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This season’s top 20 non-conference games

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Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we take a look at the best non-conference games this season.

Who’s excited?

I’m excited.



1. KANSAS at KENTUCKY, January 26 (SEC/Big 12 Challenge)

While the season opener between Kentucky and Duke received a lot of the summertime attention, it isn’t the best non-conference game of the 2018-19 season. That label goes to the Wildcats’ home game against Kansas for three reasons. One, Kentucky and Kansas are considered by many to be top two teams in college basketball entering this season. The second reason: by late January both teams should have a much better idea of who they are. And lastly, nothing beats a true home environment.

2. DUKE vs. KENTUCKY, November 6 (Champions Classic)

This matchup in Indianapolis is the crown jewel of college basketball’s opening night, and it has something for everyone. Two Hall of Fame head coaches, two storied programs and two rosters that don’t lack for high-end talent. Given the players involved, most notably Duke boasting the top three recruits in the Class of 2018 (R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish), there won’t be a lack of NBA eyeballs on this game either. While these teams will have a better idea of who they are later in non-conference play, it’s good to have a game of this caliber to use as a measuring stick right out of the gate.

3. MICHIGAN STATE vs. KANSAS, November 6 (Champions Classic)

The other half of the Champions Classic doubleheader isn’t anything to scoff at either, as Kansas takes on preseason Big Ten favorite Michigan State. While both teams managed to win their respective regular season conference titles last season the postseason brought about different fortunes. Kansas managed to reach the Final Four, but Michigan State saw its season end in the second round. Both teams have some key personnel losses to address, but Kansas has reloaded thanks to the combination of transfers and highly-regarded freshman and there’s optimism regarding Michigan State’s freshman class as well.

Roy Williams and Mark Few (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

4. GONZAGA at NORTH CAROLINA, December 15

Two teams with Final Four aspirations will meet in Chapel Hill in mid-December, and the game will feature a couple of the nation’s best front court players in Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and North Carolina’s Luke Maye. Both teams are deep, and in addition to the many veterans on display viewers will also get a look at two newcomers expected to have significant impacts on their respective squads in Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke (San Jose State transfer) and North Carolina freshman Nassir Little.

5. KENTUCKY at LOUISVILLE, November 29

One of college basketball’s premier rivalries, the Wildcats and Cardinals renew acquaintances a week after Thanksgiving in Louisville. What also makes this season’s edition important is the fact that this will be Chris Mack’s first as Louisville head coach. And even though it’s Kentucky that’s receiving the preseason praise — and rightfully so — Louisville has to account for the loss of four of its top five scorers from a season ago. Kentucky will likely be favored, but don’t sell the Cardinals short even with the roster turnover.

6. VILLANOVA at KANSAS, December 15

A rematch of last year’s Final Four meeting, which Villanova won handily, it shouldn’t take much to fire up the home folks for their team’s shot at payback. Villanova bid farewell to four talented players after winning the program’s second national title in three years, with all four being taken within the first 33 picks of the NBA draft, but the cupboard is nowhere near bare. As for Kansas, the Jayhawks are ranked either first or second depending upon which preseason poll you look at. This should be a good litmus test for two programs that are expected to reign supreme in their respective conferences.

7. GONZAGA vs. TENNESSEE, December 9 (in Phoenix)

Gonzaga has a tough four-game stretch between December 1 and December 15, with three being away from Spokane. While Mark Few’s team has made a habit of landing in the Top 10 of the national polls the same cannot be said for Tennessee, which enters this season with high hopes after winning a share of the SEC regular season title in 2017-18. This should be a fun matchup, and for Tennessee it’s an opportunity for Rick Barnes’ veteran-laden squad to make a statement nationally.

8. NEVADA at LOYOLA-CHICAGO, November 27 (Missouri Valley/Mountain West Challenge Series)

The Wolf Pack and Ramblers produced one of the best games in last season’s NCAA tournament, with Loyola winning the Sweet 16 matchup 69-68 on the way to the program’s first Final Four appearance since 1963. The rematch will be staged in Chicago, and Nevada begins the season as not only the favorite to win the Mountain West but a trendy Final Four pick as well. As for Loyola, Clayton Custer and company are once again the favorites in the Missouri Valley, but the struggles in putting together their non-conference schedule makes this matchup a critical one should the Ramblers not win the automatic bid.

9. MICHIGAN at VILLANOVA, November 14 (Gavitt Games)

The Wolverines visit Villanova in a rematch of last season’s national title game, and the environment at the newly renovated Finneran Pavilion should be frenzied. Jay Wright’s program has made a habit of selling out (or coming very close to selling out) big games at Wells Fargo Arena in south Philadelphia, but the on-campus environment is something special. Both teams return key contributors from their last meeting, including Villanova’s Eric Paschall and Phil Booth and Michigan’s Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson, and they’ve also got a lot of young talent to work into the mix as well. That should make for an entertaining early season matchup.

John Beilein and Jay Wright (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

10. WASHINGTON at AUBURN, November 9

The second official game of Mike Hopkins’ second season at Washington will be a tough one, as the Huskies invade The Plains to take on Auburn. Bruce Pearl’s squad is coming off of a season in which it won a share of the SEC regular season title, and the Tigers should be really good again in 2018-19. Washington, which just missed out on the NCAA tournament, can say the same since it returns everyone including wing Jaylen Nowell and one of the nation’s best defenders in Mathysse Thybulle. And the matchup between Washington’s Noah Dickerson and Auburn’s Austin Wiley should be fun to watch as well.

11. WEST VIRGINIA at TENNESSEE, January 26 (SEC/Big 12 Challenge)

Yes, the Mountaineers did lose two critical pieces in guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles. But much of the front court, led by Sagaba Konate, is back and the “Press Virginia” mindset remains in place as well. With Tennessee also being a tough squad, this late-January matchup in Knoxville should be a lot of fun. And Konate matching up with Grant Williams? Sign me up for that.

12. PURDUE at FLORIDA STATE, November 28 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)

While Purdue has, in the eyes of many, the nation’s best point guard in Carsen Edwards that position was a bit of a question mark for Florida State heading into the summer. Leonard Hamilton and company addressed that by landing Albany graduate transfer David Nichols, and the 2017 first team All-America East point guard is more than capable of leading the Seminoles. While Purdue has some major personnel losses to address the Boilermakers should still be a factor in the Big Ten, and Florida State is expected to be one of the better teams in the ACC.

13. MICHIGAN STATE vs. UCLA, November 22 (in Las Vegas)

This matchup is part of the Continental Tires Las Vegas Invitational, with North Carolina and Texas meeting in the other semifinal contest Thanksgiving night. And it’s a game between two programs that are expected to, at minimum, be contenders in their respective conferences as Michigan State’s favored to win the Big Ten and UCLA should be in the mix in the Pac-12. Both teams add quality recruiting classes, but the headliners will likely be returnees Cassius Winston and Nick Ward for Michigan State and Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes for UCLA.

14. VIRGINIA TECH vs. WASHINGTON, December 15 (in Atlantic City)

Both the Hokies and Huskies begin the 2018-19 season with expectations of, at the very least, reaching the NCAA tournament. Both teams could prove capable of doing even more than that, especially Washington in what appears to be a wide-open Pac-12, and this neutral site matchup is one to check out on what will be a busy day in college basketball.

15. NORTH CAROLINA at MICHIGAN, November 28 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)

The Tar Heels and Wolverines met last season in Chapel Hill, with North Carolina picking up the 15-point victory. Michigan will look for revenge in Ann Arbor, and a win will also be the program’s first over North Carolina since the 1992 Rainbow Classic (UNC leads the all-time series 4-2). This game will match two freshman wings that have been on the receiving end of praise this offseason, North Carolina’s Nassir Little and Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis.

Mike Krzyzewski (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

16. INDIANA at DUKE, November 27 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)

While Duke is viewed as a consensus national title contender ahead of the 2018-19 season, Indiana is still working its way back to that level under second year head coach Archie Miller. With an outstanding forward in Juwan Morgan back for his senior season, and a talented freshman class led by five-star wing Romeo Langford, there’s plenty of optimism in Bloomington. This matchup with the Blue Devils at Cameron sets up to be a really good test for the Hoosiers, a game that will show where the program is and how much work there is to be done.

17. AUBURN at NC STATE, December 19

Given the guards in this game, even with Auburn losing Mustapha Heron, the battle between the Tigers and Wolfpack should be fun to watch. Jared Harper and Bryce Brown return for Auburn, and that combo will be joined by VCU transfer Samir Doughty, JUCO transfer J’Von McCormick and Danjel Purifoy on the perimeter. They’ll need to be at their best when it comes to taking care of the basketball, given the pressure that Kevin Keatts likes to throw at opponents. NC State doesn’t lack for options on the perimeter either, with Markell Johnson, Torin Dorn and Braxton Beverly returning and three transfers (including C.J. Bryce) eligible, and they’ll need to ramp things up pace-wise in order to limit the impact of Auburn’s big men.

18. KANSAS at ARIZONA STATE, December 22

Three days before Christmas the Jayhawks head west for a rematch of one of last season’s most surprising results. Arizona State went into Allen Fieldhouse and handed Kansas a 95-85 defeat, and the following day Bobby Hurley’s team was ranked fifth in the nation. The trio of senior guards who led Arizona State to that win have all moved on to the professional ranks, leaving Remy Martin to run the show, but the Sun Devils don’t lack for talent in the front court with Romello White, De’Quon Lake and San Diego State transfer Zylan Cheatham being three of the key contributors. Not much is expected of Arizona State, but this game offers the Sun Devils an opportunity to once again make a statement at Kansas’ expense.

19. WISCONSIN at MARQUETTE, December 8

This season’s edition should be an intriguing one, as Wisconsin looks to bounce back from an injury-riddled 2017-18 and Marquette is viewed by many as the team best equipped to challenge Villanova in the Big East. While that may be the case for a team led by guard Markus Howard and forward Sam Hauser, Marquette will need to make strides defensively in order to live up to the hype. Wisconsin’s healthy, and with Ethan Happ leading the way Greg Gard’s squad should be a factor in the Big Ten.

20. GEORGETOWN at SYRACUSE, December 8

The former Big East rivals meet at the Carrier Dome, with this being Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing’s first trip north since his days as a player. The rivalry angle is what brings the heat in this matchup, because while Syracuse enters this season with designs on a deep NCAA tournament run Georgetown hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2015.

TEN MORE TO MARK ON YOUR CALENDAR

Louisville vs. Tennessee, November 21 (in Brooklyn)
Nebraska at Clemson, November 26 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
Virginia at Maryland, November 28 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
Nevada at USC, December 1
UCF at Missouri, December 2
Xavier at Cincinnati, December 8
Arizona at Alabama, December 9
Oregon at Baylor, December 21
Saint Louis vs. Florida State, December 22 (in Sunrise, Florida)
Davidson at North Carolina, December 29

Iowa basketball coach admits to sexually exploiting 400 boys

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A prominent Iowa youth basketball coach faces potentially decades in prison after admitting to a yearslong pattern of sexually exploiting and abusing at least 400 boys, including former players, their friends and other young athletes.

Greg Stephen, 42, posed as girls on social media to trick the boys into making live videos masturbating. He secretly recorded them showering during trips to tournaments. In some cases he recorded himself fondling nude players as they slept.

The massive scope of Stephen’s abuse was revealed in a plea agreement filed Thursday after the former Iowa Barnstormers coach pleaded guilty to seven charges, including sexually exploiting minors and possessing and transporting child pornography, in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

Stephen’s arrest in March shocked the basketball community in Iowa, where he for years was a coach and co-director of the Adidas-sponsored traveling program for the state’s top youth players. The case has played out amid heightened awareness of sexual abuse in sports triggered by the arrest of disgraced gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who is serving decades in prison after hundreds of women and girls accused him of sexually assaulting them under the guise of medical treatment.

Stephen acknowledged that he had a hard drive containing folders named for 400 different boys, each containing explicit photos and videos that he had amassed over the years through his involvement in the program for children ages 9 to 17. Many former Barnstormers have gone on to play college basketball at Division 1 programs.

Some images were of boys undressing and showering, captured by recording devices that Stephen secretly placed in hotel bathrooms. Devices designed to look like a bath towel hook and a smoke detector were used at his home in Monticello, Iowa, and his lake cabin in nearby Delhi.

Stephen also took photos and videos of sleeping boys with their pants pulled down, including recordings of himself touching their genitals with his hands and, in at least one case, his mouth.

One such recording involved a boy who was 11 or 12 and had been given medication by Stephen that made him drowsy beforehand. Stephen would share beds with players during trips in which players competed in American Athletic Union tournaments or attended NBA games.

When they weren’t traveling together, Stephen often posed as teenage girls on Facebook and Snapchat and used those profiles to trick boys into giving him explicit images. He would offer to exchange nude videos and photos, telling the boys the types of images to produce. He used software to record live transmissions of the boys without their knowledge, and saved those images as well as their chats.

Prosecutors said the victims’ folders included at least one explicit video or photo of each, with some containing many different types. The plea agreement says that Stephen “committed sexual acts and sexual contact” on an unspecified number of boys.

The conduct occurred in 2018 and in “past seasons going back several years,” according to the plea agreement, which notes Stephen had been involved with the Barnstormers since 2008.

Stephen had initially offered an innocent explanation of the videos of boys showering, telling investigators they were intended to monitor their physical development and were not sexual in nature.

Stephen’s conduct was exposed after his former brother-in-law, Vaughn Ellison, discovered a recording device while remodeling Stephen’s home in February. Ellison gave the device to police after seeing that it contained several videos of boys showering in hotels in Lombard, Illinois, and Ankeny, Iowa. Investigators obtained warrants to search Stephen’s homes , where they found the hard drive and other devices.

Stephen’s attorneys have argued that the evidence should be suppressed because it was based on Ellison’s unlawful seizure of a device. A judge rejected that argument earlier this month . The plea agreement allows Stephen to appeal that decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

If his conviction stands on appeal, Stephen will face a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 180 at sentencing, which hasn’t been scheduled. He has been in custody since his arrest and will remain jailed pending sentencing.

The agreement notes that the potential sentence he faces will be lengthened due to the number and age of victims, the fact that he engaged in sexual acts and contact with multiple boys, and that he had supervisory control over them.

NCAA denies Oregon State forward’s request for immediate eligibility

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While Virginia received good news on Monday regarding its immediate eligibility appeal on behalf of Alabama transfer Braxton Key, Oregon State was not as fortunate.

Tuesday afternoon it was announced that the school’s appeal of the NCAA’s initial refusal to grant power forward Payton Dastrup immediate eligibility has also been denied. As a result Dastrup, who began his collegiate career at BYU, will have to sit out the 2018-19 season and Oregon State will be short a big as it looks to account for the early departure of Drew Eubanks.

Dastrup will have two seasons of eligibility at Oregon State, beginning with the 2019-20 campaign, and he will be able to practice with the team this season.

Senior Gligorije Rakocevic and junior Ben Koné are Oregon State’s most experienced interior players, with the former having averaged 2.7 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game in 2017-18. Koné was limited to just 16 games as a sophomore, as he underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee last October.

Junior Kylor Kelley and freshmen Warren Washington and Jack Wilson will also factor into the Beavers’ post rotation, with the 7-foot tall Kelley having averaged 9.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game at Lane (Oregon) CC last season.

Duquesne’s A.J. Palumbo Center getting $45 million makeover

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Duquesne is giving the A.J. Palumbo Center a major makeover after the upcoming basketball season.

The school announced Tuesday that the reimagined 30-year-old arena will be named UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse after former Duquesne basketball player Chuck Cooper. Cooper played for the Dukes from 1947-1950 before becoming the first African-American to be drafted by an NBA team. The Boston Celtics selected Cooper in the second round.

The renovation is expected to begin in March and cost an estimated $45 million. It is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2020-21 season. The school did not say where the Dukes would play in the meantime.

The Palumbo Center opened in 1988 and serves as the home for the Duquesne men’s and women’s basketball teams. While the updated arena will have wider concourses, a new video board and upgrades to premium seats, capacity is expected to stay around 4,400.

Former Cincinnati assistant charged with misdemeanor assault

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Former Cincinnati associate head coach Larry Davis, who abruptly announced his retirement after more than 30 years in college coaching, is now facing a federal misdemeanor assault charge in connection with an incident that occurred on an airplane in September 2017.

According to FOX 19 Cincinnati, Davis is alleged to have groped a female passenger during a flight from Milwaukee to Charlotte on September 12, 2017. The victim filed a report with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department that day. The charge is of the federal variety due to the fact that the alleged incident occurred on an airplane.

Davis served a 12-day, paid suspension as a result of the incident, with the punishment beginning on September 15, 2017, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn released a statement regarding the matter Tuesday, saying that the school had begun “the process for separation” shortly before Davis tendered his resignation last month.

“In Fall 2017, we learned of allegations against former employee Larry Davis regarding an off-campus incident which did not involve any member of the campus community. We immediately took proactive measures and suspended him from his duties while we took additional steps to ascertain more information. We could not substantiate the allegations at that time.

“We recently learned that the allegations may have additional support. Consistent with our guiding principles, we immediately commenced the process for separation.”

Davis, who had been a member of Mick Cronin’s coaching staff since 2006, was the head coach at Furman from 1997 to 2006. While Cronin was away from the team due to a health issue during the 2014-15 season, Davis served as interim head coach.

No. 4 Duke: Can Blue Devils avoid another disappointing season?

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Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Every day at Noon ET, we will be releasing an in-depth preview of one member of our Preseason Top 25.

Today we dive into No. 4 Duke.


Duke, once again, is going to enter a college basketball season with the best recruiting class in the sport.

The difference this year is that not only will the Blue Devils bring in the best crop of freshmen, they bring in the best freshmen — four of the top 15 prospects in 247 Sports’ composite rankings will suit up for Coach K this season, including three of the top five and the No. 1 and 2 players in the nation. There are some outlets that rank R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish as the three best recruits in the class, and there’s a chance that those three could end up being the top three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Let’s ignore the how for now.

(The FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball has told us that everyone breaks NCAA rules, but the best players in the country turn down hundreds of thousands of dollars and jobs for family members of the prestige of spending nine months on Duke’s campus?)

The issue here has been the product on the court.

Duke has been a disappointment relative to expectation more or less every year since Coach K made the decision to go all-in on one-and-done prospects. The obvious exception was in 2015, when the Blue Devils figured out how to defend in late February and wound up winning the national title. The same happened last season, but Duke was bounced in the Elite 8 when a Grayson Allen floater spent six seconds on the rim before falling off.

It hasn’t been a total disaster, but it is clear that Duke is nowhere near as consistently dominant now as they have been in the past. The Blue Devils haven’t won an ACC regular season title since 2010. They’ve won just one ACC tournament title since 2011. They’ve reached the second weekend of the tournament just three times in the last eight years.

The biggest issue has been on the defensive end of the floor. It got to the point last season where Duke had no choice but to play zone full-time.

I don’t think that will be the issue this year. Duke, on paper, looks like a team that should be able to guard.

But this team still has some warts that Coach K is going to have to work out.

MOREPreseason Top 25 | NBC Sports All-Americans | Preview Schedule

MOREMid-Major Power Rankings The Hot Seat | Perry Ellis All-Stars

DUKE WILL BE GOOD BECAUSE …

The amount of talent on this roster makes it nearly impossible for the Blue Devils to fail.

Let’s start with R.J. Barrett. The 6-foot-7 point forward is the overwhelming favorite at this point in the calendar to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and rightfully so. He needs to continue to develop his jumpshot, but he has everything that you’re looking for in an NBA player in the modern NBA. He’s athletic, he’s big enough to be defensively versatile, he’s skilled enough to operate in ball-screens, he can get a bucket, he has impressive court-vision. As far as I’m concerned, all you need to know about Barrett is that, as a 17-year old, he put up 38 points, 13 boards and six assists for Canada in an upset of the United States — who were coached by John Calipari — en route to a gold medal in the U19 World Cup.

I don’t think Barrett is quite as good of a prospect as some of the elite prospects in past seasons, but I do think that it is clear he is the best player in this class.

R.J. Barrett, Reagan Lunn/@DukeMBB

I said ‘player’ and not ‘prospect’ because there are some people that believe Reddish, and not Barrett, actually has a higher ceiling. At 6-foot-8, Reddish is more of a scorer at this point in his development, although he has played as a ball-handler at the high school and AAU level. He’s probably the best shooter out of Duke’s freshmen as well, and has the tools to be a really good defender.

I haven’t even gotten to Zion Williamson yet. The most famous player in college basketball in years, Williamson became a social media sensation thanks to his otherworldly athleticism. He is 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, yet he dunks from the free throw line like a normal human being claps backboard on a layup and he set Duke’s school record for vertical leap. He’s quick, he’s fast, he has impressive footwork and he’s skilled enough — he’ll be the most dangerous grab-and-go big in the history of college basketball — to be able to handle the ball. He’s even a better shooter and a (much) better passer than he gets credit for.

Throw in Tre Jones, the younger brother of Tyus and the first true point guard Duke has had since the elder Jones finished cutting down the net in Indianapolis in 2015, and we don’t need to discuss anyone else on the roster to justify ranking the Blue Devils in the top five.

RELATED: Expert Picks | CBT Podcast | Best non-conference games

BUT DUKE IS GOING TO STRUGGLE BECAUSE …

While I love all of the pieces in this freshmen class in a vacuum, I think there is reason to be concerned about how they all fit together.

Duke is going to try and play small this season. That’s not exactly breaking news here. Not only has Duke done this time and again in the past — Jabari Parker, Justise Winslow, Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum all played the for four the Blue Devils — but this group has three guys that can fill that role. In fact, this roster is the best-suited to playing that style. The ideal roster build for any team in this era of pace and space is having a point guard, a mobile five-man and three wings that can defend more than one position. That’s precisely what we see here.

It gets even more interesting when we start to think about the possibility of Zion Williamson playing the five a la Draymond Green.

The issue is the ability for the players on Duke to impact a game when they don’t have the ball in their hands.

What makes Golden State special in the NBA and what made Villanova so damn good in the college ranks last season is the same thing: The ability to shoot at every spot on the floor. Jalen Brunson was able to post-up and operate in ball-screens and beat a man one-on-one, but he was also a lethal catch-and-shoot guy. The same can be said for all of his teammates that played meaningful minutes, including center Omari Spellman, who scored 17 points and made four threes for the Atlanta Hawks this weekend.

Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett, Reagan Lunn/@DukeMBB

The same thing is true with Golden State. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala are the glue-guys on that team, but both of them cannot be left open from the three-point line. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are two of the best isolation players in the NBA, but if you leave them open you will pay. Klay Thompson is one of the best three-point shooters in the history of the game.

Duke?

They have four freshmen that are all super-talented but that need to ball in their hands to be effective. Neither Zion nor Barrett are good enough from beyond the arc to force a defender to close out long on them. Reddish can make threes, but he’s known more as a scorer than a shooter at this point in his development than anything else. Jones is fine, but he’s more of a driver and playmaker than he is a shooter.

Without guys to space the floor, without someone willing to accept a role, running offense that doesn’t devolve into players going one-on-one into a crowded lane is difficult.

THE X-FACTOR

For me, the key here is going to be Reddish.

He has something of a reputation from the high school and AAU ranks as a talented kid that played on teams that lost far more games than they should have lost. He’s also going to be the guy that will likely end up having to make the most sacrifices for the good of the team.

Think about it like this: Jones is going to be the natural point guard on this team, and Barrett is going to be the guy that handles secondary ball-handling duties. Zion will be a grab-and-go threat and could lead the country in fast break buckets. In the halfcourt, his role will be pretty clearly defined — he’s going to be the guy attacking the glass and the player that gets isolated against slower and/or smaller defenders.

Reddish is the odd man out.

For a player that has spent his entire life as a lead guard, how will he take to being asked to play on a wing as something of a 3-and-D specialist?

2018-19 OUTLOOK

Duke’s outlook this season is no different than their outlook for the past four or five years.

They have as much raw talent as anyone in the sport of college basketball. They will enter the season as a consensus top four team that some folks are going to rank No. 1 overall. They are going to be the odds-on favorite to win the ACC regular season title, a favorite to get to the Final Four and one of the few true national title contenders in college basketball.

And there enough question marks about the talent, the youth, how the pieces fit and whether or not the pieces truly fit and how well Coach K is going to handle dealing with this much roster turnover to keep us from going all in on the Blue Devils.

Anything short of the Final Four will be yet another disappointment from this group.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

No. 5 Villanova
No. 6 Nevada
No. 7 Tennessee
No. 8 Virginia
No. 9 North Carolina
No. 10 Auburn
No. 11 Kansas State
No. 12 Virginia Tech
No. 13 Michigan State
No. 14 Florida State
No. 15 TCU
No. 16 UCLA
No. 17 West Virginia
No. 18 Oregon
No. 19 Syracuse
No. 20 LSU
No. 21 Mississippi State
No. 22 Clemson
No. 23 Michigan
No. 24 N.C. State
No. 25 Marquette