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Thoughts on the AP Poll: Duke men's basketball ranked No. 4 to start the season

<p>Cassius Stanley and Wendell Moore are part of a freshman class trying to push the Blue Devils over the edge to a Final Four this season.</p>

Cassius Stanley and Wendell Moore are part of a freshman class trying to push the Blue Devils over the edge to a Final Four this season.

With the start of the college basketball season just over two weeks away, the Associated Press released the first installment of its Top 25 rankings for the 2019-20 season Monday. The Blue Zone will be here every Monday at noon until March giving you the biggest takeaways from each poll, starting with the preseason rankings:

Blue Devils check in at No. 4

Though Duke may not have as much hype as last season, plenty of experts still believe the Blue Devils are in store for success this year, placing them at No. 4 in the preseason poll, first among ACC schools. Duke has not started the year ranked below fifth since the 2012-13 season. In 2018, the Blue Devils were slotted as preseason No. 4 until taking the top spot after their blowout season-opening win over Kentucky.

Top five showdowns at the Champions Classic

Just like every season since 2011, college basketball fans will turn their attention towards the annual Champions Classic when it opens the season on Nov. 5 in Madison Square Garden. Joining Duke in New York will be their opponent, Kansas, which clocks in at No. 3 in the poll, as well as No. 1 Michigan State and No. 2 Kentucky. The event has featured all four participants ranked in the Top 25 for every season except for the first, and this year marks the fourth time when each member of the blue-blood quartet is ranked in the top-10 for the game and the second when all four are ranked in the top-five.

Tough schedule ahead

Mike Krzyzewski once again scheduled a grueling non-conference slate, and with the ACC now moving to a 20-game conference season, this year will be quite the test for Duke. The Blue Devils face five teams ranked in the preseason poll with three of those opponents in conference. The squad will travel to East Lansing in December to take on the top ranked Spartans, and of course will face off against No. 5 Louisville, No. 9 North Carolina and No. 11 Virginia.

Complete Rankings

1. Michigan State

2. Kentucky

3. Kansas

4. Duke

5. Louisville

6. Florida

7. Maryland

8. Gonzaga

9. North Carolina

10. Villanova

11. Virginia

12. Seton Hall

13. Texas Tech

14. Memphis

15. Oregon

16. Baylor

17. Utah State

18. Ohio State

19. Xavier

20. Saint Mary's

21. Arizona

22. LSU

23. Purdue

24. Auburn

25. VCU