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Archived: Previewing the Top College Basketball Teams!

Nov 07, 2022 EST

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The 2022-23 college basketball season starts today and every school in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 And 1 is in action. Hooray! Now, the bad: Exactly zero ranked teams are playing each other, and every ranked team is a double-digit favorite against what should be an out-classed opponent.

It really is a lame way to start things. In a perfect world, the college basketball season would begin every year with at least a few interesting matchups — and on a day that doesn’t compete in primetime with the NFL. But this is not a perfect world. So, if you’re wondering, the first marquee matchup of the season will come Friday when Gonzaga and Michigan State play.

1. North Carolina Tar Heels

2021-22 Record: 29-10

2021-22 Finish: National Runner-Up

A North Carolina team returning five of its top six scorers from a squad that ended its season in the national title game would seem like a no-brainer to be everyone’s preseason No. 1. They earn the top spot here, but it’s unlikely that the Tar Heels will be anything resembling a unanimous No. 1 — or even No. 1 at all — when the preseason AP and coaches polls hit the internet in October. That’s understandable.

UNC spent the bulk of its first season under Hubert Davis either squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble or on the wrong side of it. Caleb Love and R.J. Davis were both sensational in March, but far too inconsistent during the other four months of the season. And the one member of the “Iron Five” who isn’t returning — the graduated Brady Manek — was the Tar Heels’ top outside threat and perhaps their most consistently reliable contributor down the stretch.

Still, we’re talking about a UNC team that returns both of its star guards, its best defensive player in Leaky Black, and an almost surefire preseason First Team All-American in big man Armando Bacot.  This may not be 2006-07 Florida returning everyone from a fairly dominant title run, but it’s more than enough to be the favorites to cut down the nets in 2023.

2. Kentucky Wildcats

2021-22 Record: 26-8

2021-22 Finish: First Round

Kentucky was a 2-seed in the 2022 NCAA tournament, returns the unanimous National Player of the Year (the first NPOY to return to college basketball since Tyler Hansbrough came back to win a national title at North Carolina in 2008-09) as well as its starting point guard, and adds a pair of five-star studs in Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston.

If last year’s team had simply made the Sweet 16 or the Elite Eight instead of being on the wrong end of one of the biggest March Madness upsets of all-time, would they be at the top of most or all of these early season rankings? It certainly seems possible.

3. Gonzaga Bulldogs

2021-22 Record: 28-4

2021-22 Finish: Sweet 16

Mark Few will return six of his top eight scorers from a team that was the No. 1 overall seed for the 2022 NCAA tournament, including two-time All-American Drew Timme. Few loses potential No. 1 NBA draft pick Chet Holmgren in the middle, but found an adequate replacement for him former five-star recruit Efton Reid, a transfer from LSU. Guard play let Gonzaga down significantly in its Sweet 16 loss to Arkansas, so Few also went out and landed Chattanooga’s Malachi Smith, the 2022 Player of the Year in the Southern Conference.

4. Kansas Jayhawks

2021-22 Record: 34-6

2021-22 Finish: National Champions

Assuming the NCAA/IARP doesn’t eliminate the possibility beforehand, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that Kansas could become college basketball’s first repeat national champion since Florida went back-to-back in 2006-07.

Christian Braun staying in the draft was a blow, but one which was cushioned by the return of Jalen Wilson and the addition of Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar. Bill Self is also getting back key contributors from last year’s title team in Dajuan Harris and Joseph Yusefu, as well as bringing in a top five recruiting class headlined by a trio of McDonald’s All-Americans.

5. Creighton Bluejays

2021-22 Record: 23-12

2021-22 Finish: Second Round

The Bluejays pushed eventual national champion Kansas to the brink in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament, and that was without the services of starting point guard and Big East Freshman of the Year Ryan Nembhard OR 7’1 sophomore Ryan Kalkbrenner. Nembhard, Kalbrenner and two other starters from last season are all back, and Greg McDermott also made one of the largest transfer portal splashes of the offseason by landing South Dakota State star Baylor Scheierman, the Summit League Player of the Year.

6. Houston Cougars

2021-22 Record: 32-6

2021-22 Finish: Elite Eight

At this point it seems foolish to doubt Kelvin Sampson regardless of what his roster looks like. That’s doubly true when his roster looks as loaded as it appears to be for the 2022-23 campaign.

Returning guard Marcus Sasser, who was leading the team in scoring (17.7 points per game) when he suffered a season-ending foot injury in December, was enormous. He’ll return along with fellow double-figure scorers Tramon Mark, whose season was also cut short by injury, and Jamal Shead, who stepped up significantly down the stretch to help get the Cougars to the Elite Eight. Toss in the additions of five-star freshmen Jarace Walker and Terrance Arceneaux, and you’ve got a squad that’s going to match up favorably with just about anyone in the country.

7. Baylor Bears

2021-22 Record: 27-7

2021-22 Finish: Second Round

Matthew Mayer’s transfer was a surprise, but LJ Cryer, Adam Flagler and Flo Thamba all return in good health from a team that won a share of the Big 12 regular season title and was a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. Scott Drew also added impact transfers in Jalen Bridges (West Virginia) and Caleb Lohner (BYU), gets former top 30 recruit Langston Love — who missed all of last season after tearing his ACL during a preseason scrimmage — on the court for the first time, and brings in what should be one of the best freshmen in the country in scoring guard Keyonte George.

The Bears aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

8. Arkansas Razorbacks

2021-22 Record: 28-9

2021-22 Finish: Elite Eight

After not making a regional final for the better part of three decades, Arkansas has now crashed the Elite Eight in back-to-back seasons. There are plenty of reasons to believe that the next step — the program’s first Final Four since 1995 — could be arriving next April.

Losing J.D. Notae and Jaylin Williams to the professional game are significant blows, but Eric Musselman (as he tends to do) hit it big in the transfer portal with Ricky Council IV (Wichita State), Makhel and Makhi Mitchell (Rhode Island) and Jalen Graham (Arizona State). Toss in the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class, one which includes three McDonald’s All-Americans, and it’s not hard to envision — whether you want to or not — Musselman going shirtless multiple times again next March.

9. UCLA Bruins

2021-22 Record: 27-8

2021-22 Finish: Sweet 16

Jules Bernard and Johnny Juzang’s time in Westwood have come to an end, but Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell are both back for another run with Mick Cronin. They’ll join forces with five-star freshmen Amari Bailey and Adem Bona to try and get the Bruins to (at least) the second weekend of the NCAA tournament for a third straight year.

10. Tennessee Volunteers

2021-22 Record: 27-8

2021-22 Finish: Second Round

The Vols return four of their top five scorers from a team that won the SEC tournament and went on to earn a 3-seed in the Big Dance. Point guard Kennedy Chandler wound up being a one-and-done talent, but Rick Barnes might be bringing in another one of those thanks to the signing of 5-star small forward Julian Phillips.

11. Texas Longhorns

2021-22 Record: 22-12

2021-22 Finish: Second Round

Chris Beard’s first season in Austin may have been a slight disappointment to some, but don’t expect that to be the norm during his tenure with the Longhorns. UT looks loaded going into 2022-23 thanks to the return of super seniors Marcus Carr and Timmy Allen, the addition of Big 12 Freshman of the Year Tyrese Hunter (Iowa State), as well as the signings of 5-star McDonald’s All-Americans Dillon Mitchell and Arterio Morris.

12. Duke Blue Devils

2021-22 Record: 32-7

2021-22 Finish: Final Four

We’re going to find out pretty quickly what Jon Scheyer is made of. His first Blue Devil team is loaded with NBA talent thanks to landing the No. 1 recruiting class in America, but junior guard Jeremy Roach is the only key returnee from last season’s Final Four squad.

Regardless of which direction Duke’s season goes and how extreme that direction is, Duke will undoubtedly be one of the most fascinating teams in the country to follow in 2022-23.

13. Indiana Hoosiers

2021-22 Record: 21-14

2021-22 Finish: First Round

Is Indiana back? Time will (once again) be the ultimate determinant, but on paper, the Hoosiers certainly appear to be on the verge of potentially fielding their strongest team since 2012-13.

Trayce Jackson-Davis is a potential (likely?) preseason First Team All-American, and Mike Woodson hit it big in his first full recruiting class by landing 5-star talents Malik Reneau and Jalen Hood-Schifino. If the Hoosiers can find some reliable perimeter shooting, they’ll be a threat to both win the Big Ten and play beyond the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002.

14. Villanova Wildcats

2021-22 Record: 30-8

2021-22 Finish: Final Four

Jay Wright’s sudden and surprising retirement announcement has left college basketball’s most stable powerhouse of the last decade facing an uncertain future for the first time in a long while. Thankfully, Kyle Neptune — fresh off a 16-16 campaign at Fordham in his first season as a head coach — isn’t walking into bare cupboard situation. ‘Nova lost stalwarts Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels to graduation, but returns its other three starters. So long as Justin Moore is healthy enough to see the court, there’s no reason to believe the Wildcats will fall too far in their first season without Wright.

15. Arizona Wildcats

2021-22 Record: 33-4

2021-22 Finish: Sweet 16

Pac-12 Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin, fellow starter Dalen Terry and big man Christian Koloko are off to the NBA, but Azuolas Tubelis, Kerr Kriisa, Pelle Larsson and Oumar Ballo all return for Tommy Lloyd’s second run in Tucson. Arizona might not be battling for another 1-seed in 2022-23, but the return of that core should be enough for the Wildcats to finish at or near the top of the Pac-12 standings.

16. Auburn Tigers

2021-22 Record: 28-6

2021-22 Finish: Second Round

When Auburn’s season ended with a surprise loss to Miami in the second round, pretty much everyone knew that it would be the last game Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler played as Tigers. Thankfully for Bruce Pearl, Smith and Kessler are the only two of his top six scorers who won’t be returning for 2022-23. He’ll also be welcoming in an elite transfer in Morehead State big man Johni Broome (16.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.9 blocks), as well as 5-star freshman center Yohan Traore and top 40 wing Chance Westry.

17. Oregon Ducks

2021-22 Record: 20-15

2021-22 Finish: NIT Second Round

Dana Altman simply doesn’t do disappointing seasons in back-to-back years. The last three times the Ducks have missed the NCAA tournament under Altman, they’ve advanced to at least the second weekend of the Big Dance in the year immediately following. Now that we know Will Richardson is not off to the NBA, there’s no reason to believe that Altman won’t improve to 4-for-4 in bounce-back campaigns.

18. Miami Hurricanes

2021-22 Record: 26-11

2021-22 Finish: Elite Eight

After playing in a regional final for the first time in program history, Miami returns its best player in senior guard Isaiah Wong, and added two of the best transfers in the portal in Nijel Pack (Kansas State) and Norchad Omier (Arkansas State). Losing Kam McGusty is a monster blow, but expect the Hurricanes to be more well-rounded and consistent in 2022-23.

19. TCU Horned Frogs

2021-22 Record: 21-13

2021-22 Finish: Second Round

Jamie Dixon returns the top six scorers from the first TCU team to win a game in the NCAA tournament since 1987. The Horned Frogs should once again be one of the most physically imposing teams in the country, but they’ll need to find some reliable perimeter scoring in order to be a true threat to claim their first Big 12 regular season or tournament title.

20. San Diego State Aztecs

2021-22 Record: 23-9

2021-22 Finish: First Round

The Aztecs were on the right end of one of the biggest will they stay/will they go decisions in the country when 2022 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Nathan Mensah announced he was returning to SDSU. Brian Dutcher also gets Matt Bradley, Adam Seiko and Aguek Arop back for one last ride. Don’t be surprised if this team finishes the season at the top of Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings.

21. Alabama Crimson Tide

2021-22 Record: 19-14

2021-22 Finish: First Round

Nate Oats lost three of his top four scorers from a 2021-22 Crimson Tide team that was something of a disappointment. Thankfully, he’s brought in a top five recruiting class and added one of the transfer portal’s crown jewels in do-it-all Ohio guard Mark Sears. There will be questions about the health of Jahvon Quinerly, who suffered an ACL injury in Bama’s first round loss to Notre Dame, but as long as he’s good to go, the Tide should once again be one of the country’s most exciting teams.

22. Texas Tech Red Raiders

2021-22 Record: 27-10

2021-22 Finish: Sweet 16

Mark Adams is beginning to earn the same type of inherent “don’t worry about the roster” trust in Lubbock that Chris Beard established before bolting for Austin. The Red Raiders figure to be right back in the Big 12’s top tier thanks to the return of double figure scorer Kevin Obanor and the additions of De’Vion Harmon (10.8 points per game at Oregon), Fardaws Aimaq (18.9 PPG at Utah Valley), and 5-star freshman Elijah Fisher.

23. Illinois Fighting Illini

2021-22 Record: 23-10

2021-22 Finish: Second Round

Brad Underwood lost most of his key contributors from last season’s Big 10 regular season co-champions, but through the transfer portal (Terrence Shannon Jr., Matthew Mayer, Dain Dainja) and recruiting class of 2022 (Skyy Clark), he found some more-than-adequate replacements for Kofi Cockburn and company.

24. Ohio State Buckeyes

2021-22 Record: 20-12

2021-22 Finish: Second Round

Chris Holtmann hit it big in the transfer portal with the trio of Sean McNeil (West Virginia), Isaac Likekele (Oklahoma State) and Tanner Holden (Wright State). So long as Justice Sueing isn’t limited by any of the after-effects of the sports hernia that forced him to miss all of last season, the Buckeyes should once again be top 25 good.

25. Purdue Boilermakers

2021-22 Record: 29-8

2021-22 Finish: Sweet 16

Boilermaker fans are understandably frustrated by Matt Painter’s inability to get the program over the hump and into its first Final Four since 1980, but Painter’s remarkable consistency in West Lafayette shouldn’t be taken for granted. Purdue might be taking a step back from the status they’ve known the last few years, but there’s no reason to believe it will be a dramatic one. Zach Edey should be a load in the middle, but the expected loss of Jaden Ivey and the less expected losses of Eric Hunter and Isaiah Thompson mean that some career role players will need to emerge as stars.

The Next 15:

26. UConn
27. Dayton
28. Virginia
29. Texas A&M
30. Xavier
31. Michigan
32. USC
33. Michigan State
34. Oklahoma State
35. UAB
36. Florida State
37. Saint Louis
38. Wyoming
39. Virginia Tech
40. Florida

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