Duke basketball: The story that will rule college hoops next season

Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball plus two more bluebloods should dominate national headlines from November onward, all for the same reason.

Outside of Virginia’s championship run, there’s no denying that Duke basketball one-and-done Zion Williamson was the story of the 2018-19 season. Then last season, the main narrative shifted to mid-major successes — accounting for four of the final AP Poll’s top seven — at least until the COVID-19 news grew, ultimately nixing March Madness.

Next season, except for the countless looks at the aftereffects of a global pandemic on the entire sports landscape, the freshman tale is sure to regain supremacy. This time, though, the microscope won’t just zoom in on one new face or even one program’s hoard of heralded rookies.

Instead, while not to imply a sinister presence, the pervading 2020-21 theme will be the numeral six, times three. Translation: Kentucky, Duke, and North Carolina will welcome the nation’s top three classes, respectively, per the 247Sports 2020 Composite, with six scholarship recruits apiece.

ALSO READ: Player comparisons for every incoming Blue Devil

Each of these collections from arguably the top three NCAA hoops heavyweights contains three five-star prospects and three of the four-star variety. Each of the three youth-driven squads figures to start the year either just inside or on the cusp of the top 10.

In other words, count on ESPN infuriating fans of other schools with incessant split screens during broadcasts of practically all games just to show updated comparisons between the trio of star-studded classes. Bleacher Report went ahead and gassed up the publicity bus on Saturday:

Not only is the trio’s incoming talent immense and expansive, combining for roughly half of the top 25 college-bound players, but also several of these future Wildcats, Blue Devils, and Tar Heels added to the potential drama by rejecting strong pursuits from one or both of the other two parties.

Notably, Kentucky’s BJ Boston, a shooting guard who holds a No. 8 composite ranking, had Duke among his final four before his announcement last July. A few weeks earlier, Duke’s Jalen Johnson, a small forward who ranked No. 4 when he committed but has since fallen to No. 11, had Kentucky on his shortlist. And UNC’s Walker Kessler, a center who now sits at No. 16, looked like a Dukie-to-be until suddenly choosing the Heels during his September visit to Chapel Hill.

The others for Kentucky, including several who had once at least popped up on the radars of Duke and UNC, are shooting guard Terrence Clarke (No. 4), combo guard Devin Askew (No. 25), power forward Isaiah Jackson (No. 28), power forward Lance Ware (No. 34), and small forward Cam’Ron Fletcher (No. 46).

In addition to Johnson, the 2020-21 Duke basketball freshman group consists of point guard Jeremy Roach (No. 21), who had tagged both UK and UNC as finalists, along with combo guard DJ Steward (No. 24), center Mark Williams (No. 29), power forward Jaemyn Brakefied (No. 38), and power forward Henry Coleman (No. 44).

ALSO READ: The projected starting five for Duke next season

Meanwhile, the rest of UNC’s haul is made up of center Day’Ron Sharpe (No. 13), point guard Caleb Love (No. 18), small forward Puff Johnson (No. 48), combo guard RJ Davis (No. 54), and shooting guard Kerwin Walton (No. 118).

So go ahead and hype up all the above names now. Or as Duke basketball signee Henry Coleman advised via a hush-emoji response to the tweet from Bleacher Report, you could try keeping this rival-fueled storyline a secret. Either way, soon enough, the media won’t let us ignore it.

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