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Duke: Frontcourt Prowess
Don’t get me wrong. The Blue Devils have a darn fine backcourt in Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr. and Grayson Allen. But this is a frontcourt the likes of which we’ve never seen at Duke.
Marvin Bagley III is already more dominant one week into his freshman season than Mason Plumlee was as a senior, and Wendell Carter Jr. is Duke’s best rim protector since probably Shelden Williams, right? And that was more than a decade ago. Factor in Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier off the bench, and this team should own the paint all season.
Kansas: Perimeter Shooting
For the longest time, the Jayhawks have been all about the big men. Just in the past decade, they have had Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey, Kevin Young, Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis and Landen Lucas.
This year, though, Kansas is going to shoot threes like never before. Lagerald Vick, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Devonte’ Graham combined for 21 of the team’s 28 three-point attempts in the opener. From 2012-13 to 2014-15, the Jayhawks did not once attempt more than 25 triples in a game. But with this roster construction, letting it fly gives them their best shot at sustained success.
Kentucky: Raw Talent
Though the Wildcats struggled with both Utah Valley and Vermont, there were stretches in each game where things turned into a track meet and there was no doubting which team was athletically superior. Hell, Hamidou Diallo threw down a windmill dunk on a breakaway with Kentucky trailing the Wolverines by five in the second half.
It’s going to take some time for everything to come together in terms of running sets in the half-court offense and knowing when to call out switches or fight over screens on the defensive end. But when the Wildcats get to speed things up and play with space in transition, there’s not a better team in the country.
Michigan State: Overall Depth
Nine players made multiple field goals in the Spartans opener against North Florida, and that wasn’t just a matter of no-name players getting a little bit of run in garbage time of a blowout. Michigan State is going to run 10 or 11 deep all season.
Matt McQuaid, Lourawls Nairn Jr., Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter all came off the bench against the Ospreys. Two seasons ago, all four of those guys averaged at least 12.5 minutes per game and combined to start 30 games. The Spartans also brought Xavier Tillman off the bench, a fringe top-100 freshman in this year’s class, according to 247Sports. There are starting fives that can beat Michigan State’s, but no bench in the country will beat this second unit.