It’s never too early to start thinking about the next college basketball season, right? The dust may still be settling from Kansas’s national championship victory over North Carolina in New Orleans, but here’s an early look at where things stand on the men’s side for 2022–23.
There’s certainly a lot we don’t know about what teams will look like next season, given draft decision uncertainty, the option for all seniors to use an additional year of eligibility and the more than 1,000 players currently in the transfer portal who’ll land at new homes over the next couple of months. To simplify this exercise, these rankings assume any underclassman ranked outside the top 30 in Jeremy Woo’s latest Sports Illustrated big board is returning to school unless they’ve said otherwise. Additionally, all seniors are assumed to be moving on unless they’ve announced a return to school.
Without further ado, here are our rankings:
Eric Musselman is known best for his ability to recruit the transfer portal, but the Hogs are bringing in an elite freshman class that should complement a talented returning core. The headliner: combo guard Nick Smith Jr., who could be in the mix for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA draft. Smith, point guard Anthony Black and athletic forward Jordan Walsh are the main prizes in this loaded class and bring elite-level upside to the table. One huge draft decision to watch is that of star center Jaylin Williams, who blossomed into one of the SEC’s best bigs down the stretch. He’s considered to be returning for the purposes of these rankings, but his stock almost certainly rose down the stretch. If Williams returns as projected, this is the best team in the country.
Perhaps the largest looming draft decision that could realistically go either way is in Lexington, where rebounding whiz Oscar Tshiebwe has to decide whether to return after a record-setting season with the Wildcats. As good as Tshiebwe is, his skill set for NBA purposes is rather limited, and in the name, image and likeness era he’ll have massive money-making opportunities should he stay at Kentucky. Add him next to a senior point guard in Sahvir Wheeler and an elite recruiting class that may even include 2022 draft prospect Shaedon Sharpe, and Kentucky looks loaded for ’22–23.
Houston going to the Elite Eight despite the in-season losses of Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark is perhaps the most impressive coaching job of Kelvin Sampson’s career. Now, the Cougars should get back Sasser (the team’s best player) and Mark, joining emerging point guard Jamal Shead to form one of the most impressive backcourts in the sport. And while the UH program hasn’t been built on elite recruits, the Cougars add a five-star prospect in the frontcourt in Jarace Walker, who has elite physical tools and could dominate the glass for Sampson’s club.
Seeing as the Jayhawks have finished worse than No. 20 in KenPom just once since 2000, ranking Bill Self’s team here feels like a solid bet. It will be a new-look Kansas bunch with Ochai Agbaji, Remy Martin and David McCormack graduating, especially if Christian Braun elects to turn pro this spring. But Self signed his best recruiting class in a long time in ’22 with three five-stars and four top-50 prospects, which should lift the defending national champs into Big 12 contention yet again.
Will the Zags get Drew Timme back for his senior season? That’s the question of the offseason for Mark Few & Co., who once again came up short of a national title. If Timme returns (as this article presumes), the Bulldogs should be among the contenders to cut down the nets next season. Rising sophomores Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis could be in for sophomore breakouts, and wing Julian Strawther should have a big junior season. Plus, Few and the Zags are always apt to add a big-time transfer or two every spring.
Jon Scheyer will start his head coaching career with one of the most talented rosters in the sport after signing three of the top six players in the 2022 class, per the SI99. That should soften the blow of likely losing five key contributors to the NBA draft, with only point guard Jeremy Roach penciled in as a return for the purposes of these rankings. But Roach could be one of the nation’s better point guards in ’22–23, and he’ll be feeding the ball to the likes of do-it-all wing Dariq Whitehead and uber-talented forwards Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively. There may be some growing pains with a first-time coach, but don’t expect a major drop-off.
The Bluejays clearly overachieved in a rebuilding year in 2021–22, winning 12 Big East games and going to the second round of the NCAA tournament despite having four freshmen and a sophomore in the team’s regular playing rotation. Freshman point guard Ryan Nembhard played with a poise well beyond his years before a season-ending wrist injury, while sophomore big man Ryan Kalkbrenner broke out into a force at the rim at both ends. Plus, the future is extremely bright for youngsters Arthur Kaluma and Trey Alexander, who each had huge games in the Big Dance. This group is a couple of transfer additions away from having limitless potential next season.
8. North Carolina
Hubert Davis’s first season on the sideline had its ups and downs, but the Tar Heels’ success in the NCAA tournament makes it, in all, a smashing success. A pro decision looms for Armando Bacot, who likely wouldn’t get drafted but has accomplished almost everything at the college level and may want to go play for a paycheck. Even if Bacot departs, the backcourt duo of RJ Davis and Caleb Love came into its own late in the season and would give Davis two elite building blocks for Year 2 as head coach.
Year 1 under Tommy Lloyd certainly inspired plenty of confidence in the future of the Wildcats’ program. There will be roster turnover this offseason—we’re penciling in the departure of Bennedict Mathurin in these rankings, but frontcourt stars Christian Koloko and Azuolas Tubelis could also head to the pros. But with a returning backcourt headlined by Dalen Terry and Kerr Kriisa and potential for one or both of Koloko and Tubelis to return, this group will be in the mix to win the Pac-12 yet again.
Scott Drew and the Bears have become mainstays in rankings like these and should be for the foreseeable future. Baylor adds five-star freshman Keyonte George to this mix for next season, a dynamic scoring guard who’ll pair well with LJ Cryer and Adam Flagler (who could pursue professional options as well) for one of the more impressive backcourts in the sport. If Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua can get healthy after a devastating knee injury in February, this team will be one of the more complete rosters (at least on paper) in the country next season.
Like last offseason, we could be waiting a while for clarity on Johnny Juzang’s plans. But for these rankings, we’re working off the assumption that Juzang will return while Jaime Jaquez Jr. will go pro. A Juzang/Tyger Campbell veteran backcourt duo paired with a couple of talented freshman guards in Amari Bailey and Dylan Andrews would be one of the best collections of guards in the nation. The frontcourt will rely heavily on five-star freshman Adem Bona, a hard-playing athletic big who’ll have big shoes to fill for Cody Riley and Myles Johnson. And while Jaquez is a major loss, Jaylen Clark could be effective in a similar Swiss Army knife–style role for Mick Cronin’s club.
Scroll to Continue
Things never quite clicked for a Crimson Tide team with tons of talent in 2021–22, but Nate Oats’s team will be back in the mix this season. Expect more roster turnover than this article’s rules project—I’d be quite surprised if all three of Jahvon Quinerly, JD Davison and Jaden Shackelford returned next season. But with the additions of a pair of elite freshmen in Jaden Bradley and Brandon Miller, along with young returnees such as Charles Bediako and Darius Miles, give this group the chance to have a special season.
Brad Underwood’s team is one of the most difficult to peg for 2022–23, as things stand right now, given the amount of uncertainty on this roster. The primary question is whether Kofi Cockburn will return for his senior season. The dominating center had an extremely productive season but did little to change his NBA stock and isn’t currently among SI’s top-80 prospects. For the purposes of these rankings, he’s penciled in as coming back. If Cockburn returns, Underwood can surround him with talented young players such as RJ Melendez, Luke Goode, Coleman Hawkins and impressive freshmen Jayden Epps and Ty Rodgers. But expect plenty of roster changes here between now and the summer.
Early NCAA tournament exit notwithstanding, it was an outstanding 2021–22 for Rick Barnes and Tennessee, winning the SEC tournament and putting together a legitimate top-10 team that should bring back plenty of key pieces. A nucleus that features Zakai Zeigler, Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi is a great place to start, particularly after Zeigler burst onto the scene as a freshman. There are a few more questions up front, but there’s no denying the talent the likes of Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and Jonas Aidoo possess, while Uros Plavsic provides more of an “enforcer” look at center for Barnes and the Vols.
It was an uneven 2021–22 for Michigan, to say the least, but the Wolverines did end it with a trip to a Sweet 16. The big question that this ranking hinges on is the return of Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson is unlikely to get drafted should he go pro now, but his stock may never improve much because of his physical limitations. Should he return as this ranking projects, Juwan Howard can build around him as well as youngsters such as Frankie Collins, Moussa Diabate, Jett Howard and Dug McDaniel.
No, Collin Gillespie can’t come back for another year. And while that does leave a hole at the point guard spot for Jay Wright’s Wildcats, they’re in good shape to contend in the Big East yet again depending on Justin Moore’s prognosis. Achilles injuries are notoriously fickle, and there’s no guarantee that the veteran wing will be 100% by November. But a healthy Moore combined with emerging big man Eric Dixon, talented young wing Jordan Longino and five-star freshman Cam Whitmore should be enough to keep this group relevant in the national picture.
17. Texas Tech
Any questions about Mark Adams’s ability to lead the Red Raiders’ program were quickly answered in his first season as the head man in Lubbock, leading Tech to a No. 3 seed and a spot in the Sweet 16. This will be a new-look roster, but Kevin McCullar has blossomed into an all-conference talent and role players Mylik Wilson, Clarence Nadolny and Daniel Batcho come back alongside a talented recruiting class. You can count on this team being among the nation’s elite defensive teams, if nothing else.
Dayton lost to UMass Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay in the first two weeks of the 2021–22 season. After that, it was one of the best teams in the country. In fact, per T-Rank, from Nov. 22 on, the Flyers were the No. 20 team in the sport. Now, its entire nucleus returns. Young big man DaRon Holmes II has limitless upside down low, and point guard Malachi Smith looked the part of a future all-time great for the Flyers in an impressive freshman campaign. This Dayton team won’t be as good as the one Obi Toppin had trending toward a potential No. 1 seed in ’20, but it has the potential for an incredibly special season.
Yes, Keegan Murray is almost assuredly off to the NBA. But much of the Hawkeyes’ core that won the Big Ten tournament returns. Keegan’s twin brother, Kris, could be in for a breakout third season in Iowa City after showing flashes of brilliance in Keegan’s shadow this season, and Tony Perkins blossomed late into a promising piece who can play either guard spot. Fran McCaffery’s teams are always excellent on the offensive end and have finished .500 or better in the Big Ten in nine of the last 10 years. March issues aside, this team should be in the mix in the top half of the league yet again.
20. Colorado State
This ranking is predicated on the return of star forward David Roddy, who is expected to go through the NBA draft process this spring. Roddy is one of the most unique players in the sport and could play his way into the first-round conversation but is still strongly considering a return for his senior season in Fort Collins. Roddy and point guard Isaiah Stevens combine for one of the best duos in the sport, and Niko Medved runs tremendous offense. After earning a No. 6 seed in 2022, this group may have even higher potential next season if it can bolster its frontcourt.
The Tigers will certainly look differently in 2022–23 without Jabari Smith or Walker Kessler, but this roster is still in good enough shape to be in the mix near the top of the SEC. Guards K.D. Johnson and Wendell Green Jr. were derided at times this season for their inconsistency, but there’s no question the duo has the talent to be one of the better ballhandling units in the SEC. Plus, Auburn adds four-star guard Chance Westry to that mix. Veterans Dylan Cardwell and Jaylin Williams (no, not the Arkansas one) are enough to have confidence in this frontcourt, and Bruce Pearl bolstered that rotation recently with the addition of top recruit Yohan Traore, who decommitted from LSU.
It’s an offseason of change ahead for Matt Painter and the Boilermakers, who’ll lose star guard Jaden Ivey and center Trevion Williams to the professional ranks, in all likelihood. The return of Zach Edey would help—the 7’4″ behemoth is one of the toughest players to guard in college hoops and made huge strides from freshman to sophomore year. The big question mark will be a lack of shot creation after the Boilers relied heavily upon Ivey to play-make from the shooting guard position. But Edey alone combined with a strong collection of role players is enough to keep this club in the top 25.
Dan Hurley has been a monster on the recruiting trail for the Huskies, and that consistency allows the Huskies to stay in the top 25 despite multiple key graduations. Center Adama Sanogo is tracking toward being an All-American before his career is up in Storrs, and he’ll be the centerpiece of the 2022–23 UConn team. But the Huskies’ ceiling may be dictated by sophomore Jordan Hawkins, who scored in double figures seven times as a freshman and will be a critical piece with R.J. Cole and Tyrese Martin moving on.
The Longhorns’ roster, like so many this time of year, is in flux. But the building blocks are there for this team to be quite dangerous in Chris Beard’s second season in Austin. Freshmen Arterio Morris and Dillon Mitchell should make an instant impact—Morris with his scoring ability and Mitchell as a do-it-all forward in the mold of Baylor’s Kendall Brown. Dylan Disu could be a buy-low candidate after an injury-riddled first season at UT. Plus, Beard has put together five straight top-25 KenPom finishes and deserves the benefit of the doubt that he’ll have the Horns in that mix again.
Dana Altman’s club had a rough 2021–22, but an elite incoming class gives the Ducks a great chance to bounce back quickly. Freshmen Dior Johnson and Kel’el Ware provide the necessary talent injection for a quick turnaround, and the cupboard wasn’t bare with the return of De’Vion Harmon, Quincy Guerrier and N’Faly Dante. Altman’s teams often take some time to jell, but the upside is immense if they do get things to click.
Also considered (alphabetically): Memphis, Ohio State, Texas A&M, TCU, USC