Zion Williamson, #1 of the Duke Blue Devils, watches his team during the second half of their game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 5 in Durham, North Carolina.
The team that could overtake the Blue Devils for a top seed resides eight miles down the road in Chapel Hill.
The less significant of the two is that the Blue Devils - after losing the first round, 88-72, at home on February 20 - are at risk of no longer holding the series advantage since coach Mike Krzyzewski arrived in Durham for the 1980-81 season (entering this game, Duke is 46-45 against UNC since his arrival, albeit Krzyzewski was not on the sidelines for either of the Blue Devils' losses during the 1994-95 season).
And if Williamson does play, the Tar Heels - winners of six straight and 13 of their past 14 - will not afford the Blue Devils time to rebuild their chemistry with the soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick back in the rotation for the first time since the first 33 seconds of the rivals' first meeting.
He didn't return to that game and missed Duke's next four games.
Irving didn't play - Duke beat North Carolina for the championship, and Irving returned a few days later, against Hampton in the first round of the NCAA tournament - but the will-he-or-won't-he speculation took up more of the morning than the waiting line for lunch at Stamey's.
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"He's getting more confidence, and we just have to get him in shape", Coach K was quoted as saying by ESPN.
Krzyzewski told reporters following Duke's 71-70 win over Wake Forest on Tuesday night that Williamson "did some basketball stuff" earlier in the day, but he doesn't want to "push" the freshman's return. Glynn Watson added 25 and Isaiah Roby had 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
"We're not concerned about that", Krzyzewski said. And the fast breaks, second shots, we have to try to do that.
Will Zion ever play again at Duke? That's a really good sign for us. We're working on it. He finished the game with four points and five rebounds in 18 minutes of play. "In conference, we've played the toughest schedule-we've played Virginia and Carolina twice", Krzyzewski said when he was asked about seeding Tuesday. "We're working on it even if he did play".
"His knee is going to be OK", Krzyzewski said.