College basketball title odds: Duke’s chances to win it all if Zion is out takes a hit

Zion Williamson, Duke’s freshman superstar who has emerged as the best player in college basketball and the best NBA Draft prospect in the 2019 draft eligible class, is out indefinitely after sustaining a right knee sprain on Wednesday night. 

When Williamson blew out his shoe, his knee gave way, too. He’s listed as day-to-day for now with a Grade 1 right knee sprain, but as Duke fell by double digits to UNC at home Wednesday, it’s clear any game without him is one the Blue Devils will spend missing him.

Early speculation on the injury led many to call for him to shut it down for the season, which by all indications he does not intend to do. But what are Duke’s odds of winning it all if he were to follow those instructions, or worse, if the injury were to linger longer than expected?

SportsLine’s Stephen Oh crunched the numbers, and the odds plummet in a Zion-less Duke world. By his calculations using Neutralwin, a simulation, Duke wins vs. every projected time in the country on 88.5 percent of occassions. But without him, Duke’s odds fall nearly 10 percentage points per matchup.

So what does that mean for the Blue Devils’ title odds? Here’s the numbers: With Zion, they have a 28.8 percentage chance of winning it all, and a staggering 41.5 percent chance of advancing to at least the championship game. Without him, though, those odds plummet to 10.7 percent and 20.1 percent, respectively.

Losing the best player off a team would impact any team, but these numbers underscore just how important Williamson’s presence is for the top-ranked Blue Devils. With Duke listing him as day-to-day, it seems clear he intends to return soon. But if for some reason his absence is prolonged, it could have a profound impact on Duke’s chances to land a top seed in March Madness — and in turn, its chances to win it all.

Categories: National Sports

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