The push to March is officially underway after the first USA Today Coaches Poll for the 2017-18 college basketball season was released Thursday.
The Duke Blue Devils check in as preseason kings with the No. 1 spot, and they are followed closely behind by the Michigan State Spartans and Kansas Jayhawks in the Nos. 2 and 3 positions, respectively. Here is a look at the full poll, per USA Today.
1. Duke Blue Devils (774 points)
2. Michigan State Spartans (747 points)
3. Kansas Jayhawks (723 points)
4. Kentucky Wildcats (678 points)
5. Arizona Wildcats (654 points)
6. Villanova Wildcats (623 points)
7. Florida Gators (549 points)
8. Wichita State Shockers (543 points)
9. North Carolina Tar Heels (515 points)
10. West Virginia Mountaineers (458 points)
11. USC Trojans (396 points)
12. Miami Hurricanes (383 points)
13. Cincinnati Bearcats (349 points)
14. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (305 points)
15. Minnesota Golden Gophers (303 points)
16. Louisville Cardinals (295 points)
17. Xavier Musketeers (284 points)
18. UCLA Bruins (275 points)
19. Gonzaga Bulldogs (242 points)
20. Northwestern Wildcats (208 points)
21. Purdue Boilermakers (167 points)
22. Saint Mary's Gaels (152 points)
23. Seton Hall Pirates (139 points)
24. Baylor Bears (107 points)
25. Alabama Crimson Tide (82 points)
Lindsay Schnell of USA Today later reported that Idaho State's Bill Evans chose not to include schools implicated in an FBI investigation in his ballot. Schnell noted that meant Evans did not vote for Arizona, Louisville, Miami, USC, Oklahoma State or Auburn.
As is typically the case when the preseason rankings are released, a number of national powerhouses appear destined for impressive seasons with Final Four dreams.
There is notable conference representation near the top of the rankings with the ACC's Duke, the Big Ten's Michigan State, the SEC's Kentucky, the Big 12's Kansas, the Big East's Villanova and the Pac-12's Arizona among the early national title contenders.
It is no fluke the Blue Devils are ranked so highly despite the losses of Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, Frank Jackson and Harry Giles. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski's recruiting prowess has them positioned to challenge for their 17th Final Four.
Duke landed 247Sports' No. 1 class for 2017 with plenty of positional versatility. According to 247Sports, Marvin Bagley III is a 5-star power forward, Trevon Duval is a 5-star point guard, Wendell Carter is a 5-star power forward and Gary Trent Jr. is a 5-star shooting guard, and that's not even accounting for the experienced former All-American Grayson Allen on the wing.
As for Duke's rival, the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels, they will also have to make up for lost talent seeing how Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Nate Britt and Isaiah Hicks are no longer on the roster. Their departures put plenty of pressure on returnees Joel Berry, Theo Pinson and Luke Maye as they attempt to live up to the No. 9 ranking.
The drama in the ACC featuring ranked teams goes beyond the Tobacco Road rivalry, as the No. 16 Louisville Cardinals enter their first season since firing head coach Rick Pitino following the FBI's investigation into college basketball corruption.
The Cardinals' place in the rankings suggests they will once again be a contender to advance deep in March, but they will be under the spotlight throughout the season for different reasons than many of the other Top 25 teams as they all pursue a national championship.
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