I hope that you’re ready for Duke to be the biggest story in all of college basketball for the second straight season.
Because it’s happening.
Late on Monday night, live on Sportscenter, Marvin Bagley III, who may just be the best basketball prospect in the world that is not currently on an NBA roster, announced that he will not only be attending Duke for his one-and-done season, but that he’ll be reclassifying and enrolling this season.
This is not much of a surprise, mind you.
We all pretty much knew that this was how the Bagley saga was probably going to end up playing out, which means we’ve all had time to think through just how this decision is going to affect what happens during the 2017-18 season.
For me, it will bump Duke up to No. 1 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25, and I hardly imagine that I’ll be alone in that sentiment.
MORE: Bagley makes Duke THE story … again | NBC Sports Preseason Top 25
With Bagley now in the fold, Duke has four five-star prospects enrolling in this class, including the potential No. 1 pick and two more borderline top five recruits in point guard Trevon Duval and big man Wendell Carter. Throw in scoring machine Gary Trent Jr., and that’s a well-rounded, talented recruiting class. All four of those freshmen should be expected to start alongside Grayson Allen, the most well-known and disliked college basketball player in the country who, according to Mike Krzyzewski, is finally healthy and back to playing like the guy that was an All-American as a sophomore and the Preseason National Player of the Year as a junior.
Youth is going to be a major issue. Allen is the only rotation player that is an upperclassmen, and the other two returnees are Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier, neither of whom got much experience playing last season. Depth is going to be another problem as well, as Duke’s reserves will likely be made up of some combination of Bolden, DeLaurier and freshmen Alex O’Connell and Jordan Tucker.
The talent on this roster, however, is undeniable, just like last season.
But unlike last season, the pieces actually fit together. Duval should be excellent at the point, and while he finally gives the Blue Devils a point guard to replace Tyus Jones, he has a reputation for being more of an attacker than a ‘pure point guard’; frankly, Duval is the biggest concern I have with this team. On the wings, Trent and Allen are scorers with three-point range that will spread the floor and make defenses pay for helping off of them. Carter, who many believe to be the second-coming of Al Horford, should be able to handle his own on the block, and his face-up game is better than you may realize.
And then there’s Bagley, who is the ideal for what Duke is looking for at the four spot. He’s big enough that he can defend as a four — or even a five — but he’s skilled enough to play on the perimeter in four-around-one lineups. The Blue Devils did not previously have a guy that can fill that Jayson Tatum, Jabari Parker, Justise Winslow, Brandon Ingram role, and Bagley is probably better suited to do it than any of them.
At the very least he should being the most on the defensive end. He’s actually built like an NBA big man as opposed to effectively being an oversized guard.
It’s all there.
And I totally understand why you don’t want to hear it. I don’t really want to say it, not after this led to this led to this, ending in this.
But the simple fact of the matter is that Duke, right now, has the most talented and well-rounded starting five in college basketball.
They deserve to, at the absolute least, be in the conversation for preseason No. 1 team in the country with Arizona, Michigan State and Kansas, and you’ll have a hard time convincing me they shouldn’t top those rankings.
Let’s assume most voters agree with me on that.
What that means is that the Blue Devils will be preseason No. 1 with the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on their roster alongside Grayson Allen, the most famous — well, infamous — college basketball player we’ve seen in at least a decade.
And I haven’t even mentioned that we still have to wait to find out if and when Bagley will cleared by the NCAA.
I hope you’ve gotten over your Duke fatigue from last season.
Because, without question, Duke. Is. Back.