Marvin Bagley Addition Makes Duke Clear 2017-18 National Title Favorite

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, August 15, 2017 2:16 PM UTC

Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 2:16 PM UTC

We don’t normally get big college basketball recruiting news that affects the coming season in August, but that’s what has happened with Duke landing mega-prospect Marvin Bagley. The NCAA basketball futures odds have shifted accordingly.

I think it’s fair to call Duke’s basketball program rather inconsistent this decade --at least by its high standards. Oh, the Blue Devils are always great in the regular season and an ACC contender, but their NCAA Tournament resume has been wildly up-and-down.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s club won the national championship game over Butler in 2010 but then lost in the regional semifinal, first round, regional final and first round the next four Big Dances. Duke won it all again in 2015 behind a freshman-laden team, but then lost the next season in the regional semifinal and was upset in the second round in the 2017 NCAA Tournament by South Carolina.

That 2016-17 loaded club lost a ton of talent in Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, Harry Giles (those three all first-round NBA draft picks), Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones and Frank Jackson. But Coach K got a break when talented-but-hated Grayson Allen decided to return to Durham after his uneven and controversial junior season. Allen will be a preseason NCAA basketball betting favorite for National Player of the Year again.

Duke is always going to be a national title contender as long as Coach K is around because he’s such a good recruiter. And Duke had another great freshman class lined up for this coming season that was battling Kentucky for the top spot. That group was led by ESPN’s No. 1 power forward Wendell Carter, the No. 1 point guard in Trevon Duval and the No. 1 shooting guard in Gary Trent Jr.

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Bagley In A Different Stratosphere

With all due respect to those guys, they pale in comparison to power 6-foot-11, 230-pound Marvin Bagley III of Sierra Canyon High in Los Angeles. On Aug. 14, Bagley, considered by most the best high school player in the world regardless of age, announced that he was not only committing to Duke but reclassifying into this year’s class. Yep, he’s a junior but will graduate early and enroll at Duke, which beat out UCLA and USC for his services.

As a junior, the southpaw Bagley averaged 24.6 points and 10.1 rebounds. He has spent this summer playing in the Drew League in Los Angeles against professionals (like Chris Paul and James Harden) and ex-pros. In the league's All-Star Game, he recorded a double-double by scoring 18 points and grabbing 20 rebounds. Drew League chief financial officer Mike McCaa said, "In 44 years, he's had the most impact of any high school player I've witnessed." Many are calling Bagley is the best prospect to come out of high school since Anthony Davis in 2011.

Bagley, the early favorite to go No. 1 in the 2018 NBA Draft, is the 3rd No. 1 recruit to sign with Duke since 2014, joining Jahlil Okafor (that worked out) and Giles (that didn’t). Duke is unretiring Danny Ferry’s No. 35 for Bagley to wear. The Bagley family has roots in Durham as Marvin's father, Marvin Bagley Jr., was born and raised there and played football at North Carolina A&T.

OK, Bagley hasn’t been cleared by the NCAA yet to play this season as of this writing, but that’s expected to happen. Once he officially graduates, the NCAA Eligibility Center will review Bagley’s final transcript to assess whether he has met all requirements to play at the Division I level. Oddsmakers clearly expect it as Duke jumped from +800 at 5Dimes to the clear +500 favorite to win it all. Michigan State is the second-favorite at +800.  

Duke opens the season Nov. 10 at home vs. Elon and plays Michigan State on Nov. 14 in the Champions Classic in what could be No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the polls.

If for some reason the NCAA denies Bagley’s eligibility for this season, he’s still going to enter the 2018 NBA Draft. And that draft is potentially stacked at the top with Bagley, Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. (the previous No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2017), Arizona's DeAndre Ayton, Texas' Mohamed Bamba and EuroLeague star Luka Doncic. So it’s a very good year to be tanking in the NBA.

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