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Another Fun Day In The Books For The 2019 NCAA Tournament

As Zion Williamson left some indelible marks on the event

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North Dakota State v Duke
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - MARCH 22: Jordan Goldwire #14 of the Duke Blue Devils drives to the basket against Tyree Eady #3 of the North Dakota State Bison in the second half during the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 22, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Friday wasn’t quite as spectacular as Thursday was, but it was still a day of compelling basketball and great efforts that often ended up falling short and some nice upsets.

North Dakota State gave Duke a first-half scare before the Blue Devils slammed that door shut early in the second half. For the rest of their lives they can say they hung with Zion OMG Williamson, RJ Barrett and the entire Duke team for 20 minutes. And that’s pretty cool.

Gardner-Webb briefly put a scare into Virginia and set off alarms on Twitter before the Cavaliers took control of the game.

Iona really took it to UNC for 20 minutes and never really let the Tar Heels go, losing by just 15. Outstanding performance by the Gaels.

Colgate pushed Tennessee, losing just 77-70. Seriously?

UC Irvine took out K-State for a 13-4 upset, Oregon beat Wisconsin for a 12-5, Iowa knocked off Cincinnati for a 10-7, Ohio State got Iowa State for an 11-6, and Liberty handled Mississippi State nicely for an 80-76 victory.

Virginia Tech, with Justin Robinson back, had no trouble with St. Louis, winning 66-52. Texas Tech dismissed Northern Kentucky 72-57, Houston whipped Georgia State 84-55 and Buffalo beat old coach Bobby Hurley’s new team, Arizona State 91-74.

The 9/8 games can’t really be called upsets. In those, Oklahoma beat Ole Miss 95-72 and Johnny Dawkins’ UCF took down VCU 73-58 and will get Duke on Sunday.

Tacko Fall played 28 minutes and scored 13 points (6-9) had 18 rebounds and five blocks. VCU shot just 31.1 percent and 42 percent of their shots were three point attempts.

Fall is a definite problem.

He’s not overly quick or agile but he has reasonably good hands and when they’re up, he starts at about the rim without jumping.

The way to beat a guy like that is to not let him stand still. For Duke Sunday, the key is going to be ball pressure and making him run.

To be clear, he’s not a phenomenal basketball player. He’s understandably gangly, sometimes his body doesn’t seem to get where he wants it to - it’s almost like you can see the gears engage and start moving but it just doesn't happen quickly enough.

Not that it matters.

Fall is a giant but his primary interests are academic. He might play for a few more years somewhere, but he’s said before that he wants to be a programmer. Basketball has helped him to the doorstep of that goal. From all accounts he’s a great kid and while we don’t look forward to playing him, he’s really a poster child for what the NCAA thinks of itself and we admire him a great deal. His height is extraordinary but so are other aspects of Fall.

As we said, Duke started slow against NDSU but in the second half, especially early, Williamson put on quite a show, culminating, in our opinion, with a surreal play which saw him chase a loose ball, outrun NDSU’s very quick Vinnie Shahid, take it from him, dribble behind his back, stumble, pick it up, and lay it in.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s amazing. Who does that? Who does that at 285? You almost want to say we’re all used to it, but you could never be used to it, not really. It’s still incredible to see him do things like that.

What’s striking about Williamson isn’t just that he’s shooting such a high percentage but that he doesn't really shoot that much. Typically he takes between 12-17 shots and typically hits between 8-13 of those. A lot of them are dunks and layups but a lot are just him getting to the basket and moving around people who are in the way.

It’s going to be interesting to see how he does against UCF and Fall. He’s far quicker than Fall, who will have trouble reacting on the bottom. His hands will still be at the top though so he may get his share. But in a real sense Williamson will have more advantages.

What’s going to be funny is watching Marques Bolden deal with him. He’s a very tall guy himself, but the difference between Fall and Bolden is about the difference between Bolden and Alex O’ Connell. It’s a very strange concept to imagine.

Speaking of Williamson, we think there’s a good chance that the picture with this article will become iconic. It not only captures something of the spirit of this team and the friendship that has developed between Williamson and RJ Barrett, but look how far off the ground Williamson is, just in celebration of his friend’s dunk. Look too at the faces of the Bison players and, in the background, the helplessness of their coach. They were worthy opponents and played their hearts out but they’re in a different zip code here. Nothing they saw earlier in the season prepared them for what they saw on this play.

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