Duke

Duke begins the season as the nation’s No. 1 team; UNC ranked No. 9

Duke freshman Gary Trent, Jr. (2) moves the ball around the White team's defense during the Blue Devils Blue-White game at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham on October 20, 2017.
Duke freshman Gary Trent, Jr. (2) moves the ball around the White team's defense during the Blue Devils Blue-White game at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham on October 20, 2017. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Duke starts the regular season in the same place it did a year ago. The goal, though, is to finish the season where its fierce rival did last April.

The defending champion Tar Heels are ranked No. 9 in the preseason poll. They were No. 6 last season before winning it all.

A nationwide media panel voted Duke No.1 in the Associated Press preseason poll for the second consecutive year. After being No. 1 last season, the Blue Devils won the ACC championship but were knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the second round by South Carolina. The Blue Devils then watched rival North Carolina win the national championship, beating Gonzaga in the final game.

Beginning his 38th season at Duke, Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski is far more interested in how his team finishes than how it starts.

“It is an honor to be picked No. 1 in your sport,” Krzyzewski said in statement. “At this time of the year, it truly is a prediction, so you haven’t earned No. 1 yet. More than likely, past teams that have played at Duke have put this team in a position where people might say, ‘How is that team going to do?’ or ‘They have a lot of talent’ and all of the sudden, you’re No. 1. Certainly, it’s an honor and we’ll look forward to trying to achieve and earn that ranking at some time during the season, hopefully at the end.”

Duke’s ranking will be tested quickly. The Blue Devils face No. 2 Michigan State on Nov 14 in the Champions Classic doubleheader at Chicago’s United Center. No. 4 Kansas and No. 5 Kentucky will play the second game of a star-studded event.

This is the ninth time Duke is the preseason No. 1 team, matching UNC for the all-time record.

Duke and UNC are among five ACC teams in the top 25. That’s the most of any conference. Joining Duke and UNC are No. 13 Miami, No. 14 Notre Dame and No. 16 Louisville.

The Big 12 and Big Ten had four teams each while the Big East and Pac-12 each had three.

No. 3 Arizona joins Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky to comprise the top 5.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC

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