College Basketball Rankings: Duke and Arizona Vie for Top Spot at Start of 2017-18 Season

The college basketball season begins Friday, November 10, amid fallout from an ongoing FBI investigation into alleged bribery among coaching staffs at several of the nation’s top schools.

But the hype, expectations and excitement—all the stuff those schools would probably be really happy to focus on—is already with us, courtesy of the preseason rankings.

How do the nation’s best basketball analysts see Duke’s chances of fulfilling the lofty achievements expected of it? Will the recruiting scandal affect highly-rated Arizona? Read below to find out.

The Associated Press

AP has Duke ranked first in the country, followed by Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas. The Wildcats round out the top five. NCAA.com has a word of warning, though: While it’s hard to argue against Duke’s No. 1 ranking, Duke was ranked first going into the 2016-17 season, too, and lost in the second round to South Carolina. The Gamecocks, who lost in the Final Four to Gonzaga on April 1, are unranked. In a national media poll published Wednesday, Duke, which will start the season with the top-ranked recruit in the nation, Marvin Bagley III, received 33 of 65 first-place votes, according to ESPN. North Carolina, the defending national champion, will begin the season ranked ninth.

ESPN

John Gasaway’s exhaustive and labyrinthine effort makes the AP Top 25 look like a comic strip next to War and Peace. In a piece for ESPN Insider published Friday, and via some methodology you can read about here, Gasaway comes out with Arizona, followed by Wichita State, followed by Duke. Michigan State and Villanova round out his top five. Gasaway’s 351st-and-last ranked team in the nation? Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils. This is some piece of work.

Sports Illustrated

SI has also produced an impeccably comprehensive list of all 351 teams in college ball this season. Claiming its rankings have been “more accurate than similar 1–351 rankings produced by ESPN, CBS Sports and noted analyst Ken Pomeroy for three consecutive years,” and using a combination of “college and AAU statistics, recruiting rankings and coaching data,” SI places Arizona first in the country, followed by Michigan State, Duke and Wichita State. SI’s reasoning for Duke only being third-ranked? “Even if Bagley is as gifted as scouting reports imply, this is still a young team, and SI’s model isn’t looking past head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s less-than-stellar track record coaching defense in recent seasons,” the publication opines.

Ken Pomeroy

The noted basketball analyst lists his ranking for 2017-18 on his website here. As usual, Pomeroy has crunched a volume of data that would make mere mortals feel a little queasy. At the end of it all, he lists Villanova as his top team in the nation. Arizona is third, Duke a relatively lowly sixth. Gonzaga, fresh off a loss in the national championship game, is down in 20th.

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