Is it ever too early to talk college hoops? Not in my book. We take a look at the 2023 recruiting class, transfer portal, and returners to come up with our College Basketball Way Too Early Top 25.
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College Basketball Way Too Early Top 25
1. UConn (National Championship odds: +1400)
Defending National Champs will lose Jordan Hawkins, a lock first-rounder in the NBA draft, but I expect Adama Sanogo to return. If he is back, I am not sure what team will be able to defend him and 7’2″ Sophomore Donavan Clingan. I would not expect the Huskies to repeat next season as National Championships, but they should indeed be the top-ranked team heading into the season.
2. Kansas (National Championship odds: +1400)
What the Jayhawks did last season without a true big man was remarkable. Consider that box checked off with the addition of Hunter Dickinson from Michigan, one of the best bigs in the nation over the last few seasons. Losing Jalen Wilson is obviously a massive blow, but I am interested to see the status of Kevin McCullar: a two-time transfer who may stay another year rather than head to the NBA draft.
Bill Self could go down as one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, as he can work with whatever cards he is dealt. This Kansas team checks more boxes than the last and should be the Big 12 favorite.
3. Purdue (National Championship odds: +1800)
Purdue returns all, including big man and National Player of the Year Zach Edey. Expect him to continue to dominate while that young backcourt leaps forward. Watching a Purdue Basketball game is always interesting because there are moments when you ask yourself, “How does this team lose.” I always question Matt Painter’s management of the most dominant player in the sport, Zach Edey. If he is healthy and can play even more minutes, the Boilers should be as dominant as ever.
4. Duke (National Championship odds: +1100)
The tables have flipped on the status of Jeremy Roach and Kyle Filipowski’s return to Durham, but it seems like we will see them back in the Blue Devils uniform next season. Throw in the young talent they are expected, and Duke is undoubtedly a top-five team in the country. So how will John Scheyer manage a team with high expectations, as last year was a sure bridge season?
5. Kentucky (National Championship odds: +1300)
New look Kentucky which will be a breath of fresh air. I don’t want to compare this recruiting class to the season they almost ran the table but (insert eye emoji). Kentucky has the top-rated recruited class and will have elite talent 1-5.
In comes DaJaun Wagner Jr. from Camden, NJ, who was the nation’s top-ranked player for years but has recently dropped down significantly in the ranking. Rating high school talent is clearly not a telltale sign of performance, but it is an interesting thing to note headed into the season.
6. Houston (National Championship odds: +2000)
The Cougars are moving to the Big 12, and they did not hold back in the transfer portal. Adding one of the Big 12’s most prolific scorers in LJ Cryer and one of the AAC’s best guards in Damian Dunn. Jamal Shead will be an X-Factor for this team. Will he take his talents to the NBA or give it one more go in Houston?
This Houston team will not miss a beat in taking the leap into a more competitive conference. With the talent they had the last few seasons, they should have already been playing a Big 12 schedule.
7. Marquette (National Championship odds: +1100)
I was not particularly high on the Golden Eagles last season, but they proved me wrong all year and returned everyone. No reason they should not be a top-ten team. No matter the roster Shaka Smart has, he finds success. Suppose you look up and down at the Marquette roster. No names, stats, or measurables really turn your head. The Golden Eagles are simply a tough, gritty team who gets the job done.
8. Arkansas (National Championship odds: +1100)
Talent, check. The upside, check. Will they mesh? Question mark. Coach Muss adds multiple five-star freshmen and some big names in the transfer portal, such as Khalif Battle, El Ellis, and Tramon Mark.
If Council and Brazile return, this could be the best Razorbacks team we have ever seen. It is becoming meme-esk what Musselman has done to Arkansas Basketball. They are turning over the roster in the transfer portal year after year. They have yet to complete the job, but the Razorbacks will be a problem in the SEC.
9. Miami (National Championship odds: +3000)
The guards are back! Nigel Pack and Isaiah Wong seem poised to return the Canes to the Final Four. Center Norchad Omier seems to be a question mark on returning to Coral Gables. Consecutive March runs for the Canes and coach Jim Larranaga, who is not done yet. He is poised to return this veteran roster to the Final Four, and they have the pieces to do so.
10. Creighton (National Championship odds: +3000)
The Jays lose Nembhard, which will be a crucial loss, but bring on Steven Ashworth from Utah State. Baylor Scheierman seems to return to Omaha, but we will have to see what seven-footer Ryan Kalkbrenner does. Kalkbrenner dealt with injuries last year, but when he was healthy, he was one of the most dominant bigs in the entire country.
11. Gonzaga (National Championship odds: +2200)
Now, filling the role of Drew Timme is no easy task, but the Zags will add Graham Ike, who was one of the most prolific big men two seasons ago but dealt with injuries last year. They Will also return Anton Watson, Malachi Smith, and Nolan Hickman. We cannot forget Ryan Nembhard from Creighton, a prolific score that follows his brother’s footsteps to Spokane. The talent of Gonzaga will never be questioned, and this roster adds more talent at the guard position. The fast-paced style of play always provides Gonzaga with a high ceiling. Coming off a down year, I expect the Zags to respond.
12. Michigan State (National Championship odds: +1800)
Like Marquette, I was not too high on Sparty last season, but they played well when it mattered most in March. Tom Izzo does what he does best. The Spartans return everybody but Joey Hauser and add two five-star recruits. This team will play tough defense and make their shots at the basket—no reason to reinvent the wheel. What’s right is right in East Lansing.
13. Alabama (National Championship odds: +2000)
What a whirlwind it was for Alabama last season. They will be led by veteran guards Jahvon Quinerly, Mark Sears, and Hofstra transfer Aaron Estrada. There is no replacing Brandon Miller, who is a clear lottery pick, but it seems like seven-footer Charles Bediako will also return to Tuscaloosa.
I am never too high on Alabama as I cannot get behind their style of basketball, which is to shoot as many three-point shots as possible. I do not love this volatility, as they can beat the best team in the nation on a good shooting night or lose to the worst on a bad shooting night.
14. FAU (National Championship odds: +4000)
Truly lower on FAU than most, but the Owls return their entire starting five on a team who made it to the Final Four. They are also jumping up to the AAC this year, which gives them no choice but to improve. Florida Atlantic is a school on the rise in terms of athletics. Recruiting to Boca Raton is one of the easiest tasks one can have, and they proved that winning was in the equation. So look out for the owls.
15. Tennessee (National Championship odds: +3000)
If only Zakai Zeigler did not get injured late in the season. The Vols made a decent return without him, but he will be back with Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James, and North Colorado transfer Dalton Knecht.
We know Tennessee prides themselves on defense, so it will be interesting to see what Julian Philips decides to do, one of the nation’s best defenders. Rick Barnes finally did not flame out on the first weekend of the NCAA tournament but failed to defeat an FAU team that they were much more physical.
16. Baylor (National Championship odds: +3000)
The Baylor guards we have grown to love will not be the same, but we will see most of the same frontcourt! They have a decent cast of freshmen coming into Waco in Ja’Kobe Walter and Miro Little. It will be interesting to see how the new look Bears make out.
17. Texas A&M (National Championship odds: +5500)
Just a model of consistency across the board, the Aggies will return four starters and should be a sure top-25 team all season long.
18. Texas (National Championship odds: +2200)
Tyrese Hunter and Dylan Disu are the lone wolves of the uber-talented Long Horn roster, but they add on the Mid-Major’s most prolific player, Max Abmas from Oral Roberts. Very interested to see how he fares in the Big 12.
19. Rutgers (National Championship odds: N/A)
Noah Fernandes, welcome to Piscataway. A true point guard will greatly boost this Scarlet Knights roster. One of the Big Ten’s best big men, Cliff Omoruyi, is a question mark to return but would be a massive boost for them. In addition, sophomore guard Derek Simpson can take as big a leap as anyone in the country.
20. Auburn (National Championship odds: +4500)
It seems that all Auburn players who entered the draft will return for another year. This includes Johni Broome, who was one of the biggest transfers in last year’s class. In addition, electric point guard K.D. Johnson will be back and more mature when he is making the right decisions on the court. He is one of the best guards in the country.
21. Arizona (National Championship odds: +2000)
The Cats had high hopes heading into March but fell to Princeton. They return dominant seven-footer Oumar Bello and Senior Pelle Larson. I am excited to see how Sophomore point guard Kylan Boswell plays, as he was one of the youngest players in college hoops last year. Clearly, this team will be different without Azuolas Tubelis, whose status is still in the air.
22. USC (National Championship odds: +3000)
USC lands the number one prospect in the Nation, Isaiah Collier and Bronny James. Ever heard of him? Boogie Ellis, Kobe Johnson, Josh Morgan, and Vincent Iwuchukwu return for the Trojans as well, who were all key pieces on the team last season.
23. St Mary’s (National Championship odds: +5000)
This team shared the WCC Regular Season title with Gonzaga and will return four of five starters.
24. UCLA (National Championship odds: +2500)
New look for UCLA after it seems like Jaquez and Campbell will take the NBA route. They have plenty of talent in Jaylen Clark, Adem Bona, and Dylan Andrews back for the season.
25. UNC (National Championship odds: +2200)
Very tough season for the Heels. Armando Bacot is expected to return for a 5th year along with RJ Davis. The loss of Caleb Love may be some addition by subtraction, and you can always count on the Tarheels to bring in some high-level freshman.