By Steve Silverman

It’s a long college basketball season that is just at the beginning stages, but it’s clear that the Duke Blue Devils are setting the early pace.

Duke is the No. 1 team in the nation according to the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the third straight week, while Arizona and Kansas follow at No. 2 and 3, respectively.

Michigan State is down to No. 4, as it has a loss to Duke on its record and star Myles Bridges suffered an ankle injury Sunday that head coach Tom Izzo described as a “day-to-day” situation.

The Villanova Wildcats are right behind the Spartans at No. 5 as a result of their 3-0 start, and head coach Jay Wrght may have another powerhouse on his hands.

Forward Mikal Bridges (no relation to Michigan State’s Myles) is becoming a big-time scorer for the Wildcats. He had back-to-back effort of 23 and 24 points last week.

“My teammates are finding me and being at the right spot on the court,” Bridges said. “I try to stay low and on the right side, so when I’m feeling good I try take that into the game. We look for each other out there and score points.”

Duke will have a busy week with four games, but it’s unlikely that Portland State, Indiana, South Dakota, or St. Francis (Pa.) will give them a viable challenge.

Indiana is usually a program that has the kind of historical presence to compete with Duke, but the Hoosiers are going through a rebuilding year with Archie Miller in his first year as head coach. He could make significant progress this year, but playing the No. 1 Blue Devils at this time of year could lead to an embarrassing result.

Porter sidelined for season following back injury

With the college basketball season in its infancy, the Missouri Tigers suffered a telling blow with the loss of much-hyped freshman Michael Porter Jr.

Porter suffered a back injury in his first college game, and it will require a microdiscectomy of the L3-L4 spinal discs. A recovery period of 3-4 months is likely, and the 6-10 Porter is not likely to return in March if he recovers by then.

Porter was expected to be a one-and-done freshman who was going to enter the NBA draft in the spring. That could still be the case, but that would clearly be something of a risk for Porter. NBA teams are going to have to make their decisions on him based on high-school game footage, a preseason game against Kansas and perhaps a few pre-draft camp practices.

It seems likely that a few teams will give Porter strong consideration, but the vast majority will shy away from paying him first-round money without a significant amount of college work.

He may have to decide to return to Missouri next year to show all teams that he will be a force at the next level. However, such a decision may be an unlikely one for Porter.

Porter missed a tournament last year with a back problem in April, so the latest injury may raise even more issues than a normal injury would.

Porter was the second-ranked recruit behind Marvin Bagley III of Duke.

Bowen won’t play at Duke

The shoe has dropped for freshman Brian Bowen at Louisville.

The recruit was told that he won’t be able to play or practice at Louisville, although his scholarship remains intact.

Bowen was suspended in September as a result of an FBI investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball recruiting. Federal evidence reportedly shows that Adidas sent $100,000 to a player later identified as Bowen so he would attend Louisville.

Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino, who has denied having any knowledge of any payments to his recruits, was fired after the investigation came to light.

Bowen is a 6-7 small forward from Saginaw, Michigan who was the 14th-ranked player coming out of high school.

Bowen is hoping to play college basketball instead of being forced to go overseas. Jason Setchen, Bowen’s attorney, defended his client.

“Brian’s done nothing wrong,” Setchen said. “We’ve gone above and beyond in an effort to provide the university and the NCAA with unfettered access to evidence in support of our position — which is that he had no knowledge or involvement in any purported scheme.

PK80 Tournament should be treat for hoop fans

Nike founder Phil Knight has long been a supporter of college basketball, and his PK80 tournament in Portland, Oregon this week brings 16 teams to the Rose City to compete in two brackets.

Top teams like North Carolina, Oklahoma, Michigan State and Oregon will compete in one bracket, while Duke, Butler, Texas, Gonzaga and Florida are among the teams competing in the other bracket.

Mo Bamba of Texas is one of the top freshman players in the tournament. The 6-11 five-star recruit has been a shot-blocking machine in the first two games of his college career.

While Thanksgiving Day is usually devoted to football – there are three NFL games, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET – college basketball fans will have their own smorgasbord.

The initial game is Portland-North Carolina, and that starts at 2:30 p.m. The final game of the day is an Ohio State-Gonzaga matchup at midnight.

So, if you have had your fill of the NFL – or just need a break from it – the PK80 will scratch your college basketball itch in between the turkey, yams, spinach-filled-tomatoes, dressing and apple pie.

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