Seven months ago, Kansas entered the locker room at halftime in a national title game after dropping in double figures against North Carolina. Something happened in that room because Kansas kicked off one of the greatest turnarounds in title game history, cut the number of draws, and the 2021–22 season ended.
A lot has changed in college basketball since then. Around 2,000 players have entered the transfer portal and changed lineups across the country. The retirements of Jay Wright and Mike Krzyzewski have opened a new chapter for the two main players in the game. Rumors of an expansion continue to circulate, and it’s unclear what the game’s hierarchy will look like in the future.
All this sets the stage for a 2022-2023 campaign full of mysteries. Of course, Oscar Chibwe and Drew Timm are back, and North Carolina is the clear favorite to win the national championship. But we don’t know much more than that. After six weeks of previewing the season, including a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each Power 5, AAC, and mid-major conference, Sportzshala’s Myron Medcalfe, Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway, and Joe Lunardi make their final predictions.
Let the fun begin.
NATIONAL FORECASTS FOR 2022-23
Most Exciting Team
Medcalf: It’s safe to assume that UCLA’s marriage to Pac-12 will end in turmoil. During the Pac-12 press day, league commissioner George Klyavkoff said he didn’t know anyone who would support the Bruins’ move to the Big Ten, which left coach Mick Cronin and his players in a quandary that day. The drama could continue throughout the season, especially if the pre-season title pick lives up to the hype. Meanwhile, Jaime Jacques Jr. has finally recovered, five-star prospect Amari Bailey has arrived, and Tiger Campbell is one of America’s best point guards. UCLA is a must-see this year.
Borcello: The Duke is always a storyline that enters the season. But Mike Krzyszewski is no longer on the sidelines, having been replaced by John Scheyer after more than 40 years in Durham. And Duke is introducing the #1 recruiting class in the country while bringing back only one player (Jeremy Roach) who saw a real role last season. There are a lot of questions, but also high expectations and a lot of talent.
Gas: The last time we saw Kentucky, the Wildcats lost to the No. 15 seed. They are now the No. 1 KenPom preseason. For the first time since coach John Calipari’s tenure, two seasons have passed without the program reaching the second weekend of the tournament. The fact that current Wooden Award winner Oscar Chibwe is still here proves that college has become a big man’s game… right? Or do the last two champions of the country say otherwise?
Lunardi: Seven years went by without a call when Indiana saw her name on Selection Sunday. Now, in just Mike Woodson’s second season, the Hoosiers have every chance of being at the top of the Big Ten and playing until the end of March. Woodson returned home for this; star Trace Jackson-Davies is back for it. Can Indiana make it to the Final Four for the first time this century? Why not?
The “mystery team” that will either destroy the bracket or fail the tournament
Lunardi: Dayton will kick off their COVID-2020 rematch with point guard Malachi Smith, who suffered an ankle injury. Not great, but better than canceling the NCAA Tournament for the supposed No. 1 seed and best team in school history. Smith will return, center Daron Holmes II is a convincing Obie Toppin imitator, and the Flyers won’t be “first team” on the 2023 field. This season, the “D” in Dayton stands for Destroyer.
Gas: Iowa. We saw part of the “catastrophe”. The Hawks were eliminated from the tournament in the late afternoon of the first Thursday of the 2022 tournament thanks to No. 12 seed Richmond. But laptops are again very much in love with this 2022-23 attack. In addition, Chris Murray is named to the All-Big Ten Preseason despite only starting once last season. However, the aforementioned laptops are once again wary of Iowa’s defenses. The Hawks could shock the No. 1 seed in the Round of 16 or win another 2022.
Borcello: Auburn was one of the biggest surprises for the country last season, winning the SEC and even climbing to No. 1 in the polls at the end of January. The Tigers have the talent to compete at the top of the league once again, but they also have a backcourt that was wildly inconsistent and struggled with decision making last season. And now they don’t have Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler to bail them out. Can Wendell Green Jr. and K.D. Johnson to step forward? Will Johan Traore and Joni Broom be able to replace the eliminated first round players?
Medcalf: Purdue. There’s a scenario in which National Player of the Year nominee Zack Eday and a bunch of new guards including David Jenkins Jr. (40% of 3 in Utah last season) could mix and become a dangerous group ready to run in March. There’s also a chance the Boilermakers could make it to the NCAA Tournament and face a veteran team that eliminates them.
First top 25 team to be eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.
Gas: Oregon missed the tournament last season and is returning less than half of the minutes of possession. Will Richardson is incredible. Getting Kel’el Ware into the top 10 recruits in the country was an exceptionally lucky acquisition for trainer Dana Altman. However, it is not entirely clear how this particular rotation is expected or expected to do well.
Medcalf: Illinois. I think Brad Underwood always finds a way to regroup, and the addition of Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Meyer is definitely a boost. But the loss of Kofi Cockburn, one of the most impressive college basketball players of the past two years, has left one of the biggest voids in the sport. I could see that this team would be pretty vulnerable once the NCAA Tournament kicked off.
Lunardi: No one admired Villanova’s decade of prowess more than this guy from St. Joe’s. But which school gets John Wooden twice? The loss of Jay Wright is huge. Justin Moore suffered an Achilles injury just seven months ago. There are many pretenders to the throne of Villanova in the Great East. With all due respect to new coach Kyle Neptune, who did the right thing by taking over from Wright, the Wildcats only have one way to go.
Borcello: Michigan, the only team in the AP preseason top 25 that wasn’t in my pre-season top 25. The Wolverines brought back just one starter from a team that finished 19–15 last season (although one who made the 11th seed in the Sweet 16) and don’t bring any unbeaten lottery picks or talent to change rules of the game. I love Hunter Dickinson, but coach Juwan Howard will have a lot to figure out with the rest of his squad.
A player with no Tshibwe or Timme name who can qualify for the Wooden Award.
Lunardi: I have already mentioned the potential influence of Trace Jackson-Davies. The 6-9 sophomore is a likely Big Ten Player of the Year. Why not take it one step further if the Hoosiers can make a Final Four season out of a storybook?
Borcello: Armando Bakot. Not such a creative answer, but the best player on the No. 1 preseason team in the country? I’ll take a picture any day. Bacot dominates the interior. He averaged 16 and 13 points last season and then improved his game in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 15.3 points and 16.5 rebounds, including two games of 20+ rebounds. Funny numbers. If he stays close to it for the whole season…
Medcalf: If Zach Edie’s numbers go up — from 14.4 ppg, 7.7 rebounds, 1.2 ppg to 19.0 mpg last season — as his minutes go up, he’ll be a strong candidate. He will host Purdue, which has produced four AP All-American films since 2011.
Gas: Max Abmas. He is the country’s third leading scorer and there is a good chance Abmas will make 300 three-pointers this season. What if they fall? Enough of these all-conference teams with four centers. Watch out for Oral Roberts’ scoring car, which is 6ft 0in.
A story worth watching
Borcello: Returning large. And it’s not just Oscar Chibwe, Drew Timm, Armando Bacott, Hunter Dickinson and Trace Jackson-Davies. Depth in position is remarkable this season. Adama Sanogo will be great again. Zach Edey is arguably the most dominant scorer in the country. Colin Castleton is great on both ends of the court. Ryan Kalkbrenner is incredibly underrated. Daron Holmes II is ready for the big season. Oh, and the No. 1 rookie on the Sportzshala 100 was Duke center Derek Lively. Throughout the season, high-level individual matches will be held at the positions.
Gas: Changing game. Will UCLA and USC really join the Big Ten? (Not if our colleague Bill Walton can help!) What about Gonzaga and the Big 12? Is it really about expanding tournaments or is it just talk? Will there be a 24 second clock? Is the admissions committee really supposed to live forever? It’s been a good 40+ years with 60+ team tournaments, changing conferences, and ever longer three-point lines and shorter shooting hours. What’s next?
Medcalf: Gonzaga’s move to the Big 12 will not only displace college basketball, it will widen the gap between the major conferences and everyone else. But it would also create more questions about the future of the Pac-12. The Big 12 still appears to be the league with the most potential to be the third Super Conference. If that happens this year and the transfer portal continues to grow, it’s fair to wonder if the non-Power 5 college basketball leagues will become just college basketball’s G leagues in the new era.
Lunardi: The drum roll about the expansion of the NCAA tournaments will get louder. This is not a bad idea, provided it is done modestly – for example, No 96 teams – and reasonable. There are ways to bring both schools of strength conferences to the broad side and keep an obvious place for automatic qualifiers in America’s greatest sporting event. And if the men’s basketball committee can’t figure it out, yours truly is a phone call away.
2023 FINAL FOUR SELECTION (* denotes your national champion selection)
Medcalf: North Carolina*, Houston, Kentucky,…