by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

R.J. BARRETT, 6-7 Fr., Duke
IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS, 6-7 Fr., Michigan
LAMINE DIANE, 6-7 Fr., CS Northridge
NAZ REID, 6-10 Fr., LSU
LUGUENTZ DORT, 6-4 Fr., Arizona State
   NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Zion Williamson, Duke...By acclamation, here, we suppose, though we admit to being a bit relieved that all of the Zion/Duke hype has faded with the Elite 8 loss to Michigan State. Obviously pushing a pro-ACC narrative in conjunction with its upcoming launch of its new network with the conference, ESPN  became something of a shill for Duke, and, by extension, Zion, as the season progressed.  By the time March came around, almost the entire national media had gotten on board.  More on all of that in a minute.
   In the meantime, we admit to being highly entertained this season by Zion, with his numerous highlight reel dunks and blocks, all within a freakish combination of power and explosiveness that often times looked like a man among boys.  Unlike a lot of spoiled athletes, Zion was, thankfully, a bit refreshing, looking like he would be the happiest guy on the planet any time he could take a ball onto a court with a functional hoop. No behavioral issues here. On the floor at the college level, Zion was a bull-in-a-china shop, often barreling his way into the paint and attacking the rim with vengeance.  It often looked like a football version of basketball to watch Zion power through the defenses; he was Showtime.  Even when Zion injured himself when his Nike shoe exploded, resulting in a knee injury, in a mid-February game vs. North Carolina, it was a dramatic, newsworthy, if uniquely odd, moment during this season.
   By us, however, the Duke/Zion hype eventually became more than a bit over the top.  Beyond ESPN, and March Tourney TV partners CBS and TBS,  countless other media outlets, such as Yahoo Sports, couldn’t help themselves from gushing, even after the loss on Sunday to Michigan State (“This year’s Duke was one of the most entertaining, compelling, and dominating seasons that we’ve seen in college basketball history,”read the Yahoo puff piece after the 68-67 loss to the Spartans), even though the fact is that the Blue Devils lost six times.  True, three of those were minus Zion, but Coach K’s squad was beyond fortunate to survive second-round (vs. UCF) and Sweet 16 (vs. Virginia Tech) games in the Dance before the habit of flying so close to the flame would cost it in the Elite 8 vs. Tom Izzo’s team.  Along the way, and we are reluctant to go here (but we can’t help it), one couldn’t help but notice Zion consistently getting the benefit of the calls from the refs.  As if Williamson needed any more help, all reaching a crescendo in the Sweet 16 vs. Virginia Tech.  If Zion could get away with a clear-cut elbow that connected flush on the jaw of Hokie defender Ahmed Hill, who would subsequently get whistled for a foul (!) that should have instead been a flagrant on Williamson, one had to wonder if it was really Nantz, Grant Hill, and Bill Raftery in disguise as the officials!
   Zion was real good, alright, but along the way, the fawning media was doing a disservice with the overhype.  We’ve watched hoops for a long time, too, and we thought Duke’s team of a year ago had more talent than the current edition.  In fact, we’re of the opinion that last year’s star, Marvin Bagley, is better than Williamson and will prove so in the pros.  
   As we began consulting some insiders on the Zion phenomenon, we came across a particular observation quite simpatico with ours.  Old friend Greg Pappas, a former HC and AD at Hope International, and a hoops consultant of some repute on the West Coast, summed up what he thought were some of Zion’s shortcomings that will manifest at the next level. “(Zion) is a very good passer in open court,” says Pappas, “but holds the ball in half court, and the ball often stops moving.  Very left-hand dominant on his drives.  A flat free throw usually translates into a difficult transition to the NBA 3-point shot.  He has not shown a go-to move in the post; he usually drop-steps with his right foot at the left block, so he can use his left hand.”
   Pappas continued.  “(Zion) either shoots 3-pointers or drives to the rim.  Very few pull-up jumpers, and his shot tends to flatten.  What will happen when he does not get transition baskets off steals in the NBA?  Do not think he will guard screen-and-roll well in the NBA; I think he will be attacked off the dribble.
   “He is an elite weak-side shot blocker, but is often hidden on perimeter players defensively.   Another key will be long his arms are measured; they may be shorter for his size, like Blake Griffin.”   Pappas concurred with us that while Zion’s power game was often overwhelming on the college level, he does not have a Giannis-like wingspan that could come in handy on the next level.  The physical freakishness on the college level does not necessarily translate into dominance in the bigger, stronger, rougher, tougher NBA.
   With all of the non-stop Zion overhype, and getting involved in various conversations with those who a) were trying to convince us that this year’s Duke was an all-time great team, and b) that Zion is the greatest college player ever, we thought it was time to pump the brakes a bit.  Hence the nuts-and-bolts  insider report from Pappas.  Being old enough to have seen Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (when he was known as Lew Alcindor) at UCLA, and dominate the college game like no one before or since, we (and Pappas, who recalls the Wooden Era as well) couldn’t sit back and simply play along with the Zion hype.
    As for this year’s Duke as an all-time great team, we suggest it’s not even in the conversation for best Blue Devils team, as the Elite 8 exit confirms.  By us, last year’s Villanova was an example of a superior college entry, not this Zion Duke version.  And, looking for a dominant team that didn’t win a title, we offer Kentucky of 2015, featuring Karl-Anthony Towns, stopped short of an undefeated season in the Final Four by Wisconsin, which in turn saw calls go against it in the second half of the title game vs...Duke. 
   There goes our invitation to The Masters from Jim Nantz, we know.
   Following is another TGS tradition, our additional “newcomer” teams divided by region for the season, followed by our all-time list of “newcomer” teams dating back to the 1956-57 season, when our first such team featured a couple of guys you might have heard of before...Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain.
A.J. REEVES, 6-6 Fr., Providence
NOAH KIRKWOOD, 6-7 Fr., Harvard
JOEY HAUSER, 6-9 Fr., Marquette
MARCUS ZEGAROWSKI, 6-2 Fr., Creighton
MAC MCCLUNG, 6-2 Fr., Georgetown
JAMES AKINJO, 6-0 Fr., Georgetown
OBI TOPPIN, 6-8 Fr., Dayton
OSUN OSUNNIYI, 6-10 Fr., St. Bonaventure
KYLE LOFTON, 6-3 Fr., St. Bonaventure
CAMREN WYNTER, 6-2 Fr., Drexel
SAM SESSIONS, 6-0 Fr., Binghamton
NICK HONOR, 5-10 Fr., Fordham
CAM REDDISH, 6-7 Fr., Duke
R.J. BARRETT, 6-7 Fr., Duke
COBY WHITE, 6-3 Fr., North Carolina
ADAM FLAGLER, 6-3 Fr., Presbyterian
JAYDEN GARDNER, 6-6 Fr., East Carolina
ALEXIS YENTA, 6-8 Soph, South Florida
NICK MUSZYNSKI, 6-11 Fr., Belmont
JOSIAH WALLACE, 6-4 Soph, Eastern Illinois
DEVANTE JONES, 6-1 Fr., Coastal Carolina
BRIAN WARREN, 5-9 Jr., UT-Arlington
KELDON JOHNSON, 6-6 Fr., Kentucky
KEVIN EASLEY, 6-6 Fr., Chattanooga
NAZ REID, 6-10 Fr., LSU
ISAIAH JOE, 6-5 Fr., Arkansas
TYLER HERRO, 6-5 Fr., Kentucky
KIRA LEWIS, JR., 6-3 Fr., Alabama
BEN VANDER PLAS, 6-8 Fr., Ohio
JALEN SMITH, 6-10 Fr., Maryland
IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS, 6-7 Fr., Michigan
JOE WIESKAMP, 6-7 Fr. Iowa
ROMEO LANGFORD, 6-6 Fr., Indiana
AYO DOSUNMU, 6-5 Fr., Illinois
A.J. GREEN, 6-4 Fr., Northern Iowa
KEANDRE COOK, 6-5 Jr., Missouri State
ANTOINE DAVIS, 6-1 Fr., Detroit
DARIUS QUISENBERRY, 6-1 Fr., Youngstown State
VINNIE SHAHID, 5-11 Jr., North Dakota State
BRADEN NORTH, 5-11 Fr., Oakland
DEREK CULVER, 6-10 Fr., West Virginia
JAXSON HAYES, 6-11 Fr., Texas
CHARLES BASSEY, 6-11 Fr., Western Kentucky
TALEN HORTON-TUCKER, 6-4 Fr., Iowa State
DEVON DOTSON, 6-2 Fr., Kansas
BERNIE ANDRE, 6-7 Fr., Northern Arizona
BRODIE HUME, 6-8 Fr., Northern Colorado
MICHAEL STEADMAN, 6-10 Jr., San Jose State
NEEMIAS QUETA, 6-11 Fr., Utah State
KENDLE MOORE, 5-10 Fr., Colorado State
TIMMY ALLEN, 6-6 Fr., Utah
CJ ELLEBY, 6-6 Fr., Washington State
LOUIS KING, 6-9 Fr., Oregon
LUGUENTZ DORT, 6-4 Fr., Arizona State
TERRELL BROWN, 6-1 Soph, Seattle
LAMINE DIANE, 6-7 Fr., CS Northridge
DAMEANE DOUGLAS, 6-7 Fr., Loyola-Marymount
KESSLER EDWARDS, 6-7 Fr., Pepperdine
TREY WERTZ, 6-5 Fr., Santa Clara
KESHAWN JUSTICE, 6-4 Fr., Santa Clara


1. 1956-57—Chamberlain-Baylor combination would be tuff one to beat.
2. 1967-68—Tremendous backcourt firepower, five legitimate NBA stars.
3. 1962-63—Super forwards Barry, Bradley & Cunningham make potent.
4. 1981-82—Jordan & Ewing make this team tough at both ends of court.
5. 1977-78—Magic, Ainge & V. Johnson played on eight NBA title teams.
6. 1959-60—Lucas, Walker & Dischinger spearheaded powerful frontline.
7. 1966-67—Alcindor dominated; Beard & Mix both future NBA All-Stars.
8. 2006-07—Curry & Durant deadly pro scorers. Conley quality NBA PG.

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