Guard Grayson Allen returning solidifies Duke as preseason No. 1

 

Villanova is still celebrating its win against North Carolina in one of the best NCAA Tournament title games of all time, but we’re looking ahead to 2016-17 and there’s only one thing coming to mind: Duke will be loaded.

The Blue Devils are No. 1 on our early Top 25 (and one) for next season, officially returning four of the top five scorers from this year’s 25-win team now that Grayson Allen has announced his decision to return to Durham for his junior year.

“I talked with my parents and prayed about this decision, and I had the feeling that it was right,” Allen said. “I love Duke and I’ve made relationships with my teammates that will last forever. Coming back next season to play with them is important to me. Earning a Duke degree has always been a dream of mine, so I’ll also be working to get closer to that goal.”

Take that core, add in future NBA lottery picks Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles and you have a team that will undoubtedly be a frontrunner for the national title from the moment they set foot on the court. Kentucky is reloading with a class of superstar freshmen, but the Blue Devils have the young star power and an established go-to guy with the return of Allen, a first team All-ACC pick in 2016.

Mike Kryzyzewski, unsurprisingly, is “thrilled” with the news, and thinks there is still some “untapped potential” for the All-ACC guard.

“We are thrilled that Grayson will be back with us next season,” said Krzyzewski. “Following the season, he put a lot of thought into an important decision that will impact the rest of his life. In the end, he chose to remain at Duke, where he will pursue an undergraduate degree and develop even more as a man and basketball player. Grayson’s passion and commitment to our school and his teammates have been very apparent in our discussions with him.

“On the court, Grayson is a warrior, as I’ve said many times. He has untapped potential, both on and off the basketball court. I have loved coaching Grayson and I’m going to love coaching him next season.”

Allen averaged 21.6 points per game this season and ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in scoring (2nd), minutes played (3rd), 3-point percentage (41.7 percent, 4th), free throw percentage (83.7 percent, 5th), steals (1.31 per game, 8th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.76, 10th).

Grayson Allen gives Duke a loaded roster for 2017. (USATSI)

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