The 2022-23 college basketball season is less than a week away, and there’s no shortage of reasons to be excited. The sport is in a very healthy place with big-name stars — and big men — eschewing the pros to return to college. March Madness delivered momentum to carry into the year, with Saint Peter’s shocking the world, North Carolina and Duke meeting in an epic Final Four encounter, and blue blood Kansas winning it all.
Momentum is there for the sport to build upon, and with the addition of NIL, great college players are staying around the game instead of going pro, which could bring more questions than answers for certain prospects.
There’s so much to look forward to this year. We boiled it down to a fitting total of 68 reasons!
Top college basketball storylines ahead of 2022-23 season
Mark Titus and Tate Frazier are joined by Andy Katz to talk about exciting storylines in college hoops.
In no particular order, here we go.
1. There’s a real race for who should be No. 1.
There’s not a clear favorite in college basketball, and there are probably a double-digit number of teams that could win the national championship. North Carolina looks deserving of the No. 1 spot heading into the season with all it returns, but there are cases to be made for Gonzaga, Houston, Kentucky, Baylor and others. We’re going to see multiple schools hold the No. 1 ranking at different points this season.
2. Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe is back.
College basketball has its National Player of the Year back for the first time since Tyler Hansbrough ran it back for North Carolina in 2008. That’s a beautiful thing for any hoops fan, as the 6-foot-9 Tshiebwe returns to Lexington for his senior year. Last season, he averaged 17.4 points and 15.1 rebounds per game. How can he improve on that? Having identifiable stars for the common fan to recognize only enhances the product, and you combine Tshiebwe’s personality and game with the Kentucky brand? The Wildcats will be a must-watch squad.
3. The Jon Scheyer Era arrives in Durham.
Duke has a new leader for the first time since 1980. It’s going to be so different to not see Mike Krzyzewski on the sideline. How will Scheyer handle one of the toughest replacement jobs in sports history? All eyes will be on the Duke 2010 national champion.
Trayce Jackson-Davis is yet another elite big man who’s running it back for his senior season, and Mike Woodson enters his second year leading his alma mater with a goal of raising banners at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers have the pieces to make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016, but will it actually happen? Indiana basketball being relevant is good for college hoops.
5. Drew Timme is back in Spokane.
The best mustache in sports resides in college basketball, and the two-time All-American has one goal for his senior season: Give Mark Few and the Zags their first national championship. Timme posted 18.4 points, 6.8 boards and 2.8 assists per game last season on 59% from the floor. What’s in store for him in Year 4?
6. The SEC is filled with elite freshmen.
According to 247 Sports, the Southeastern Conference has 13 of the top 39 freshmen in the 2022 recruiting class rankings. Arkansas welcomes one of the best classes in the country with Nick Smith, Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh headlining the group. Kentucky has Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston to add to an experienced core back in Lexington. Brandon Miller — remember his name — is going to be a must-see player at Alabama, and Auburn has a top-15 class as well. It’s going to be an outstanding year of SEC hoops, and the rookies will be fun to monitor.
7. What will Villanova look like without Jay Wright?
It was the bombshell news of the college hoops offseason when the Hall of Famer announced in April that he was done coaching. We’ll still see him on TV this season as a broadcaster, but what will his Villanova program be without him patrolling the sideline? It’s a huge question for new coach Kyle Neptune to answer. The Wildcats have gone to three of the last six Final Fours. They’ve won at least the Big East regular season or tournament title in each of the last nine seasons. Can Neptune overcome some key injuries and keep the Cats on the national pedestal?
8. Houston has a chance to cut the nets down in … Houston.
The Cougars could be the best team in the country. All-American Marcus Sasser is back for his senior season and could average 20 points per game. Jamal Shead, Tramon Mark and Reggie Chaney also return, not to mention that Kelvin Sampson welcomes five-star freshman Jarace Walker to the fold. Houston has never won a basketball national title. How fitting would it be if the Cougars did it in Houston, with alum Jim Nantz on the call for his last Final Four?
9. Jalen Wilson leads reigning national champion Kansas, which will have a different look.
The redshirt junior stretch forward is going to charge Bill Self’s Jayhawks, but will Kansas be able to find strong play in the post? Five-star freshman Gradey Dick highlights the nation’s fourth-ranked recruiting class, along with fellow McDonald’s All-Americans MJ Rice and Ernest Udeh Jr. The first-year Jayhawks will be counted on to contribute, and it will be interesting to see what life will be like without Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Christian Braun & Co.
After testing the NBA Draft waters, the 7-foot-1 tower is running it back for his junior season. Like the previous big men we’ve listed, he’s another guy who will be fascinating to watch, because Dickinson has already dominated at this level. Last year, he went for 18.6 points and 8.6 boards per game. The other fun element to Dickinson? His personality is totally unfiltered. He’s a great quote and has quite the following. The big question for the Wolverines: Will the 10th-best recruiting class in the country deliver around him?
The All-American wing has been a dream for coach Mick Cronin, who’s put the Bruins back on the national map. Jaquez’s return for his senior season is huge for this program. He and point guard Tyger Campbell will charge the Bruins, who also welcome five-star freshmen Amari Bailey and Adem Bona. Life is good in Westwood.
12. The Creighton Bluejays are stacked.
Greg McDermott has one of the deepest rosters in the country and made a massive transfer splash with Baylor Scheierman. Remember the name Trey Alexander, because the guard could have a huge sophomore year. Creighton has one of the best fan bases in America and is picked at the top of the Big East for the first time in program history. The Jays have never been to the Final Four. That could change in Omaha this season.
13. Armando Bacot and Pete Nance working together could be fun at Chapel Hill.
Bacot returning for his senior season — after he averaged 16.3 points and 13.1 boards per game — is creating a buzz at North Carolina. With Caleb Love, RJ Davis and Leaky Black also back, the only debate was whether the Heels would be preseason No. 1 or 2. Enter Northwestern transfer Pete Nance, and the Tar Heels are deserving of No. 1. The fifth-year senior tallied 14.6 points and 6.5 boards per game, shooting 50% from the field last year in a Big Ten Conference filled with size. Hubert Davis has all the momentum he needs.
14. Baylor’s backcourt is going to be ridiculously strong.
Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer are back. Five-star recruit Keyonte George is going to be one of the best freshmen in America. Scott Drew will have tremendous guard play again, and a second national title run in three years is on the table in Waco.
15. The team that didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament last season, but could make a DEEP run? Virginia.
Virtually everyone is back for the Cavaliers, who snapped a streak of seven consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament last season. Jayden Gardner leads a high-level returning core, and I wouldn’t put it past the Hoos to win the ACC title this year. On their best day, they’re a top-10 team.
16. New-look Illinois can win the Big Ten title.
Life after Kofi Cockburn is here, but this could still be Brad Underwood’s best team at Illinois. The Illini have much more versatility. Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer were terrific transfer adds. Skyy Clark and Ty Rodgers headline the seventh-best recruiting class in the nation as well. In Champagne, high expectations remain in place. Will they live up to them in March?
17. Watch out for the Tennessee Volunteers.
Sure, it was an exhibition, but the Vols sent a message with a 99-80 blowout win over Gonzaga on Friday night. The big takeaway: five scored in double-figures for Rick Barnes’ team. We know Tennessee is going to defend, but if Zakai Zeigler is setting things up for others and shots are falling, the football team won’t be the only squad in Knoxville with title hopes.
18. The Year of the Aztecs?
San Diego State is going to be a ton of FUN, and that’s why we ranked them No. 15 in our preseason countdown. Last year, Brian Dutcher’s squad was ranked second in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency. Matt Bradley is a star on the wing. If the Aztecs develop enough consistency on the offensive end, they will be very dangerous in March.
19. Miller Time at Xavier: Part II.
Sean Miller returns to the sideline and does so at a previous home, Xavier. The Musketeers had been to 16 of 18 NCAA Tournaments before 2018, but have not appeared since. Miller took the last year to step aside from the game with an NCAA investigation hovering over him, but the Cintas Center is a proper fit for his return to the game. He’s won 73% of the games he’s coached. Xavier is a rising beast in the Big East.
20. Michigan State might be slept on.
And Tom Izzo wouldn’t have it any other way. The Spartans did not appear in the preseason AP Top 25, and were chosen fourth in the media preseason conference poll. If this team is going to surprise people, A.J. Hoggard has to be a leader. Michigan State must play small ball this season. That’s certainly a twist on Izzo’s ways.
21. TCU could have its best season in program history.
Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year Mike Miles is one of the best guards in the country, and the Horned Frogs have all five starters back. If they can knock down enough perimeter shots, nobody will want to face them come March. This is a top-15 roster that can defend as well as anybody. The program hasn’t made it to the Sweet 16 since 1968. A long drought could end in Fort Worth.
Chris Beard made arguably the biggest splash of the offseason in the transfer portal by adding Hunter. The reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year averaged 11.0 points, 4.9 assists and 3.5 boards per game last season at Iowa State. How he works with Carr, a tremendous talent who is trying to be more in a rhythm this season, could determine Texas’ ceiling in Beard’s second season.
That duo is going to be really intriguing to watch in Tucson this season. Kriisa is quite the explosive talent, but also turnover-prone. Ramey will look to coexist with the junior. Can Tommy Lloyd keep the Cats in the top 20 and as the challenger to UCLA for the Pac-12 title?
24. The Atlantic 10 is in for a strong season.
Dayton welcomes back the majority of its core and is a preseason AP Top 25 team. Saint Louis does the same and has an opportunity to make some significant noise in March. VCU, George Mason and Davidson can all contend, while new conference member Loyola Chicago could be a top-four team in the league. Frank Martin takes over at UMass while Archie Miller returns to the sideline leading Rhode Island. There’s some real juice in this league.
He’s the largest tower in college basketball at 7-foot-4, 295 pounds. Edey returns for his junior season and will be the centerpiece for Matt Painter. Averaging nearly 15 and eight per game as a sophomore, Edey is the constant for Purdue. The question for the Boilers? Guard play. We’ll see what the post-Jaden Ivey era has in store.
26. Thad Matta is back on the sideline after five years away from the game.
Wild, right? Matta holds a record of 439-154 in his career and takes over at Butler, where he got his head coaching start in 2000. It’s a splash hire by Barry Collier, and Matta’s pedigree speaks for itself. What can we really expect from him after five years away due to health reasons? Just seeing Matta back in college basketball is a feel-good story. If he finds success, don’t underestimate Hinkle Magic.
27. Ohio State is stacked, but can the Buckeyes work through some growing pains?
Chris Holtmann had a huge roster overhaul in the offseason, losing seven of his top eight scorers in Columbus. But, the Buckeyes have the nation’s eighth-ranked recruiting class in the country. What will four-star prospects Roddy Gayle Jr., Bruce Thornton, Felix Okpara and Brice Sensabaugh bring to the program?
28. Can Texas Tech keep it rolling?
The Red Raiders may not be receiving enough preseason hype, but Mark Adams has another NCAA Tournament team this season. A big key: the status of high-impact transfer Fardaws Aimaq. He’s working his way back from a foot injury but should be back for Big 12 play at the latest, according to Adams. He and Kevin Obanor could be quite the dangerous frontcourt.
29. The Todd Golden Era tips off at Florida.
Golden is one of college basketball’s fastest-rising coaching stars and the Gators could be an SEC dark horse. Bringing in Kyle Lofton from St. Bonaventure to run this team? Huge move.
30. Florida State could be the surprise team.
The Seminoles might be unranked in the preseason poll, but they won’t stay that way. Leonard Hamilton is to college basketball what your favorite local restaurant is to the community. Leading scorers Caleb Mills and Matthew Cleveland are back, and remember the name Baba Miller, a 6-foot-11 freshman.
UConn has the Big East Preseason Player of the Year in Sanogo and a potential rising star guard in Jordan Hawkins. Dan Hurley has depth. Will it translate to results in March? That’s the next step for the fifth-year head coach in Storrs.
32. Dana Altman and Oregon will be back on track.
Will Richardson leads a strong core for the Ducks, who missed the NCAA Tournament last season after making it in seven of the previous eight years. Five-star, seven-foot freshman Kel’el Ware will be interesting to watch. He’s expected to start. Oregon should dance again this March.
33. Wyoming could make major noise in the Mountain West.
The Cowboys should be in the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year. While San Diego State is the Mountain West frontrunner, Wyoming has two of the five members of the all-league preseason team in Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike.
34. Phil Knight’s 85th birthday is going to be one big college hoops bonanza.
From Nov. 24-27, it’s going down in Portland, Oregon for Nike founder Phil Knight’s birthday. There are not one, but two tournaments going down starting on Thanksgiving.
The Phil Knight Invitational Field: Alabama, Iowa State, Michigan State, North Carolina, Oregon, Portland, UConn and Villanova.
The Phil Knight Legacy Field: Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Oregon State, Portland State, Purdue, West Virginia and Xavier.
Yes, we could get a Duke/Gonzaga championship game in the legacy event, and North Carolina/Villanova could happen in the PKI event. What a ridiculous tournament.
35. From one Murray to another.
Iowa will play through Keegan Murray’s twin brother Kris this season, and the 6-foot-8 forward looks more than ready to take over for the Hawkeyes. Fran McCaffery welcomes back a solid core around him, and Iowa could be the dark horse in the Big Ten this year.
36. Coming off a magical season, Providence looks to keep rolling.
The Friars have a star lead guard in Jared Bynum, who was key in the program’s run to their first Big East regular-season title ever, plus a run to the Sweet 16. Ed Croswell will start in the paint and Ed Cooley will try to build around that duo with transfers. Remember this name: Bryce Hopkins. The Kentucky transfer could be huge.
37. Alabama has the nation’s fifth-best recruiting class.
Nate Oats welcomes a pair of five-star talents to Tuscaloosa in Brandon Miller and Jaden Bradley. Miller is receiving a lot of buzz as a dynamic 6-foot-8 wing who can impact the game in a variety of ways. The Crimson Tide will be an intriguing watch this season and should dance come March.
The reigning Conference USA champions have Walker, the preseason player of the year in the league, to lead them again. During conference play, “Jelly” led the league with 21.6 points and 5.3 assists per game. The 5-foot-11 Long Island, N.Y. native is a walking bucket.
39. Eligible for the NCAA Tournament, Mike Boynton and Oklahoma State are a Big 12 dark horse.
The Pokes were not eligible to make the tournament last year due to NCAA sanctions, serving as proper motivation heading into the 2022-23 campaign. Moussa Cisse is an elite rim protector. If Avery Anderson and Bryce Thompson supply enough offense, the Cowboys could dance.
Hardaway made one of the splashes of the offseason with the SMU transfer, who averaged 19.4 points and 4.4 assists per game last season. What the pieces around Davis do is a question to answer, but bringing in a guy who knows the American Athletic Conference well and can score with any guards in college basketball gives the Tigers NCAA Tournament potential.
41. Get old, stay old. That’s what Notre Dame has done.
Mike Brey has five grad students in his rotation and welcomes five-star combo guard JJ Starling, who has a chance to be one of the best freshmen in college basketball. The Irish look underrated heading into the season.
Mike Anderson told me that the NCAA Tournament is the given expectation level for the Red Storm this year. How will the Illinois transfer, Curbelo, mesh with a junior All-Big East First Team preseason selection in Alexander? The other key for the Johnnies? Perimeter shooting. DePaul transfer David Jones may be the team’s best player. This is a pivotal year for Anderson, who has yet to reach the tournament in Queens.
The Badgers are the only team in the Big Ten with multiple all-conference preseason honorees. Chucky Hepburn and Tyler Wahl will lead the way for Greg Gard’s group, and just what Hepburn does in Year 2 could end up determining what happens in Madison.
44. The Kevin Willard era arrives at Maryland.
The new leader of the Terrapins could have a team getting slept on a little too much. It’s hard to tell what Maryland will be in Willard’s first season, but figuring into the middle of the pack in the Big Ten would be a positive step. Charlotte transfer Jahmir Young and Georgetown transfer Donald Carey will lead the backcourt.
45. Virginia Tech could be an ACC dark horse.
Mike Young has a gifted 6-foot-7 forward in Justyn Mutts, a fifth-year senior who averaged 10.1 points, 7.4 boards and 3.4 assists last season. The Hokies will also need production from reigning ACC Tournament MVP Hunter Cattoor.
Yes, the Cougars have a 6-foot-11 sophomore from Senegal who is worth your time. Named to the All-Pac 12 Freshman Team last season, Gueye returns after testing the NBA Draft waters. He tied Klay Thompson’s freshman record at Washington State with 33 starts, and his pure athleticism and wingspan check out.
47. Ole Miss could be the sleeper team in the SEC behind a special backcourt.
If the Rebels can stay healthy, Kermit Davis’ squad could break through this season. Point guard Daeshun Ruffin is a speedy playmaker, while junior Matt Murrell is poised for a big junior year after tallying nearly 16 points per game in SEC play last season.
48. Keep an eye on Jalen Pickett in Happy Valley.
Micah Shrewsbury enters Year 2 with a dynamic star guard in Pickett to lead Penn State. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 14.3 points, 4.7 assists and 4.6 boards per game last season and will be the point guard for the Nittany Lions again. If Penn State gets enough frontcourt play, their grind-it-out style could help them be a sleeper in the Big Ten.
49. Watch out for Drake!
The Bulldogs won an NCAA Tournament game two years ago, and with five of their top seven players back, Darian DeVries has a team that can win the Missouri Valley and be a dark horse in the dance.
50. Shaheen Holloway returns home to Seton Hall.
The reigning star of March Madness and a Pirate alum, Holloway’s homecoming to South Orange could not have worked out any better. Can Holloway carry the momentum from Saint Peter’s all-time Elite Eight run and elevate the Pirates from just being an NCAA Tournament team to making tournament runs?
51. Rick Pitino enters year three at Iona as clear MAAC frontrunner.
At 37-14 through two seasons in New Rochelle, Pitino has kept the Gaels as the powerhouse in the MAAC. Look for 6-foot-9 Nelly Junior Joseph to charge Iona to the top of the conference again this season.
52. Remember this name: Darius McGhee.
He’s the star for the Liberty Flames, and the reigning national scoring champion (24.6 points per game) last season. Per the ASUN, he is the only player in the last 30 years of college basketball to score 800 points, grab 145 rebounds, record 115 assists and make 140 3-pointers in a single season after doing so in 2021-22. Ritchie McKay’s squad is the clear frontrunner in the ASUN.
53. Can Jim Larranaga and Miami follow up the Elite Eight run and remain a factor in the ACC?
54. Keyontae Johnson is back in college basketball and Jerome Tang takes over at Kansas State.
This is the comeback story in college basketball this year. Johnson has not played since collapsing on the court in a game in December 2020 with Florida. How will Johnson be in his return season? He’s an amazing player, and, Tang may have a team that ends up flying under the radar in the Big 12.
55. This is a must-win year for Jerod Haase and Stanford.
It’s Year 7 for Haase, who has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament. With a player as talented as Harrison Ingram back, the Cardinal have to make the dance or a change is likely.
The Golden Eagles senior guard was part of an incredible Sweet 16 run two years ago, and he can lead Oral Roberts to a Summit League title and back to the dance this season. It’s cool to see a two-time All-American selection and 2021 scoring champion stay at a place like Oral Roberts and not level up in his career.
57. Kam Jones could be an All-Big East First Team dark horse candidate.
As Shaka Smart enters his second season at Marquette, he has one of the better guards in the country that not enough people are discussing. Jones is poised for a major sophomore leap.
58. A Mean Green Fighting Machine.
Look for North Texas to be a potential team that crashes the party in March. Grant McCasland has led the Mean Green to 20-plus wins in four of the last five years. Watch out for star guard Tylor Perry.
59. The NCAA Tournament is heading to Las Vegas for the first time.
Vegas is normally one big party. Vegas during March Madness? Oh my.
MARCH MADNESS IN VEGAS? GOODNESS!
That’s all that needs to be said. The Sweet 16 and Elite Eight hit T-Mobile Arena in the West Regional this March.
60. Could Temple be a factor this season?
Aaron McKie’s team was one of the youngest in the country last season, and a roster dealing with injuries. If the Owls can stay healthy, particularly star guard Khalif Battle (21.4 points per game last year), the Owls could be Houston’s biggest challenge in the American.
61. Wes Miller enters his second season at Cincinnati looking to build.
Bringing in Landers Nolley II from Memphis and Rob Phinisee from Indiana was solid from Miller, and 6-foot-11 Viktor Lakhin looks like an X-factor. After starting 16-7 a year ago, the Bearcats finished the season losing eight of 10. Can they score the ball enough to avoid being predictable on offense?
62. Will Georgetown get off the mat and bounce back?
After a winless season in the Big East, the Hoyas had a massive roster overhaul and staff changes in the offseason. LSU transfer Brandon Murray and Maryland transfer Qudus Wahab — in his second stint with the Hoyas — will be key. It’s a big year for Patrick Ewing to get this program back on track.
63. Will Auburn’s backcourt improve?
64. Look out for the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky!
Rick Stansbury has a team that could make the NCAA Tournament this season. The Hilltoppers are fun, with 7-foot-5 Jamarion Sharp blocking anything in his sight and dynamic point guard Dayvion McKnight to lead. Per WKU, the 6-foot-1 junior was the only player in the country to average at least 16.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game last year.
65. Rutgers has never been to the NCAA Tournament in three straight seasons. That can change in 2023.
Steve Pikiell has done one of the best building jobs in college basketball, and big man Cliff Omoruyi is one of the best bigs in the country not getting talked about enough nationally. Look for Caleb McConnell and Paul Mulcahy to lead the backcourt. RU has enough to get back to the dance again.
66. A mid-major team to monitor: The Towson Tigers!
Pat Skerry has four starters back for the frontrunner team in the Colonial Athletic Association. Towson has not danced since 1991, but Cam Holden is back to lead the way, and sharpshooters Nicolas Timberlake and Jason Gibson are both key pieces. Will the Tigers make history? This team could be an upset pick come tourney time.
67. The Kenny Payne era begins. Will Louisville show signs of life?
An exhibition loss to Division II Lenoir-Rhyne on Sunday certainly isn’t encouraging, but Louisville is always a brand worth monitoring. They give me Nebraska football vibes in some ways. Can Payne start to right the ship? On paper, it looks like it could be a challenging season. We shall see.
68. There are so many incredible non-conference matchups to watch.
Duke vs. Kansas. Gonzaga vs. Baylor. North Carolina vs. Indiana.
And that’s only the beginning. Here’s a list of some of the best games to watch. Here’s to a great season!
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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