Duke Basketball Is No. 1, And Nobody Else Is Close: God Help Us All

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See that picture? Savor that picture.

Up there, Julio Jones is shrugging off a hapless Blue Devil defender, and the universe makes sense. Duke, a school known for its entitlement, gets a new dose of reality each autumn. Football season treats the Blue Devils exactly the way the whole world should treat their fans. With derision initially, then the casual dominance you'd expect from a 62-13 game, and ultimately, indifference. It's sublime.

But then winter comes... And most years, that means Duke basketball's really good. This year, though, it's even worse, because Duke's even better. With Kyle Singler returning, Nolan Smith entering his senior year, Kyrie Irving poised to take the country storm, and the Plumlee brothers back to unleash their awkward athleticism on the interior, Duke is uncommonly loaded. NBA scouts have been describing them as "scary" and "complete" and "even better" than last year's national champs.

So the 2010 preseason AP poll only confirms of Duke what most of us already knew: They're the best and it's not close. 55 of 65 first place votes may not even do it justice.

But what else can we glean?

Michigan State is back again. Korie Lucious, Kalin Lucas, Draymond Green, and Delvon Roe give them a core that's been to two straight Final Fours. If anyone can match wits with the Devils, it'll be these guys.

Ohio State, too. Jared Sullinger might be the best freshman big man in the country, and joins a nucleus that helped Ohio State win a Big Ten title last year. David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler... These are names you knew as "the guys around Evan Turner." This year, though, they might be the foundation for a legitimate top-5 team.

Is Kansas too high or too low? It all depends on whether you think Josh Selby will be eligible this season. He's probably the best freshman point guard in the country, but... You never know with the NCAA.

And lurking... Kentucky is ranked 11th here, but how long do you think it'll be before all that talent puts them back in the top 5? A month? Two? Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, and Stacey Poole are good enough to get 'em there regardless, but if Enes Kanter's elgibility comes through, it's over. Question their ability to win in March if you want, but we may as well concede a top 5 ranking to Kentucky as long as Calipari's in Lexington.

But yes, if all goes according to plan, 2010-11 will be (another) triumph for Duke. They're just too good. So much better than anyone else. They've got veterans, they've got youth, and they've got the coaching to make it all fit together. Really, coming off an ACC championship and a national title, Duke's better than ever. I'm not saying they'll go undefeated, but it's not out of the question. They're that good. So, don't be surprised if this scene repeats itself.

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...Then again, there's still plenty of time to jinx it.

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