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NBA Draft Notebook | Bagley and Ayton impress in debuts

Nov 10, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Marvin Bagley III (35) shakes hands with fans after a game against the Elon Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke won 97-68. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball season is underway! It has been a long offseason for the sport, but we can finally begin to look ahead with play having begun Friday, and it was a strong start to the season this weekend. This year, we are continuing the weekly draft notebook where we take a week-by-week look at top NBA Draft storylines performances, and up-and-coming talent among all NBA prospects.

This week, we had the top freshman making their debuts, as well as many top-flight high school NBA prospects committing to their school of choice. Here are my top takeaways from Week 1 of the college basketball season.

WEEKLY THOUGHTS

— Marvin Bagley III’s athletic ability and speed will make him a mismatch nightmare all season long. In Duke’s first two games, albeit against Elon and Utah Valley, the talented 6-foot-11 big man put up 24.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He’s incredibly fluid for that size, and even knocked down a 3 in his second game. The jumper will always be the key for Bagley, but everything else is there:

— Michael Porter Jr., my top prospect in our recent Big Board, tweaked his hip in pregame warmups and played just two minutes in Missouri’s debut, scoring two points and grabbing two rebounds. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious and he’ll be able to have a successful freshman season.

-Big man DeAndre Ayton has certainly lived up to the hype, putting up double-doubles in Arizona’s first two wins and averaging 19.0 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. He has the versatility, athleticism and shot blocking ability to be a two-way terror at the NBA level:

— This draft is very big-heavy at the top, and other talented freshman big men impressed in their debuts. Mohamed Bamba (15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, four blocks and two steals) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (13 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, four blocks and two steals) both showed their two-way upside and length in wins.

— It was announced earlier this week that Alabama’s Collin Sexton wasn’t yet cleared by the NCAA, but that recently changed, as he had his eligibility reinstated for the home opener against Lipscomb on Tuesday. He’s one of the most electric talents in all of college basketball and will be entertaining to watch for the Crimson Tide. Southern California combo guard DeAnthony Melton also sat out of the team’s season opener as a precaution, too.

— A few potential 2019 top picks announced their college decisions this week, with swingmen R.J. Barrett (Duke) and Keldon Johnson (Kentucky) opting to go to blue-blood programs. Barrett joins another elite wing in Cameron Reddish in the Blue Devils’ class and is the favorite to be the top overall pick in 2019. Johnson has lottery pick potential after one season at Kentucky.

WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK

— The annual Champions Classic is Tuesday night in Chicago and features must-see matchups between No. 1 Duke vs No. 2 Michigan State and No. 4 Kansas vs No. 5 Kentucky. The battle between Duke’s frontcourt and Michigan State’s will be watched intently as Bagley and Jackson go head-to-head as well as Carter and Nick Ward. How will the Blue Devils match up with Miles Bridges?

Kansas will be spearheaded by a talented and athletic backcourt of Devonte’ Graham and Lagerald Vick, with Udoka Azubuike manning the paint. It’ll be interesting to see how the top freshmen on Kentucky react on a big stage, but uber-athletic forward Kevin Knox will try to make a name for himself Tuesday night. P.J. Washington and Hamidou Diallo will also be names to watch for the Wildcats:

— The remainder of the week is mostly mid-majors facing off against high-major programs, but we do get an early-season treat Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. ET with No. 17 Xavier going to Wisconsin in a high-level matchup between two NCAA Tournament teams. Senior swingman Trevon Bluiett and junior combo guard J.P. Macura will be tested up front against big men Ethan Happ and Andy Van Vliet.

— Saturday night brings a few intriguing games to watch some high-end NBA talent with Texas and Bamba facing off against Lipscomb at 8 p.m. ET. Kevin Huerter, Justin Jackson and the Terrapins will be taking on Bucknell at 8:30 p.m. ET. To top it off, No. 18 Gonzaga, behind Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie, host Utah State at 10 p.m. ET.

— Sunday’s intriguing games come between Florida State and Colorado State (5 p.m. ET), which will be a good opportunity to watch freshman shooting guard Lonnie Walker. A loaded No. 10 USC takes on sharpshooting Vanderbilt and Riley LaChance at 8 p.m. ET.

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