The season ended just two weeks ago, but college basketball fans are already looking ahead to the 2022-23 season. It has become more difficult to do an "early look" because of numerous factors, beginning with the transfer market. The portal is in a frenzy with more than 1,200 players already available. Then there's the uncertainty of players considering the NBA draft and coaching changes can play a major role in assessing where teams stack up as well.
Despite those factors, I've come up with my early "elite eight," which is clearly subject to change as more schools finalize their rosters:
Hubert Davis was 20 minutes away from the national title as his Tar Heels had a 15-point halftime lead on Kansas. Carolina will learn from that. Davis was thrilled when Armando Bacot and Leaky Black announced their plans to return to Chapel Hill. The success of the upcoming season will depend on the status of Caleb Love and R.J. Davis, who are determining their futures. The Tar Heels also welcome 6-9 recruit Jalen Washington and point guard Seth Trimble.
The Cougars upset Arizona before falling to Villanova in the Elite Eight. Kelvin Sampson took the Cougars far despite injuries to Tramon Mark and Marcus Sasser. If they return to form, watch out. Jamal Shead showed a lot during the NCAA tournament, averaging 15 PPG and four APG. Add in forward Jarace Walker from IMG Academy and the Cougars are loaded.
If Wooden Award winner Oscar Tshiebwe returns, the Wildcats will have a major force up front. Another veteran expected to return is guard Sahvir Wheeler, one of the top passers in America. Yes the Cats lost TyTy Washington Jr. and Keion Brooks Jr. to the NBA draft, but John Calipari will reload with premier diaper dandies. Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston, a pair of top-15 recruits, will be names of note that Big Blue Nation celebrates.
Eric Musselman has added impact transfers in 6-9 Trevon Brazile from Missouri, Makhi Mitchell and Makhel Mitchell from Rhode Island and Jalen Graham from Arizona State. He also bought in a pair of top-10 prospects in guard Nick Smith and forward Jordan Walsh. Musselman will also have a few players back from the Elite Eight team, so Razorback fans have a lot to be excited about.
Gonzaga will be a different team with Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren gone. Look for big things from Julian Strawther, Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis ready to step up. Mark Few always gets additional help through transfers.
Jon Scheyer's has an incredible recruiting class as he makes his debut as Blue Devils coach and Mike Krzyzewski's replacement. Three of the top five on ESPN's Top 100 are going to Durham. Center Dereck Lively, forward Dariq Whitehead and center Kyle Filipowski will have an immediate impact. Add forward Mark Mitchell and guard Jaden Schutt, both top 50 prospects, and Duke will be fine. Several members of this year's Final Four squad could still return.
The Jayhawks cut down the nets and would love to go back-to-back. While Kansas loses a lot (Ochai Agbaji and David McCormack), Coach Bill Self has talent coming in. Forwards Gradey Dick and M.J. Rice are top-20 prospects. Center Ernest Udeh is not far behind. You know Self will add more talent through the transfer portal.
I believe the Bluejays will be the favorite over Villanova in the Big East. Ryan Nembhard's wrist injury was a blow as Creighton fell to Kansas in the NCAA tournament, but Nembhard should return with three other starters for a Creighton team with experience and continuity. Arthur Kaluma had 24 points vs. the Jayhawks and should improve even more. Ryan Kalkbrenner and Trey Alexander are the other returning starters. Greg McDermott has a special group ready to make noise.
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