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Top 30 Non-Conference Games

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The dreadfully long college basketball offseason is almost over. The top non-conference game shouldn’t come as any surprise, as it’s a top-5 matchup five days into the 2015-16 season. Most of the marquee out-of-conference games are spread out through the months of November and December, but several must-see games can also be seen in January and February.

Here are the 30 must-see non-conference games. Mark your calendars:

THE TOP 15

1. Duke vs. Kentucky – Champions Classic in Chicago – Nov. 17 (7:30 p.m.)

Two preseason top-5 five teams with a Hall of Fame coach on each sideline should be enough to get you to tune in.

Duke cut down the nets to the program’s fifth national title, while Kentucky fell two games short of a perfect season. Coach K and Cal continue the revolving door of talent at each of their programs, as seven five-star recruits (four to Duke, three to UK) replace the seven first round picks the Blue Devils and Wildcats combined for this past June.

There are important returning pieces on each side, as well. Kentucky floor general Tyler Ulis, who logged the fourth most minutes on the team despite not starting in a single game last season, and Duke guard Grayson Allen, who had 16 points in the national championship game, are both expected to have breakout sophomore seasons.

Kentucky and Duke are 1-1 against each other in the Champions Classic, which began in 2011.

2. Maryland vs. North Carolina – Dec. 1 (9:30 p.m.)

The two former conference opponents square off in the most-anticipated game of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 1 in Chapel Hill. Maryland and North Carolina have both been slotted No. 1 in various preseason polls heading into this year.

Maryland’s returning starters, Melo Trimble and Jake Layman, are joined by transfers Robert Carter Jr. and Rasheed Sulaimon, and five-star center Diamond Stone. The Tar Heels return nine of its top 10 players from a season ago, including senior point guard Marcus Paige.

North Carolina has owned the rivalry since 2011, winning eight straight over the Terps.

3. Kentucky vs. Kansas – Jan. 30 (TBD)

The Big 12/SEC Challenge moves to the second half of the season, creating a late-January clash between Kentucky and Kansas inside Allen Fieldhouse. There’s plenty of basketball to be played between now and Jan. 30, but these two teams, pegged as national title contenders, will be in midseason form when they meet up in Lawrence.

Last year, Kentucky put a 32-point beatdown on Kansas when the two sides met in the Champions Classic.

4. Louisville vs. Kentucky – Dec. 26 (TBD)

There’s no better way for the Cardinals and Wildcats to each end their non-conference schedules.

Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, Damion Lee, Trey Lewis and Donovan Mitchell are some of the new faces to the rivalry, but expect similar results when they meet up in Rupp. The last six meetings, dating back to 2011, have all been decided by eight points or fewer. Kentucky has won five of those six.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

5. Villanova vs. Virginia – Dec. 19 (TBD)

The first game of a home-and-home series will feature a pair of preseason top-10 teams. For Villanova, the two-time Big East regular season champion, this is probably the best game on its non-conference schedule. For Virginia, the two-time ACC regular season champion, this falls in the middle of three tough out-of-conference games, with a 2k Classic contest against West Virginia on Dec. 8 and a matchup against Cal on Dec. 22.

6. Oklahoma vs. Villanova – in Honolulu – Dec. 7 (TBD)

Perimeter play will be key in a neutral site game in Hawaii. Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard going up against Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and co-Big East Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono.

7. Georgetown vs. Maryland – Nov. 17 (9 p.m.)

The Gavitt Tipoff Games brings the Hoyas and Terrapins back together in College Park. These two teams have played only twice since 2001, the last being a neutral site game at the Old Spice Classic in 2008. Before that, the two matched up in the 2001 NCAA Tournament. More importantly, this is the first time since Georgetown and Maryland will play each other locally since 1993.

This game is in primetime, which is good. However, it’s squeezed in between the Champions Classic, which is bad.

8. Kansas vs. Michigan State – Champions Classic in Chicago – Nov. 17 (10 p.m.)

The 24-hour tipoff marathon ends with the nightcap from the Champions Classic in Chicago.

The Jayhawks and the Spartans played in the non-conference last season with KU defeating Sparty, 61-56, in the championship game of the Orlando Classic. Perry Ellis had 17 points and nine rebounds, while Denzel Valentine finished with 14 points. Both All-American candidates are back, hoping to avoid a second straight loss in the Champions Classic.

9. Arizona vs. Gonzaga – Dec. 5 (TBD)

This game did not disappoint last December, as Arizona held on to a 66-63 overtime win over the Bulldogs. Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer return for the Zags to form of the nation’s top frontlines. For Arizona, whose only returning starter is Kaleb Tarczewski, a trip to Spokane is the only true road game of its non-conference slate.

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10. Indiana vs. Duke – Dec. 2 (9:15 p.m.)

One of the final games of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge will be between two of the most storied programs in college basketball history, as Indiana travels to Durham to take on the reigning national champion. This is the third time — first since 2006 — that these two teams have meet in the annual conference series. Duke won both previous matchups.

11. Cal vs. Virginia – Dec. 22 (9 p.m.)

The two-time ACC champions will host Cal, one of the contenders in the Pac-12, just days before the holiday break. Cal has jumped into the national conversation after landing Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown and returning conference player of the year favorite Tyrone Wallace. Justin Anderson left for the NBA, but Tony Bennett still has Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey and London Perrantes.

12. Gonzaga vs. SMU – Feb. 13 (10 p.m.)

The Mustangs look to return the favor after the Zags handed them a 16-point loss last November. SMU hosts Gonzaga in the rematch in mid-February. Not a bad time to score a quality non-conference win.

13. UConn vs. Michigan – Nov. 25 (9:30 p.m.)

The Huskies and Wolverines both missed the NCAA tournament last season. Both teams have an opportunity to land multiple marquee wins in late November as part of another loaded Battle 4 Atlantis field. UConn and Michigan meet in the quarterfinals in the Bahamas.

14. Louisville vs. Michigan State – Dec. 2 (7:15 p.m.)

A rematch of the last year’s overtime thriller in the Elite Eight. This Big Ten/ACC battle features two of the best wings in the country in Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine and Louisville graduate transfer Damion Lee. Oh yeah, two pretty good coaches are on the sidelines, too.

15. Maryland vs. UConn – Jimmy V Classic in New York – Dec. 8 (9 p.m.)

The Terps and the Huskies headline the Jimmy V Classic doubleheader at Madison Square Garden. Maryland’s Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon take on the UConn perimeter of Sterling Gibbs, Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis. The opening game of the night is between Virginia and West Virginia.

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15 MORE TIMES YOU’LL NEED TO SET YOUR DVR

  • UC Irvine vs. UCF – Nov. 18 (7 p.m.): UC Irvine’s 7-foot-6 center Mamadou N’Diaye vs. UCF’s 7-foot-6 freshman Tacko Fall.
  • Xavier vs. Michigan – Nov. 20 (9 p.m.): The final game of the first-ever Gavitt Tipoff Games pits two potential top-20 teams against one another.
  • Wisconsin vs. Oklahoma – Nov. 29 (2:30 p.m.): The Sooners looking to avenge a loss in last season’s Battle 4 Atlantis championship game.
  • Kentucky vs. UCLA – Dec. 3 (TBD): The Bruins’ December schedule also includes games against Gonzaga and North Carolina, but they begin the month hosting Kentucky. Can’t go worse than last year’s meeting, right?
  • Syracuse vs. Georgetown – Dec. 5 (TBD): The two Big East foes restart the rivalry in the Nation’s Capital. The Orange and Hoyas will meet once a year for the next four seasons.
  • Vanderbilt vs. Baylor – Dec. 6 (TBD): The first game of a home-and-home series. The Bears defeated the Commodores, 66-63, last year.
  • Virginia vs. West Virginia – Jimmy V Classic in New York – Dec. 8 (7 p.m.): Mountaineers’ Press Virginia vs. Tony’ Bennett’s Pack-Line Defense.
  • Marquette vs. Wisconsin – Dec. 12 (1:30 p.m): Hopefully, the Golden Eagles and Badgers don’t combine for 87 points like last year.
  • North Carolina vs. Texas – Dec. 12 (5:15 p.m.): Texas fans likely won’t have a bowl game to look forward to in mid-December. But this Saturday matinee matchup with the Tar Heels should provide plenty of action.
  • Wichita State vs. Utah – Dec. 12 (TBD): The Shockers will look to take advantage with the senior guard tandem of Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. The Utes will counter with Jakob Poeltl, one of the top centers in the country.
  • Indiana vs. Notre Dame – Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis – Dec. 19 (2 p.m.): Demetrius Jackson vs. Yogi Ferrell in the opening game of the Crossroads Classic in Indy. Butler vs. Purdue isn’t a bad nightcap.
  • Vanderbilt vs. Purdue – Dec. 22 (8 p.m.): A battle of the big men between the top-25 caliber teams. Damian Jones is one of the nation’s top centers. The Boilermakers one of the top front courts with Isaac Haas, A.J. Hammons and Caleb Swanigan.
  • Kansas vs. San Diego State – Dec. 22 (TBD): The Jayhawks travel to one of the toughest places to play. Only one team left Viejas Arena with a win last season.
  • Oklahoma vs. LSU – Jan. 30 (TBD): Buddy Hield, the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, leads the Sooners into Baton Rouge to face Ben Simmons, the potential No. 1 overall pick, and the Tigers.
  • Iowa State vs. Texas A&M – Jan. 30 (TBD): A 2016 clash between the Cyclones and the Aggies will be one of the final games of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

POTENTIAL IN-SEASON TOURNAMENT GAMES WE’RE HOPING TO SEE

  • Battle 4 Atlantis: UConn vs. Syracuse (semifinals)
  • Maui Invitational: Indiana vs. Kansas
  • 2k Classic: Wisconsin vs. Duke
  • AdvoCare Invitational: Wichita State vs. Notre Dame; Dayton vs. Xavier
  • Hall of Fame Tip-Off: Florida vs. Purdue
  • Wooden Legacy: Arizona vs. Michigan State

Duke leapfrogs Kansas for No. 1 in latest AP Top 25 poll

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NEW YORK (AP) — Duke has supplanted Kansas atop the new AP Top 25 poll after its dominating win against Kentucky, giving the Blue Devils a record number of appearances at No. 1.

The Blue Devils jumped from fourth to first in Monday’s first regular-season poll. That allowed Duke to set a record with its 135th week at No. 1, breaking a tie with UCLA for most all-time.

Duke claimed 48 of 65 first-place votes after beating then-No. 2 Kentucky by 34 points in their opener.

It was impressive enough to bump the preseason No. 1 Jayhawks, who fell to No. 2 despite a quality win of their own against then-No. 10 Michigan State.

Here is the full AP Poll:

1. Duke (48 first-place votes)
2. Kansas (14)
3. Gonzaga
4. Virginia (2)
5. Tennessee (1)
6. Nevada
7. North Carolina
8. Villanova
9. Auburn
10. Kentucky
11. Michigan State
12. Kansas State
13. Oregon
14. Florida State
15. Syracuse
16. Virginia Tech
17. Mississippi State
18. Michigan
19. Clemson
20. UCLA
21. TCU
22. LSU
23. Purdue
24. Marquette
25. Buffalo

Monday Overreactions: Auburn’s awesome, Duke’s better and Weekly Awards

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: C.J. Massinburg, Buffalo

I’m sure that, at some point this season, we are going to see an individual performance better than the one that C.J. Massinburg posted late on Friday night in Morgantown, W.V., but it’s not going to be easy to do. In a 99-94 overtime win over then-No. 13 West Virginia, Massinburg put up a career-high 43 points to go along with 14 boards and three assists all while shooting 9-for-15 from three.

But the box score itself doesn’t really do his performance justice. He had nine points in an 11-3 run in the final three minutes of regulation that capped off a flurry late in the second half as Buffalo erased a double-digit lead. He hit a three with 14 seconds left that forced the extra frame. He scored nine of Buffalo’s 15 points in overtime.

It was incredible, and it came on the road against a tournament team that plays one of the most aggressive brands of basketball in the country. This is the kind of win that will help get Buffalo on the right side of the bubble should disaster strike during their conference tournament.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Duke Blue Devils

The irony is almost too much to bear.

After repeatedly getting burned by overhyping the one-and-done bluebloods and overstating the impact that one recruiting class, regardless of how good it is, can have on a basketball, the one time that the discussions surrounding a loaded freshman class is somewhat muted, that class ends up looking like it will be as dominant as any that we have ever seen.

Duke brought in three of the nation’s top five freshmen and may have the top three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft on their roster, and it sure did look like it in Tuesday’s season-opener, as the Blue Devils absolutely man-handled Kentucky, beating the then-No. 2 Blue Devils, 118-84.

The win was so dominating and so overwhelming that Duke is going to unseat Kansas from the No. 1 spot in the polls despite the fact that Kentucky is 1-0 with a win over a top 15 team. That’s impressive.

C.J. Massinburg (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

DUKE IS GOING TO GO UNDEFEATED

How do you stop Duke’s Big Three?

That is the question that is going to force opposing coaching staffs to lose sleep for the next five months, and I’m not sure there actually is an answer. If we’ve learned anything from the first two games that Duke has played, it is that it is going to take a herculean effort to slow down either R.J. Barrett (28.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.0 apg) or Zion Williamson (27.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.5 bpg, 3.0 apg). Given their size and their athleticism, there are few teams at the college level that will have one — let alone — two elite wing defenders to put on them.

And then there is Cam Reddish (23.5 ppg, 3.0 apg, 10-for-21 from three). He’s another big, athletic wing and a potential top three pick in the 2019 draft, and he’ll be checked night-in and night-out by what can only be described as the worst wing defender opposing teams have on the floor.

Let me put this another way: Duke has three players on their roster that college teams are not going to be able to defend. That’s a good problem for Coach K to have.

Normally these overreactions are meant to be somewhere between semi-serious, moderately-outlandish and a good old fashioned hot-take, but I’m not kidding in the least when I ask this question: Can Duke be beaten?

AUBURN IS THE BEST TEAM IN THE SEC

Entering the season, I thought that Kentucky would be the best team in the SEC this season as most did. I also thought that Tennessee, given what they brought back from the reigning SEC title team, would end up being the second-best team in the league. I thought Auburn would end up being third, partially by default but mostly because I didn’t think that their success last season would be as replicable as Tennessee’s.

It is still early, but boy, does that look like a dumb take.

Auburn smoked South Alabama in their opener before putting a 22-point win on Washington in their second game of the season. Jared Harper looks terrific, Bryce Brown’s shooting shoulder seems to be healthy and the addition of Samir Doughty is already paying dividends.

Chuma Okeke (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

But the real difference in this group is the return of Anfernee McLemore and the emergence of Chuma Okeke. That’s Auburn’s starting frontcourt. Both are athletic, 6-foot-8 forwards with legitimate three-point range. Okeke has five blocks through two games. McLemore led the nation in block percentage last season, and looking back, it’s not hard to figure out that the reason Auburn trailed off towards the end of last season was the loss of McLemore.

Auburn’s system works when they have a switchable, floor-spacing, rim-protecting big.

And Bruce Pearl now has two.

Can we please get Duke-Auburn in the Maui Invitational?

PRESS VIRGINIA WILL NEVER BE THE SAME WITHOUT JEVON CARTER

We talk about unicorns in college basketball all the time, and while there is nothing about Carter’s physical tools that make him unique in college basketball, there is no questioning just how good he was as a defensive presence last year. He could single-handily take a player out of a game, and on Friday night, West Virginia desperately needed someone to do that to C.J. Massinburg.

They didn’t have that player.

And while Beetle Bolden, Brandon Knapper, Chase Harler and Jordan McCabe are all fine players that will win games for the Mountaineers, the fact that they cannot put anyone on Jevon Island this season is going to hurt.

Ashton Hagans (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

KENTUCKY HAS THREE FIVE-STAR POINT GUARDS AND A MAJOR POINT GUARD PROBLEM

There are all kinds of issues currently plaguing this Kentucky program, but I don’t think any of them are as big as the point guard conundrum that John Calipari is currently facing. There are three point guards on their roster that were five-star prospects in high school, and none of them are good enough to take over that point guard role.

Ashton Hagans is a complete mess at this point. It’s still early in the year and Hagans is a guy that reclassified to enroll early, so it’s being too harsh on him probably isn’t fair, but suffice to say that he cannot play major minutes in close games at this point. Immanuel Quickly is probably the best scorer of their trio of ball-handlers, but he has just one assist in 50 minutes thus far this season and did not make a shot from the field against Duke. Quade Green is the guy with the experience, but truth-be-told, he’s better playing off the ball as a secondary ball-handler due to some of his physical limitations.

Rationing minutes between Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson is going to become an issue — especially if Herro keeps making it clear Johnson should be on the floor — as will P.J. Washington’s disastrous start to the season — is Kentucky’s best front-line really Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery?

But none of those things will matter if Calipari doesn’t fix what’s ailing his point guards.

THE ATLANTIC 10 AND AMERICAN WILL END UP ONE-BID LEAGUES

The start to this season as been absolutely disastrous for the Atlantic 10.

George Mason got first-place votes in the A-10 preseason poll. They’re 0-2 with home losses to American and Penn. George Washington is 0-3 with home losses to Stony Brook (after leading 22-0) and Siena. Michigan is next.  La Salle started 0-2 with a loss at home to Lafayette. Richmond lost at home to Longwood, St. Bonaventure lost at home to Bucknell and Fordham lost at home to Houston Baptist.

Things haven’t been much better in the American. League-favorite UCF lost at home to Florida Atlantic. SMU lost at home to Southern Miss. Wichita State did look impressive in a neutral site game against Providence, but they had to win that after losing their opener at home to Louisiana Tech. Cincinnati got dropped by Ohio State at home. East Carolina lost to James Madison. Tulane took a home loss as well, but at least that came to No. 17 Florida State, who absolutely pounded Florida in their opener.

Non-league performance is critical for conferences like this. The dreck at the bottom of the leagues already hurts the computer numbers for everyone in the conference, and taking this many ugly losses early in the year only gives those computer numbers a lower floor.

I’m not sure anyone will be that shocked if the Atlantic 10 ends up only sending their automatic bid winner to the NCAA tournament.

But it will be quite the wake-up call for the AAC if they do the same.

NBC Sports Top 25: Duke is No. 1, Kentucky to 18

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With all the hand-wringing and excitement about the return of college basketball this week, you might be surprised to learn that just three teams ranked in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25 lost.

Two of those losses came in the Champions Classic, as Kentucky and Michigan State fell to the top two teams in this week’s NBC Sports Top 25, Duke and Kansas, respectively. The third? Then-No. 17 West Virginia losing at home to now-No. 25 Buffalo on Friday night.

I say all that to say this: There really isn’t all that much to change about the Top 25 this week. There are really only three questions that need to be answered, so I’ll walk you through my thought process for each one:

  1. Can Kansas fall out of the top spot with a win over a top 15 team?: Hell yes they can. The Jayhawks were the No. 1 team in the country in the preseason based on projections and feelings we had about how good they might end up being. Now we have actual, actionable results to evaluate, and there really should be all that much of a discussion. I’m not even sure there are Kansas fans will sit here and say that, after watching Duke beat Kentucky by 34 points, they believe the Jayhawks are better than the Blue Devils.
  2. How far should Kentucky fall?: I dropped the Wildcats to 18th. I’ve seen other top 25s that have Kentucky at the back-end of the top ten. I don’t think that’s crazy, but I also think that we have much more to worry about with this Wildcat team that those folks realize. Kentucky still has top ten potential, but for my money they are much further from reaching their ceiling than anyone realized. I ended up with them 18th because I couldn’t justify dropping them below LSU or Mississippi State.
  3. What do we do with West Virginia and Buffalo?: I was already lower on West Virginia entering the season than the public, so dropping them out of the top 25 with a loss at home against Buffalo was pretty easy for me to do. I know that loss came as a result of a once-in-a-career blow-up game from C.J. Massinburg and that the Mountaineers didn’t have Beetle Bolden down the stretch as he dealt with cramping issues, but it seemed pretty evident that Press Virginia has some kinks to work out. Buffalo, on the other hand, entered the season as one of the best mid-majors in the country after smoking Arizona in the first round of the 2018 NCAA tournament. They lived up to that billing, so why not reward them?

Anyway, here is the entire NBC Sports Top 25:

1. Duke (2-0, Last week: 4)
2. Kansas (1-0, 1)
3. Gonzaga (2-0, 3)
4. Villanova (2-0, 5)
5. Nevada (2-0, 6)
6. Tennessee (2-0, 7)
7. Virginia (2-0, 8)
8. North Carolina (2-0, 9)
9. Auburn (2-0, 10)
10. Kansas State (1-0, 11)
11. Virginia Tech (1-0, 12)
12. Florida State (2-0, 14)
13. Michigan State (1-1, 13)
14. TCU (2-0, 15)
15. UCLA (2-0, 16)
16. Oregon (2-0, 18)
17. Syracuse (2-0, 19)
18. Kentucky (1-1, 2)
19. LSU (2-0, 20)
20. Mississippi State (2-0, 21)
21. Clemson (2-0, 22)
22. Michigan (2-0, 23)
23. N.C. State (2-0, 24)
24. Marquette (2-0, 25)
25. Buffalo (2-0, NA)

New Additions: 25. Buffalo
Dropped Out: 17. West Virginia

Washington evacuates team bus after it catches fire following loss to Auburn

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Washington’s bad road trip to Alabama got worse on Friday night when the team had to evacuate their bus.

Following an 88-66 road loss at Auburn earlier in the night, the Huskies boarded the team bus to take a charter flight home to Seattle. That’s when the team bus blew a tire about 15 miles outside of the airport in Montgomery.

The bus caught fire and the team had to evacuate. A Washington spokesperson told Percy Allen of the Seattle Times that no one was injured. Senior big man Noah Dickerson documented the experience on Twitter. The team had to wait for a second bus to arrive at 1:30 a.m. to get them to the airport to end a long night.

Thankfully, everybody seems to be okay after this incident. Washington doesn’t play again until hosting San Diego on Monday night, as they will hopefully have time to rest after a long night of travel.

Duke lands four-star 2019 guard Boogie Ellis

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Duke picked up a commitment late Friday night as Class of 2019 four-star shooting guard Boogie Ellis pledged to the Blue Devils.

Although the San Diego native is not the typical five-star recruit commonly associated with Duke recruiting over the last several seasons, he is a valuable addition to the Blue Devil Class of 2019 recruiting haul. The 6-foot-2 Ellis became a national recruit this summer heading into fall thanks to his shot-making ability and knack for making clutch plays. Regarded as the No. 41 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2019 national rankings, Ellis should fit in well in Duke’s backcourt next season.

If point guard Tre Jones stays for his sophomore season, then he’ll have a quality complementary shooter in Ellis beside him and five-star wing Wendell Moore could also fit in at the three. Ellis averaged 17.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game in the Nike EYBL playing with the Oakland Soldiers this spring and summer. Perhaps most importantly, Ellis shot 46 percent from three-point range, meaning Duke’s floor-spacing will be greatly benefitted by his arrival.

Duke recruiting hasn’t been as dominant in this class as it has in the past few years. But that could quickly change in the coming weeks as the Blue Devils remain heavily involved with a number of top-ten prospects and five-star recruits.