College football season starts in a couple of weeks, which means it is time to start talking about college basketball. This season seems to be unique in that there is a lot of parity throughout the country, with no teams really standing firm at the top. That should make for an exciting season. With that, let’s discuss ten teams who have the pieces to win a national championship.
*in alphabetical order
Head Coach: Tommy Lloyd
2022-23 record: 28-7
Conference: Pac 12
The skinny: Tommy Lloyd likes to play fast, and he has three guards who can absolutely burn it up the floor. Returner Kylan Boswell is in line to take a big step forward after a promising summer with the USA Basketball U19 team. UNC transfer Caleb Love will be a key piece on this team, he could be the x-factor for the Wildcats. We have all seen his very best, and that can carry a team. We have also seen his worst, which can kill a team. Jaden Bradley is an up-tempo point guard who touches the paint and has excellent vision in transition. Oumar Ballo and Keshad Johnson form an older frontcourt pairing who can rebound, block shots, and draw attention from a defense. Can Pelle Larsson get his consistent shooting form down? This team has the pieces and the talent.
Head Coach: Eric Musselman
2022-23 record: 22-14
The skinny: Arkansas lost three players to the NBA draft, but thanks to their activity in the transfer portal and players getting healthy, their team may have more cohesion than last. Eric Musselman likes to spread the floor and take advantage of one-on-one matchups. Through the portal, the Razorbacks added Khalif Battle (Temple) and El Ellis (Louisville), who have a little boogie in their step. The return of Trevon Brazile, the conference’s best pure shot blockers will be big as well. They have depth up front, with Makhi Mitchell, Jalen Graham, Chandler Lawson, and four-star recruit Baye Fall added to the mix. Perimeter defense should be upgraded as well with Davonte Davis and Tramon Mark.
Most Eric Musselman teams take a month or so to get things together but come tournament time when he is given guys who can beat one-on-one matchups, his teams can be dangerous.
Head Coach: Dan Hurley
2022-23 record: 31-8
Conference: Big East
The skinny: The UConn Huskies are the defending college basketball national champions. They also lost three players to the NBA. However, this team returns some firepower, as well as a possible breakout star. Tristen Newton and Alex Karaban are the returning starters, Newton a combo guard, and Karaban at the skilled four spot. Donovan Clingan looks to take a step out of the shadow of Adama Sanogo and possibly become one of the most dominant big men in the country. UConn adds a four-man recruiting class, each ranked among the top 100 players in the country. Point guard Stephon Castle, a five-star from Newton, Georgia, headlines the group. But do not sleep on what contributions Solomon Ball and Jayden Ross could make. This team will be an interesting one. They have the talent; can they mesh it all together?
Head Coach: Jon Scheyer
2022-23 record: 27-9
The skinny: From a pure talent standpoint, there may not be a better team. However, how will Jon Scheyer fit these pieces together will be the question. Kyle Filipowski is returning as a true National Player of the Year candidate. They also return one of the best backcourts in the league with Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor. The addition of On3’s No. 2 recruiting class in 2023 gives the Blue Devils some talented bench depth.
The two questions at hand are, can Tyrese Proctor string together a full season? And will no rim protection matter?
Head Coach: Kelvin Sampson
2022-23 record: 33-4
Conference: Big 12
The skinny: They make the jump to the Big 12 this season, so that will not be easy. But, with 149 wins over the past five seasons, Kelvin Sampson has built one of the most consistently good programs in the country. The Cougars return the 2022-23 AAC assists leader and second-team All-Conference point guard Jamal Shead to run the team. They also return rebounding and blocks leader J’Wan Roberts to anchor the post. Two huge acquisitions in the transfer portal are big guard Damian Dunn (Temple) and sharp-shooter LJ Cryer (Baylor). Look for a step from Terrance Arceneaux, and freshman JoJo Tugler might be hard to keep off the floor.
This team has a mixture of toughness, experience, shooting, and talent. With Kelvin Sampson at the helm, watch out.
Head Coach: Bill Self
2022-23 record: 28-8
Conference: Big 12
The skinny: Kansas returns Dajuan Harris, one of the top point guards in the country. And even with losing your top two scorers, that fact right there gives you a leg up on most. The headliner of the additions is Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson. The 7-foot-1 center has been a production monster since stepping foot in college. The Jayhawks also return first-team All-Defense wing Kevin McCullar and the Big 12 Most-Improved KJ Adams on the block. They will have size, and they will have athleticism. How quickly does freshman Elmarko Jackson carve out a role in the starting lineup? The Jayhawks also feature Bill Self on the sidelines, and that is a big deal in college basketball.
Head Coach: John Calipari
2022-23 record: 22-12
The skinny: This one will be the team that I get the most pushback on with this list, and I get that, but there is just enough parity in college basketball, and this team has just enough pieces to make things somewhat interesting. The elephant in the room is the question at point guard. Is Reed Sheppard ready? Can Robert Dillingham or DJ Wagner play the position? Those are real questions, but talented players tend to figure it out, and they’re talented. Look for Wagner to be an alpha on this team; he has been that throughout his career, and there is no reason to slow that down. Antonio Reeves provides experience and perimeter shooting. Justin Edwards is an excellent connecting piece on both ends of the floor, and I expect a step to be taken from Adou Thiero. Aaron Bradshaw may have the most NBA upside on the roster as a 7-foot-1 center who can block shots and knock down threes. Ugonna Onyenso might be the best natural shot blocker in the league. The late addition of Tre Mitchell gives them a skilled big with experience who has seen college success. This team has a lot of questions, but the Wildcats also have a lot of talent.
Head Coach: Jim Larranaga
2022-23 record: 29-8
The skinny: Quick, tell me all the teams who have made it to both of the previous Elite Eights. Miami is the answer, and that is the entire list. In 2022, the Hurricanes made it to the first Elite Eight in program history. They then followed that up in 2023 with the first Final Four in program history. Miami lost two players to the NBA, ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong and first-team All-ACC Jordan Miller. However, they return Nijel Pack and Norchad Omier. Omier is a productive college basketball post player who led the ACC in total rebounds last season and finished top ten in blocks and steals per game. Pack is a career 41.6 percent shooter from three and has already scored 1,287 career points in his three seasons.
Watch for the steps Wooga Poplar makes, he could be a breakout player in the league. The freshmen will become sophomores. They add Matthew Cleveland from Florida State, and freshman Michael Nwoko brings a college-ready frame and top-100 talent to the block. This team is different, but so is the culture around the Miami basketball program right now.
Head Coach: Tom Izzo
Conference: Big 10
The skinny: Tom Izzo returns four of his top five and eight of his top ten scorers from a Sweet Sixteen team last season. He also adds a top-five class that brings in four players ranked among On3’s top 75 in the country. Tyson Walker, AJ Hoggard, and Jaden Akins are one of the most experienced backcourts in the country. Forward Malik Hall played in 25 minutes per game last year, and the Spartans return Mady Sissoko, Jaxon Kohler, and Carson Cooper, who are all listed as 6-foot-9-plus and are each expected to take steps. From the freshman class, watch for the impact that Gehrig Normand and Coen Carr make. At the time he committed, freshman Xavier Booker was touted as the highest-ranked recruit in program history. This college basketball team has a lot of depth, with a mixture of talented youth and experienced returners. Give Izzo talent and watch how he works.
Head Coach: Matt Painter
2022-23 record: 29-6
Conference: Big 10
The skinny: The last top overall seed to get ousted by a 16-seed in round one, Virginia, went on to win it all next year. And, in a similar fashion, this Purdue team returns all of its starters. Among them is National Player of the Year Zach Edey, the 7-foot-4 center who led the Boilermakers in points, rebounds, and blocks last season. His 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds also paced the Big 10. The backcourt, Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer, who both started 35 games as freshmen last season, are both a year older with a boatload of experience under their belts. And then there is Mason Gillis, the 6-foot-6 forward who shot 37.7 percent from three in conference play last season. This team also adds top 100 freshman wing Myles Colvin. They were a top-five team for much of last season and return everyone. Will this be the year Matt Painter shakes his college basketball post-season stigma?