Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Duke’s Williamson Transcends the Madness

Freshman Zion Williamson makes this year’s NCAA Tournament, always fascinating on its own merits, even more of a can’t-miss event.



Embed from Getty Images

The NCAA Tournament that opened in earnest Thursday did so without much local flavor.

Fortunately, this is a dance in which you need not jump-stop with the one that brung ya.

It’s the first time since 2000 –– thanks to WTAE’s Guy Junker for the research –– that the bracket doesn’t include Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia or Robert Morris.

Duquesne hasn’t made it that far since 1977.

But part of the annual allure of March Madness is there’s always something to root for or root against in a three-week saga that often changes dramatically by the possession.

Living and dying with every free throw sunk or shot blocked by the old alma mater is an experience I wouldn’t trade, even when it almost invariably rips my heart out.

But I’ve also always gotten a kick out of the casual fans that temporarily attach themselves to basketball by breaking out the old school sweatshirt or hat.

As well as those who have no alumni ties whatsoever but still get caught up in an upset, a Cinderella run or even a relatively obscure school name, mascot or color scheme. Gonzaga has been the beneficiary of this type of support for years now even though it’s no longer needed (the Bulldogs are a No. 1 seed). The UC Irvine Anteaters and Peter the Anteater are among those who likewise qualify this season (they have a tough matchup with Kansas State looming on Friday afternoon but we can dream).

There’s something for everyone, it seems.

Until there isn’t.

And then there’s something else.

It happens every March and it’s better than Christmas.

Still, this year is different.

This year, the NCAA Tournament has Zion Williamson.

He isn’t just the latest Duke freshman sensation, he’s a generational player.

Dunks, steals, blocks, assists, threes, whatever’s needed.

I could bore you with statistics or superlatives; instead consider this:

Williamson is so good he makes you shake your head in admiration even when he’s ripping your school to threads.

I saw that firsthand last weekend in Waltham, Mass.

I was in town to call a Robert Morris hockey playoff series against Bentley. The night before provided an opportunity to take in the Duke-Syracuse ACC basketball quarterfinal with RMU broadcasting colleague Tim Benz.

Benz bleeds Syracuse orange the way I do Michigan State green.

Williamson went 13-for-13 from the field, grabbed 14 rebounds (seven offensive, seven defensive), and added two assists, five steals and a block on the way to a game-high 29 points in 36 minutes.

Syracuse went away and Benz should have been outraged.

Instead, he was in awe.

“I was flattered he did it to my school,” was the postgame assessment between beverages.

That’s the level to which Williamson transcends.

And that’s what makes this year’s NCAA Tournament, always fascinating on its own merits, even more of a can’t-miss event.

More than it’s ever been, perhaps, since Bird vs. Magic.

It’s that this time because of Zion.

This is his tournament, and Duke’s (even if you have the good taste to hate Duke).

It will be that, until it isn’t.

And in the unlikely event it gets to that, it’ll be even more compelling.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Sharing Knives Grows into Sharing Farms

For its third season, the collaborative dinner series at Ace Hotel will celebrate the region’s growers.

A Slice of Pizza Kept Sean McDowell Going in the Early Days

After 41 years in the business, the legendary rock DJ on WDVE has announced his retirement.

This New App Will Help You Track Upcoming Cicada Swarm

Follow Brood VIII, which is expected to have three species of periodical cicadas emerging from the soil as early as this month, on the Cicada Safari App.

Best Restaurants in Pittsburgh in 2019

Our annual roundup of Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants covers a lot of ground. The list of 30 includes everything from fine dining at a resort hotel to a scrappy, farm-to-table breakfast and lunch counter in Bloomfield.

This Restless Pair are Pittsburgh Restaurateurs of the Year

Together, Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sevdik of the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group form the Pittsburgh restaurant world's most dynamic duo.

Our 50 Years: The Best Restaurants of 1999

Twenty years later, nearly everything about our best restaurants list is different. But our picks for the best of 1999 hint at the great leap forward that was on the horizon.

How Pittsburgh's Homeless Teens Escape the Mean Streets

For homeless Youth, living on the street can end up being worse than what they’re running from. Gaining their trust and guiding them to safety is a long and painful process, but local agencies are making progress.

Announcing our Scenic Photo Contest Winner

There were 682 photos submitted to our Scenic Vistas photo contest, which ran during the month of April. Art Director Chuck Beard picked a winner and two runners-up.

Braddock Brewery Brew Gentlemen Turns Five

A deliberately slow fermentation has the young brewers primed for a big expansion.

Claudy Pierre is Non Stop

The owner of Arnold’s Tea spends his time connecting communities and working to empower a new generation of Pittsburghers.

Daytripping: Enjoy Comedy History 3 Hours from Pittsburgh

The national comedy center in Jamestown, N.Y. takes the whole comedy thing kinda seriously (just kidding)

Remembering Some of Mister Rogers' Famous Houseguests

A world renowned French pantomime artist, an astronaut, a TV news anchor and a beloved chef are among the notable visitors to Mister Rogers' neighborhood.

Perspectives: Call of the Wild

Award-winning journalist Sally Wiggin explains the evolving role of zoos, including the Pittsburgh zoo, to save endangered species from extinction.

Pirates’ First Quarter Record Defies Logic if Not Description

The 21-19 record the Bucs took to San Diego doesn’t add up given all they’ve had to overcome. Perhaps there’s more to this team than meets the eye.

The 400-Word Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

Keanu Reeves returns, and Halle Berry arrives, as the action series broadens its scope.