23 in ’23: Top faculty basketball storylines coming into the brand new yr

What a wild 2022 in faculty basketball. Kansas gained its first nationwide championship since 2008, capping off one of the vital dramatic Last 4 weekends ever. We watched one anticipated, and one stunning conclusion to Corridor of Fame teaching careers in New Orleans. Mike Krzyzewski’s illustrious run at Duke resulted in as dramatic vogue because it might have, with a Last 4 loss to North Carolina that can stay in Chapel Hill lore eternally. We additionally noticed Jay Wright’s profession shut with a surprising announcement in April following a 3rd Villanova run to the Last 4 in six years. 

The yr contained one of many best Cinderella tales in NCAA Event historical past with Saint Peter’s, which started with the historic upset win over Kentucky, which hasn’t been the identical since. We have seen the likes of Oscar Tshiebwe, Drew Timme, Trayce Jackson-Davis and extra bigs flooding summer time headlines with their return to school basketball for one more yr. 

From a stunning combat between Michigan and Wisconsin final February to the arrest and suspension of Texas head coach Chris Beard, there’s been vital ugliness within the sport as properly. 

With that in thoughts, whether or not you are simply stepping into faculty hoops because the calendar turns to January otherwise you’re on the lookout for a reset on the game, we picked 23 storylines to maintain your eye on in 2023. 

1. Zach Edey is one of the best participant in faculty basketball. Will he lead Matt Painter to his first Last 4?

The Boilers enter the brand new yr at 13-0 with a 7-foot-4 star who has changed into must-see TV each time he steps on the ground. Zach Edey has averaged 22.6 factors and 13.9 rebounds per sport, leaving little question in the meanwhile that he can be nationwide participant of the yr. For a Purdue staff that entered the yr unranked after the lack of a top-five decide in Jaden Ivey, it has been nothing in need of exceptional to see what Painter’s executed in molding his freshmen guards right into a new-look backcourt. Many thought final yr can be the one for the Boilermakers to succeed in this system’s first Last 4 since 1980, however Saint Peter’s had different plans. Would there not be some irony to the run coming the next yr, when expectations going into it have been lowered? Purdue seems like the category of the Large Ten, and so they give the convention one other candidate to win the league’s first males’s basketball nationwide title since 2000. Why not, proper? 

Purdue’s Zach Edey slams dwelling an alley-oop dunk and blocks a shot into the stands on the opposite finish

Purdue's Zach Edey slams home an alley-oop dunk and blocks a shot into the stands on the other end

2. UConn is again, and the Huskies are the deepest staff within the nation. 

Imagine it. UConn is clearly the top of the Large East once more, opening the season with a 14-0 report. It is one of the best begin to a marketing campaign since 1998-99, when Jim Calhoun’s Huskies reeled off 19 consecutive victories in a season that ended with this system’s first nationwide championship. Adama Sanogo is performing like a primary staff All-American, however we thought that was very attainable coming into the yr. What makes the Huskies so harmful is their depth. They’re a legit nine-deep, with a sophomore famous person in Jordan Hawkins to dial it up from downtown and the indispensable presence of Andre Jackson to steer as a captain. Apparently sufficient, the 2 Phil Knight match champions, Purdue and Connecticut, are a mixed 27-0 and ranked first and second in America. That being mentioned, the pathway to a No. 1 seed within the NCAA Event for the Huskies is there. They are going to have Madison Sq. Backyard rocking in March for the Large East Event, and keep in mind: the East Regional is at MSG, as properly. May Connecticut undergo a second dwelling, New York Metropolis, to a Last 4? That dream is alive in Storrs, and it looks like the nice outdated days for the Huskies devoted.

3. What’s going on with Kentucky? 

The Wildcats, pegged to be a possible Last 4 staff initially of the season, are removed from that proper now. John Calipari has an actual dilemma on his arms with an 8-4 squad that doesn’t have one spectacular win on the season, and appears to lack synergy in the meanwhile. On this week’s newest disappointment, an 89-75 loss at Missouri that the Tigers managed the entire means, it was the latest case of Kentucky’s offense having subsequent to no rhythm. The Wildcats have the reigning nationwide participant of the yr again in Oscar Tshiebwe. Their level guard Sahvir Wheeler returned as properly, and Cason Wallace has been one of many nation’s greatest freshmen. At naked minimal, UK ought to be a top-25 staff. They do not even deserve that recognition proper now. Will Cal determine it out? If the Wildcats do not make some noise in March, that may mark a 3rd straight yr of disappointment in Lexington. Whereas Calipari’s job is protected with the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class coming into this system for 2023, this isn’t a fan base that is going to have rather more endurance if this yr comes and goes, and the staff is not reaching success when it issues most. Subsequent season would develop into that rather more vital. 

4. What number of Last 4 contenders are there? 

It is a becoming query for our fourth storyline to watch as a result of the reply displays the parity of faculty basketball. Though Purdue and UConn have dominated up to now, it is not like they’re on some one-way journey to the Last 4. Actually, one would possibly argue it might be extra stunning if each groups made it to Houston somewhat than neither. That is simply the state of faculty hoops. In our opinion, all of those groups have a high quality case to win the nationwide title along with the Huskies and Boilermakers: 

Sure, that is 15 complete, and also you simply know the insanity of March might see one other staff emerge from the dance flooring. It is that extensive open on the street to Houston. 

5. Will the Large 12 make it three nationwide championships in a row? 

THIS. LEAGUE. 

The Large 12 is as soon as once more faculty basketball’s greatest convention, and the league has the metrics to show it. Within the NET rankings, all 10 groups within the convention are ranked within the high 52. There is not any league than can come even near with the ability to collectively say that. 

With half the convention within the AP Top 25, there’s each cause to consider at the least one from this league can be in Houston within the Last 4. And simply suppose: subsequent yr, the at present third-ranked Cougars can be within the convention, as properly. In a world of unknowns, the Large 12 has locked up the convention heavyweight belt once more. 

6. May Kansas repeat as nationwide champs? 

We have now not seen a repeat nationwide champion in faculty basketball since Billy Donovan and Florida achieved the feat in 2006 and 2007. That is attainable in Lawrence this yr. If Edey at Purdue wasn’t the nationwide participant of the yr so far, Kansas 6-foot-8 junior Jalen Wilson can be my decide. He is led a flexible staff that is precipitated matchup nightmares for opponents and jumped out to an 11-1 begin to the yr. Invoice Self has reloaded. 

7. What would be the ending to Jon Scheyer’s first chapter as Duke head coach? 

It is an enchanting query to consider coming into the brand new yr. Duke’s proven flashes that the Blue Devils might make a deep March run, however different moments which have lacked promise. An 11-point loss to Wake Forest forward of the Christmas break with Dereck Vigorous II and Dariq Whitehead out resulting from sickness left a bitter style of their mouths. There are nights the place Jeremy Roach seems just like the undisputed chief and star on the courtroom, however he needs to be that man each night time for Duke to get to the place it strives to go. Kyle Filipowski has been all Scheyer might hope for whereas Mark Mitchell, Tyrese Proctor and Northwestern switch Ryan Younger have all been strong. However for Duke to succeed in its ceiling, the 6-foot-7 Whitehead has to maintain progressing on the wing because the yr goes on. Will probably be fascinating to see how Scheyer fares with this specific staff in his first March Insanity as a head coach. Would it not shock me if Duke reached the Last 4? Actually, no. The expertise is there and so they defend at a excessive degree. Would it not shock me in the event that they exited within the first or second spherical? Nope. That is life with a younger staff. 

[Duke’s new king: Jon Scheyer’s journey to one of basketball’s biggest jobs]

8. The Pac-12 has two nationwide championship contenders, and each are large manufacturers.

Arizona and UCLA are going to be in a conflict on the high of the convention, and both of them is able to making it to Houston this April. What makes the Wildcats so harmful? A deadly frontcourt duo of Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo, plus the dynamic creativity of Kerr Kriisa. As for UCLA? Jaime Jaquez Jr. is an All-American, and the emergence of Jaylen Clark this season has been tremendous spectacular to look at. Tommy Lloyd and Mick Cronin have executed two of the higher teaching jobs within the nation, and between Arizona and UCLA, you get a 23-3 report. Is that good? 

Jaime Jaquez’s shot on the buzzer caps off an unimaginable first half for UCLA

Jaime Jaquez's shot at the buzzer caps off an incredible first half for UCLA

9. Will Drew Timme finish his final dance in storybook vogue? 

Gonzaga took a success on the nationwide radar with some early losses, however Mark Few additionally performed about as difficult of a non-conference schedule within the nation. A 100-90 win over Alabama in Birmingham on Dec. 17 was awfully spectacular, because the Zags confirmed their full offensive arsenal within the efficiency. Timme is without doubt one of the 5 greatest gamers within the nation as soon as once more. The query is easy: How a lot assistance will he get? Julian Strawther is essential for that to occur, as is getting consistency at level guard. Timme deliberated about his choice final spring earlier than electing to return to highschool. Can he make his final dance, one of the best one? It is definitely his plan. 

[Drew Timme Q&A with FOX Sports]

10. Right here comes North Carolina. 

The Tar Heels ought to have a actuality TV present about them, as a result of the primary two months of their season have featured no scarcity of ups and downs. However, with back-to-back wins over Ohio State and Michigan and Armando Bacot combining for 54 factors and 20 rebounds within the course of, UNC has discovered that feeding their All-American early and sometimes is a good suggestion. The opposite factor? Hubert Davis’ staff wasn’t giving the identical effort on the defensive finish that it is giving now. That is a big shift, and RJ Davis and Caleb Love have been higher recently as properly. Will the Tar Heels keep on this trajectory and save their greatest for one more deep March run? It is definitely attainable, and can be enjoyable to soak up with so many acquainted faces seeking to just do that. 

11. What finally ends up occurring with Chris Beard and Texas? 

The Longhorns are 11-1 on the season, however that is not the story with this system. Within the darkest story in faculty basketball this season, Chris Beard’s arrest and felony cost of assaulting his fiancee resulted within the second-year Texas head coach being suspended indefinitely with out pay. In accordance with the police affidavit from the case, Beard’s fiancée initially advised police, “He choked me, bit me, bruises all over my leg, throwing me around and going nuts.” However, in an announcement Randi Trew made final week, she apologized for the position she performed within the occasion, with a part of her assertion studying: 

“Chris did not strangle me, and I told that to law enforcement that evening. Chris has stated that he was acting in self-defense, and I do not refute that. I do not believe Chris was trying to intentionally harm me in any way. It was never my intent to have him arrested or prosecuted. We appreciate everyone’s support and prayers during this difficult time.” 

Beard is within the second yr of a seven-year contract paying over $5 million per yr. What would be the subsequent step on this state of affairs, and what impact will it have on Texas going ahead? That each one stays unanswered coming into 2023. 

12. The very best freshman in faculty basketball resides in Alabama. 

Brandon Miller has been every little thing Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide might have hoped for and extra, and we can be listening to the 6-foot-9 famous person’s identify referred to as early on a June night time in Brooklyn later this yr on the NBA Draft. The Tennessee native has been excellent in main the Crimson Tide into the highest ten of the nationwide rankings, averaging 19.2 factors and eight.8 rebounds per sport, together with a 36-point efficiency towards Gonzaga two weeks in the past. His scoring prowess, high-level athleticism and maturity is an impressive mixture of belongings that simply says “lottery pick.” 

Alabama’s Brandon Miller tops Andy Katz’s CBB Freshman tiers

Alabama's Brandon Miller tops Andy Katz's CBB Freshman tiers

13. Can Indiana keep within the image close to the highest of the Large Ten and make noise in March?

Lacking level guard Xavier Johnson for the foreseeable future is a tough blow to the expectation degree for Mike Woodson’s staff. The optimistic: five-star freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino has gotten higher and higher because the yr’s gone on with 4 straight double-figure scoring performances. Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson have produced within the paint as properly. The important thing for IU? Perimeter taking pictures, and with the ability to discover sufficient at level guard with Johnson down. 

14. Alongside these strains, who’s the most important challenger to Purdue within the Large Ten? 

That is an fascinating query to ponder as a result of whereas the league is deep and constructed up a robust non-conference resume, it is tough to determine how one would energy rank the highest of the convention. Within the preseason, Illinois and Michigan obtained a whole lot of love. The Illini are 0-2 in convention play, and the Wolverines misplaced to Central Michigan on Thursday night time. It has been stunning to see a Hunter Dickinson-led staff disappointing at 7-5. 

Wisconsin is the second-highest ranked staff out of the Large Ten within the AP Top 25, one thing that no one might have referred to as in November after the Badgers misplaced Johnny Davis and have been preseason No. 9 within the media ballot. Indiana would definitely like a phrase within the dialogue. Ohio State’s obtained a mix of expertise and gifted youth that might match into the equation and you’ll by no means depend out Tom Izzo. However, the very fact is, there is a extensive openness to the Large Ten and a depth within the league that might result in eight or 9 NCAA Event tickets getting punched on Choice Sunday. However who’s the large challenger to Purdue? We will see. 

Indiana Hoosiers Basketball is formally good

Indiana Hoosiers Basketball is officially good

15. The place does Rick Pitino land subsequent? 

This can be the only most intriguing storyline heading into the 2023 version of the teaching carousel. 

It feels inevitable that the 70-year-old, the one coach in faculty basketball historical past to take three totally different applications to a Last 4, goes to get one last alternative at a higher-profile job. It is nothing towards the Iona Gaels, who’re 9-4 and the clear frontrunner within the MAAC, however there are applications in dire want of a winner and Pitino is obvious from the NCAA investigation and its soon-to-be-defunct IARP. Who’s going to drag the set off and rent the Corridor of Famer this offseason? Count on Pitino’s identify to be throughout what ought to be one other lively teaching adjustments cycle with some high-profile jobs opening up. 

16. Arkansas has reached back-to-back Elite Eights. How will this yr’s trip finish for the Razorbacks?

Arkansas is certainly one of our 23 storylines not simply because they’re a top-15 staff within the nation, however as a result of their freshman class is stacked with expertise and athleticism. The large query: What finally ends up occurring with high NBA Draft prospect Nick Smith, who’s solely performed in 5 video games this season and is sidelined with a proper knee harm at present? His identify is one to look at as a result of the professional potential speaks for itself, and there is a little bit of a thriller surrounding Smith’s timetable to return. That being mentioned, Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh are two particular abilities for the Hogs. On high of that, the Razorbacks have the SEC’s third-leading scorer in Ricky Council IV and are completely able to making the deep run once more. Will it occur? We will see. 

17. Will Villanova surge in January and discover a means into the NCAA Event? 

The Wildcats have made 16 of the final 17 NCAA Tournaments, however will probably be an uphill climb for Kyle Neptune to maintain a streak of 9 in a row getting into his first season on the helm. That being mentioned, five-star freshman Cam Whitmore has definitely added lots and the Cats have performed a lot better basketball in latest weeks, successful 5 of six and giving UConn a problem in Hartford earlier this week. 

The large query: When will senior Justin Moore come again from an Achilles’ tendon harm and what % of his regular self will he be? The 6-foot-4 guard returned to Villanova apply on a restricted foundation this previous week, the staff introduced. For a 7-6 Nova staff, January gives an opportunity to build up wins and keep close to the highest of the Large East. Will they seize the chance and play their means into being on the match radar come February? We will see. 

18. Who’s going to win the ACC crown? 

It is an fascinating query to watch as we enter January. Virginia can be my decide to win the common season title due to their expertise and stability on the offensive finish of the ground. That being mentioned, Isaiah Wong is making his declare for ACC Participant of the 12 months and has led Miami into the highest 15 of the nation after an Elite Run final season. Mike Younger’s Virginia Tech staff has been powered by Sean Pedulla, who steers the ship for a top-25 KenPom offense. And, whereas younger, you’ll be able to’t depend out Roach and Duke to be within the combine. The title race on this league can be one to look at. 

Miami Hurricanes are atop Andy Katz’s Sleeper Crew Tiers

Miami Hurricanes are atop Andy Katz's Sleeper Team Tiers

19. Is that this the yr for Rick Barnes to interrupt via in March at Tennessee? 

The Volunteers are one of the best defensive staff in faculty basketball and have 5 gamers averaging double-figure scoring, powered by an elite set of guards, Santiago Vescovi and Zakai Zeigler. The query with Tennessee is just not expertise. It isn’t athleticism or the way in which they lock groups down. At this level, all eyes are on Barnes to steer this system on a run within the large dance. Barnes is a robust coach, however his flaw has been underwhelming within the NCAA Event. He is made it the second weekend of the NCAA Event only one time within the final 15 years of his teaching profession. Will that change this yr for a top-10 Vols staff? We will see. 

20. Richard Pitino and the New Mexico Lobos are on unbeaten watch

Becoming a member of UConn and Purdue because the final unbeatens in faculty basketball, the Lobos have it rolling at 13-0. Senior guard Jaelen Home is their star expertise, averaging 17.2 factors and 5.3 assists per sport on the season. The Mountain West has some high quality groups on the high of the league with San Diego State, Utah State and others, however for now, we’re on unbeaten look ahead to a New Mexico staff that ranks twenty second within the AP ballot. For Pitino, his signature second got here Dec. 18 when he beat his dad in a matchup at “The Pit,” 72-64. Richard has discovered a house in Albuquerque, and so they’re one of many shock storylines nationally. 

21. Sean Miller can be again in March Insanity 

The Xavier Musketeers began Large East play at 3-0 for the primary time since 2017-18, Chris Mack’s last yr, and Miller has among the best offensive groups within the nation. Xavier is related once more nationally, and for a program that was once a staple to the NCAA Event, it is going to have been 5 years because the Musketeer devoted final skilled the large dance flooring for his or her program. Xavier is definitely on observe to finish the drought this spring, and their main scorer has been among the best transfers within the nation, Solely Boum (17.9 PPG, 4.7 APG). With NCAA-related Arizona drama behind Miller, he feels at dwelling again at Xavier, and the Musketeers appear like the potential greatest challenger to UConn within the Large East. 

22. Which first-year head coach at their program goes to maintain surging into the New 12 months? 

We have seen plenty of nice tales rising nationally. Within the Large Ten, Kevin Willard and Maryland stunned all people within the nation with a stunning 8-0 begin to the season. Whereas the Terps have cooled off a bit, will they have the ability to make the NCAA Event? That may be fairly the turnaround in Faculty Park. 

How concerning the additions to the SEC? LSU’s Matt McMahon, Missouri’s Dennis Gates and Mississippi State’s Chris Jans are a mixed 35-4, and all three of these applications are in an excellent place to combat for an NCAA Event ticket. 

At Kansas State, Jerome Tang has a stifling protection and the Wildcats are 11-1 on the yr. Following a very lively teaching adjustments cycle, we have seen early success from a number of leaders across the nation. The query turns into, who will have the ability to persevere via the grind of their league slate? 

23. Will the celebrities align for Kelvin Sampson and Houston? 

It is the final storyline for a cause, as a result of it might be the Hollywood ending to the faculty hoops season if the Cougars hoisted this system’s first nationwide championship trophy of their dwelling metropolis. They want Marcus Sasser to carry out to his All-American degree and for perimeter taking pictures to maintain evolving, however Houston ought to have the ability to construct and evolve all through AAC play, which they’ll probably dominate. Extremely-touted freshman Jarace Walker is a must-see expertise on this staff, having scored 17 factors with seven rebounds and 4 assists in a signature street win at Virginia on Dec. 17. With Tramon Mark coming alongside within the backcourt and J’Wan Roberts holding issues collectively down low, the Cougars have totally different choices and an elite distributor in Jamal Shead (5.6 assists per sport). What makes Houston so laborious to play is that you need to win the sport on their phrases, that are flat-out nasty. We noticed this system attain the Last 4 two years in the past. Final yr, it was an Elite Eight. May this be the yr? 

Just like the 22 different storylines … seize your popcorn. 

It is going to be a enjoyable trip to crown a 2023 champion.

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John Fanta is a nationwide faculty basketball broadcaster and author for FOX Sports activities. He covers the game in a wide range of capacities, from calling video games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Community to offering commentary on The Discipline of 68 Media Community. Comply with him on Twitter @John_Fanta.


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