LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Zion Williamson missed the final 39 minutes of Duke's game against North Carolina as well as the Blue Devils' next three games.
After starting 23-2, Duke has gone 2-2.
The Blue Devils are a 26-point home favorite against Wake Forest Tuesday night. This is the only intrigue in Durham:
Has Williamson recovered from his sprained left knee to the point where he can make a farewell appearance at Cameron Indoor Stadium?
Or will college basketball's best player return Saturday in Chapel Hill? Or next week in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Charlotte?
Or over the following three weeks of the NCAA Tournament?
Four questions that lead to the most pressing question:
If Williamson can't play, who's the NCAA Tournament favorite? Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the Williamson has reached Phase Four of a four-phase recovery, but Coach K offered nothing firm about when he will write Zion's name in the scorebook again.
I bounced the question off multiple basketball observers. Here is the split decision:
Gonzaga (5 votes): Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports; Dick Vitale of ESPN; Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune; Dana O'Neil of The Athletic and my WDRB sidekick Eric Crawford.
Virginia (8 votes): Jason Anderson of ESPN680 in Louisville; Chris Dachille of WBAL in Baltimore; John Clay Lexington Herald-Leader, C.L. Brown of The Athletic,; Mike Waters of syracuse.com; Brian Edwards of VegasInsiders.com; John Akers of Basketball Times and me.
North Carolina (1 vote): Will Perdue of Westwood One radio.
Kentucky (1 vote): Jerry Eaves of Eaves Sports Radio.
No votes for Duke?
That's where we're at in this college basketball season: Waiting on Zion.
Edwards, a senior handicapper at VegasInsiders.com, shared the latest NCAA Tournament odds with me Monday:
Current odds @ http://Sportsbook.ag :
Virginia +650 (13/2).
Kentucky and Tennessee 10/1.
North Carolina 12/1.
Michigan & Michigan State 14/1.
Texas Tech 22/1.
Nevada & Purdue 30/1.
Those odds assume a return by Williamson. But if he does not return?
"I'm not saying the books/oddsmakers will go this route, but if Zion doesn't return, Virginia is the favorite in my mind," Edwards wrote in a direct message.
"There are no home games in the tournament, so UVa's 10-1 record both straight up and against the spread in 11 road assignments is incredibly impressive.
"Remember, star sophomore De'Andre Hunter didn't play in the tournament last year and he's playing at an extremely high level right now."
As is Kyle Guy, who has made 16 of 23 three-point shots in Virginia's last three games.
And Ty Jerome. And Braxton Key, another formidable add-on for this tournament run.
"It's a great question," C.L. Brown said. "I don't 'love;' anybody.
"But I'll go with Virginia. Last year's loss will be a considerable chip on their shoulders and fuel a deep run."
Ahhh, last year's loss.
That explains the hesitation about the Cavaliers. Until Tony Bennett's team demonstrates it can get to the Final Four, the Cavaliers' social media mentions will overflow with toxic references to the 20-point loss to UMBC last season as well as the 26-point stumble against Florida in 2017 and the come-from-ahead Elite Eight loss to Syracuse in 2016 … and you know the list.
Gonzaga has its own tank of fuel to feed the skeptics, especially the Zags' second-round loss to Wichita State when Gonzaga was a No. 1 seed in 2013.
But somebody has to favored, right?
And until Zion Williams demonstrates that he can perform the way that he performed for the first 3-plus months of the season, it won't be Duke.
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