Grayson Allen's return makes Duke a near lock for preseason No. 1

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Teammates congratulate Duke's Grayson Allen (3) during the first half of a second round game against Yale in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Providence, R.I., Saturday, March 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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Already a strong candidate to be next year's preseason No. 1 even if Grayson Allen entered the NBA draft, Duke became a near lock on Wednesday when its leading scorer decided to pass.

The high-scoring guard announced he will return for his junior season and remain part of a Blue Devils team that now returns six of its top eight players and welcomes a decorated recruiting class.

"I've made a lot of friendships with the guys here and relationships with my teammates that I'll have forever," Allen said in a video released Wednesday by Duke. "Coming back for another season to play with them is important for me. Also, I'll be continuing to work academically toward my degree and I feel like next year's team has a chance to be special with the guys we do have coming back, the experience we have and also the outstanding freshman class we have coming in."

Allen's decision comes on the heels of a season in which he unequivocally proved that his title game heroics the previous spring were no fluke. He averaged 21.6 points per game, shot 41.7 percent from behind the arc and helped lead a shorthanded Duke team to the Sweet 16.

Questions about Allen's ability to defend and make plays for others kept his stock from rising too high, but his deep range and ability to create off the dribble still might have been enough for him to be taken late in the first round. Allen said he did not consider testing the waters, preferring instead to either return to Duke or go all-in entering the draft.

Allen's return gives Duke an experienced star to go with its collection of veteran role players and talented incoming freshmen.

Small forward Jayson Tatum and power forward Harry Giles are arguably the nation's top two recruits and should emerge as impact players right away if Giles has fully recovered from his ACL tear. Frank Jackson, Duke's third incoming McDonald's All-American, should compete with sophomore-to-be Derryck Thornton for playing time at point guard. And in his return from the foot injury that sidelined him much of this past season, Amile Jefferson will bolster Duke's frontcourt and provide leadership, defense and rebounding.

Does Allen's return make a second Duke national championship in three years a certainty? Of course not. Kentucky and Michigan State both welcome star-studded freshman classes and Villanova could return all but two key players from its national title team.

But Duke should be very, very good next season, and the Blue Devils are a worthy preseason No. 1.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!