RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – ESPN released its preseason power rankings Tuesday for men’s college basketball and the top-team in this poll was the same as it’s been in every poll this off season —Duke.
The Blue Devils return three of their four leading scorers and added a freshman class that could be one of the most talented in school history.
The ESPN article calls them “the clear-cut preseason favorite.”
Just a few spots behind the Blue Devils are their rivals from Chapel Hill.
After a run to the NCAA Championship last season, the Tar Heels return three of their five starters, and are ranked sixth in this preseason poll.
After being shut-out of the AP and Coaches polls, N.C. State finds itself in the ‘middle-of-the-pack’ in today’s ESPN rankings.
The Wolfpack are ranked No. 15, and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas notes this team has Sweet 16 potential.
After winning only 16 games last season, N.C. State has added some big-time newcomers including Fayetteville-native Dennis Smith and 7-footer Omer Yurseven.
Both Smith and Yurtseven are freshman, and Smith is already receiving hype as a future top-pick in the NBA draft.
Yurtseven was suspended nine games by the NCAA for playing basketball overseas.
Injuries have played a role in each team’s off season and will continue to play a role early in the season.
Duke lost a pair of 5-star true freshman, Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles, to lower-body injuries.
Both are expected to make a full-recovery and rejoin the team this season.
North Carolina lost key-reserve Theo Pinson to a foot injury that could sideline him for the entire season.
And N.C. State has yet to see how Dennis Smith will respond after having undergoing ACL surgery nearly a year ago.
Exhibition play has already begun for many college teams, and the regular-season will tip-off a little later this month.
It is only a matter of time to see if the triangle schools can live-up to—or maybe even improve upon— these preseason expectations.
Duke’s first regular season game is against Marist at Cameron Indoor Stadium Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.
UNC starts on the road at Tulane Nov. 11 at 9 p.m.
N.C. State hosts Georgia Southern at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 to start their season.