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Several Duke freshmen may follow Grayson Allen out the door

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Duke started another season at No. 1 but ended it before the Final Four. Now the Blue Devils await the NBA draft decisions from several potential one-and-done freshmen with next year’s top recruiting class arriving over the summer.

The Blue Devils started four freshmen and it is unclear if all have played their final game at Duke. In the locker room after the season-ending loss to Kansas, point guard Trevon Duval made it sound like at least some had. He expressed sadness that this particular group of players won’t play together again.

“It was a great season. I had a lot of fun, but every good thing has to come to an end sometime,” Duval said. “I’m just happy that I got to play with this group of guys and to play for (coach Mike Krzyzewski) and be a part of this program.”

An 85-81 overtime loss to Kansas in the Midwest Regional final brought an end to the season for Duke (29-8), and to the four-year college career of captain Grayson Allen.

Duke knows it won’t have Allen next year, with the Kansas loss bringing to an end a turbulent career that included a national championship as a freshman and a series of tripping incidents over the next two years that sullied his reputation. Allen’s jumper at the end of regulation that would have sent the Blue Devils to the Final Four bounced off the glass and off the rim but refused to fall through.

“I’ve learned so much in my four years here, coming out a completely different person and for the better,” Allen said.

Now the question is how many of the freshmen will follow him out the Cameron Indoor Stadium doors. Big men Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., and guards Duval and Gary Trent Jr. have big decisions to make in the coming weeks.

“This is all that’s on my mind right now, thinking about this year that I had with my brothers,” Bagley said after the game. “And whatever happens after this, we’ll sit down and talk about it and just take it day by day.”

No matter how many of them opt to enter the NBA draft, the Blue Devils have another batch of five-star freshmen coming in next season.

Duke has the nation’s best recruiting class locked up for 2018-19. Forwards R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish have already signed letters of intent, forward Zion Williamson has publicly declared his intention to play for the Blue Devils and Tre Jones — the younger brother of Tyus Jones, the one-and-done point guard on Duke’s last national championship team in 2015 — also has signed.

That group could have the Blue Devils starting next season in the same spot as the previous two years — atop the preseason Top 25.

The challenge is finding a way to end it in the same position.

That was tougher than expected for this Duke team, which had one of the nation’s most potent offenses, ranking ninth nationally with an average of 84 points. The biggest change took place on defense, with the Blue Devils making the midseason switch to a full-time 2-3 zone after the freshman-dominated team had trouble playing Krzyzewski’s preferred man-to-man style.

Duke finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference, four full games behind a Virginia team that claimed the No. 1 ranking in the final AP poll. The Blue Devils lost to rival North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals, and reached their third regional final in six years.

For most programs, that’s a pretty good year. But it felt a bit unsatisfying for the Blue Devils, who wanted so much more.

“It hurts,” Carter said. “We fought, we crawled, we scratched — we did everything we could.”

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?

North Carolina’s Luke Maye declaring for NBA draft without hiring agent

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina junior Luke Maye has declared for the NBA draft but isn’t hiring an agent.

The 6-foot-8 forward was a third-team Associated Press All-American after averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds. He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most improved player after increasing his scoring average by 11.4 points from his sophomore to junior seasons.

Coach Roy Williams says in a statement that it’s ”a great opportunity” for Maye to work out for NBA teams and get feedback on what to improve in his game.

The deadline for college players to declare early for the draft was Sunday night. Players who don’t hire an agent can maintain their college eligibility as long as they withdraw by May 30, which is 10 days after the NBA draft combine.

Gonzaga star undergoes surgery on his shoulder

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The most important players for Gonzaga heading into the 2018-19 season will have an offseason dedicated to rehabilitation.

Josh Perkins, Gonzaga’s starting point guard, underwent surgery on Friday to repair a shoulder that he injured back in December. According to the Spokesman-Review, Perkins expects to be healthy and ready to play by the start of next season.

Perkins averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 assists during the 2017-18 season despite playing through those shoulder issues. After December’s win over Washington, a game in which Perkins left wincing in pain and clutching his shoulders, Perkins said “Just popped out a little bit. It’s not very strong right now, but everything is good.”

For my money, Perkins is the player that is going to be the x-factor for the Zags next season. They have a terrific front court with Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie returning, and with the likes of Zach Norvell and Corey Kispert back, there is plenty of talent on the wings. Perkins, the senior point guard, is the blue that is going to be needed to hold it all together.

Gonzaga is a top five team heading into next year. They have national title aspirations. Perkins might end up being the guy that determines whether they live up to those goals or get knocked out of the field in the Sweet 16.