team that has often looked the past three weeks is no longer relevant to their prospects for the NCAA tournaments, the semi-final match is on Friday of importance own.
North Carolina defeated Duke twice without Williamson, including last Saturday at Chapel Hill. If Duke plays the tables in a neutral field with healthy best player, his argument for a seed # 1 will be very solid.
"We are very excited to be part of it because it is now real," Williamson said. "From now on it either won or goes home."
Follow Dan Clouds on Twitter @ Dan Cloud .