Palm: "Healthy Duke" Is The Best Team, But It's Close

Zion Williamson gives the Blue Devils an advantage, but Duke is "not that much better than everybody else," Jerry Palm says

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
February 25, 2019 - 9:47 am

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No Zion, no problem. 

No. 1 Duke (24-3) beat Syracuse (18-9), 75-65, at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, as star freshman R.J. Barrett finished with game-highs of 30 points and seven assists.

It remains to be seen when Williamson will return to action for the Blue Devils, but there’s no denying who the best team in the country is.

“Healthy Duke,” CBS Sports men’s basketball insider and bracketology expert Jerry Palm said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I don’t know when Zion is coming back, but healthy Duke is the best team. But they’re not that much better than everybody else. Zion Williamson is the matchup nightmare for everybody.”

Williamson sprained his knee in the first minute of action in Duke’s loss to North Carolina last Wednesday. Williamson, the likely No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, is averaging 21.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks this season.

Assuming Williamson eventually returns, Palm does not think his injury will impact Duke’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

“It doesn’t really seem to matter for selection,” Palm said of injuries. “If you’re a bottom-of-the-bracket team, you still have to win your way into the tournament regardless of your roster. It seems to have more of an impact on seeding, and what the committee has usually done is put a little bit more weight on what you did with the roster you’re taking into the tournament versus otherwise. 

“But it’s never really dramatic,” Palm continued. “Teams aren’t going to move three seed lines. It’s really hardly ever more than one. In fact, I can’t think of a case where it’s been more than one where an injury caused a team to move up or down more than one seed line because of how they played without the injured player.”

Palm’s top four seeds, as of now, are Duke, Virginia (24-2), Kentucky (23-4), and Gonzaga (27-2).

Click below to listen to his interview in its entirety.