By Kyle Yager, Assistant Sports Editor —
College basketball tipped off on Friday as the much anticipated 2017-18 season finally gets underway. With considerable new freshmen talent, along with the development of established players, this season should leave nothing to be desired.
The number one rated Duke University Blue Devils will field a very youthful roster, as they look to replace seven of their regular nine contributors from last season. However, senior guard Grayson Allen, Jacksonville, Florida, perhaps their most important contributor, will be returning for his final season. Allen is a preseason favorite for the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year award. Duke’s youth may be an advantage, as they bring in three of the nation’s top ten prospects. This includes number one overall recruit Marvin Bagley III, Tempe, Arizona, who was a late commit who reclassified in August.
Prediction: National Champions
The Wildcats enter the season with the number two ranking as they look to build off their underperforming sweet sixteen finish a year ago. Arizona returns junior guard Allonzo Trier, Seattle, Washington, who is a Pac-12 Player of the Year contender. They also add top five recruit Deandre Ayton, Bahamas. A physical freak, Ayton will bolster a strong Wildcat frontcourt as they look to make their first Final Four under Head Coach Sean Miller.
Prediction: Sweet Sixteen
The Jayhawks find themselves in familiar territory as preseason top five and Big 12 favorites. Kansas will look to replace Naismith Player of the Year winner Frank Mason Jr., Petersburg, Virginia, and a total of three of top five scorers from a year ago. With multiple highly recruited transfer players that are now eligible, along with the return of senior standout guard Devonte Graham, Raleigh, North Carolina, the Jayhawks are positioned to start right where last season left off.
Prediction: Final Four
The Spartans main reason for such lofty expectations is the return of sophomore guard Miles Bridges, Flint, Michigan, after an outstanding freshman season. Freshman forward Jaren Jackson, La Porte, Indiana, headlines another talented group of newcomers for Head Coach Tom Izzo as they look to erase a second round exit in last season’s tournament. With a potent roster to play, the Spartans will settle for nothing less than another national championship.