The biggest question for each team in our Top 25 (and 1) college basketball rankings
Which version of Grayson Allen will show up for Duke and other questions for every ranked team
Duke was already immensely talented before adding a commitment fromon Monday night.
Mike Krzyzewski's squad is hands down the most talented young team in the country.
Now the Blue Devils will wait to find out from the NCAA ifas he wants to do.
When (or if) Bagley will be cleared is certainly a big question for Duke, but it's not the biggest.
The Blue Devils' ceiling will likely be most impacted by how much Grayson Allen has matured since last season.
Here's a question and answer for each team in the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one), which isfollowing Bagley's announcement.
Can Good Grayson stick around all season?
Grayson Allen's Duke career has been one of the biggest rollercoasters in recent college hoops memory. His freshman year, Allen was the surprise Final Four hero on a national title team. His sophomore year saw Allen become one of the best players in the country, and also one of the most hated as he was involved in two tripping incidents. Then the supposed redemption tour for his junior season became a non-stop soap opera, with Allen's struggles to contain his temper (and play consistent basketball) underscoring Duke's inability to live up to sky-high potential. Which Allen will we get his senior season swan song? Duke is immensely talented, and with some experience and the No. 1 recruiting class (according to the 247Sports Composite) to boot, but its ceiling largely will depend on Allen's ability to channel his emotions.
Will the new -- top recruit and possible top pick DeAndre Ayton -- mesh with the old?
The reason Arizona likely will be the preseason No. 1 team is because the Wildcats are melding experience (Allonzo Trier, Dusan Ristic, Rawle Alkins) with one of the nation's top recruits (Ayton, along with highly regarded recruits like athletic slasher Emmanuel Akot and hot-shooting guard Brandon Randolph). While it's not as difficult as, say, what John Calipari does at Kentucky -- where his team starts anew each season -- having a top-five draft pick like Ayton as a central piece as a freshman can cause problems. Luckily for Sean Miller, Ayton is the type of player who can make an impact without demanding the ball -- with defense, rebounding and shot-blocking.
Who will be the bell cow with Frank Mason gone?
After Mason's Naismith Award-winning senior year, it's worth wondering whether Devonte Graham or Malik Newman -- or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk or Lagerald Vick or Billy Preston -- will replace Mason as the go-to guy. My gut says it'll be Graham, but perhaps it won't matter. This team has the markings of a typical Bill Self team, with a combination of blue-chip talent and legit experience along with tons of depth. They still will need to identify the guy with the ball in the biggest moments. One more question: Can Nigerian big man Udoka Azubuike -- injured much of last season -- turn his raw NBA-level talent into something that can make a sustained impact at the collegiate level?
Can Miles Bridges turn in a player-of-the-year-caliber season?
One of the few surprises among NBA Draft declarations was the dynamic Bridges returning for a sophomore season. This -- plus the disastrous, injury-riddled season for Tom Izzo's team last season, when Izzo used his bench more than any college team, giving valuable experience to a young team -- positions the Spartans as the runaway Big Ten favorite and a national-title contender. This team's ceiling depends on whether Bridges makes a big sophomore jump, harnessing his incredible athletic ability into smarter basketball. If Bridges reaches that potential, Michigan State can (will?) be the best team in the country.
How will Landry Shamet recover from his broken foot?
It's a testament to what Gregg Marshall has built in his decade in Wichita that the Shockers can make a jump in conference affiliation -- from the Missouri Valley to the American -- and still be the preseason favorite ahead of perennial powers Cincinnati, Temple and UConn and emerging powers like SMU and Houston. But having your best player break his foot in July -- the second foot injury of his college career, and with an expected recovery time of three to four months -- does not bode well for such expectations. However, this team has talent and experience elsewhere: Seniors Shaq Morris, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly and Conner Frankamp and junior Markis McDuffie. This could be Marshall's second Final Four team in Wichita.
Will this program react to continuing NCAA troubles by coming together or crumbling?
All-consuming controversies like Louisville's stripper-party scandal can provide a rallying point or a stick of distracting dynamite to team chemistry. I remember watching Jim Boeheim's Syracuse team, in the midst of the Bernie Fine controversy of 2011-12, become one of that season's best stories. And we've all seen teams crumble around controversy. My gut tells me Rick Pitino will use this "distraction" to bring his team together even as the NCAA investigation continues on appeal. Reports out of Louisville are that Pitino is as focused on basketball as ever. Actually coaching the sport has been a welcome respite from the rest of it. Had Donovan Mitchell (taken No. 13 over in the NBA Draft by Utah) stayed, this team would have been ranked No. 1. Even without him, and the addition of five-star forward Brian Bowen -- Pitino's highest-ranked recruit in nearly a decade -- Louisville has the talent to win it all.
Can John Calipari's youngest team ever overcome lack of experience with the nation's top recruiting class?
This sounds like a broken record, but this season actually will be an even more extreme version of the same old tune in Lexington. The top returning player is sophomore Wenyen Gabriel, who was seventh in minutes played for Kentucky last season. After that? Sacha Killeya-Jones, who averaged seven minutes in only 14 games last season. Perhaps the early enrollment of Hamidou Diallo in the second semester last season will prove beneficial in giving this team some semblance of experience. Calipari could be in for a wild and unpredictable season with this young, talented group.
Will the last season's two missing men -- Omari Spellman and Phil Booth -- make up for the loss of three key seniors?
Jay Wright runs a true "program," where young men are groomed in his system and, by the time they are juniors and seniors, can serve as Wright's coaches on the floor. The success of upperclassmen like Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu is the main reason for Villanova's unprecedented past two seasons. But how will two players who missed all of or the bulk of last season -- Spellman, a highly-touted recruit who missed his freshman year for academic reasons, and Booth, who missed the bulk of the season because of a knee injury -- slide back in with experienced starters Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall? My guess: Just fine. Wright runs one of the nation's most finely tuned machines with players who fit the character of Villanova. This team will be the class of the Big East, and a potential Final Four team, with four players -- Brunson, Bridges, Spellman and Booth -- who could be the best player on the floor any given night. They won't miss a beat.
Can Chimezie Metu make that final leap from NBA-level athlete to NBA-level basketball player?
While USC has an absolutely loaded backcourt -- senior point guard and leader Jordan McLaughlin, NBA prospect De'Anthony Melton, Duke transfer Derryck Thornton, Louisville transfer Shaqquan Aaron, intelligent and underrated Jonah Mathews and freshmen Charles O'Bannon Jr. and Jordan Usher -- the biggest question on whether USC can become an elite West Coast team is Metu. Metu always has been an eye-popping athlete. During his sophomore season he refined his offensive game. If Metu turns into an energetic force down low his junior season, and into a player who projects as a mid-first-round pick, USC could be the surprise challenger to Arizona for Pac-12 supremacy.
Can a talented, experienced backcourt propel Florida to the top of the SEC?
This season is John Calipari's least experienced team at Kentucky (and that's saying something). Florida will be the opposite, especially in the backcourt with senior Chris Chiozza and junior KeVaughn Allenan, an athletic scorer who ought to lead this team in scoring. Egor Koulechov, a graduate transfer from Rice, will provide some much-needed competence from 3-point land. We'll see if Florida's experience can upend Kentucky's talent in a competitive SEC.
Will Lonnie Walker's knee injury linger like Harry Giles' did last season for Duke?
Walker, a potential one-and-done prospect, is a dynamic two guard who relies heavily on his athleticism to make buckets. In July he tore his meniscus. Coach Jim Larranaga says Walker will be fine for the opener (Nov. 10 vs. Gardner Webb). But knee injuries can get in players' heads. Obviously Giles' situation, with three knee surgeries in three years, was different. But for a team with Walker as the most exciting part of one of the best guard groups in the country -- senior JaQuan Newton and sophomore Bruce Brown, who could join Walker in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft -- that backcourt's health is key.
Can the defending national champions cope with the loss of four of their top five scorers, especially big man Tony Bradley?
Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks were seniors. Everyone expected junior Justin Jackson to go to the NBA. But the departure of Bradley, a freshman who could have become Carolina's most impactful big man as a sophomore, took Roy Williams by surprise. The Heels should be OK without him. The way Williams has recruited -- missing on the top one-and-done players but consistently getting some of the best three- or four-year players in the nation -- has provided Carolina some of the most consistent results in the country the past several years. But without Bradley this team ought not be considered title contenders.
Can Bonzie Colson do what recent players like Denzel Valentine, Buddy Hield, Frank Mason and Frank Kaminsky have done, build on a superb junior season to turn in a national player of the year-type of campaign?
It's entirely possible. Colson was one of the nation's best players last season, averaging 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds. His point guard, unselfish senior Matt Farrell, will be feeding him all season long. Notre Dame's fortunes will rise or fall on their backs.
Can Richard Pitino's team operate with a target on its back?
Last season, Pitino seemed headed toward the hot seat after a miserable eight-win season. Then came a remarkable turnaround: 24 wins and the five-seed in the NCAA Tournament. From that team Pitino is losing exactly one impact player in senior Akeem Springs. Sounds crazy, but in a season where Indiana and Ohio State figure to be in rebuilding mode, Minnesota has the Big Ten's second-best roster -- on paper -- next to Michigan State. This team is young and plays together. But can they play with something they've never had before -- expectations?
How will off-campus home games affect Northwestern's record?
Northwestern is coming off its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in the most thrilling season in school history. This season's renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena will displace Chris Collins' team to Allstate Arena near O'Hare Airport. The on-campus excitement that should come with a team that returns almost everyone, including stud point guard Bryant McIntosh, certainly will dissipate in the drab, off-campus surroundings. Here's to hoping Northwestern figures out a way to get students to make the trip frequently and make Allstate Arena a raucous place.
Will people nationally finally start noticing what Mick Cronin's done at Cincinnati?
Would you believe me if I told you that Cronin's teams have made seven straight NCAA Tournaments, the sixth-longest active streak in the nation? It's true. Cronin's sustained success feels like it always slips under the radar, but how he's built the Bearcats in his own image in the post-Huggins era has been nothing short of amazing. This program has not been ranked below 24th in defensive efficiency since 2011. People ought to start paying attention, because I expect Cincinnati to be hover around the top 15 in polls all season. I'm not sure if the Bearcats will win the American -- newcomer Wichita State is mighty talented -- but with the Bearcats returning all but two players from a team that got a six seed in last year's NCAA tourney -- including its top three scorers -- expect Cronin to finally get some of the attention he deserves.
Can Gonzaga's point guard play measure up to the rest of this talented group?
The Zags lose a lot from last season's national runner-up squad, but no loss is bigger than do-it-all junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (drafted by Utah in the second round of June's NBA Draft). Gonzaga's frontcourt is intimidating. Killian Tillie, Rui Hachimura and Johnathan Williams are dazzling up front and all may be taken in the 2018 draft. Had Williams-Goss stayed, I'd be putting this team in my preseason Final Four. How will they fare with Josh Perkins, a capable but not quite spectacular player?
Can Baylor improve its ball security?
Baylor turned the ball over a lot last season -- like, a lot. More than a fifth of Baylor's possessions ended in a turnover, which was worse than 307 other teams in the country. Only three high-major teams had higher turnover percentages. Five of Baylor's six Big 12 losses were by six points or fewer, and slightly better ball security could have won Baylor those games -- and perhaps even the Big 12 title. Senior point guard Manu Lecomte was an impressive presence last season after transferring from Miami, and he ought to keep improving.
Can two top-25 freshmen recruits transform a moribund offense?
Alabama's problem last season wasn't defense. Avery Johnson's team ranked 10th in the nation in defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, and nearly all of that rotation returns. Scoring the ball was a different story. Alabama ranked 153rd in the nation in offensive efficiency and was one of the nation's worst 3-point shooting teams. Johnson's recruiting class brings in two stud guards -- possible lottery pick Collin Sexton and raw-but-talented John Petty -- who will immediately change that. Sexton especially is the type of exciting, athletic player that most SEC teams will struggle to contain.
Will steady senior Thomas Welsh take his star turn?
Welsh has quietly been one of the most consistent big men in the country the past couple of seasons, which you probably didn't notice during the Lonzo Ball show. But listen to these numbers: He was one of the most efficient offensive players in the nation last year (eighth nationally in offensive rating on KenPom.com), ranked 40th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage and rarely made mistakes -- only four players in the country turned the ball over at a lower rate than Welsh. It can be easy to overlook Welsh because he lacks flash, but he's easily the most reliable player on UCLA's team. Can he turn reliability into a semblance of stardom this season? One West Coast assistant coach told me Welsh would be the one player nationally he'd most want to add to his team for those exact reason. But there's not a bigger discrepancy nationally between a player's big impact and small buzz.
Will Bob Huggins' senior backcourt become the Big 12's best?
It's possible that Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles will do just that, which would be remarkable considering Kansas' backcourt again is deep and loaded, adding McDonald's All-American transfer Malik Newman to its already formidable group. But Carter and Miles are college basketball's best pests, making Press Virginia one of the most difficult teams in the nation for which to prepare. If West Virginia can continue to improve on 3-point shooting -- last season the Mountaineers were decent from 3 after two seasons in which they were awful -- this could be a dark-horse Final Four team.
Will Gonzaga falter and give Saint Mary's an opening in the WCC?
Saint Mary's again will be really, really good. Last season, they were one of the most efficient (and, yes, plodding) teams in the nation, with an effective field goal percentage that ranked behind only UCLA's juggernaut. They return all but two rotation players. Underrated point guard Emmett Naar and Australian big man Jock Landale provide a backbone for a team that ought to challenge Gonzaga at the top of the conference. Gonzaga has won the conference every season since 2012. But Gonzaga's point guard questions could leave an opening for St. Mary's.
Will the bigs show toughness?
Chris Mack's best teams can really bang down low. This team will be a dynamite scoring team on the perimeter -- Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura are two senior guards who might be able to shoot their way onto an NBA roster, and Paul Scruggs is a highly regarded freshman combo guard -- but I worry about Xavier inside. A key impact player might be graduate transfer Kerem Kanter, a Turkish player who transferred from Wisconsin-Green Bay, and the younger brother of the Oklahoma City Thunder's Enes Kanter. He was one of the most sought-after graduate transfers in the offseason. Xavier also will need Tyrique Jones or Kaiser Gates to make bigger impacts on defense.
Can Carsen Edwards become the floor leader this team needs?
During Team USA's Under-19 tryouts for this summer's FIBA World Cup, no player impressed me as much as Edwards. He was confident and an absolute bulldog on the court. He reminded me a bit of Villanova's Jalen Brunson. Then, during the tournament, he was the biggest surprise, leading the team in assists and 3-point attempts while being one of six who averaged double-digit scoring -- while only starting one game. I've never been crazy about Purdue point guard P.J. Thompson. Wonder how much Matt Painter will put the ball in Edwards' hands this season and tell him to be the creator.
Will senior guard E.C. Matthews become the collegiate star this team needs him to be?
Losing Hassan Martin, last season's Atlantic 10 defensive player of the year, will hurt. But this team returns pretty much the rest of its rotation -- eight of its top 10 scorers are back from a team that nearly made the Sweet 16. Matthews is the type of player who, with a true breakout season, can vault himself into the NBA Draft. How will he cope with that sort of individual pressure while playing for a team that ought to be the favorites in the Atlantic 10?
Will experience plus chemistry equal dancing for the Friars?
Ed Cooley returns his top seven scorers from a young team that lost to USC in the First Four. One more season of experience together ought to make this team a top four (at worst) Big East program. Senior point guard Kyron Cartwright is one of the nation's more underrated players, but he ought to get more exposure if Providence becomes a fixture in the Top 25.
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