The field of 68 is set, and the 2022-23 season took a remarkable series of twists and turns to get us this far. The men's basketball selection committee said "no thanks" to the AP poll's preseason No. 1 (which then said "no thank you" to the NIT). The team picked in the preseason to finish ninth in the Big East won both the regular-season title and the league's tournament. And did we mention the coach who ended his 47-year career by casually mentioning it in passing after a Wednesday afternoon ACC tournament game in Greensboro, North Carolina?
Given all that's taken place, it's time for our latest men's fantasy draft.
The ground rules are simple. ESPN's Jeff Borzello, Myron Medcalf and John Gasaway are each out to build a team that can win the 2023 national championship. Each "general manager" picks eight players and one head coach from the field of 68. In this snake draft, GMs must each select one mid-major player and are prohibited from making more than one selection from any one team.
So, let's build some winners. The following is the conversation that took place between our GMs, edited for clarity, in selecting their teams in the third March Madness fantasy draft. Jump to the final roster here.
John Gasaway: Hello! We all ready to Fantasy?
Myron Medcalf: Yep.
Jeff Borzello: While I refresh the portal, hell yeah.
Gasaway: Excellent, let's do this. Eight field-of-68 players, one of them mid-major and a coach. For draft order, I propose we use the order of finish from our Champ Week picks, remember those? I happen to have the final results here.
Medcalf: I'm down with that.
Borzello: Yeah that works. I'm assuming I didn't win.
Gasaway: Myron goes first, he was right on 15 conference tournaments. Gasaway goes second (14). Borzello third (13). Actually Lunardi beat us all (16). Nobody tell him, please.
Medcalf: I will teach you all my ways.
Gasaway: We have much to learn, obviously!
Borzello: Based on your last couple player drafts, you need all the help you can get with the first pick!
Medcalf: LOLOL. First pick: the 7-foot-4 juggernaut ... Zach Edey.
Gasaway: With the second pick, Gasaway takes Brandon Miller.
Borzello: DAMMIT JOHN
Gasaway: Two picks for Borzello, snake this thing.
Medcalf: Dammit Borzello
Gasaway: DAMMIT JEFF
Gasaway: He's such a warrior.
Borzello: Take them if you wanna.
Gasaway: Yeah, I think Sasser is fair game, Myron, you saw him in person, you have the advantage on us.
Medcalf: This is true.
Gasaway: Anyway, in Round 2 Gasaway takes Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek.
Medcalf: Great pick. Culture guy.
Borzello: Yeah huge fan. But he wore dress socks for the semifinal game. Can't trust him.
Gasaway: Two picks for Medcalf up next.
Medcalf: I'll start with Sasser. Then, Colby Jones.
Gasaway: Oooh, two good ones.
Medcalf: We're building champions over here.
Borzello: Colby Jones is a grown man.
Medcalf: Yeah he is. Love him.
Borzello: How are you guys taking my Big East guys. This is so unfair.
Gasaway: In Round 3, Gasaway takes Keyonte George.
Borzello: Same rules apply, right? No team overlaps and one mid-major player?
Medcalf: Yep them's the rules.
Gasaway: One mid-major, can't take Tyger Campbell if you already have Jaquez.
Borzello: I'll take Jalen Pickett.
Medcalf: Dang, Borzello.
Gasaway: Old-man game!
Medcalf: He's so real.
Gasaway: Absolute Illinois destroyer.
Medcalf: Been a lot of Illinois destroyers, John.
Gasaway: So true.
Borzello: If you two had just stuck to your flyover region players instead of poaching out of the Big East, we wouldn't have this problem. Debating between two guys, I'll go with Souley Boum.
Medcalf: Love him.
Gasaway: Oooh, I thought that might happen! Two of the three Xavier literal Musketeers are gone.
You know what, let's do it, I need size and I am not just being swayed by you two. Jack Nunge.
Medcalf: I'm amazed by the players we've already skipped.
Gasaway: Take 'em, man! You're up!
Medcalf: Zach Edey had better get ready to run. Give me Kendric Davis.
Gasaway: DAMMIT MYRON
Borzello: Good pick.
Gasaway: That is not a mid-major, though, right guys?
Borzello: He cooked yesterday. Nah, not a mid-major. Gotta be true mid-major.
Medcalf: He was ferocious yesterday. One more of me?
Medcalf: Give me the pride of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The overlooked twin. Kris Murray.
Gasaway: Nice! All right, I'm going mid-major and taking Max Abmas while I can.
Borzello: That was gonna be my strategy! Drafted him twice this season, I should have right of first refusal!
This is wild that a consensus first-team All-American lasted this long, but I feel like it's time to take Jalen Wilson.
Medcalf: Smart pick.
Gasaway: Hear, hear, love that pick.
Medcalf: Another one for Borzello right?
Gasaway: Yes indeed.
Borzello: Let me get Jordan Hawkins.
Gasaway: Oooh, nice!
Medcalf: Yeah that's a good pick.
Borzello: I only have two picks left, FYI. So we're closing in.
Gasaway: Right. I'm beefing up, Nunge needs some help in the paint, so I'll take First Four Player of the Year Tolu Smith and pray he never goes to the [free throw] line.
Gasaway: [Awed silence]
Medcalf: You know Borzello hates your pick if he's silent.
Gasaway: Yeah, if I don't get a DAMMIT from Jeff I know I screwed up.
Medcalf: I'll take Kyle Filipowski. And one more right?
Gasaway: Correct. I believe you need a mid-major, Myron? Am I right?
Borzello: I liked Filipowski! Not afraid of Tolu!
Medcalf: All right. I'll take Grand Canyon's Rayshon Harrison.
Gasaway: There you go. In my Round 7 as my next-to-last player I'll go for D, Kevin McCullar Jr.
Borzello: I'll go Tucker DeVries as my mid-major.
Gasaway: Is that eight for you Borzello or do you get one more?
Borzello: And my final pick is another All-American you guys let fall to the eighth round, Azuolas Tubelis. My team is a BUZZSAW.
Gasaway: My last pick is Wade Taylor IV.
Borzello: Like that pick.
Borzello: So many good players are gonna get left out.
Gasaway: Do you get one more Myron?
Medcalf: Yep. I have one more. We ended up at the same breakfast spot in Bloomington. It must have been a sign. Jalen Hood-Schifino.
Gasaway: I thought about Nowell very seriously. Pretty OK with the rest of those. Although Tshiebwe will probably ascend to another dimension in the tournament.
Gasaway: Right, for drafting coaches, I think we revert to Myron-John-Jeff order, yes?
Borzello: I AM FILING AN INJUNCTION.
Gasaway: Nobody's touching your guy Jeff, all good.
Medcalf: I'll take Shaka Smart.
Borzello: You get Drew Valentine again, John.
Gasaway: I would take him (like I did in the first edition) but, you know, they were 1-400. So, Kelvin Sampson.
Borzello: Love it. My turn?
Gasaway: Rick Pitino isn't walking through that door ... oh, wait, he is!
Borzello: RICKY P
Gasaway: There we are! This was a great discussion.
Medcalf: They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My colleagues have strong groups. I think I've assembled, however, the best team. Shaka Smart is so much more than a young, energetic coach. His Marquette squad forced turnovers on more than 23% of its Big East opponents' possessions this season and also had the most efficient offense in the league. He's going to love a backcourt led by Kendric Davis (college basketball's Tyreek Hill), Marcus Sasser and Colby Jones. My guys are selfless and composed. Davis' speed, Sasser's discipline and leadership and Jones' grit will be the perfect trio for Smart.
I love Kris Murray in my small-ball lineup, too. He came back for another year after his twin, Keegan, turned pro. He's one of America's most versatile talents, and he'll be a tremendous matchup problem because every opponent will have to send help to guard Zach Edey, the most imposing force in college basketball since Zion Williamson. You have to make some tough choices when you guard my team. None of them are favorable.
My bench has some gems, too. Jalen Hood-Schifino is a pro. Rayshon Harrison leads a Grand Canyon team that's a sexy upset pick in the opening round against San Diego State. And Kyle Filipowski has evolved into one of the best players in America toward the end of his freshman campaign.
Team Myron is ready for anybody.
Borzello: My team is a juggernaut. I was actually hoping to start my team with Brandon Miller, given the number of quality big men headlining the sport this season, but Trayce Jackson-Davis was a tremendous option, too. I think Jaime Jaquez Jr. has played as well as anyone in the country down the stretch, and Jalen Wilson and Azuolas Tubelis were All-America candidates for the large majority of the season. Those four give me size, versatility and depth up front, plus Jackson-Davis has been utilized much more as a playmaker and Tubelis is elite at the high post. Wilson and Tubelis going in the sixth and eighth rounds, respectively, was a joke! I have a feeling Gasaway and Myron were tanking for the first two picks next season.
Jalen Pickett, meanwhile, has an old-school game, but he's a brutal matchup, while Souley Boum is fearless and makes big shots. Both guys can be primary ball handlers too. Jordan Hawkins and Tucker DeVries give me size and elite shooting ability on the wing. I considered taking Drew Pember as my mid-major selection, which would have allowed another playmaking guard like Isaiah Wong and Markquis Nowell instead of Tubelis -- but Tubelis and DeVries provide some real pop off the bench.
And then I have Rick Pitino on the sideline. In an elimination game setting, a one-game scenario, he's still the guy.
Gasaway: You two might as well pack up and go home now, because my Kelvin Sampson-coached octet is going to absolutely dominate March Madness. NBA youth (Brandon Miller, Keyonte George), total veteran mastery (Tyler Kolek), toughness (Kevin McCullar Jr., Wade Taylor IV), size (Tolu Smith, Jack Nunge), shooting (Max Abmas) ... Sometimes I amaze myself as a GM, honestly.
This group will outscore the opponent 18-2 in every four-minute window. Then at the media timeout Sampson will yell at them about giving up the two points. I'm all set, and I await your concession speeches.