Now that Marvin Bagley III is headed to Duke, the discussion is over. Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils are the clear-cut favorites (again) to cut down the nets come April 2 in San Antonio.
We've hemmed and hawed about it all spring and summer. Who should be preseason No. 1?
None of that matters now. Bagley's decision on Monday night to commit to Duke and reclassify to 2017 means the race is over.
Bagley isn't just another five-star or top-10 prospect committing to Duke. He's the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2017 class, he was No. 1 in 2018, and he is the heavy favorite to be the No. 1 pick in next June's NBA Draft. Oh, and he would have been the No. 1 pick had he been eligible for this past June's NBA Draft.
In fact, one can make a legitimate case that Bagley is the best prospect to come out of high school since Anthony Davis in 2011. Coincidentally, Bagley's going to Duke and reclassifying to 2017 marks only the second time since 2007 that No. 1 prospects have gone to the same school in consecutive years, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Harry Giles was the No. 1 prospect a year ago. He spent one season at Duke before heading to the NBA. The last time prospects went back-to-back? Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel (who also reclassified) in 2011 and 2012.
Bagley would have been enough to put USC in the conversation for preseason No. 1. The same USC team that made the NCAA tournament only via a First Four berth would've been perhaps the most talented team in the country with Bagley in the fold. He would have been enough to push a UCLA team that lost four starters into the top-10 conversation.
Duke was already in better shape than either of those teams, and now the Blue Devils are a notch above Arizona, Michigan State, Kansas and any other candidate for the top spot.
Yes, this is the same thing nearly everyone said before last season. In our defense, it was impossible to foresee Krzyzewski's needing back surgery in the middle of the season or Grayson Allen's being the biggest story in college basketball for tripping opponents or a late-January locker room ban or Giles' contributing next-to-nothing for essentially the entire season due to injury or Jayson Tatum's and Marques Bolden's?starting the season injured and taking time to get acclimated.
By the time the NCAA tournament rolled around, though, Duke was one of the favorites to cut down the nets, as the Blue Devils came off an ACC Tournament title and wins in 12 of their last 15 games.
Could that all happen again? Of course. But it's the preseason, and preseason rankings should come down to talent.
As far as talent goes, it's Duke, then everyone else.
It starts with Bagley. He's a supremely skilled 6-foot-11 prospect who can play any position in the frontcourt and handle the ball or make shots from the perimeter. The lefty averaged 25.5 points, 14.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks on the Nike EYBL circuit this past spring and summer with the Phoenix Phamily AAU program. In a 20-game season, Bagley hit the 30-point mark on four occasions and the 20-rebound mark three times. He has a terrific motor but makes it look effortless at the same time.
But there's a lot more. Duke is only the second team since 2007 with four top-10 freshmen entering the program.
Trevon Duval is the best point guard entering college basketball and a legitimate game-changer at the point of attack. The past couple years, Krzyzewski has had to use guys such as Allen and Frank Jackson at point guard -- talented offensive players but not true point guards or consistent distributors. Duval is different and will do a better job of keeping the surrounding talent happy.
Wendell Carter was the best power forward in the 2017 class before Bagley reclassified, and he gives Duke a go-to guy in the post to balance the offense. Giles' health didn't allow him to do that last year, and Amile Jefferson was never been a dominant offensive player. Carter is a double-double waiting to happen.
Duke is also welcoming the No. 1 freshman shooting guard in Gary Trent Jr., one of the best scorers in high school basketball the past couple seasons. He can take -- and make -- contested jumpers, and he should find plenty of space on the perimeter with Duval and Allen attacking off the bounce.
There's also the return of Allen, who was the odds-on favorite for the Wooden Award at this time a year ago. He won't have that target on his back with the other stars in the lineup, and he won't have the pressure of being the primary playmaker in the backcourt. He's only one season removed from averaging 21.6 points and shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range.
Former five-star Bolden provides potential off the bench,? Jordan Tucker was one of the best 3-point shooters in the 2017 class, and Javin DeLaurier and Alex O'Connell can play minutes as well.
Without Bagley, there was enough on the roster for a top-five ranking in the preseason.
With Bagley, it's not even close.
The best player in college basketball will be playing for the best team in college basketball.