Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Tre Jones Form New Big 3 to Help Duke Escape Upset
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - MARCH 24: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with RJ Barrett #5 and Tre Jones #3 against the UCF Knights during the first half in the second round game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 24, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images)

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

How and when did the Duke Blue Devils become the luckiest team on the planet?

Perhaps thousands of college basketball fans are asking that question after the top-seeded Blue Devils escaped another last-second shot to advance in the 2019 men’s NCAA tournament.

The Virginia Tech Hokies had a point-blank shot at the buzzer to force overtime in a thrilling Sweet 16 matchup, but Ahmed Hill’s two-foot attempt fell harmlessly to the floor.

It was deja vu all over again.

During the second round, Duke squeaked past the UCF Knights when a last-second putback attemptย skittered off the rim. Late in the regular season, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons somehow missed a similar shot.

Friday, Duke discovered that luck because of Tre Jones. Without him, the Blue Devils likely wouldn’t have been leading late in the game.

Since standout forward Cam Reddish was unexpectedly sidelined due to a knee injury, maybe it was fitting that Jones replaced his fellow freshman as the third member of Duke’s “Big Three” along with Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.

Jones shattered his previous career high of two three-pointers, knocking down five trifectas in the 75-73 victory. The point guard chipped in eight assists and one steal, which led to the most impressive highlight of the nightโ€”naturally, by Zion.

Five days after being the undeniable weakness of the Blue Devils offense, Jones was the primary reason they survived. He reached the 20-point mark for the first time in college, finishing with 22.

Given that Jones entered the Sweet 16 shooting 23.2 percent from long range, what he accomplished is simply dumbfounding.

But the contributions of Williamson and Barrett were nothing new.

Zion gathered 23 points, six rebounds and three blocks, again serving as a force near the rim. In the process, he became the first Division I player since Kevin Durant in 2006-07 to amass 700 points, 60 steals and 50 blocks in a season, per CBS Sports.

Seriously, this guy is unreal.

Barrett provided a consistent impact in two important ways. During the first half, the freshman dished seven of his career-high 11 assists. Following the break, Barrett scored 15 of his 18 points.

The tremendous duo has carried the Blue Devils through some mediocre performances on occasion. Superstar talent can atone for a whole lot.

Still, a little bit of luck never hurts.

We cannot stress enough the unlikelihood of Jones’ night. Duke ranked 331st nationally in three-point percentage entering the game, and the rest of the roster trudged to a 1-of-13 clip from outside. Barrett missed all seven attempts, and Alex O’Connellโ€”the offense’s top perimeter weaponโ€”clanged four.

Jones saved the day.

“These guys believed in me all year, especially after last game with me struggling from three,” Jones told reporters after the game. “They kept believing in me. Coach kept telling me to take the shots and these guys kept telling me take my shots, and they were able to fall tonight.”

Williamson and Barrett are the undisputed keys to Duke’s pursuit of the national championship. As long as the stars are producing, the Blue Devils will always put immense pressure on the opposition.

Even if Jones’ impact from the perimeter isn’t sustainable, he provided the stunning surge at the exact moment Duke needed it. For one essential night, Jones was a pivotal member of the Big Threeโ€”or maybe a Big Four, if we’re including friendly rims, too.

But Duke survived. Whether due to luck, talent or a combination of both, that’s what March is all about.

ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย  ย 

Recruiting information via 247Sports. Statistics courtesy of KenPom.com or Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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