WASHINGTON (AP) — One and done. Will college basketball remember NBA bound Zion and friends after the Spartans loss and failure to make Final Four?

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the locker room after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

Twenty minutes after his first and, in all likelihood, last season at Duke ended with an Elite Eight exit, Zion Williamson trudged through an arena hallway, his head down.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils removes his shoes after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

Following closely behind was teammate RJ Barrett, another fabulous freshman for the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. Two other members of their class were sitting in Duke’s locker room after a 68-67 loss to Michigan State in the East Region final Sunday: Tre Jones covered his face with a white towel and sobbed; Cam Reddish put his right hand on the nape of Jones’ neck to console him.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: RJ Barrett #5 and Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils speak to the media after their teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

“Our bond is very deep. I don’t think nobody will ever understand it, because all season long, we were under the microscope,” said Williamson, who had game-highs of 24 points and 14 rebounds. “People said we wouldn’t do this, we wouldn’t do that. And I think we exceeded all their expectations. I’m very proud of my brothers.”

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the locker room after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

Actually, he was a player so dynamic, and Duke was a team so talented, that plenty of folks thought they were capable of anything — including a national championship.

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – MARCH 24: Aubrey Dawkins #15 of the UCF Knights looks to tip-in the ball against the Duke Blue Devils during the second half in the second round game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 24, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

 

After squeaking by in their previous two games by a combined total of three points when their opponents missed last-second chances from close range, Williamson and the Blue Devils could not quite come through this time.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Matt McQuaid #20 of the Michigan State Spartans dunks the ball against the Duke Blue Devils during the first half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

They didn’t exactly lose to a nobody, of course: Led by Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston, No. 2 seed Michigan State is headed to its eighth Final Four under coach Tom Izzo. Still, the Blue Devils were a 2-1 title favorite after Selection Sunday and a pick in more than a third of ESPN’s brackets.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Cassius Winston #5 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates a basket against the Duke Blue Devils during the second half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

 

“We obviously had some pretty big-name guys and they had a lot of hype around them and things like that,” Jones said. “No one was jealous or insecure. Everyone just accepted it and had as much fun with it as we could.”

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – MARCH 22: Tre Jones #3 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts to a basket against the North Dakota State Bison in the second half during the first round of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 22, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

 

Now the question becomes how many of the key freshmen — that quartet accounted for all but eight of Duke’s points on Sunday — will return.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils walks back to the locker room after their teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

“They’re deserving of special things,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Not going to the Final Four is a huge disappointment for us.”
Williamson is expected to go pro and be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 29: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the second half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

Asked whether he was done in college, he replied: “I mean, obviously, it’s a high possibility, but I’m not really focused on that right now.”

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: RJ Barrett #5 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates a basket as head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans calls timeout during the first half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

Barrett is considered a top-three talent, too, and while he had 21 points, six rebounds and six assists against Michigan State, he also ended up with seven turnovers and missed one of two free throws with a chance to tie the game.
After his first foul shot was off, Barrett wanted to miss the second, because Duke was down by two with 5.2 seconds and hadn’t fouled enough yet to set up a 1-and-1 for the Spartans. But it bounced high off the rim and slipped through the net.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 29: RJ Barrett #5 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the second half in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

 

“It’s funny that it went in,” Barrett said, his voice a monotone.
Funny how the Big Dance is coming to a close, too. After 14 of the top 16 seeds made it through the opening weekend — including all the No. 1s — the more surprising results arrived now, one after another.

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 30: The Gonzaga Bulldogs show their dejection during the defeat to the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament West Regional at Honda Center on March 30, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

 

Duke, North Carolina and Gonzaga all are gone.
So is the most talked-about player in all of college basketball, a 6-foot-7, 285-pound combination of size, strength and speed, known to many by just one name: Zion.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 31: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

 

“For us to come this far, I’m proud of everybody,” Williamson said Sunday night. “It’s been an incredible ride.”
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