John Clay

Copying Calipari, Duke bags Marvin Bagley and probable pre-season No. 1

College basketball fans might love or loathe Mike Krzyzewski, but they can all agree that the Duke coach is far from dumb.

Coach K hasn’t won more basketball games than any other Division I coach, including five national titles, by burying his head in the sand and failing to adapt to the changing times.

As Bob Dylan sang, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

So say hello to the newest Blue Devil, Marvin Bagley, the gifted 6-foot-11 power forward from the West Coast who Monday night (a) pledged his allegiance to Duke and (b) confirmed his intention to be eligible for the upcoming season, reclassifying from 2018, thus making the Dukies the probable preseason No. 1 and confirming that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Coach K saw what John Calipari did when he arrived at Kentucky, the way Coach Cal opened his arms to one-and-done recruits and made that his brand. If the NBA is your goal, Calipari pitched, then that’s our goal, too. We’ll push you, prod you, train you, promote you, on the court and off, all the way to the NBA Draft green room. Three years later, Calipari won his first national title.

Shortly thereafter, Krzyzewski became much more willing to build his program around absolute beginners. In 2014, he welcomed fab freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones, and by April 2015, the Blue Devils were cutting down the nets Monday night at the Final Four.

Here we go again. Kentucky has four of the top 21 freshman recruits heading into 2017-18, but Duke has four of the top 17, including three of the top 10. Bagley’s news prompted Rivals, ESPN, CBS Sports and NBC Sports to all move Duke to the top spot in their respective team recruiting rankings.

After all, Duke’s haul includes point guard Trevon Duval, ranked No. 4 overall in the Rivals’ rankings; center Wendell Carter at No. 5; shooting guard Gary Trent at No. 17; plus Alex O’Connell at No. 55 and Jordan Tucker at No. 68.

Now add Bagley, who could be the best freshman to hit college basketball since Anthony Davis. The left-hander is tall, athletic and an excellent shooter. As a stretch-four, Bagley chose Duke for good reason. The last four Blue Devils to play his position went in the top 10 of the NBA Draft — Jabari Parker at No. 2 in 2014, Justise Winslow at No. 10 in 2015, Brandon Ingram at No. 2 in 2016, and Jayson Tatum at No. 3 last June. All four were one-and-dones.

Bagley is not without baggage. He has attended three high schools, and the NCAA must approve Bagley’s reclassification application. Then again, he turned 18 last March. Duke’s classes don’t begin until Aug. 28. It’s hard to believe that Krzyzewski would have recruited Bagley, who visited Duke in July, if he didn’t think he will be eligible come October.

Not all trains are bound for glory, however. Last season, Duke boasted three freshmen (Tatum, Harry Giles and Frank Jackson) who went on to be among the NBA’s first 31 draft picks, yet the Blue Devils were bounced in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by a more experienced South Carolina squad.

There were extenuating circumstances last year. After a preseason knee injury, Giles was never much of a factor. Coach K himself underwent midseason back surgery. Star guard Grayson Allen suffered a down season. The Devils never clicked.

This season will present its challenges. Seven rookies will dot the Devils’ roster. Allen is the only returnee with much experience. A team-building August trip to the Dominican Republic was scrapped when Krzyzewski was forced to have knee-replacement surgery. And you never know just how the late addition of Bagley will fit into the mix.

Still, Coach K would rather take his chances with the best talent available. Surely, Coach Cal would agree.

CBS Sports college basketball preseason top 25

  • 1. Duke
  • 2. Arizona
  • 3. Kansas
  • 4. Michigan State
  • 5. Wichita State
  • 6. Louisville
  • 7. Kentucky
  • 8. Villanova
  • 9. Southern Cal
  • 10. Florida
  • 11. Miami
  • 12. North Carolina
  • 13. Notre Dame
  • 14. Minnesota
  • 15. Northwestern
  • 16. Cincinnati
  • 17. Gonzaga
  • 18. Baylor
  • 19. Alabama
  • 20. UCLA
  • 21. West Virginia
  • 22. St. Mary’s
  • 23. Xavier
  • 24. Purdue
  • 25. Rhode Island

Source: CBS Sports

Sporting News college basketball preseason top 25

  • 1. Arizona
  • 2. Michigan State
  • 3. Duke
  • 4. Kentucky
  • 5. Kansas
  • 6. Louisville
  • 7. Florida
  • 8. Villanova
  • 9. Wichita State
  • 10. Minnesota
  • 11. North Carolina
  • 12. UCLA
  • 13. Cincinnati
  • 14. West Virginia
  • 15. Southern Cal
  • 16. Notre Dame
  • 17. Butler
  • 18. Xavier
  • 19. Saint Mary’s
  • 20. Gonzaga
  • 21. Miami
  • 22. Virginia Tech
  • 23. Purdue
  • 24. Northwestern
  • 25. Seton Hall

Source: Sporting News

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