Duke’s Zion Williamson officially ruled out against North Carolina

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Duke freshman Zion Williamson has been officially ruled out of Saturday’s ACC rivalry game against North Carolina.

Listed as doubtful on Friday, Williamson has been recovering from a Grade 1 right knee sprain since exploding out of his shoe when the two storied Tobacco Road rivals met a few weeks ago. Saturday will mark the fifth consecutive game that Williamson will miss as Duke has gone 3-1 during his full absence.

When Williamson went down with the knee injury 33 seconds into Duke’s home loss against North Carolina, it shifted the dynamic in a crowded ACC race as the Tar Heels and Virginia remain ahead of Duke entering Saturday’s action.

ACC tournament seeding will be at stake on Saturday as the Blue Devils have a chance at a No. 1 seed with a win and Virginia loss to Louisville. The Tar Heels are also hoping for the season sweep over Duke as they attempt to also earn that No. 1 seed.

While Williamson is being held out on Saturday, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski sounded cautiously optimistic that his star freshman could return for the ACC tournament. The hope is that Williamson can play a few games in Charlotte and get into better game shape before the NCAA tournament.

“I want to give him a chance to get in game shape. I would be surprised if he wasn’t ready by the ACC Tournament, Krzyzewski said Friday. “Hopefully we’ll play some games there, not just one, and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.”

Besides Williamson, Duke is dealing with some other minor injuries at this point in the season. During a sluggish performance in a win over Wake Forest earlier this week, junior center Marques Bolden was limited with a hip injury. Freshman guard Tre Jones also had to be taken to the locker room during the second half with what was described as a bruised right quad. Both are expected to play on Saturday, but Duke is clearly banged up at this point in the season.