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Zion Williamson has been the most captivating player in college basketball this season, as his supreme athleticism has propelled the Duke Blue Devils near the top of the rankings all season long. But his health has been a concern throughout the year, to the point that his status to play in the NCAA Tournament isn't a guarantee. The question now isn't if he will lead Duke to the national championship, but if he will even play on the college basketball's biggest stage.
Will Zion Play in the Tournament?
Williamson is averaging over 21 points per game this season and nearly nine rebounds per game. But he suffered a knee injury during the Blue Devils' first game against North Carolina this season that has thrown his season into jeopardy. He has been missing time sporadically ever since that game, with the team keeping tight-lipped about his status going forward. With March Madness just around the corner, that could be a problem for Duke.
The team has struggled in his absence throughout the season, as they were blown out by the Tar Heels after Zion went down less than a minute into the North Carolina game. They also barely beat Wake Forest at home without Zion, as the team went from being one of the best teams in college basketball to looking ordinary.
In terms of his availability for the tournament, there isn't any indication that Williamson won't be there to play. But both Duke and Williamson would have a vested interest in keeping their cards close to their chest on that matter. For Duke, not revealing his status would give opponents less of an ability to prepare for the Blue Devils in the event that he couldn't play, while Williamson's NBA Draft stock would benefit most from having everyone think he was not too hurt to play in the tournament.
Without any direct indication that Williamson will be out for the NCAA Tournament, as of right now there is no reason to believe that he won't. And with Duke at around +225 to win the NCAA Tournament, oddsmakers don't see his injury issues as too big a deal just yet either.
Should Zion Play in the Tournament?
The better question surrounding Zion Williamson is whether or not he should play in the tournament this year. Williamson dominating in March Madness and helping the Blue Devils get to a national championship would be an amazing accomplishment. But if he injured himself any further in the tournament, it could have a legitimate impact on his NBA Draft stock, where his finances would be affected.
There isn't any indication that Williamson would sit out for the tournament, but if he did, it would be a strong statement that players are going to start putting themselves and their careers first in college basketball. In college football, players have been sitting out their bowl games to protect their financial interests, but those games aren't anywhere near as meaningful as the college basketball tournament.
What Duke decides to do with Zion Williamson in the ACC Tournament will be an interesting indicator as to whether or not they will utilize his talents in the NCAA Tournament. Zion playing in those games in full or on a minutes restriction would be encouraging news for Duke backers, as that would signify that Williamson is either ready to play in the tournament or that he is being eased back into action. But if he were to sit out of the conference tournament, there might just be something to the idea that Williamson's collegiate career has already come to an end before he goes pro.