At the start of March, there were over 350 NCAA Basketball programs still alive to potentially win a national championship. But as April 1st arrives, it’s now just four programs (Duke, UNC, Kansas, Villanova) playing this weekend in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.
For everyone else, it’s already time to look ahead to the 2022-23 season. And there are never any breaks, as hundreds of transfer decisions, recruiting, and NBA Draft decisions are going to be made in the next few weeks.
This article is set to take the earliest possible look at which teams will be the ones to beat next year in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Obviously, there will be a ton of changes in the weeks to come, so this shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It’s more of a fun project just to set a viewpoint as to which teams are in good shape overall, even before the transfer saga really gets going.
The main rule for this early power ranking is that anyone that’s a consensus first-round NBA Draft pick will be excluded from the projected rosters. For the others such as Kofi Cockburn, Oscar Tshiebwe, and Drew Timme, I’ll assume that they’ll stay until they’re officially gone.
So without further ado, here are my top-25, along with a few honorable mentions.
HM: Virginia Cavaliers
2021-22 season record: 21-14 (12-8 in ACC)
All indications are that longtime starting point guard Kihei Clark will be gone but leading scorer and rebounder Jayden Gardner should be back. Losing Clark will sting but Reece Beekman was quietly the team’s best pass last season at 5.2 apg. They have a top-10 recruiting class coming in, led by four-stars, Issac Traudt and Isaac McKneely. These two will have to provide better shooting than UVA had last year to make the jump back to the NCAA Tournament picture.
HM: Indiana Hoosiers
2021-22 season record: 21-14 (9-11 in Big Ten)
The Hoosiers have lost several bench players but so far, none of the top players from this past season. That includes star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who isn’t a projected first-round draft pick, and starting point guard Xavier Johnson, who could move on but still has a year of eligibility. There’s a clear ceiling to this team but the floor is good enough to get back to the Big Dance if they can improve on the backcourt, something top-50 commit Jalen Hood-Schifino can provide.
HM: San Diego State Aztecs
2021-22 season record: 23-9 (13-4 in Mountain West)
With the news that 17 ppg scoring guard Matt Bradley is coming back, that automatically makes the Aztecs a contender in the Mountain West for next season. And assuming key players such as Adam Seiko and Nathan Mensah also return, not much will change for this team negatively. They still need to find some consistent offense outside of Bradley, something that four-star guard Myles Byrd has the potential of doing.
HM: Illinois Fighting Illini
2021-22 season record: 23-10 (15-5 in Big Ten)
While there are strong rumors that Kofi Cockburn will not be back at Illinois, for this exercise, I’ll be including him on the roster. And yet, that still isn’t good enough to have them ranked, considering they lost the next four best players on the roster, including Alfonso Plummer and Trent Frazier. There’s lots of potential with RJ Melendez and Luke Goode but as the Andre Curbelo experience showed, not all sophomores are ready to break out.
The good news here is that a couple of rumored pickups for the Illini should have them easily in the top-25 by next update.