Duke's crop of young talent stands above all

A year ago, there was no overwhelming favorite, no powerhouse that tore through everyone. Duke was mediocre, at least by recent Duke standards. Ditto for Kentucky. Villanova wound up cutting down the nets without a surefire NBA player on its roster.

This season the blue bloods are back -- and loaded. Look for Duke, Kansas and Kentucky to soak up the wins -- and the majority of the headlines.

The day Josh Hart decided to return to school, Villanova became a legit contender to repeat. But no, not the favorite. That honor belongs to the Blue Devils,who are deep and ultra-talented this season after Mike Krzyzewski found a way to land arguably the top two players in the country in Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum. Oh yeah, Grayson Allen and Amile Jeffersonare also back.

The gap from Duke to the next tier isn't significant, especially with Giles' history of knee issues.

Kentucky brings in a similar level of young talent, but the Wildcats don't have a player of Allen's caliber returning. Instead, John Calipari has Isaiah Briscoe and Derek Willis, a couple of nice players. Kansas has an experienced backcourt and added maybe the toughest frosh in the nation in wing Josh Jackson.

Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Villanova. The prohibitive favorites entering the season. On paper. We'll see what happens on the court.

Here below are ESPN.com's preseason power rankings. This year, it was not a committee, but a committee of one. So don't blame everyone else if you disagree, just blame me.



No. 1: Duke Blue Devils
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