Luke DeCock

Luke DeCock’s AP Top 25 basketball poll ballot: Week 18

Coach K on Zion Williamson’s path back from a knee injury

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski addresses the rehab process for star freshman Zion Williamson, who is sidelined with a knee injury. Williamson will miss his second game at Virginia Tech on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.
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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski addresses the rehab process for star freshman Zion Williamson, who is sidelined with a knee injury. Williamson will miss his second game at Virginia Tech on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.

As we near the end of polling season, the tiers have more or less solidified. There’s the Gonzaga-Virginia-Duke trio at the top – and, when Zion Williamson is healthy, it’s Gonzaga-Duke and then Virginia, but he isn’t – and then the North Carolina-Michigan-Michigan State-Tennessee-Kentucky grouping in the 4-8 area, and then the Texas Tech-Purdue-Kansas bloc.

Polling and bracketology are two very distinct and separate species in the same phylum, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if that’s how the 1-2-3 seeds broke down as well. Your guess for the fourth No. 1 seed is as good as anyone’s, and I suspect that will be up for grabs until the committee nails down the 1 seeds, which in recent years has been the middle of championship week.

Gave some consideration to Central Florida as a new entry in the 20s but it’s still a tough case to make. However, the Knights play Cincinnati and at Temple this week, so two wins would absolutely bump their resume over the line.

THIS SEASON’S BALLOTS

Week 1 (Preseason) Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17

MY TOP 25

1. Gonzaga (Last week: 1)

2. Virginia (3)

3. Duke (2)

4. North Carolina (6)

5. Michigan (7)

6. Tennessee (8)

7. Michigan State (4)

8. Kentucky (5)

9. Texas Tech (9)

10. Purdue (11)

11. Kansas (13)

12. Buffalo (15)

13. Houston (10)

14. LSU (19)

15. Wofford (17)

16. Florida State (21)

17. Wisconsin (14)

18. Virginia Tech (22)

19. Nevada (16)

20. Cincinnati (25)

21. Auburn (NR)

22. Villanova (NR)

23. Maryland (20)

24. Kansas State (23)

25. Marquette (22)

OUT Iowa (18), Mississippi State (24)

Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered the Summer Olympics, the Final Four, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He joined The News & Observer in 2000 to cover the Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a columnist in 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has won multiple national and state awards for his columns and feature writing while twice being named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.
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