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A year ago, Duke took its preseason No. 1 ranking and promptly disappointed, finishing a disappointing 28-9 before losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Blue Devils will hope for a better result this time around.
The Associated Press once again tapped Duke as its top-ranked team to begin the 2017-18 season Wednesday, while Michigan State trails closely behind at No. 2. Arizona, Kansas and Kentucky round out the Top Five in what looks like a field of teams without a truly dominant force.
Here’s how the Top 25 played out:
1. Duke (33 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (13)
3. Arizona (18)
4. Kansas (1)
7. Wichita State
9. North Carolina
11. West Virginia
13. Miami (Fla.)
14. Notre Dame
22. Saint Mary’s
23. Seton Hall
25. Texas A&M
Senior Grayson Allen returns to a Duke starting lineup that otherwise features a mix of highly touted freshmen. Trevon Duval was the second-ranked point guard in the country, and power forward Marvin Bagley reclbadified and is arguably the favorite to go No. 1 in the 2018 NBA draft. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski will have to pick out his final starter from a number of high-profile players.
Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr. are the two best players in the mix. Carter was projected as Duke’s starting power forward before Bagley’s reclbadification and was the seventh-ranked player in the 2017 clbad. Bagley could slide into the 3 spot if Coach K wants to start both of his bigs, but that could create some spacing issues.
Trent’s insertion into the starting lineup would force Allen, Duval and Trent to all play extended minutes during the regular season. Odds are Trent at the 3 will be a March move, if it happens at all. Krzyzewski sees his team as longer and more athletic than other recent units.
“We’re a much different team than last year in that we’re big. We’re very big and athletic,” Krzyzewski said, per Barry Jacobs of the News Observer. “That doesn’t mean we can’t shoot, but we’re not the outside shooting force that we’ve been in some of these previous years. Hopefully we’ll be an outstanding rebounding team and defensive team and still play up and down the court.”
Michigan State, as it is wont to do, has a lineup filled with names you’ve probably heard from East Lansing before. The Spartans will return four of their five leading scorers from last season, highlighted by likely lottery pick Miles Bridges. The sophomore forward would have been a top-15 pick had he entered last June’s NBA draft but chose to return after Michigan State’s disappointing 20-15 campaign.
Tom Izzo also landed prized 5-star forward Jaren Jackson, who should give Bridges a proper co-star. Jackson was the eighth-ranked player in the 2017 clbad.
“I heard we were picked to win it, but I heard there were like five teams picked second,” Izzo told reporters of the Big Ten. “It just goes to show what this league has, and that’s parity.”
Michigan State and Duke will give one another their first test of the season in a nationally televised contest Nov. 14.
Kansas lost Frank Mason and Josh Jackson but still returns a loaded roster. Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk should step into starring roles as seniors, while promising freshman Billy Preston should have a chance to break out.
Kentucky welcomed eight freshmen in the 2017 clbad, six of whom carried 5-star distinction. As always, sussing out which of these players can handle the spotlight early will be John Calipari’s biggest task.
Recruiting information via 247Sports