One week after Kentucky men’s college basketball impressively swept through a four-game exhibition series in the Bahamas, Duke nearly duplicated that feat by completing an impressive three-game sweep of an exhibition series in Canada.
In case you haven’t heard, the two expected national title contenders face off Nov. 6 in a Champions Classic showdown in Indianapolis.
The Blue Devils slaughtered McGill 103-58 on Sunday to wrap up their pleasure trip north of the border. Mike Krzyzewski’s team won its three games by an average margin of 33.3 points.
The star of the show was R.J. Barrett, the Canada native who celebrated his homecoming by averaging 30.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and five assists over the three games. The 6-foot-7 guard was the No. 1 prospect for the Class of the 2018 by most scouting services.
“He’s great in all aspects,” Coach K told reporters in Canada on Sunday. “When we recruit a kid, we look for talent, a good student and character. He’s off the charts in all three.”
Barrett was 12-for-30 from the floor, including two of eight from three-point range, for 34 points in Duke’s 86-67 win over Ryerson in the opener. He was 15 of 26 from the floor, including three of eight from three, on the way to 35 points in Duke’s 96-60 romp over Toronto on Friday.
In Sunday’s finale, Barrett was eight of 16 from the floor, one of five from three, and six of 11 from the foul line for 23 points.
Then there’s Zion Williamson, the 6-6, 285-pound human highlight reel. Williamson wrapped up the trip with a 36-point, 13-rebound effort in the Blue Devils’ blowout win on Sunday. He averaged 29.7 points and 11.3 rebounds on the trip.
Williamson had 29 points and 13 rebounds in the win over Ryerson. He made 12 of 16 shots and scored 24 points in the win over Toronto.
“Zion and R.J. are a cut above anyone who’s on the court,” Krzyzewski said.
A pair of Duke’s highly-touted freshmen did not participate because of injury. Tre Jones sat out with a hip injury. Cameron Reddish missed the games with a groin injury. And sophomore Alex O’Connell suffered a broken eye socket in the first game of the trip.
And a sour note was junior center Marques Bolden, who took just three shots the entire trip and missed all three. A starter the first two games, Bolden began Sunday’s game on the bench.
“I think I saw what you saw,” Coach K said of Bolden, “and I have to see more.”
Of course, Kentucky fans saw plenty to like during the Big Blue Bahamas tour. John Calipari’s club showed both talent and cohesion as it rolled through its four games on Paradise Island. “I’m happy,” said Calipari after the trip, “but I’m not intoxicated.”
So what’s next for the two teams? Duke plays Virginia Union in an exhibition game on Oct. 23, then faces Ferris State in an exhibition game on Oct. 27. UK plays Transylvania on Oct. 26 in an exhibition in Rupp Arena, followed by a Nov. 2 exhibition against Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, the fan blogs are busy getting their shots in before the marquee Nov. 6 opener. Duke Basketball Report took issue with a Kentucky Sports Radio post about the Blue Devils’ trip. (DBR called KSR the Kentucky Sports Report, by the way.)
“Kentucky fans are already gearing up for the Duke game that opens the season and honestly they’ll probably be favored,” writes JD King for DBR. “For what it’s worth, you don’t play for the beginning of the season of course, you play for the end.
“Well, unless you’re Kentucky because we all know, the most important thing for Kentucky, as John Calipari has said, is draft night.”