By Jacob Polacheck
With the 2017-18 NCAA Basketball Season just a couple months away, IndiHoops has released their Preseason Top-Five:
1. Duke Blue Devils
Key Additions- Marvin Bagley III, Trevon Duval, Wendell Carter, Gary Trent Jr., Jordan Tucker
Key Returners- Grayson Allen, Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier
Key Departures- Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Frank Jackson
After falling to South Carolina in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, the Duke Blue Devils have reloaded and are widely expected to be the best team in college basketball this season. Not only do the Blue Devils bring back the 2016-17 Pre-Season player of the year in Grayson Allen but the late addition of Marvin Bagley III gives them the possible No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
For the second consecutive year, Duke will bring in the top recruiting class in the nation, highlighted by Bagley, and supported by 2017 McDonald's All-Americans Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr., and Wendell Carter. Add sophomore Marques Bolden and incoming freshmen Alex O'Connell, Jordan Tucker, and Jordan Goldwire, and you have perhaps the most talented roster in the country.
2. Kansas Jayhawks
Key Additions- Malik Newman, Billy Preston, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe (eligible after fall semester)
Key Departures- Josh Jackson, Frank Mason III, Landen Lucas
Key Returners- Devonté Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Udoka Azubuike, Lagerald Vick
It's not often that you can lose the National Player of the Year and the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft, and come back better the next year but the Jayhawks have a chance to do that this season. The return of Devonté Graham may have caught many by surprise but he will join forces with Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman to form perhaps the best backcourt in college basketball.
A healthy Udoka Azubuike and the addition of McDonald's All-American Billy Preston makes this team very dangerous next season. They also bring back Ukranian guard Sviatoslav Mykhailuk, who decided to return to Kansas for his senior season after testing NBA Draft waters.
3. Michigan State Spartans
Key Additions- Jaren Jackson Jr., Xavier Tillman
Key Returners- Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, Josh Langford,
Key Departures- Alvin Ellis III, Eron Harris
Miles Bridges' decision to return to Michigan State has elevated the Spartans from a potential top-ten team to consensus top-five team and possible national champions. Despite the losses of seniors Alvin Ellis III and Eron Harris, the Spartans bring back practically the same team as 2016 but with a couple new additions.
The gem of Michigan State's 2017 recruiting class has to be McDonald's All-American Jaren Jackson Jr.. Jackson, who won a national championship with his high school La Lumiere last season, is expected to be a dominant force in the paint for the Spartans this season. Add four-star recruit Xavier Tillman, and the Spartans should be better than ever next season.
4. Arizona Wildcats
Key Additions- Deandre Ayton, Emmanuel Akot, Ira Lee, Alex Barcello
Key Returners- Rawle Alkins, Allonzo Trier, Parker Jackson-Cartwright
Key Departures- Lauri Markannen, Kadeem Allen, Kobi Simmons
Getting Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins to return for this season was huge for the Wildcats but perhaps the most important piece on this team is freshman Deandre Ayton. Ayton, a 2017 McDonald's All-American, originally from the Bahamas, is widely considered to be a top-3 prospect in the 2017 recruiting class and potential top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Although the Wildcats lose Finnish center Lauri Markannen, Ayton should fill his role with ease and with an incredible five-man recruiting class, Sean Miller's team should once again be national title contenders.
5. Kentucky Wildcats
Key Additions- Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox, Quade Green, Nick Richards, PJ Washington
Key Returners- Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones
Key Departures- De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo
What else can be said about John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats that hasn't already been said? After losing eight players to the NBA Draft or graduation, the Wildcats have reloaded with an EIGHT man recruiting class, led by high-flying guard Hamidou Diallo.
Five players in UK's 2017 recruiting class participated in the 2017 McDonald's All-American Game, while those same five players also competed in the 2017 Jordan Brand Classic. In Coach John Calipari's ninth season with Kentucky, expect another exciting team.