- By JOHN MARSHALL, AP Basketball Writer
By JOHN MARSHALL, AP Basketball Writer
North Carolina closed out the 2016-17 season by holding off upstart Gonzaga for its sixth national championship.
April seems so long ago now.
College basketball has undergone a major shift since the Tar Heels cut down the nets, most notably a federal probe into shady recruiting practices that ensnared several prominent programs.
The changes have come on the court, too, with teams losing key players, star freshmen filling their places, new coaches taking over prominent programs.
To get you ready for the season, which starts on Friday, here’s a rundown of the top teams, players and coaches for 2017-18:
Duke. No. 1 with another one-and-done in Marvin Bagley III joining Grayson Allen.
Michigan State. Could be Tom Izzo’s most talented team with Miles Bridges back. He’s gone deep into March with less.
Arizona. Allonzo Trier and freshman big man Deandre Ayton headline what could be Sean Miller’s best shot at making the Final Four.
Kansas. Rebuild is not in the vocabulary in Lawrence. More like reload.
Kentucky. Coach Cal has another batch of budding pros, even if they will be the youngest he’s had in Lexington.
Bridges, Michigan State. Was one of college basketball’s best last season. Should be better after skipping out on a shot at the NBA.
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame. Double-double machine will carry the Irish far.
Trier, Arizona. One of the nation’s best scorers and clutch players.
Jalen Brunson, Villanova. Scores, shoots, dishes, leads. Can’t ask for much more.
Joel Berry II, North Carolina. Last season’s Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four will miss the start of the season after punching a wall and breaking his hand, but watch out when he gets back.
KEY NONCONFERENCE GAMES
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 2 Michigan State, Nov. 14 in Chicago. A 1-2 matchup this early is a great way to get the season rolling.
No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 5 Kentucky, Nov. 14 in Chicago. Talk about a marquee doubleheader nightcap in the Windy City.
No. 1 Duke at Indiana, Nov. 29. Blueblood battle in Bloomington.
No. 14 Notre Dame at No. 2 Michigan State, Nov. 30. Bonzie Colson vs. Miles Bridges? We’ll take that every day.
No. 16 Louisville at No. 5 Kentucky, Dec. 29. Always epic.
Michael Porter Jr., Missouri. He’s 6-foot-10, scores, shoots, gets to the rim, has NBA scouts following his every move.
Bagley, Duke. Graduated early to start college. The Blue Devils are thankful he did.
Ayton, Arizona. He’s 7-1, 260 pounds and an NBA-ready game that should translate well in the desert.
Mohamed Bamba, Texas. Opposing shooters will need to be wary when the Longhorns’ big man is around the basket.
Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky. Enrolled last January in hopes of joining the Wildcats for the second half of the season. The extra practice time should help him have a huge impact on a team full of potential impact players.
Archie Miller, Indiana. Looks like the perfect fit to turn the Hoosiers around.
David Padgett, Louisville. Inherits turmoil with the firing of Rick Pitino, but has a talented roster to work with.
Cuonzo Martin, Missouri. Left Cal for Columbia. The addition of Porter will ease his transition.
Chris Holtman, Ohio State. Did well at Butler. Takes over the reins in Columbus after Thad Matta retired.
Brian Dutcher, San Diego State. Taking over for a legend is never easy, but Dutch was Steve Fisher’s right-hand man for years.
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