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Longtime loyal readers know that for the past seven years I've gone where no person had previously gone before. I marched into the marshy bottoms of college basketball's ecosystem to provide the most exhaustive single piece of college hoops preview content on the internet. There I was in the bogs like a maniac, splitting the difference between the 245th- and the 246th-best teams. I scrutinized rotation players for bottom-end programs in the Southland, SWAC and Big Sky. Normal behavior.

What came out amounted to a map of the season ahead and, proudly, a capsule for every team to go with it. I know there are some sickos out there who read every one. You're my people. 

But all exhaustive/ill-advised/soul-straining endeavors must end. 

It's time to change up the format. A major catalyst for this is the transfer portal. Men's D-I basketball had 3,616 players in the portal the last two years. Coaches have expressed they don't know half as much about their leagues now vs. how it was even five years ago, when transfer numbers were vastly lower and proven returning talents in conferences were more easily identifiable. Because so many teams now flip at least half their rosters, tiering out leagues and predicting who will be good, average or bad has never been tougher.

Here's the fun part: I've homed in on the teams that matter most — college basketball's top table, if you will. And what a huge table it is. We are still providing you with an in-depth inspection of college basketball's eclectic landscape. But for the sake of my sanity, my family and your outrage capacity, my preseason rankings are getting a healthy hack.  

I always strive to provide readers with the type of things that I too would want to see covered or written about. You're here because you really like or downright love college hoops and can't WAIT for the games to start. Tell me what I need to know and who I need to know about. And please give me many reasons to sneer at how you put basketball teams in order. 

That's exactly what I've built. Instead of a 1-363 (yes, we're now up to 363 teams), it's a beefed-up Top 100 And 1. You're getting an early blueprint on almost every team that will wind up playing in the NCAA Tournament. By ranking out the 101 best, every logical Big Dance candidate is covered — your locks, hopefuls, we'll-sees, bubble teams and an inevitable NIT invitees. My list also includes more than two dozen mid-major schools, so the Cinderella candidates and big-time small-school squads are also highlighted. 

These are the programs that will matter most over the next five months. Plus, at the very bottom, you'll see my predictions for every regular-season champion in the 32 leagues. November is nearly here and with it another amazing season awaits. I hope this hearty preview spikes your anticipation levels even more. 

After an offseason of mulling, researching and more re-ranking tweaks than I can count, here is my list of 2022-23's 101 best teams in men's college basketball. 

2022-23 Top 100 And 1 college basketball teams

With 73.3% of the team's minutes returning (per, a group that went from late-February bubble team to the national title game enters this season with scads of good vibes. The roster is proven, hungry and familiar. Armando Bacot figures to be one of the best players in the sport. But let me toss this out to you: What if he's not the best player on this team? What if he's really, really good ... but Caleb Love winds up even better? To me, not unthinkable. Love and RJ Davis are back as starting guards, and Leaky Black's pterodactyl wingspan and elite defense will again be a factor. UNC has the talent, experience, camaraderie and depth to go win the whole damn thing. Northwestern transfer Pete Nance will replace Brady Manek, ideally allowing UNC to have just as much 3-point shooting reliability as it did a season ago. Expect Puff Johnson to emerge as an opportunistic contributor, while freshmen guard Seth Trimble and power forward Jalen Washington will also have plenty of opportunities. Dontrez Styles is another wing who should earn some burn. UNC looks best equipped heading into the season. That's why it gets my top spot. The biggest question regarding this outfit is how it will handle all of the expectation and pressure, and that goes for Hubert Davis as well. He's a veteran on the bench, but as a head coach he hasn't faced expectations like this.
One blue blood at No. 1, another at No. 2. A great way to stroll into November. John Calipari should have a somewhat-deep team adorned by wing play. Before that, of course we must speak of the non-wing of note: reigning Naismith National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe (17.4 ppg, 15.1 rpg) returns at center and will be aiming to somehow improve upon his absurdly dominant junior season. (Tshiebwe recently had minor knee surgery, by the way. TBD if it will restrict him in November.) He'll be flanked by breakout-candidate supreme and fellow senior Jacob Toppin, in addition to change-of-pace diminutive PG Sahvir Wheeler. This is Kentucky, so you know the freshman talent is worth watching. The biggest name is Cason Wallace, who will start at the 2. Chris Livingston is another newbie, and he's the favorite to start at small forward. If that happens, and Daimion Collins is the sixth man, UK might have the best — and certainly most athletic — first guy off the bench in the country. Expect a team that defends with a variety of looks and scores in spurts. The Wildcats' No. 4 ranking in the preseason AP Top 25 marks UK's 940th week out of 1,241 weeks since the poll began in 1949. Kentucky has more appearances than any other school; UNC is second, followed by Duke, Kansas and UCLA.
The Bulldogs, who boast preseason National Player of the Year Drew Timme, are comfortably ranked inside the top five both here at CBS Sports and in the AP Top 25. Mark Few's built himself a place to live in these confines; Gonzaga was last ranked outside the top five in mid-December ... of 2019. Gonzaga has been 1st, 1st, 8th and 3rd the past four AP preseason polls. Respectively, GU's finished 1st, 1st, 2nd and 4th. More of the same in 2023? Chet Holmgren is gone, as is fellow NBA pick Andrew Nembhard, but everyone else of note is back, most notably Julian Strawther, whose usage should see a bump. Nolan Hickman will step up at the point and be crucial, playing alongside heady veteran Rasir Bolton. Another projected starter is former Chattanooga wing Malachi Smith, who we ranked as a top-12 transfer. This team is deep and has the size to play with anyone. As usual/mandatory, the Zags have loaded up with a strong noncon schedule, which will get going in earnest when GU plays Michigan State on an aircraft carrier Nov. 11. Few — whose 28.6 wins per season is No. 1 in college hoops history — is in search of that first national title. The best window he's ever had has been the past two seasons, and now this one. If Gonzaga can cut down the nets in April, Few will cement his Hall of Fame future and Timme will go down as a college basketball legend.
A clear-cut NCAA tourney team five years running, this could be Houston's most hyped season in history. The Cougars are fourth here and third in the AP Top 25, matching their highest preseason ranking since guys named Olajuwon and Drexler were in uniform. Kelvin Sampson's team will aim to be the best defensive unit in the country, a charge this group is capable of meeting. The best player is one of our First Team All-Americans, combo guard Marcus Sasser, who will aim for a huge comeback campaign after injury sidelined him last December. If Sasser falls short of his preseason prognostications, that might not be bad news. Backcourt mates Jamal Shead and Tramon Mark (also injured last season) are on-ball bullies and will shine in their own rights. The trio will have a potential future NBA player backing them up in freshman Terrance Arceneaux, who's unlike any player Sampson's coached at UH. In the frontcourt, the highest-rated freshman is Jarace Walker, who will learn from the underrated Reggie Chaney, a big who excels in pick-and-roll defense. Tremendous feet and bull-in-a-china-shop aggression. Quick, nasty, he'll be the center piece to Houston trapping with basically ever pick-and-roll and post touch and is the nucleus of the defense. Sampson is one win away from his 700th career victory. At Houston, he's one win away from 200 with the Coogs, owning a 199-70 mark since 2014.
The highest ranking of Arkansas you'll see anywhere, I believe. After enduring a second-weekend NCAA Tournament drought that lasted 25 years, Razorback fans have quickly eased back into the good life that is rooting for a reliable March menace. Eric Musselman's called the Hogs to back-to-back Elite Eights. Despite major roster turnover from last season, this might be the crew that pushes through to the Final Four. It's not as easy as Musselman makes it look, but if Arkansas winds up as a top-two team in the SEC, which I'm projecting, taking 11 new scholarship players will amount to coach-of-the-year legitimacy. The lone returning starter is SG Devo Davis. There are three five-star prospects who will start: 6-5 Nick Smith Jr., 6-7 Jordan Walsh and 6-7 Anthony Black, who will be a revelation playing the point. Missouri transfer Trevon Brazile will step in at center. The Hogs might go 10-deep. They should be one of the more flexible, switchable defenses in the country. Musselman has NBA experience and that's reflected both in how he coaches his teams and how he schemes them. I'm banking on this team finding ways to score, because the one glaring concern is this team's lack of perimeter prowess. That might go either way. But if this hits, a lot of coaches are going to be tearing at their scalp; you're not supposed to bring in 11 new players and vie for a national title.
The Bears have three of the Big 12's 10 best players, two of them senior guards: Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer. The other is a freshman, and boy might he be great. Get ready for Keyonte George. Scott Drew has excelled with three-guard attacks in recent years, and he'll do it again with this trio. Cryer and Flagler combined to average 27.1 points. George is a dynamite 6-5 wing who's already shown flashes of great in Baylor threads. He averaged 22.8 points for BU over the summer at the World University Games. George is poised to be the best freshman in Baylor history. Those three aren't the only reasons Baylor is highly regarded heading into November. The Bears will have a healthy Langston Love, the former five-star recruit who missed last season due to an ACL tear. Fifth-year senior Flo Thamba will start at the 5. Two transfers expected to earn some good burn are Jalen Bridges (WVU) and Caleb Lohner (BYU). They'll be nice utility players, both capable wings whose experience could lend them opportunities to be on the floor late in close games. Few teams can boast the combination of depth, talent, veteran dependability, coaching prowess and guard attack like BU. Scott Drew has another Final Four contender.
A season ago, UCLA made a run to the Final Four from the No. 11 line. It prompted many to put the Bruins in the top-three category heading into the season. (Similar to UNC's situation this year.) I held off somewhat, slotting UCLA sixth last October. Mick Cronin's team finished 11th at, 10th at Torvik and reached the Sweet 16. It all seemed just about right; early season forecasts were a shade too aggressive. This group feels a smidge more promising. Jaime Jaquez Jr., who quietly battled nagging injuries much of last season, is a CBS Sports preseason All-American and he'll have Tyger Campbell to rely on at the point. There might not be three point guards more reliable than Campbell. Jaquez is a stud and will be champing at the bit. Huge season ahead for those two. Plus, Cronin and his staff managed to bring in two future NBA players in SG Amari Bailey (a dazzler) and PF Adem Bona (a destroyer), who's receiving a lot of good buzz from NBA scouts who've been in to see UCLA in the preseason. Jaylen Clark, a returner on the wing, will round out the starting five. UCLA hasn't won a Pac-12 crown since 2014. That ends in 2023.
It's no coincidence that seven of the teams that finished top 16 in adjusted defensive efficiency last season are listed in my top 12. The Aztecs are in that group, mighty deserving of it, and led by multi-faceted bruising guard Matt Bradley, who could be earning a nice paycheck to play overseas. Instead, he'll be one of the 30-40 best players in college basketball and could key SDSU to a redemption season after Brian Dutcher's team was robbed of its chance at a Final Four run when the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled. For all the good Bradley — a southpaw — will do, 5-man Nathan Mensah will be the cognitive and literal center of this vaunted defense. There's also a lot of intrigue in the Mountain West over just how significant the addition of point guard Darrion Trammell (Seattle transfer) will be to SDSU's offensive attack. A year after playing second fiddle to Colorado State, this is now clearly the Tecs' league to lose, thanks to starters Keshad Johnson and Lamont Butler also coming back.
I'm picking Illinois to win the Big Ten. My rankings were set prior to the news that sophomore reserve Luke Goode needed surgery and will miss the next few months. That's not enough to push me off my bullish Illini position, which strangely enough many others have also adopted. (Now I'm worried.) The Illini shared the Big Ten regular season title last season with Wisconsin. Then Brad Underwood's team lost Kofi Cockburn, Trent Frazier, Jacob Grandison, Andre Curbelo and Austin Hutcherson, among others. The only player who averaged double-digit minutes last season is C Coleman Hawkins (5.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg). The reason why Illini fans have newfound enthusiasm centers around three new faces. Two of them are a pair of big-time, proven transfers at the big-league level: Terrence Shannon Jr. from Texas Tech and Matthew Mayer from Baylor. The big freshman get is Skyy Clark, who ranked 34th in the class of 2022 at 247Sports and will be critical to Illinois' top-end potential. He's got a frosh teammate at the wing named Ty Rodgers to remember come midseason. So long as Illinois feverishly commits to Underwood's defensive approach, the Illini should be high-level.
Not many teams will have more pound-for-pound toughness than the Volunteers, who find themselves ranked lower here than the predictive metrics, which are particularly bullish. There is no superstar on the roster, but Vols fans know Santiago Vescovi (13.3 pg, 4.3 rpg, 3.2 apg) is more than just a dark horse to steal SEC Player of the Year from either Oscar Tshiebwe or one of Arkansas' standouts. Playing alongside him is one of college basketball's many super-fun under-6-foot players: Zakai Zeigler. After playing in Kennedy Chandler's shadow last season, Zeigler's one of my picks for biggest breakout players nationally. Tennessee earned a No. 3 seed last season when it should have been a 2. The veteran dependability of Josiah-Jordan James probably matters most and will wind up winning the Vols a few games. Incoming freshman slasher Julian Philips could prove to be a revelation. Between these guys and the football team, times are blessed down in Knoxville these days.
As summer turned to fall, many media members viewed Texas as a practical and obvious top 25-level team. Perhaps this group could be a slight improvement on the 22-12 one that finished fourth in the Big 12. Then KenPom's rankings were released and Texas checked in at No. 3. That turned heads. It seems aggressive. It is aggressive. It puts forth the idea that Texas will win the Big 12. But ... maybe that's not so outrageous? Chris Beard's team is almost exclusively players who register as either seniors, super seniors or freshmen. Except one. Tyrese Hunter, the Iowa State transfer who's looking to prove himself as the best defender in the conference. The point guard won't be tasked with being UT's best player, as that honor should go to Timmy Allen (12.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg), who is a tempting dark horse to win Big 12 POY. Allen will likely thrive off Hunter's play and Marcus Carr's ability to draw the defense out to the perimeter. Texas gets Carr back in addition to breakout candidate Dylan Disu and Christian Bishop. Beard probably won't have a team as deep as he wants, but with a good freshman class and so many hungry-yet-proven vets, the Longhorns should again matter nationally.
North Carolina v Kansas
Fresh off a second national championship, Bill Self's KU roster will have a big makeover. Getty Images
Get ready for Bill Self, fresh off winning his second national championship, to prove for the 2,947th time just how good of a coach he is. (And probably make my ranking look bad in the process.) KU checks in as a top-10 team according to the preseason AP poll and a variety of predictive metrics, this despite the fact the Jayhawks lost six of their eight best players and don't return a sure-fire NBA Draft pick. Dajuan Harris (5.4 ppg, 4.2 apg) is back to run the offense and Jalen Wilson (11.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg) will keep his spot on the wing. Those two upping their games significantly will be paramount to KU keeping stride with Baylor and Texas. The starting five figures to round out with five-star sniper Gradey Dick at the 2, Texas Tech transfer and big-time bruiser Kevin McCullar at the 4 and maybe freshman Ernest Udeh in the middle. Few national champions in the past two decades have had to replace so much and return so few scholarship players. That's why the only program to win back-to-back titles in 30 years was Florida in the mid-aughts.
There are undeniable concerns about Xavier's overall team defense, but I'll take a chance and aim high in Year 1 under Sean Miller, who has overcome similar concerns in previous years. Despite the coaching change, X brings back more than any other team in the Big East. How often does that happen? The Musketeers were picked second in the league's preseason poll but landed atop all others in my top 101 because of the quartet of starters back: Colby Jones, Zach Freemantle, Jack Nunge and Adam Kunkel. Jones could be an NBA pick in June, Nunge is the most underrated big in the country, Kunkel is a no-nonsense role player, and Freemantle can be an upgrade over previous versions of himself if he stays disciplined and can spread defenses out as a 6-9 sometimes-shooter. X's secret weapon should be freshman Desmond Claude, who's probably the second-best frosh in the conference to Villanova's Cam Whitmore. If Jones' 3-point shot becomes consistent, he can win Big East POY.
The Bluejays are 14th here but No. 9 in the preseason AP Top 25 — their highest preseason ranking in history. Hopes have never been higher in Omaha, not even when Doug McDermott was building out a legendary career. This has a chance to be the best Creighton team in history, but considering it finished last season 50th in KenPom and 51st at Torvik, I stopped short of vaulting the Jays all the way into the top 10. They do have my preseason pick for Big East POY, Ryan Kalkbrenner, a 7-foot defensive stalwart who is going to give the Bluejays a dynamic no other team in the Big East will match. I also love Ryan Nembhard's long-term potential; Creighton's starting point is back after breaking his wrist. Ask around the Big East and coaches will tell you the guy who is THE factor in making Creighton a next-level team is wing Trey Alexander. Greg McDermott landed one of the buzziest transfers in the portal, South Dakota State scorer Baylor Scheierman, who will be a sweet fit in this offense. Then there's Arthur Kaluma at the 4, just another dude capable of leading this team in scoring on any given night. Can't wait to see Creighton as November moves along.
So, how's this going to go? Jon Scheyer takes over one of the top three jobs in the country. Duke has a new coach for the first time in four decades. Optimism is palpable, but nobody really knows. It's all new vibes in Durham, where Duke has the top-rated freshman class. Thankfully, Scheyer is comfortable in his new role and has been empowered to build out Duke the way he thinks will be an extension of Mike Krzyzewski but also a modernization of the Blue Devils in this NIL era. Here's the thing: there's not a lot of guys on the roster who know how to win in college. Scheyer is thrilled Jeremy Roach opted to return; at least one person getting minutes will have walked through the fire. Duke just lost a program-record five NBA picks in a single draft, so here comes the next wave: stretch 5 Dereck Lively II, multi-faceted 4 Kyle Filipowski, tantalizing talent at the 3 in Mark Mitchell, and a pair of shooting guards in Tyrese Proctor and Dariq Whitehead who'll be marvelous. Roach will be the head of the snake. Coveted Illinois transfer Jacob Grandison will provide experience and shooting. But there are too many unknowns here for me to slot Duke any higher in Scheyer's debut. It's one of the most intriguing groups going into the season.
Back in early August, as I started to think out how I'd tier out teams, I wondered if I might wind up higher on UVA than anyone else. Turns out, no chance. As the leaves began to fall, Virginia was on the receiving end of more and more respect both within ACC circles and around the country. Tony Bennett doesn't have his greatest roster, but Reece Beekman, Jayden Gardner, Kihei Clark, Kadin Shedrick, Armaan Franklin and Ben Vander Plas feel like a top six that can thrive in Bennett's philosophy and bring the Hoos back to national viability. That's a starting five + sixth man who will be wearing home whites into Sweet 16, should UVA get that far. Nobody of note is gone from a season ago, when UVA went 21-14. This program doesn't stay down long under Bennett. Beekman and Gardner should be two of the 10 best all-around players in the ACC, and Clark sort of is what he is at this stage of his career — a good thing, to be sure. Underrated defender, even.
The Crimson Tide could have some stumbles early without Jahvon Quinerly available; he tore his ACL in the NCAA Tournament and the hope is he can be able to play effectively by Christmas. That in mind, this ranking is a projection of where Alabama can be in the national landscape by March. Freshman Brandon Miller is the guy you'll want to tune in for. He's a top-15 2022 prospect who is a terrific combo forward that does so much to help facilitate and energize an offense. Might be a lottery pick, and he'll pair well with 6-10 freshman Noah Clowney, who is a plus-plus defender and has gotten better by playing under another big with talent, Charles Bediako. Two wait-and-see guys: Nimari Burnett, who transferred a year ago from TTU but sat out because of a knee injury; and Ohio PG transfer Mark Sears, who will take a major step up after a good season in the MAC.
Three seasons ago, Dayton went undefeated in regulation, becoming the first team since 1975-76 Indiana to be able to make such a claim. Of course, there was no tournament that year. This team has a chance to be nearly as good. Your names to know are DaRon Holmes II, Malachi Smith, Toumani Camara and Kobe Elvis. The majority of the roster returns after going 24-11. Holmes is an awesome player, the kind of flexible big who will be nearly as important for UD this season as Obi Toppin was three years ago. (That said, their games are quite different.) Smith should also be an A-10 First Teamer, as the 6-foot point is a keen distributor and quick-witted defender. He recently injured his ankle, but ideally that doesn't lower Dayton's ceiling. Flyers coach Anthony Grant is owed some good things, and this group is poised to deliver in that regard. For as much publicity as Dayton has received all preseason, there's a chance the Flyers are still being slightly undervalued in the overall landscape, which is why I had to put them in the top 20.
Lose three NBA picks? So what. At Arizona, the expectation is you bring in NBA talent, lose it annually and you don't slip in the Pac-12 hierarchy. Top-three program, no matter the circumstances surrounding you. That in mind, we'll see what coach Tommy Lloyd does in his sophomore season. Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko and Dalen Terry are now earning NBA paychecks. Azuolas Tubelis is U of A's best player, a talented option at center who will be flanked in the frontcourt by Oumar Ballo, a senior who was recruited by Lloyd to Gonzaga. Ballo has his limits but there are flashes of fun talent. Guard play is where Arizona should remain fun and competitive as hell: Kerr Kriisa is a nasty trash talker who takes junk from no one, and Texas transfer Courtney Ramey could be a sweet complement in playing style. The guarantee breakout player: Pelle Larson has looked great all offseason and should be a go-to choice for offense. Lloyd proved how good he was in Year 1, so the slack will be minimal for a group that should easily qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
I'll still take all of your Zach Edey stock. I thought he'd be a top-30 player by season's end last season. That didn't quite happen, but Edey still made hay, upping his averages from 8.7 to 14.4 points, 4.4 to 7.7 rebounds and .597 to .648 shooting percentage. He also fouled less. Purdue returns Edey, Mason Gillis, Caleb Furst (needs to shoot well) and Ethan Morton. David Jenkins Jr. is on his fourth college team: South Dakota State, then UNLV, then Utah, now Purdue. What a road. Once upon a time he was one of the best mid-major players in the country. He's hoping to earn a starting spot along with freshman point guard Braden Smith. There's a lot of questions with Purdue, but Matt Painter is a top-10 X-and-O coach. I'm banking on Edey commanding attention in a crowded Big Ten POY race. And Mackey Arena is as tough an environment to win in as that league has. Oh, and there's another giraffe on the roster: a 7-2 frosh named Will Berg who will patrol the paint in the years to come.
This is why TCU went out and made sure to get — then retain, when the UCLA job came open a few years back — Jamie Dixon. The Horned Frogs enter with grander ambitions than at any point in program history. I've got TCU listed fourth overall in the Big 12, but finishing second is on the table. The hope is five starters are back. Why "hope"? There's one eligibility issue lingering. Damion Baugh is facing a significant suspension from the NCAA due to briefly signing with an agent who wasn't NCAA-approved. The school has been privately fighting for months. If he's available, TCU has Sweet-16-or-better potential. Mike Miles (15.4 ppg) is back, and he could go out and win Big 12 POY. He and Baugh make for a wonderful 1-2 in the backcourt. Remember Eddie Lampkin? He's a hoss and gave Arizona hell in the NCAAs, scoring 20 and hauling in 16 boards. Chuck O'Bannon (SF) and Emanuel Miller (PF) round out the familiar faces. TCU ranked 74th in offensive efficiency last season, which has to and should improve. This school is having a huge season on the football field, and now the basketball team will be tasked with equaling it. Huge vibes in Fort Worth these days.
I said on Eye on College Basketball that Trayce Jackson-Davis is my dark horse pick for NPOY. IU brings back Xavier Johnson, Race Thompson and Miller Kopp alongside Jackson-Davis. Jalen Hood-Schifino enters as the favorite for Big Ten freshman of the year. Will sophomore Tamar Bates make a jump? The fans are clamoring. You'll recall IU elbowed its way into the NCAAs and then got booted by Saint Mary's. Mike Woodson's largest task will be splitting the difference between letting Jackson-Davis touch the ball on every possession but finding a way to get creative perimeter scoring. Woodson hasn't shown that yet as a college coach. The Hoosiers were 10th in the Big Ten in PPP last season. His team ranked 95th in offensive efficiency. Something significant to prove there; it's why I hesitated to pick IU to win the Big Ten. If you look at how Indiana played under Woodson and compare it to the statistical trends from Archie Miller's final couple of seasons, the players ran the race more than coaching changed the situation. Turnover rate was identical (17.2%) in Miller's last season and Woodson's first. Three-point D, assist% D, assist% O, 3-point shooting and offensive-rebound rate were near-identical. Last year's team was as fast as IU was on average over four years under Miller.
The Wildcats' rock-solid environment will be tested right away under new coach Kyle Neptune. The team has been banged up a lot in the preseason and was forced to practice for weeks with limited numbers. Veteran shooting guard Justin Moore is recovering from an Achilles injury and the ambitious timeline of his return has been walked back publicly. Caleb Daniels is working his way back from a broken nose. Lauded freshman/potential 2023 NBA Draft lottery pick Cam Whitmore won't be on the starting day roster because of thumb surgery. Despite Neptune encountering so many setbacks, I'll trust Villanova pulls it together and maintains a top-25 affiliation for at least some of this season. Similar to Scheyer at Duke, I am curious to see how Neptune chooses to run his program now that Jay Wright is living half the year on the beach and splitting his time at Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers games. A healthy Brandon Slater will be pivotal. I think he shines. I also want to see how freshman point Mark Armstrong takes advantage of his bump up into the starting lineup as VU to get minutes opportunities early.
The Red Raiders fall fifth among Big 12 teams, which speaks to how much respect Mark Adams is already receiving. TTU has one starter back. Prized transfer center Fardaws Aimaq is hurt. The big guy returner is Kevin Obanor, who did well for himself (10.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) after coming over from Oral Roberts. He'll likely need to up those averages to 15 and 7 if TTU is to keep momentum after making the Sweet 16, where it fell in a tough game to Duke. The Red Raiders bring in De'Vion Harmon, who is familiar with the conference, having previously been a Sooner before spending last season with Oregon. Another player incoming is one with positive vibes attached: 6-5 wing Kerwin Walton left UNC to play for Adams. Aimaq is the key, though. He broke his foot and is targeting a midseason return. If he can be mostly healthy, his physicality and tremendous rebounding prowess (13.6 per game last season, 15.0 the year before at Utah Valley) will be the thing that gets the Red Raiders precious victories in the February stretch.
I get the sense Mike Brey knows he's got his best team in more than a half-decade. I get the hunch Notre Dame might be a firm seven-deep — no more — by the end of February, but I really like this starting five: Nate Laszewski, Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan, Marcus Hammond, J.J. Starling. Starling is a freshman who might grow into the best non-Duke freshman in the ACC. Hammond dropped 18 a game at Niagara, so we'll see. Laszewski is a vet who's gotten better each year. Goodwin is a vet wing and one of six super seniors on the roster. Brey loves to say get old and stay old. He's done it again, and should manage to maintain top-four status in the ACC after losing top-25 pick Blake Wesley.
Super senior Will Richardson is the ignition point for an Oregon team that was a letdown a season ago, going just 20-15 and whiffing on making the Dance. It marked just the second time since 2013 that Oregon didn't have a tournament-caliber club. It's looking like the Ducks will be more formidable over the next five months. Richardson is the best player, but the front line could be the best in the conference: 6-8 double-digit scorer Quincy Guerrier is back; five-star prospect Kel'el Ware will be a stretchy 7-footer who can play the 4 or 5; and senior N'Faly Dante should be the best version of himself. There's another 7-footer, sophomore Nate Bittle, who's also said to have grown his game a bit in the offseason.
Hunter Dickinson will be one of many centerpiece centers starring this season. Getty Images
If Princeton transfer Jaelin Llewellyn hits big, Michigan will be top-25 good for more than 75% of the season. Hunter Dickinson (18.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg) is the most valuable player on this team, but Llewellyn is the latest in line at Michigan in this regard: productive mid-major guard who is tasked with stepping in and starting at point for a team with aspirations of winning the Big Ten. The previous two players on this list (DeVante' Jones, Mike Smith) had ups and downs. After Dickinson, the second leading scorer back on this team is Terrance Williams, who put up 4.7 points per night. I'd be surprised if Jett Howard isn't one of the three best freshmen in the Big Ten and top 15 in the country. He's 6-8 and can play the 3 or the 4. A lot of promise. Michigan fans might almost want him to be not too good so he sticks around for a couple of years. The likely breakout guy is Kobe Bufkin, now a sophomore and figures to be a starter in the backcourt.
Not many power-conference teams after this one who I think have a healthy chance of being the best team in their league. While I am obviously not projecting that with the Huskies, I do think they're at eye level with Xavier, Creighton and Nova in the Big East. UConn has the preseason league POY, C Adama Sanogo. There will be nights when Sanogo isn't a top-two contributor, thanks to Andre Jackson becoming a 6-6 point guard and Jordan Hawkins on the verge of a breakthrough sophomore season. And make sure you buy a ticket for the Alex Karaban Caravan before it's too late. The freshman power forward will be a long-term contributor for UConn and is going to provide a lot of frontcourt production, right there with fellow freshman, 7-2 Donovan Clingan. Also interested to see how ECU transfer Tristen Newton is as a combo guard. Nine-man rotation sounds about right.
Seems like Auburn could weave in a variety of directions. Most everyone agrees that the evolution of 5-11 Wendell Green Jr. and 6-footer K.D. Johnson will have an outsized influence on the Tigers' SEC chances. Auburn was a 2- seed last season that got upended in the second round by Miami. Jabari Smith went third in the draft, shot-blocking authority Walker Kessler also went in the first round, so now Bruce Pearl is leaning back into the "Small Guard U" slogan that helped him build this program. Green and Johnson are fun as hell but also reckless. We'll see if they can control their impulses. Down low, Johni Broome was the big transfer get, an active and efficient multi-year player at Morehead State. Jury is out if he can be just as successful jumping two levels up from the OVC. Pearl still has good program guys in uniform, namely defensive hornet Zep Jasper and Allen Flanigan, who should be back to 100% after tearing his Achilles last fall.
A large season awaits for the Billikens. Travis Ford gets his best player back after a year away. Javonte Perkins, the preseason Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, has returned after tearing an ACL. He'll team up with 6-footer Yuri Collins and give the Billikens an entertaining point guard/wing attack. Collins led the nation in assists (7.9 per game). Perkins was dropping 17/night the season before his injury. Redshirt sophomore Gibson Jimerson is also going to provide scoring punch and power in the backcourt. This team has to be better on D than it was a season ago, and with Javon Pickett coming over from Mizzou, I think there's improvement coming. A did-you-know to stump your pals with: SLU was the first No. 1 team in the history of the AP poll.
Infamously the first team out of the NCAA Tournament last season, Buzz Williams hopes nothing is left to chance in 2023. (Might I suggest not losing eight consecutive league games over the course of a month, and avoiding the assembly of a sub-par noncon schedule?) A&M in '22-23 sets up as a continuation/improvement on the team that rallied from its snub to make the NIT championship game, so long as it can consistently box out. A&M was the fourth-worst power-conference team in defensive rebound percentage. With only one freshman, the Aggies will fall back on their experience and chesty defense to keep pace in a competitive SEC. Tyrece Radford is a true shooting guard who is poised to be Williams' top player. The gap between Radford and returnees Wade Taylor IV and Henry Coleman isn't large, though. Williams also improved his roster by adding Julius Marble (Michigan State) and Dexter Dennis (Wichita State).
A.J. Hoggard is the starting point guard whose usage will now spike thanks to Max Christie bailing on MSU after one season. He's got Tyson Walker next to him in the backcourt, and Walker was just-OK last season. Malik Hall is probably MSU's most talented player, but how often will he show that? Tom Izzo needs to unlock him. Jaden Akins has shown encouraging signs in the preseason, too. Then there's PF Joey Hauser, who didn't get enough touches last season. Michigan State's schedule is outrageous, and because Sparty will be guaranteed to take losses, we might collectively underrate this team into January. Ultimately, Izzo has made the NCAAs every year since 1997. Have to trust he'll find a way yet again.
Coming off that stunning Elite Eight run, what do we make of the Canes? The good thing is the U lost nobody to transfer. Still, Kam McGusty (17.8 ppg), Charlie Moore (12.4 ppg, 4.6 apg) and Sam Waardenburg (8.5 ppg) departed. Crucially, Isaiah Wong is back after he publicly tried to leverage his NIL situation. The guy who induced Wong's ploy is sharpshooter Nijel Pack, who signed a two-year $800K NIL deal. Pack and Norchad Omier (Arkansas State transfer/Sun Belt stud last season) are the key newcomers. The team doesn't appear to be deep, but the starting lineup might be able to pick up where last year's group left off. Pack's situation intrigues me, though. No player has a dollar figure tied to their college career, for now, the way he does. He was a good player on a mediocre K-State team. Whole new world this season.
Shadowing new coach Todd Golden on the road in July was my favorite offseason story. A lot of seldom-divulged insight from the leader of a program on what goes into building a team. Golden had to flip Florida and recruit the portal hard. He missed on some, then somewhat unexpectedly got commitments from others. Everyone will play second fiddle to center Colin Castleton, a sneaky choice to be SEC POY. Castleton will feed off the playmaking capabilities of Kyle Lofton (St. Bonaventure), Will Richard (Belmont) and Trey Bonham (VMI). Myreon Jones, who previously transferred from Penn State and was just-OK last season, could be a guy who winds up changing a few game outcomes and turning Florida into a top 30-level team. Golden is a young coach with a lot to prove. Florida unquestionably has the roster to be dancing in mid-March.
This is Leonard Hamilton's 21st season with the 'Noles. The last time he failed to win at least 20 games in a two-year stretch was '04 and '05. FSU was 17-14 last season, so history suggests Hamilton will have the arrow pointing up in Tallahassee. The Seminoles bring back 6-5 lead guard Caleb Mills, which will be significant, and he'll team up with potential NBA pick/wing Matthew Cleveland to give FSU matchup advantages in the midrange and off the bounce. If Florida State is to be taken seriously, you know it'll have at least one guy with horrifying size. Say hello to Baba Miller, a 6-11 Spanish freshman who will compete with the 7-4 Naheem McLeod for minutes in the middle. The big question: Can FSU's NCAA record of 13 consecutive overtime wins continue? I examined the odds last season.
One of college hoops' must-see players is 6-7 point Hunter Maldonado. He and center Graham Ike play a relentless punish-in-the-paint style that gives Wyoming a unique playbook in the Mountain West. The two might score more than 40 points per night this season for a team that's coming off its first NCAAs appearance since 2015. Jeff Linder is hoping Maldonado can be used in a variety of ways, though, and that'll happen if Noah Reynolds makes a sophomore jump. USC transfer Ethan Anderson is the piece who should keep Wyoming in arm's length of San Diego State for the MW title.
If you're looking for the true dark horse to emerge and finish top three in the Big 12, this is the one. Mike Boynton brings four starters back from a team that was ineligible to make the postseason in 2022. The Cowboys have Avery Anderson, Bryce Thompson, Kalib Boone and Moussa Cisse. Four dudes with different styles, attributes and tangibles. And yet ... point guard is a viable concern. One of two transfers will get the keys. It will either be either High Point's high scorer, John-Michael Wright, or former Texas State general Caleb Asberry. So long as OSU can improve on its nagging penchant for anemic shooting and keep the turnovers manageable, the Cowboys should at worst be in the conversation as a bubble team.
The Buckeyes have a canoe-full of freshmen on the roster. Yes, Justice Sueing is going to be the team's best player. Zed Key is back in the middle, and he's an anchor. The new faces make OSU a darker target to nab. Sean McNeil (West Virginia) and Isaiah Likekele (Oklahoma State) will play a ton. As will big-time scorer Tanner Holden, who comes in-state from Wright State. A lot of chatter in the preseason about how foggy the Big Ten seems from 1-7 or 8. Ohio State is representative of that unpredictability. This team could be third-best in the league … or maybe it'll be eighth or ninth. The portal is leading to a lot of situations around the country wherein it's hard to gauge a team's ceiling or floor because it's hard to figure how revamped rosters with veteran players will fit together.
Sometimes a school makes a hire that not only makes a lot of sense, the immediate returns on significant winning make it seem all the more obvious in retrospect. That's what we have here with Andy Kennedy at his alma mater. UAB is coming off an NCAA tourney run and a 27-win season. Jelly Walker is one of the more electric players in the country, a shooting guard who loves to take and make tough shots but who isn't a black hole in Kennedy's offense. UAB will have center Trey Jemison and KJ Buffen at the 4, giving them the toughest starting five to match up with in Conference USA. One of the best mid-major teams in '22-23.
Penny Hardaway is finally going to have a season without drama or noise attached to it (I think). It's taken almost five years, but maybe the story in Bluff City can only be about the team on the court. The IARP investigation is over. No major penalties. No projected lottery picks and eligibility drama. So, let's talk Tigers. The reason Memphis is in the top 40 is due to adding maybe the best transfer of them all, former SMU PG Kendric Davis (19.4 ppg, 4.4 apg). He gives Memphis a proper shot at making consecutive NCAA tourneys, and for all the rightful buzz Houston's guards get, what if Davis is the best in the American? He already knows the league inside and out, after all. One player somehow still in college basketball is DeAndre Williams, a super senior who is the oldest player in D-I at 26 and a formidable power forward in a rugged league.
2022 Big Ten Basketball Media Days
High-flying Cliff Omoruyi has Rutgers aiming for another NCAA Tournament appearance.  Getty Images
Plenty of pieces for Rutgers to compete for another tourney berth. Cliff Omoruyi, Caleb McConnell and Paul Mulcahy are all back. This should be a top-four defense in the Big Ten. Omoruyi is a beast and deserves to be mentioned any time we talk about the big-time bigs in the B1G. McConnell rates as one of the 5-10 top defenders in the country. Mulcahy isn't elite at one singular thing but fits so well in Pikiell's scheme because he can be tasked with a lot of duties on offense, but also picks up the slack on D. There are uncertainties outside this core trio, which is why Rutgers isn't a consensus pick to make it back to the NCAAs. I wouldn't be shocked, though. If it gets there, it will be the first time RU's ever gone dancing three years in a row.
The Johnnies could be top-35 good or they could be outside the top 80. I'm an optimist, so long as Illinois transfer Andre Curbelo has his best season. Curbelo was a polarizing one through two seasons at Illinois, missing time last year because of a concussion that seemed to worsen his capacity as a player. So long as he's feeling good, SJU will have a sparkish backcourt thanks to shutdown guard Posh Alexander. Alexander averaged 13.8 points, 5.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals. This is Mike Anderson's 21st season as a head coach. He's never finished below .500. He won't this year either, due in part to losing no players to transfer. St. John's is trying to win its first NCAA Tournament game since — my oh my — 2000.
I think we're about to get a real indication of what Virginia Tech will be in the larger picture under Mike Young. The Hokies closed the regular season strong, going 13-2 from the end of January until Selection Sunday, where they earned the ACC's auto bid. But Storm Murphy, Keve Aluma and Naheim Alleyne are gone. Will Tech be a flash in the pan after last season's push, or can this program find sustainability in the upper half of the league in 2023 and beyond? The roster is led by All-ACC forward Justyn Mutts. He'll be the team's heart and soul, while Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla, both of whom shot better than 40% from 3, will be perimeter snipers. Wright State transfer and do-it-all stretch big Grant Basile adds another dimension. I've got Tech's range being 4-8 in the ACC.
Most others are higher on the Hawkeyes than me. Last season Fran McCaffery successfully moved on from Luka Garza by getting an All-American season and lottery-pick plot twist out of Keegan Murray. Now, Murray's brother, Kris, will be asked to be great. I think he'll be pretty good and the best player in Hawkeye colors. Brothers Connor (2.5 ppg) and Pat McCaffery (10.5 ppg) are still around. Iowa's starting backcourt figures to be returnee Tony Perkins and Ahron Ulis who, yes, is little brother to Tyler Ulis. The 5-man will again be Filip Rebraca, who's going to live around the rim and see his role increased. This is by no means a bad thing, but Iowa did not bring in a transfer from a D-I program. I bring this up primarily because I'm not sure how deep it'll be.
The Sooners clock in at No. 28 in KenPom's preseason ratings, which looked mildly surprising at first glance — until you realize OU finished last season 30th. It was the highest-ranked team to not dance. Porter Moser's second season will benefit from bringing three starters back: the Groves brothers, Tanner and Jacob, and Jalen Hill. That will be a productive troika. They'll be uplifted if Nevada transfer Grant Sherfield continues to be a stat compiler like his past two seasons. Sherfield averaged 19.1 points, 6.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds last season. If his shooting can improve, OU will finish in the top five in the ever-competitive Big 12. He'll be backed up by sophomore C.J. Noland, who could grow into one of the most valuable reserves in the conference, provided he doesn't eventually earn a starting spot in time for Big 12 competition.
No one saw THAT Johnny Davis coming. As in: wire-to-wire player of the year candidate Johnny Davis. Top-10 draft pick Johnny Davis. With Davis exiting stage right, three starters will vie for star status for Greg Gard's troop. Chucky Hepburn, Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl. Hepburn will be the team's starting point guard. It feels like so much of UW's outlook depends on how good he becomes as a sophomore. Wahl averaged nearly 12 points and is likely to lead the team in scoring. He's ready. Crowl, a 7-footer, is going to have a heck of an interesting year going up against so many good centers (again) in this league. If you didn't already know: Davis' younger brother, Jordan, could be a starter. Badgers figure to have a step-back season before potentially moving back into the top six of the league come 2023-24.
After being a surprise last season, Ed Cooley's team is getting more respect heading into November. A litany of portal additions right after PC won its first Big East regular season crown in history is helping. Word is Noah Locke (Louisville) has been big in practice so far, but Bryce Hopkins (Kentucky) could be the best get of 'em all. The Friars also brought on Devin Carter (South Carolina) and Corey Floyd Jr. (UConn) to help ease the transition after five integral pieces left. One big name is back: grad-student point guard Jared Bynum, who I believe will be a top-100 player in the sport and can average north of 5.0 assists. He gets a familiar face back in the middle, emerging senior center Ed Croswell.
The Trojans had a big scare on the first day of July when their best incoming freshman suffered cardiac arrest and had to be taken to the hospital. Vince Iwuchukwu has not been cleared to return and there is no assurance USC will clear him. A top-30 prospect in the Class of 2022, Iwuchukwu's absence could loom large for Andy Enfield's team. The backcourt is a troika of different shapes and sizes, and that's where SC is going to have to carve out a lot of its wins. Boogie Ellis will again run the point, while 6-8 Drew Peterson is going to be a valve for Ellis on the wing. The two combined to score 25 per night. The third guard is sophomore Reese Dixon-Waters, whose minutes will spike.
The WCC won't enter this season with quite as much buzz/optimism as a year ago, when people were wondering if four teams could make the NCAAs. It wound up being three (GU, SMC, USF). As we head into November, it would be negligent to blindly assume that the Gaels won't be top-50 caliber. Randy Bennett's team has finished in the top 50 at KenPom seven of the past eight seasons. Three starters return from last season's No. 5 seed: Alex Ducas, Logan Johnson and Kyle Bowen. Bennett could have taken a bigger job almost any year in the past decade but instead has become a quiet parallel to Mark Few in the WCC. He's remade this program into a defensive stalwart, and that ego should show itself again over the next five months.
The Cougars are coming off their best season since Tony Bennett had a whistle in Pullman. And I'm telling you now: Mouhamed Gueye is coming, folks. The 6-11 stretch-ish 5 from Senegal is poised to be the breakout player in the Pac-12. His athleticism and growing comfortability with his size is going to put WSU in the mix in that 4-7 range. Kyle Smith has an interesting squad that will be able to win many clashes at the 3, 4 and 5. Transfer guard Justin Powell (Tennessee) will need to produce the best season of his career in order to push the Cougars into the at-large conversation. 
Coaching regimes sometimes move with a blur. Kevin Keatts is already in Year 6 in Raleigh. NC State could turn into one of the ACC's surprise teams, but it's hard to justify lifting it any higher than here. The Wolfpack won only 11 games, so the arrow in theory is pointing up. I expect State to clear the .500 bar thanks to 6-4 SG and possible All-American Terquavion Smith coming back after passing on almost certainly getting drafted. For reinforcements, Keatts acquired 6-9, 315-pound center DJ Burns, by way of Winthrop. I also like PG Jarkel Joiner scooting over from Ole Miss. State ranked 11th in turnover percentage nationally last season, so will that habit remain contagious? If so, this team can be an ACC spoiler.
Optimism has returned to UC, where second-year coach Wes Miller is trying to build a top-20 2023 class. For this season, Cincy figures to be fourth at worst in the American, but mark me down for Miller getting a year ahead of schedule thanks to grad senior David DeJulius coming back, in addition to bringing on a scoring escape hatch, Landers Nolley (Memphis). It'll be interesting to see how much impact former Hoosier PG Rob Phinisee makes in a new spot as well. One big reason I'm bullish on the Bearcats is 6-11 junior center Viktor Lahkin, who Miller thinks is going to burst with production. If he blossoms, that's what gets UC to No. 3 in the conference.
In the confines of the WCC, I've got Saint Mary's narrowly edging out these Cougars in what will be the school's last season in the league. (BYU joins the Big 12 in July.) The program majorly benefits from its home joint, the Marriott Center, which is one of the sport's most intimidating environments as often as the 19,000-capacity building sells out. The locals will be backing returning starters Gideon George and Fousseyni Traore. Could be crucial: former Coastal Carolina combo guard Rudi Williams will man point. BYU stumbled last season because of injury issues but still took 24 wins. Anything worse than the NIT wouldn't be acceptable in '23.
This will be Maryland's first season under former Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard. At least the toxicity of that fan base's relationship with Mark Turgeon is long gone. As for what this team will be? Fair question. Terps are a tough read less than two weeks out from opening day. Two transfers who figure to be starting in the backcourt: former Charlotte PG Jahmir Young — one of the best foul shooters in the country — and former Georgetown SG Donald Carey. We'll see how successful they are vs. Big Ten competition. Importantly, Donta Scott is back, and I think his presence in the locker room can help anchor this group. Maryland plays five good-to-great opponents, two road games included, in the first five weeks of the season. We'll have answers early. Terps could be anywhere from fifth to 12th in the conference.
If you're reading this and aren't a hardcore SEC hoops follower or an Ole Miss fan, I'm willing to bet that one of the 5-10 best players you've either never seen or heard of plays for the Rebels. His name is Matthew Murrell and he's probably going to average north of 15 points for a team with a coach (Kermit Davis) desperate to break through. Murrell will benefit from Daeshun Ruffin returning as a vet point guard. There's not a lot of inherent appeal with a program like Mississippi, but there's a chance this team is a pretty fun one thanks to a cadre of good athletes who don't take plays off.
The Mean Green of Conference USA have a slow-you-down, grind-you-to-dust approach that can drive opponents mad. Grant McCasland's team won 25 games last season, the most in school history. Critical components like Tylor Perry and Rubin Jones will ensure the Green doesn't get moldy. If anything, my No. 56 projection would be about level with where UNT finished last season (57th at KenPom, 53rd at BartTorvik, 55th in the NET). Dodge debilitating scoring droughts and all will be well. In my mid-major lookahead, McCasland was on the short list of fast-rising mid-major coaches.
These Rams have a chance to be a top-15 defensive unit. If they get there, the Atlantic 10 will be set up to have its first three-bid season since 2018. The promising word out of this camp in the preseason is that, for as good as Ace Baldwin is, sophomore Jayden Nunn could be the 1b to Baldwin's 1a. This team had to overcome (and to an extent didn't) injury battles much of last season. If that's out of the way, VCU is going to be pushing for a bid into March. Rhoades would make my list of the top five-or-so most undervalued coaches across all levels of college hoops.
Harrison Ingram returns to Stanford after testing the waters of the NBA Draft. Getty Images
It's a make-it-or-you're-out season for Jerod Haase, who's in his seventh go-round with the Cardinal. The team is yet to earn an NCAA bid under Haase, but a reminder: he took over a program that danced once in eight years under Johnny Dawkins. Mike Montgomery's Cardinal teams were a long time ago. And yet, the energy this fall is upbeat and encouraging. The program has the dark horse pick to win Pac-12 Player of the Year, sophomore wing Harrison Ingram (10.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg). It also has by far the most returning minutes of any Pac-12 team. There are opportunities to seize, and Maples Pavilion needs to rock again.
Clear-cut favorite in the MVC. Drake boasts reigning MVC Freshman of the Year and preseason favorite for league MOP, Tucker DeVries. DeVries averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds last season on a 25-win team. The program did the previously unthinkable by earning an at-large bid two years ago, then came up one win short last season from getting the automatic qualifier. DeVries and Roman Penn will be the best 1-2 in the Valley — a league that lost Loyola Chicago but brings aboard Belmont and Murray State. Probably a net positive overall. Looking forward to seeing what this league becomes in the next few years.
An obvious thing that still doesn't get enough conversation: Jim Boeheim has been coaching SU since 1976. That's three generations ago. The world was so drastically different when he started coaching this program vs. what it is now, with Boeheim still patrolling the sideline at 77. (He'll be 78 in November.) It bends the mind. So here's Boeheim chipping onto the 18th green of his career, doing so after his first losing season ever. It's tough to gauge whether Cuse will continue to slump or if it can be a bubble-level team in the ACC. I've heard good things about freshman point guard Judah Mintz. If Mintz can allow Joe Girard III to thrive off the ball, that should benefit the Orange. Plus, I think the frontcourt combo of Jesse Edwards and Benny Williams will have potential to win some games on their own for SU.
Biggest stock-riser in the ACC? Let's take a shot. Someone's going to worm their way up the mushy middle of the ACC, so I'll go with the Eagles, who last made the NCAAs all the way back in '09. Four starters — and five of the team's top seven scorers — return for Earl Grant, led by brother duo Makai Ashton-Langford and DeMarr Langford, plus sophomore Jaeden Zackery. Grant's still building the program in his image. He also does not take shortcuts and has a keen eye for talent. The Eagles won 13 games last season; they'll improve that number by at least five in their second year on Grant's watch.
No power-conference team brings back less of its roster than LSU, which in early April did not have a scholarship player after Matt McMahon took the job. McMahon managed to not only retain an injury-plagued talent-in-waiting in Adam Miller, he also did a hell of a job working the portal and piecing together a crew that figures to dodge dreaded cellar-dwelling in its first season of a major regime change. Biggest transfer is the guy who came with McMahon from Murray State: K.J. Williams, one of the sport's top 100 players. Justice Hill also tagged along from Murray State; he'll start at point. 
After the Saint Peter's dream run, Holloway (as expected) got the gig at his alma mater and it's been the most frenzied offseason of his life. (Saint Peter's plays at Seton Hall on Nov. 12, oh by the way.) As we creep closer to November, it begs a big question: What kind of team will Holloway have in Year 1? We know one thing: It'll be old. We know another: the Hall is another banged up Big East outfit. Holloway said he only has seven healthy players for now. The way things are tracking, the Hall's top eight in rotation should be juniors or older, led by returning combo wing Kadary Richmond. How does Holloway make them all jell, as more than half the guys wearing SHU threads weren't with the program seven months ago?
It's understandable how sometimes certain teams' seasons can get memory-holed for a national audience. That in mind, you'd be forgiven if you forgot just how good Boise State was. Leon Rice got this team to a No. 8-seed level and into the Dance for the first time since 2015. The Broncos shouldn't drift too far off radar. In fact, they have a guy who I almost put on my top 100 list of the best players, sophomore F Tyson Degenhart (MW FOY), who could jump from 9.9 ppg to north of 15 a night. The Broncos also bring back grad senior Marcus Shaver to guide a fairly stable program that's never thin on talent.
There's room for optimism in State College. Because Penn State returns four starters, KenPom has the Nittany Lions projected top-50. That almost never happens. It's a nice early season surprise after an understandably tough 14-17 Year 1 go of it under Micah Shrewsberry. Jalen Pickett adapted well after transferring from Siena. He's back, as is the menacingly named Myles Dread, plus veteran wing Seth Lundy. The name garnering buzz around this program is former Drexel combo guard Cam Wynter, who figures to be a double-digit scorer. PSU was 354th in tempo last season. With so much experience, I can't help but wonder if Shrewsberry tries to up the pace just a bit and trust his veterans to play a bit more loosely.
Let's see how this move to the Atlantic 10 suits the Ramblers, who can claim facilities that are as good as any other in the conference. On the court, Drew Valentine is going to have more tweaking and coaching to do this season than in his debut, as some big pieces from previous NCAA Tournament runs have moved on. That said, Loyola Chicago projects as a top-five A-10 competitor thanks to 3-point specialist Braden Norris and do-everything guard Marquise Kennedy being back on campus. Four transfers came aboard. The biggest one is Butler's Bryce Golden, who could play north of 30 minutes per game at center.
Having grown to love college hoops in the '90s, I have a soft spot for Temple. It's Year 4 for Aaron McKie and it's time to find a little forward momentum. This program has gone a decade since finishing as a top-50 team in KenPom. Feels like few schools have been lost in the shuffle over the past 10 years like the Owls. Junior Khalif Battle is the team's top player, and if he's healthy the whole year I like TU as the foil of the AAC. (Battle missed more than 20 games a season ago.) Temple has as much size as almost any team 1-through-10 and should have three double-digit wings in Battle, Damian Dunn and Zach Hicks. Why the hell not, mark it down: See you guys in the NIT!
Yet another talented and pivotal big, like the dozens of others who will come to define 2022-23 on the college hardwood, resides in Clemson. His name is P.J. Hall. He's a 6-10 center who averaged 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds before injuring his knee in the offseason. He's expected to be cleared to play before December. Tigers need him at full strength to stay afloat in the ACC. Clemson's .507 winning percentage in the ACC is the worst all time among the conference's 15 schools. My understanding is it's NCAA Tournament or bust for Brad Brownell, who has more wins (218) and more seasons to his name (13) than any coach in Clemson history.
I won't be surprised if Washington outperforms this ranking and makes the NCAAs. Mike Hopkins is in a pressure-cooker season but he's got dudes to pull off a 20-win campaign, if not better. Kentucky transfer wing Keion Brooks Jr. should inject a flair and flame into a program that's been lacking those elements. He'll team up with returning guard Jamal Bey, who does a lot of things well except consistently shoot the jumper. Washington State transfer Noah Williams (crossing enemy lines!) should also be a factor in UW's backcourt. Shooting will probably be the night-over-night challenge, but this figures to be a top-five defense in the Pac-12.
I'm sure other rankings systems are higher on Tulane, I just need to see it first. (Tulane was 14-15 last season.) A triple-J guard attack is going to give Green Wave fans viable hope to make the NCAAs for the first time since — damn — 1995. They're young but they're cherished: sophomore PG Jalen Cook, sophomore off-guard Jadan Coleman and junior shooting guard Jaylen Forbes. The guards combined for 34.5 ppg last season. Ron Hunter has seven of his eight leading scorers back, and though this team doesn't have a lot of size, it does have the makings of a top-50 offense. No one's knocking off Houston in the American, but Tulane could have enough to swipe second if everyone improves.
If you think Towson's too high, you haven't been paying attention. This is going to be one of the best Tigers teams ever, particularly after winning 25 games a season ago. Pat Skerry has a great core back comprised of Nicolas Timberlake, Cam Holden, Charles Thompson and Jason Gibson. They are veterans, they know how to win, they should be the CAA's best team with room to spare. The reason I nudged Towson up 10-12 spots higher than I initially intended was because of how well D-II transfer Sekou Sylla has adapted to new surroundings. He won NPOY at that level and is helping build this team into a Cinderella candidate come March.
The top of the MAC is going to be competitive. I've got the Rockets rising. Four starters return for a quick-witted offensive unit that doesn't get romantic about shooting the 3; Toledo's 3-point rate ranked 314th last season, a surprisingly low number for a team that won 26 games, good for second-most in school history. Tod Kowalczyk should have his best group yet. Redshirt seniors and frontcourt pals J.T. Shumate and Setric Millner are all-leaguers ready to push for MAC POY. They'll play off merry, change-of-pace point guard RayJ Dennis. If the Rockets win the MAC, they'll be in the NCAA tourney for the first time in 43 years.
Feels like I'm more aggressive on Utah than most. One reason is a scan of Pac-12 topography and seeing a hazy fog settle over the middle of that conference. The league gives off a sense, like teams 5-10 will be a grab-bag of results, so let's just aim higher on the Utes and see what percolates. Say this for Craig Smith: at least he has a clear-cut No. 1 in 7-footer Brandon Carlson. Would think Utah tries to work a bit from the inside out, and maybe that leads to strategic advantages for a good coach like Smith, who also has a security blanket/versatile wing defender in Marco Anthony. The fifth-year player can and will switch from guarding 1s to 4s depending on the opponent, or perhaps even the possession. Anthony is a coach's dream in that he always shows up and never flails.
2022 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement - Portraits
Fresh off making the Hall of Fame, Bob Huggins has a big coaching project at West Virginia. Getty Images
Fresh off an overdue Hall of Fame induction, let's see what Bob Huggins has in store in the November (December?) of his career. The Mountaineers' only returning starter is Kedrian Johnson (5.3 ppg), and it's going to be an uphill slog for the nonconference portion of the slate due to WVU losing eight of its top 10 minutes-getters. WVU is a prime example of how tricky it can get forecasting out teams in the era of the hyperactive transfer portal. The 'Eers brought in seven guys. How good will they be as a collective? Nobody knows. This could become the fifth-best team in the Big 12 ... or it could be the worst. The names to know are Iowa transfer Joe Toussaint, Texas transfer Tre Mitchell and Washington transfer Emmitt Matthews.
It's understandable if Chris Collins has developed a twitch any time he hears or reads about Pete Nance becoming "UNC's next Brady Manek." Nance was a key piece for NU last season and opted to close out his career on a national title contender. Northwestern isn't even a contender for the best team in its own state, alas. This isn't exactly a newsflash, but yeah: had Nance stayed, Northwestern could've been a trendy top-half-of-the-Big-Ten team. Now it's a hot-seat season for Collins, who's looking to guide the Wildcats to their first above-.500 run since he took Northwestern to its first NCAA Tournament in 2017. Boo Buie, Chase Audige and Robbie Beran return from a 15-16 team that struggled getting to the foul line, was poor defending the passing lanes and didn't have reliable shooting.
It's been a heavy theme for about five years in Greenville, South Carolina: The Paladins haven't made the NCAA Tournament since before the field expanded to 64 teams. The year: 1980. Yet for five seasons this team has been either first, second or third in the SoCon. Last season, Furman was booted from its auto-bid launching pad after Chattanooga hit a buzzer-beater in overtime of the conference title game. Shattering. But: Bob Richey is a promising young coach who should have the SoCon's top group thanks to super seniors Mike Bothwell and Jalen Slawson. The third cog is the other returning starter, wing Marcus Foster. He's physical and can be called upon to hit a good shot in a tough spot.
The Cyclones were picked last in the Big 12 a year ago, then wound up making the Sweet 16 after some anticipated choppy waters in league play. T.J. Otzelberger coached his butt off. He'll need to do it again — maybe even more so — to dance in Year 2. The Cyclones have four players returning, the best of them being Gabe Kalscheur (9.6 ppg), who turned into the kind of power-conference transfer every coach is hoping to snag these days. Caleb Grill will likely get the green light to hoist four or five 3s per game. The Clones' biggest transfer is former St. Bonaventure C Osun Ossuniyi (11.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg). A season-ending preseason injury to transfer PG Jeremiah Williams is going to linger as an issue here, I fear. D will rule the day, but this team can't afford to be ranked in the 170s in offensive efficiency like last season's squad.
The Hilltoppers enter the season as one of three teams receiving first-place votes in Conference USA. The big name is the big man: 7-5 Jamarion Sharp (4.6 swats per game) will try to become the first player in almost two decades to lead the nation in blocks in back-to-back years. The dirty secret is that WKU was actually more efficient when Sharp was off the floor last season. If he can make big strides and be more reliable as a scorer, then WKU could take control of the conference. Emmanuel Akot (Boise State, then a Memphis pump-fake) was a late transfer addition. He and Khristian Lander (Indiana) are fine additions, but Dayvion McKnight being back to run point is what should get WKU to the NIT at minimum.
Last season the WAC's top five teams had either four or five losses in league play. More of that could be in store for 2023, and there are six teams feeling prideful about their chances of taking the conference. But because of its aggregation of talent and its depth, I'm going to pick Grand Canyon to run like some Antelopes out of control. Bryce Drew's been terrific so far, winning 40 of his first 55 games. He'll have to overcome some key departures, but that's the case of almost every mid-major team in this top 101. Names to know: returning PG Jayvon Blacksher (15.8 ppg), Presbyterian pure shooting guard Rayshon Harrison (17.1 ppg) and 40% 3-point shooter Noah Baumann (Georgia).
A 25-31 record the past two seasons has created a tenuous environment at ASU for Bobby Hurley, who enters his eighth season. The Sun Devils bring back two starters, but one of them hardly played last season. If he's healthy, he's a stud. And he seems fully healthy. Marcus Bagley, a big season would appear to be awaiting you. Bagley should be ASU's best player. Hurley also has D.J. Horne back after averaging 12.1 points in the backcourt. The big transfer is Desmond Cambridge, who scored 16/night at Nevada. Yet another tough Pac-12 read. Hurley might need to make the NCAAs to stick around for Year 9.
So much of Colorado State's outlook is dependent upon Isaiah Stevens' health. The Rams are coming off a program-record No. 6 seed in the NCAAs. Niko Medved lost David Roddy a year early, as Roddy wound up being a surprise No. 23 pick in June's NBA Draft. So long as Stevens was still in the fold, CSU had a chance at the Mountain West. Unfortunately, Stevens, the top point guard in the Mountain West, broke his right foot in the preseason and his return isn't known. The hope is January. The Rams won't have a lone replacement, instead relying on a two-man committee of Baylor Hebb and Tavionte Jackson. Defensively, 6-5 forward John Tonje figures to be the Rams' top stopper.
Interesting group getting some buzz out of Logan. This is Ryan Odom's second season after finding success and an everlasting place in tournament history at UMBC. The Aggies have one of the more consistent and under-appreciated point guards in the country, Rylan Jones. His stats don't pop but he's going to be paramount to USU in the Mountain West. A three-guard, two-guard-one-wing or two-guard-two-wing attack is the norm for many teams these days, but Utah State will go with Jones and R.J. Etyle-Rock in the backcourt, then have a traditional 3-4-5 look with guys who are 6-8 or 6-9, and that includes sixth-year senior Dan Akin, who came over via Cal Baptist. This team seems to have the oldest starting lineup on average in the country — all fourth-, fifth- or sixth-year players.
On one hand, Steve Forbes thrives on motivating his teams when they're doubted by the masses. On the other, Wake Forest lost Jake LaRavia to the NBA, and I can guarantee you that was not in Forbes' plans 12 months ago. ACC POY Alondes Williams graduated as well, in addition to two more guys who combined to average 19 points. A lot to repair roster-wise here. Returnee Daivien Williamson and Florida transfer Tyree Appleby will give Wake a small but spunkified backcourt. There's also three guys 6-11 or taller, so the floor will tilt. Forbes tends to love projects, and for the third straight season he's got one.
I received various feedback on the Dons. The program's coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance in more than 20 years, but it lost its best player (Jamaree Bouyea) and its coach (Todd Golden). Khalil Shabazz is back — we previously documented how he opted not to transfer to a bigger school — and since he's in the fold, USF shouldn't fall off drastically. The Dons expect combo guard and veteran Julian Rishwain to become the guy on nights when Shabazz might not fit the part. The new coach is Chris Gerlufsen, who was rightfully bumped up after Golden took the Florida job.
Will be brief here because I have no clue what to do with Tad Boyle's Buffs ... and I don't even know if the staff knows what this team will become. To me, the hardest Pac-12 team to read in a league overflowing with mystery teams. I'd expect junior F Tristan Da Silva to be the team's rock, with PG K.J. Simpson a clear No. 2. Boyle can do a lot with a little, but we'll see how the Buffaloes do without a transfer coming in from a power-conference program. In 2022, not coming off making the tournament, that's a gambit.
The Lobos haven't been on the scene much in recent seasons, but I'm liking Richard Pitino's chances to steal some games and make noise in the Mountain West. UNM sits at 138 in KenPom. Way too low for me. This squad has the dark horse choice to win MWC POY in Jamal Mashburn Jr. (18.2 ppg), and if that doesn't happen it'll be because point guard Jaelen House (16.9 ppg, 4.5 apg) is too good for this team on the rise. More encouragement has arrived in the form of Wichita State big Morris Udeze, who should add beef to a frontcourt in need of some brawn.
After 10 years of having Frank Martin, the long-awaited parting finally came to pass in March. Lamont Paris is now the coach in Columbia, getting this job after guiding Chattanooga to the NCAAs and nearly upsetting Illinois in the first round. Paris gets an opportunity that almost never happens for a first-time leader of a power-conference program: he'll be coaching a freshman who could be a lottery pick. That is South Carolina native GG Jackson, who backed off his UNC commitment in the summer then reclassified so he could play right away for the Gamecocks. He was the No. 6 prospect in the Class of '22.
Rick Pitino has Iona atop the MAAC and in position for a second NCAA bid in three years. Getty Images
Thanks in large part to Tim Cluess, the Gaels have won 20 or more games 10 times since 2009-10. This is one of the best mid-major outfits in the country in the past decade-plus. With Rick Pitino coaching, it's poised to be one of the most dangerous. A 25-win Iona team was upset in the MAAC quarterfinals by Rider, which paved the way for the Saint Peter's story to happen. Ultimately a good thing for college hoops, but expect Pitino's guys to again be the best team in the MAAC, led by preseason POY candidate Nelly Junior Joseph and JUCO weapon supreme Daniss Jenkins.
The Bulldogs would've made the 2020 NCAAs, but we didn't have a 2020 NCAAs, so Butler fans haven't seen their team play in the Big Dance since 2018. Back-to-back losing seasons led to LaVall Jordan's ouster, so here comes Thad Matta to steer his alma mater back to national relevancy. Matta's won 74% of his games in 17 seasons. He also has more NCAA Tournament wins (24) than any other coaching hire from 2022. Matta recruited Ali Ali (Akron), Manny Bates (NC State), Eric Hunter (Purdue) via the portal. That trio and SG Chuck Harris coming back are why I think Butler avoids bottom-three life in the Big East:
Former five-star prospect C.J. Walker is still quietly chipping away at a college career in Orlando (8.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg), but the reason I've got UCF nudging northward is a nice freshman 4 named Taylor Hendricks, who was a top-100 recruit. With Hendricks in the fold and 7-foot Indiana transfer Michael Durr setting up as the starting center, the Knights should be a physical chore to match-up with in the AAC.
Shaka Smart took the MU job, strolled in and got the Golden Eagles to a No. 9 seed in the NCAAs. It was a satisfactory first season for a fan base that was aching a bit after some toiling in the previous half-decade. Smart opted not to add a D-I transfer, instead relying on the chemistry of this team and looking to see who will emerge. With that, Marquette's not projected to be a tournament team, though Tyler Kolek and Kam Jones are both players to keep an eye on because either one could be an all-league Big East guy.
Can't keep John Becker's Catamounts out of the rankings, not when UVM has finished inside KenPom's top 100 in six of the past seven seasons. The Cats' reign over the America East has been one of the most consistent and impressive rulings at the mid- or low-major level of the past 15 years. This team will be more transfer-dependent than ones in years past, with Bellarmine transfer Dylan Penn the projected bucket-getter above all others in green and gold. Vermont's 2.65 assist-to-turnover ratio the past three seasons is best in college hoops.
Mike White's won 65.5% of his games in 11 seasons at Louisiana Tech and Florida. He's made an Elite Eight and won six times in the NCAA tourney. If he merely coaches up to his averages over the next five years at UGA, he'll be tracking toward statue status in Athens, where the hoops history is lacking. The Bulldogs won't be SEC players right away but they'll be markedly improved from the 6-26 disaster in Tom Crean's final tour. There's a lot of parity on this roster, but returning starters Kario Oquendo and Braelen Bridges combined for 28 points per game.
The Golden Flashes are the pick to be Toledo's toughest challenge in a rugged MAC. A lot of that has to do with Sincere Carry, the returning MAC Player of the Year who averaged 17.5 points, 4.8 assists and 4.5 rebounds. He's a joy. Malique Jacobs and Gio Santiago will combine with Carry to account for nearly 50 points per night. Rob Senderoff has only broken through to one NCAA tourney (2014), but in the past 11 years he's also proved himself as one of the more consistent mid-majors coaches.
The Raiders remain the pride of the Patriot League. Matt Langel is in his 12th season and should again have one of the best 3-point snipers in America. Oliver Lynch-Daniels hit 54.5% of his 83 trey attempts last season, tops in the sport — yet still behind Steve Kerr's record of 57.3% on 114-199 shooting in 1987-88, the first and only year Kerr had a 3-point line to shoot from. Lynch-Daniels will have fellow seniors Ryan Moffatt and Tucker Richardson to bolster the Raiders' perimeter attack. Colgate's never won an NCAA Tournament game. Is this the season?
Liberty sets up as the overwhelming top team in the ASUN. Darius McGhee might lead the nation in scoring for a second straight season (24.6 ppg), but if he does he'll be in rare company. Back-to-back scoring leaders are infrequent in D-I hoops. The last time it happened was VMI's Reggie Williams in the mid-2000s. Here's a fun one to look forward to in the first week of the season: McGhee will try to light up on the road vs. Alabama's loaded roster on Nov. 11.
Here's one where, admittedly, I might slip up. Chris Jans was universally regarded as the like-a-glove hire by MSU. Perhaps the returns are good right away. The Bulldogs seem set up for a take-your-lumps '22-23, though. D.J. Jeffries could get a good year in for his career stats, but Jans didn't add one transfer from a winning situation, other than a New Mexico State one who came with him from Las Cruces. A reasonable target is a .500 finish.
Despite finishing 14-16, the Patriots managed to pull in the 113th ranking at KenPom by season's end, a sign of how close Mason was to being in the top half of the A-10. Now it's the expectation for Kim English's second season. He'll have all-league-level players in the wing duo of Josh Oduro (the team's best player) and Devonte Gaines (top defender). Senior shooting guard Devon Cooper will be the 3-point specialist on a squad that will be nine-deep.
The Golden Eagles are heavily offensively influenced, which could win them the Summit League or doom them thanks to a projected poor defensive rating. Max Abmas was a trendy preseason All-America selection a season ago. After a pretty good junior season (22.8 ppg, 3.7 apg, 37.7 3-pt%), those accolades aren't there this October. Still, he's one of the best bets at the mid-major level — and now he's got 7-3 Connor Vanover to look up to. Vanover is seeking dominance after pedestrian opportunities at Cal and Arkansas.
Guard play seems lacking and I'm afraid Louisville fans are going to have to endure big bumps in Kenny Payne's first season. U of L's best player will probably be either Tennessee 6-10 transfer Brandon Huntley-Hatfield or 6-9 returnee Jae'Lyn Withers. Cards do have size, at least. We did a Summer Shootaround podcast episode on Louisville (because we're sickos), but the real intrigue here is whether or not Louisville can play spoiler in the ACC right away under Payne.
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My final team is one that won't have to rely on young'uns in order to win. At the Mountain West level, that's a wise approach. Kevin Kruger's second season should see the Runnin' Rebels finish better than 10-8 in the league, led by fifth-year point guard Jordan McCabe. Kruger lost a 20-point scorer (Bryce Hamilton) but offset that by bringing on five down-transfers from power-conference schools, which might be an elixir to lift UNLV into the top four in a flavorful Mountain West.

Projected champions for all 32 conferences

AACHouston Cougars
ACCNorth Carolina Tar Heels
America EastVermont Catamounts
Atlantic 10Dayton Flyers
ASUNLiberty Flames
Big 12Baylor Bears
Big EastXavier Musketeers
Big Sky Montana Grizzlies
Big South Longwood Lancers
Big TenIllinois Fighting Illini
Big West Long Beach State 49ers
CAATowson Tigers
Conference USAUAB Blazers
Horizon Wright State Raiders
Ivy League Yale Bulldogs
MACToledo Rockets
MAAC Iona Gaels
MEACNorfolk State Spartans
MVCDrake Bulldogs
Mountain WestSDSU Aztecs
NEC Wagner Seahawks
OVC Tennessee State Tigers
Pac-12UCLA Bruins
PatriotColgate Raiders
SoConFurman Paladins
SECKentucky Wildcats
Southland Nicholls State Colonels
Summit LeagueOral Roberts Golden Eagles
Sun BeltMarshall Thundering Herd
SWAC Southern Jaguars
WACGrand Canyon Antelopes
WCCGonzaga Bulldogs