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Thoughts on the AP Poll: Duke men's basketball opens at No. 7

<p>Duke men's basketball opens the 2022-23 season at No. 7 in the AP Poll.</p>

Duke men's basketball opens the 2022-23 season at No. 7 in the AP Poll.

It's that time of year again—basketball season. The first AP Poll of the 2022-23 season has dropped, and the Blue Zone is here to tell you our thoughts. Follow along here throughout the season each week Duke is featured in the Top 25:

New coach, same spot 

Duke will once again start the season with a top-10 ranking, coming in at No. 7. In head coach Jon Scheyer’s first season, the Blue Devils are a likely pick to finish second in the preseason ACC poll, expected just behind rival North Carolina. Duke will be aided by a stellar class of incoming recruits that rank as the best in college basketball. These star freshmen are headlined by center Dereck Lively II, who is a likely favorite for ACC Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately for Duke, Dariq Whitehead, another top-ranked freshman, fractured his foot Aug. 29 during a team workout. Scheyer stated at ACC Tipoff that Whitehead has reached “the next phase of his treatment," meaning once he returns, he will be a key cog in what figures to be a deep rotation led by junior captain Jeremy Roach. Though he will likely remain out early in the season, Duke will look to graduate transfer Jacob Grandison and freshman Tyrese Proctor to fill in the backcourt alongside Roach.  

The team down the road 

It's clear that the AP Poll places high regard on how teams finish in the previous year’s tournament, as runner-up North Carolina enters the season at No. 1. Coming off an unlikely run to the national championship game in coach Hubert Davis’ first season, hopes are high in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels return four starters from last year’s team, with Brady Manek being the sole player to move on. In the offseason, North Carolina found a capable forward to fill Manek’s stretch-four role in Northwestern transfer Pete Nance. Nance, who was one of the best available transfers this year, will add to an already potent offense consisting of guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis alongside likely ACC Player of the Year favorite, big man Armando Bacot. 

SEC is king 

The SEC has its fingerprints on the top 25 for another year. The conference produces one-fifth of the first poll, and we could certainly see more teams enter as the season progresses. As usual, Kentucky is the crown jewel of the conference, as the Wildcats come in at No. 4. Much like many top-five teams, Kentucky will rely on a key returner and a high-profile transfer. The Wildcats may have arguably the best duo in this regard, as they bring back last year’s Naismith Player of the Year winner Oscar Tshiebwe and bring in former Illinois State sharpshooter Antonio Reeves, who averaged 20.1 points per game last season. Arkansas also lands in the top 10, coming in at No. 10. Coming off an Elite Eight loss to Duke, the Razorbacks will rely on three high-profile recruits: Nick Smith Jr., Jordan Walsh and Anthony Black. The SEC is rounded out by Tennesee starting at No. 11, Auburn at No. 15 and Alabama landing at No. 20. 

Complete rankings:

1. North Carolina 

2. Gonzaga 

3. Houston 

4. Kentucky 

T5. Baylor 

T5. Kansas 

7. Duke 

8. UCLA 

9. Creighton 

10. Arkansas

11. Tennessee 

12. Texas 

13. Indiana 

14. TCU 

15. Auburn 

16. Villanova 

17. Arizona 

18. Virginia 

19. San Diego State 

20. Alabama 

21. Oregon 

22. Michigan 

23. Illinois 

24. Dayton 

25. Texas Tech

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