Duke star Zion Williamson will have his work cut out for him if he tries to dunk over UCF’s Tacko Fall in the second round of the NCAA tournament, because the 7-foot-6 center is not about to make it easy for him.
“It’s very hard [to dunk on me],” Fall told NCAA.com on Friday night. “I mean, I won’t allow it. I won’t allow it. I won’t allow him putting me on one of his highlight tapes.”
Fall and Williamson, who is 6-foot-7, are set to go head-to-head — or at least head-to-shoulder — on Sunday after their teams advanced from the tournament’s first round Friday. Top-seeded Duke beat North Dakota State 85-62, and No. 9-seed UCF trounced 8-seeded VCU 73-58.
We started with 68 on Tuesday night. Now we’re down to 32. Here’s how we rank them heading into Saturday.
UCF center Tacko Fall, a devout Muslim from Senegal, wants to use the NCAA tournament stage to promote peace. “We just have to learn how to get along,” Fall said. “… Learn to love each other.”
As the tallest player in college basketball, Fall is one of a kind, but he said Williamson, the projected top pick in this year’s NBA draft, is a unique talent.
“He’s someone, pretty much, we’ve never seen in weight, size. He’s immense, and he’s so quick,” Fall said. “But the coaches are going to have a great game plan, especially Coach [Johnny] Dawkins, I feel like, because he played for Duke, so he’s going to have to help us out a lot.”
Dawkins played for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski from 1982 to 1986, and following his NBA career returned to spend more than 10 years on Coach K’s staff before leaving to take his first head-coaching job at Stanford in 2008.
But despite his close ties to the program, Dawkins said after UCF’s win that he hasn’t been able to watch the Blue Devils much this season.
“When you’re doing what we do for the last six months, we don’t have much time to see anyone other than your opponents,” Dawkins said. “I have seen them play bits and pieces, three minutes here, four minutes there, throughout the season when you’re taking a break from your scouts. I haven’t seen much of them. I’m looking forward to seeing them this evening and tomorrow as we start to prepare.
“But I know Coach. He’s amazing, and I know the young men I’ve heard so much about like Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish. Those guys are terrific, terrific players along with the point guard [Tre] Jones and the rest of their players. I know they’re really talented, and it’s going to be a good challenge.”
Dawkins also said he would have liked to avoid Duke in the tournament, and not only because the Blue Devils are favored to cut down the nets after the Final Four.
“I was like — we’d rather not play each other, of course,” Dawkins said of Krzyzewski. “We’re friends. I played for him. I’ve worked for him for over a decade. It’s not something you look forward to doing. We know in this type of setting — and we’re all competitors. We do what we have to do, but it’s not something we would pick — let’s play each other. That wouldn’t happen under any other circumstance other than a tournament. It is what it is with that. You’ve got to get ready to compete. They’re going to do the same thing, and both teams will come out prepared.”
As for Fall, who had 13 points and 18 rebounds against VCU, Dawkins said his big man is just starting to become a force on the court.
“We’ve been challenging Tacko all season long about really imposing his will on the game,” Dawkins said. “I think probably the last six weeks, you started to see a turn in that. He started to see what he was capable of doing out there on the floor. So I’m excited for him. He gets 18 rebounds in an NCAA tournament game, a double-double, that’s having a huge impact on a game, and he’s capable of doing that. So I’m just really happy for him. I’m happy he’s realizing the type of impact he can have on both ends of the floor.”