The Battle of the #1 Pick- Duke Vs Gonzaga

The #5 Duke Blue Devils defeated the #1 Gonzaga Bulldogs last night (11/26) in the Continental Tire Challenge in Las Vegas 84–81 in an early-season College Basketball showdown!

Ethan Copeland
5 min readNov 27, 2021

This game had a ton of attention and spotlight, as the ESPN 100 #1 recruit and potential first overall NBA draft pick, Chet Holmgren (7’1, 195) faced off against the ESPN 100 #4 recruit and potential first overall NBA draft pick Paolo Banchero (6’10, 250). It was truly a battle of the first overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft, with many additional NBA prospects beyond these two, on both sides of the ball. Let’s start by breaking down the game.

Duke won in a thriller, 84–81, and led the Bulldogs 45–42 at the half. The Blue Devils shot 46.3% from the field, and 30.4% from deep. Duke was out rebounded by the Bulldogs by 11, (Duke had 31 rebounds) but won the turnover and foul matchup. Duke only recorded 8 turnovers and 15 fouls, whereas Gonzaga had 17 turnovers and 24 fouls. Duke had a lot of star players step up, starting with a huge first half from Paolo Banchero, and an amazing second half from junior guard Wendell Moore Jr, and sophomore center, Mark Williams while Banchero was absent for a decent amount of time getting IVs for his locked-up quads, which was an issue in Duke’s win against Kentucky 79–71 on November 9th. The game was very close and could have gone either way, and these two teams could very well see each other again in March!

Let’s look at the battle of the #1 pick:

Paolo Banchero, Duke:

Paolo Banchero had himself quite the day. He was a beast on both sides of the ball, scoring on all the challenging weapons on Gonzaga’s defense. Banchero played 30 minutes, went 8–17 from FG, and 3–8 from 3-point, with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Banchero only had 1 point in the second half, due to as stated earlier, reoccurring quad problems. Despite that, Banchero stepped up to the plate when it mattered most, and I think Banchero is the clear #1 pick in the NBA draft.

Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga:

Despite the loss, Chet Holmgren played a quiet but charming game. Holmgren finished with 16 points in 29 minutes, on 8–13 shooting, with 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 turnovers. Holmgren got into foul trouble early and was forced to sit and be preserved by the Bulldogs for when it mattered most. Although I love Holmgren and think he is going to be a great NBA player, I fear that his strength will get him into trouble in tougher matchups. In terms of the #1 pick, I think that Banchero proved he is the right choice, however, Holmgren still has time to take the #1 throne back. Holmgren should be the #2 pick, as of right now.

Other NBA Prospects Trends From Last Night:

For Duke

Trending Up: Mark Williams, So, C:

As stated earlier, Mark Williams stepped up big time last night in place for Banchero while he was sidelined. Williams played 28 minutes, had 17 points on 8–9 shooting with 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 5 blocks. This is a big-time game for the returning 7’0 sophomore big. Williams is currently averaging 9.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and is shooting 65%, not bad numbers at all. William’s draft stock is on the rise after his performance last night, and he could hear his name in the late first or early second round in the 2022 NBA draft.

Trending Down: AJ Griffin, Fr, F:

AJ Griffin only received 6 minutes and went 0–1 shooting. Griffin is currently missing significant time due to a knee injury. Despite the Injury, AJ Griffin is trending downwards because of his lack of play and little proof that he can perform at the next level. Even though I have Griffin trending downwards, I think he will turn it around after recovering from his injury and could still see him being a 1st round, if not lottery draft pick. Griffin was ranked 29th on the ESPN 100 coming out of high school and is a lengthy, young, defending forward with a lot of potential.

For Gonzaga:

Trending Up: Drew Timme, Jr, C:

Timme was an All-American big man last season for the Bulldogs and had a great year. Last night, Timme played 26 minutes, recorded 17 points on 7–13 shooting, with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 turnovers. Like Holmgren, Timme also struggled with fouls, which hurt his involvement in the game. Despite that, Timme played a solid game and is having another great season as the big for Gonzaga. Timme is currently trending upwards but is still projected to be a second-rounder in my eyes due to his lack of athleticism and older age.

Trending Down: Hunter Sallis, Fr, G:

I am very surprised that I have not heard about Hunter Sallis more throughout this season. Last night, Sallis only played 4 minutes, and only had 1 rebound and 2 fouls. Sallis was ranked 16th on the ESPN 100 coming into this season and was supposed to be a potential NBA draft prospect. Due to Andrew Nembhard and Rasir Bolton (transfer from Iowa State), Sallis’s draft stock has taken a hit and he will likely have to be patient and wait until Gonzaga includes him into their game plan a little bit more.

Up Next:

For Duke:

The Blue Devils face the Ohio State Buckeyes on the road on Tuesday, November 30th at 9:00 pm. The Buckeyes are unranked and are 4–2, however, they are a talented team and could play up to Duke’s level. Keep an eye out for Ohio State’s forward, E.J. Liddell in this game as he is projected to have a big year and could be drafted.

For Gonzaga:

The Bulldogs face the Tarleton State Texans at home, on Monday, November 29th at 10:00 pm. Look for a bounce-back and explosive game from the Bulldogs as they are not faced with the toughest matchup on Monday eve.


What a game it was for both teams and the college basketball season is off to a hot start as it always is! I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving! It is a great weekend for sports with a lot of awesome games to look forward to!