Let’s start with the obvious. This was by no means an even match. Duke has far better talent and resources while Winston-Salem State only had four players back and the CIAA canceled the season for everyone last year.
There was a lot to overcome, too much as it turned out.
So you should probably take the 106-38 win with a grain of salt. Duke won by 68 but that’s not what you should look at here.
Here’s what you should look at.
First, despite being seriously outmatched, Winston-Salem State played hard and showed heart. You never saw them give up or lose their tempers. This is a well-coached team that will do well in the D-II CIAA this season.
As for Duke, while WSSU is hardly Kentucky or Gonzaga, Duke is ahead of schedule and probably underrated at #10.
The inside game is a major load for anyone, virtually everyone is physically mature, and the chemistry is beautiful to watch.
We haven’t seen a boxscore yet but Mark Williams, Paolo Banchero and Theo John dominated the smaller Rams inside. Williams is going be a major pain defensively and his offense continues to advance. Banchero seemed a bit tentative at times but we still saw that he has immense talent complimented by superb skills. And John brings a mature, grown-ass man mentality into the game. We were particularly impressed to watch him, in his first game, tell the guards where to go. We expected him to be solid but it’s particularly cool to see him assert leadership too.
The freshmen all looked really imposing, particularly Banchero and Trevor Keels. Jaylen Blakes is not as far along as they are but he is highly athletic and just needs to refine his skills. He’s going to be good.
And while AJ Griffin is a bit behind due to his knee injury, he showed some great signs in this one too.
Wendell Moore and Joey Baker were both solid and Moore at times looked just great. Having this much talent on the team allows Baker to focus on this best skill, which is obviously shooting.
But perhaps the biggest story is Jeremy Roach.
Last year can’t have been easy for him. He was denied so much early assimilation into how Duke does things by Covid and still getting over his high school knee injury.
But Saturday he was outstanding and often brilliant. Last year he looked smallish and insecure but no more. He is playing with huge confidence.
Jim will be along soon with his take and we may post more on this later. It was a very exciting game in many respects.