A two-part narrative is circulating after the late-summer commitment of Marvin Bagley to Duke: (1) The Blue Devils are the new consensus No. 1 team heading into the season; and (2) it's "Duke and everyone else" in terms of the 2018 national championship race.
Today's bracket update validates the first part of the narrative. Adding the possible top pick in next year's NBA draft certainly elevates the Blue Devils. Specifically, Duke jumps from No. 4 overall -- and the fourth No. 1 seed -- to No. 1 overall and the highest position among the 1-seeds.
This is not an insignificant distinction. Under rules instituted for the 2017 tournament, the Blue Devils would be able to choose their preferred NCAA path. With Charlotte hosting the first weekend, Duke fans already knew to corner that ticket market. And the Blue Devils could very well choose the East Regional (Boston) over the closer South option (Atlanta) because of the school's dominant Northeast corridor alumni base.
While there is nothing unusual about Duke being the top-ranked team in the preseason -- and even more commonly an NCAA tournament No. 1 seed -- this is where the new narrative takes a hit. We all know the long road from November to April and, as the chart below suggests, the instances of the consensus top team cutting down the nets is occasional at best.
The math is pretty stark: In the 33 years since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64-plus teams, only six times has the preseason No. 1 team won the national championship. Further, only once has the exacta of preseason No. 1 and No. 1 overall seed won the title.
There are actually more instances in which an unranked team or one ranked outside the top 10 has hoisted the trophy:
So, if you must, feel free to order those Duke championship hats. Me? I'm still taking the field.
The secondary headline from our latest bracket would have to be the inclusion (finally!) of the Missouri Tigers. The Tigers haven't made the NCAA field since 2013; they suffered the ignominy of losing to a No. 15 seed (Norfolk State) in 2012; and they haven't won a game in the tournament since 2010. It's not unfair to suggest Missouri basketball has been largely irrelevant since joining the SEC for the 2012-13 season.
All indications are that is about to change. And all it took was a new coach (Cuonzo Martin), a new assistant coach (Michael Porter Sr.), and pair of sons --Michael Porter Jr. and younger brother Jontay Porter -- who have decided to defy the calendar and spend at least a year together playing college basketball.
But an NCAA bid is no lock in Columbia. Our metrics slot the Tigers, who were 8-24 on merit last year, as a bubble team. Like Northwestern a year ago, Mizzou figures to be a season-long storyline.