Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Duke star Zion Williamson is expected to make his highly anticipated return from injury next week at the ACC tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski announced, per CBS Sports’ Chip Patterson, on Saturday.
Thanks to a double bye, third-seeded Duke will not play in the ACC tournament until Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET.
There was speculation Williamson might suit up for Saturday’s showdown against archrival North Carolina after Coach K revealed the freshman had “a really good workout” Thursday. However, he was didn’t play in the 79-70 loss.
Per Patterson, Williamson participated in a no-contact workout Saturday and is expected to engage in contact Monday.
He has been sidelined since he suffered a Grade 1 right knee sprain on Feb. 20. The Blue Devils fell to 3-3 (including the first UNC game) since Williamson went down.
The 6’7″, 285-pound forward was not only positioning himself to be the top overall pick in June’s draft, but he was also making a strong case for National Player of the Year consideration.
He averaged 21.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.8 blocks per game.
The Blue Devils’ depth behind freshman star RJ Barrett has been exposed. But with Barrett (26.2 ppg in his last six games) playing well, Duke has remained in the mix for a No. 1 seed.
If Williamson returns for the ACC tournament, the selection committee will have an interesting dilemma next weekend. Duke, which was 23-2 before Williamson’s injury, looked like the heavy favorite to cut down the nets in April. However, a Zion-less Blue Devils squad has looked anything but elite.
Williamson and his teammates could make it easy on the selection committee by winning the conference tournament in Charlotte next week. But that may give three ACC teams a case for No. 1 seeds. Virginia (28-2) appears to be a virtual lock, and North Carolina’s (26-5) resume is arguably as good as anyone’s.
Regardless of seeding, Duke’s championship hopes will receive a huge boost should Williamson return next week.