By Dom Cioffi
I’ve seen the future of basketball and its name is Zion.
Two weeks ago, a guy I work with asked me if I wanted free tickets to a men’s college basketball tournament game. Before giving it much thought, I agreed. I then realized it would mean a bit of traveling, but I figured if the day arrived and I didn’t want to go, I’d just blow it off. I’m so glad I didn’t.
For those who aren’t up to date on how the annual college basketball March Madness spectacle works, here’s a primer.
There are a number of Division I conferences throughout college basketball (ACC, Big Ten, America East, etc.) that play games throughout a given season. At the end of the season, these teams play for their respective conference championships, the winners of which automatically advance to the NCAA national tournament. The other slots in this 64-team tournament are made up of the best remaining teams as decided by a selection committee.
This is when the madness in March Madness really kicks in.
The ticket my coworker gave me was for the ACC tournament, which typically has some of the best basketball teams in the country (the ACC encompasses Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Clemson, and Florida State among others). In fact, a quick look at the AP Top 25 poll for Division I college basketball teams has the top three spots filled by teams from the ACC.
The ACC tournament started last Tuesday and out of curiosity and interest, I turned it on and watched one of the games. This sort of whet my appetite, so the next day I watched again and was lucky enough to see an epic come-from-behind win by NC State over Clemson. I watched again on Thursday, specifically to see Duke play.
Followers of college basketball this season have been entranced by the play of a 6-foot 7-inch young man from South Carolina named Zion Williamson. Zion was a highly recruited player out of high school who has been on many college coaches’ radar for several years. Duke ultimately won the lottery for his presence.
In high school, Zion regularly drew crowds in excess of 1,000 people, with snippets of his monstrous slams being broadcast across social media. When he arrived at Duke for preseason training, they had to adapt their measuring device to correctly register his vertical leap. Even at a whopping 285 pounds, Zion is in jeopardy of injuring his head on the rim if he’s not careful.
Throughout this season, Zion raised his profile with each passing game. More and more coaches began admitting that this kid was “special,” with many suggesting that he would alter the NBA much in the same way that Michael Jordan and LeBron did.
I heard rumblings of Zion early last year so I made it a point to watch as many Duke games this season as I could. I’ve been involved in basketball throughout most of my life and even I had to admit that Zion Williamson was a once-in-a-generation kind of talent.
Many folks learned of Zion only recently when his Nike shoe exploded on the floor, causing him a knee injury and leading to his missing the final few games of the regular season (Nike’s stock price dropped by a billion dollars after the news broke).
Many people wondered whether Zion should bow out of the rest of the season if it meant jeopardizing his NBA draft price, but Zion would have none of it. He’s a classic competitor and vowed to see the season through.
His return at the start of the ACC Tournament had all eyes glued. Zion left little doubt that he was ready, providing basketball fans around the country with an amazing array of dunks and spirited play.
I was witness to the semi final game where Duke met North Carolina and I can tell you that I felt like I was in the presence of something truly special. Sure, some of it was the electrified crowd that gathers every time these two teams meet, but something else was in the air – something powerful and otherworldly, and I felt lucky to be a witness.
This week’s feature, “Captive State,” also features something powerful and otherworldly, except in this case it’s an alien intruder who is attempting to realign human existence.
Set in a Chicago neighborhood ten years after an alien invasion, “Captive State” follows a young man’s indoctrination into a guerrilla insurgency intent on restoring the human race to its rightful position of power on the planet.
This is solid sci-fi film that offers up some interesting scenarios, but ultimately falls victim to an inferior storyline and mediocre acting. Check this one out if you love the sci-fi genre – just don’t go in expecting the typical alien invasion eye candy.
A restricted “C” for “Captive State.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]