One preseason ranking has Duke basketball in perfect spot

Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

Will Duke basketball see its worst preseason ranking in more than a decade?

Jeff Goodman of Stadium released his Updated Preseason Top 50 on Thursday and placed the Duke basketball program exactly where it left off in the AP Poll: No. 11 (Goodman has Baylor at No. 1, and the only ACC schools other than Duke in his top 25 are Virginia at No. 7, North Carolina at No. 17, and Louisville at No. 23).

If that spot reflects where the Blue Devils ultimately wind up on the Preseason AP Top 25, then it would mark the lowest start of any Duke team since 2007-08. It’s also worth noting that every Mike Krzyzewski squad since 1997-98 has reached the top five — all but four began inside the top 10 — and the Blue Devils haven’t tipped off a season outside the top five since 2012-13.

That said, No. 11 does seem about right for Krzyzewski’s 41st campaign in Durham. It’s a fair ranking for a group that possesses little in terms of demonstrated NCAA-level excellence.

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Look, only four regular contributors return from the 2019-20 bunch, who finished 25-6 overall and 15-5 in ACC play. Consider that none of those four averaged double-digit points; rather, Matthew Hurt, Wendell Moore, Joey Baker, and Jordan Goldwire were basically B-list Blue Devils behind NBA-bound underclassmen Tre Jones, Cassius Stanley, and Vernon Carey Jr.

Relatively so-so Duke basketball squads often contain few returning weapons

Wait, another historical fact points to the significance of having guys who have already put up 10 or more points per game for a season. Keep in mind, four of the five Duke basketball teams this century that didn’t return any such double-digit scorers (2006-07, 2011-12, 2015-16, 2018-19, and 2019-20) either finished outside the top 10 or lost to a No. 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Granted, the one exception is the 2018-19 squad, which ranked No. 1 in the final AP Poll and reached the Elite Eight. Of course, those Blue Devils featured the top three prospects on the 2018 ESPN 100 in RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish.

Put simply, there’s no Zion in town this go-round.

Though this latest collection of freshman Blue Devils does consist of six top 60 recruits and is talented enough to come in at No. 3 on the 247Sports 2020 Class Rankings, it doesn’t showcase any individual inside any major recruiting site’s top 10.

So starting with the first game (tentatively set to be against Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Orlando on Nov. 25), the returning Blue Devils plus rookies Jalen Johnson, Jeremy Roach, DJ Steward, Mark Williams, Jaemyn Brakefield, and Henry Coleman — add to that grad transfer Patrick Tape — will have some work to do in convincing critics that they are top title contenders.

Nothing wrong with that.

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