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Men’s Final Four picks and other national predictions for 2022-23

Men’s Final Four picks and other national predictions for 2022-23

seven months ago, Kansas entered the locker room at halftime in the national title game facing a double-digit deficit against North Carolina. Something happened in that room, as Kansas then pulled off one of the great upsets in title history, crashed the nets, and the 2021-22 season was over.

A lot has changed in college basketball since then. Almost 2,000 players entered the transfer portal and restructured rosters across the country. The retirements of Jay Wright and Mike Krzyzewski started a new chapter for two of the game’s powerhouses. Rumors of the expansion continue to spread, and it’s unclear what the game’s hierarchy will look like going forward.

It all sets the stage for a 2022-23 campaign full of mysteries. of course Oscar Tshiebwe and Drew Timme return, and North Carolina is the clear favorite to win the national title. But we don’t know much more than that. After six weeks season preview — including a discussion of the pros and cons of each Power 5 conference, AAC and high school — ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway and Joe Lunardi give their final predictions.

Let the fun begin.


NATIONAL FORECASTS FOR 2022-23.

The most interesting team

Medcalf: It’s safe to assume UCLAHis marriage to the Pac-12 will end in turmoil. During Pac-12 media day, league commissioner George Kliavkoff said he didn’t know anyone about the Bruins moving to the Big Ten — which put coach Mike Cronin and his players in a bad spot that day. The drama could continue throughout the season, especially if the preseason league title lives up to the hype. In the meantime, Jaime Jaquez Jr. is finally a healthy, five-star prospect Amari Bailey has arrived and Campbell Fabrics is one of the best American point guards. UCLA is must-see TV this year.

Borzello: Duke is always a story going into the season. But Mike Krzyzewski is no longer on the sidelines, replaced by Jon Scheyer after more than 40 years in Durham. And, Duke brings in the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, and returns just one player (Jeremy Roach) who saw a real role last season. There are a lot of questions, but also high expectations and tons of talent.

Gasaway: Last time we saw Kentucky, the Wildcats lost to the No. 15 seed. They are now KenPom’s preseason no. 1. For the first time in coach John Calipari’s tenure, two seasons have come and gone without the program reaching the second weekend of the tournament. That reigning Wood Award winner Oscar Tshiebwe is still here proving that college has become a big man’s game… right? Or do the past two national champions suggest otherwise?

Lunardi: It will be seven years without a call when Indiana see your name on sunday for selection. Now in just his second season, Mike Woodson has the Hoosiers in position to finish atop the Big Ten and play deep into March. Woodson came home for this; star Trayce Jackson-Davis he came back for this. Could Indiana really make it to the Final Four for the first time this century? Why not?

A “mystery team” that will either be a bracket disruptor or a tournament disaster

Lunardi: Dayton will kick off their 2020 COVID Revenge Tour with Plaid Malachi Smith sidelined with an ankle injury. Not great, but better than canceling the NCAA tournament for a presumptive No. 1 seed and the best team in school history. Smith will be back, center DaRon Holmes II will do a credible Obi Topin impersonation and the Flyers won’t be the “first team” on the court in 2023. This season, the “D” in Dayton stands for disruptor.

Gasaway: Iowa. We saw part of the “disaster”. The Hawkeyes were out of the tournament by late afternoon on the first Thursday of the 2022 tournament, thanks to No. 12 seed Richmond. But laptops absolutely love this attack again in 2022-23. Plus, Chris Murray is a preseason All-Big Ten selection despite starting just once last season. Still, said laptops are again wary of Iowa’s defense. The Hawkeyes could shock the top seed in the round of 16 or pull off another 2022.

Borzello: Auburn was one of the nation’s biggest surprises last season, winning the SEC and even climbing all the way to No. 1 in the polls at the end of January. The Tigers have the talent to compete near the top of the league again — but they also have a backcourt that was wildly inconsistent and struggled to make decisions last season. And now they don’t have Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler to bail them out. It can Wendell Green Jr. and KD Johnson take a step forward? It can Yohan Traore and of John Broome to replace the departing premier league players?

Medcalf: Purdue. There is a scenario where a candidate for national player of the year Zach Edey and a bunch of new guardians, incl David Jenkins Jr. (40% from 3 in Utah last season), could combine to be a dangerous group ready to make a run in March. There’s also a chance the Boilermakers could make the NCAA Tournament and face a veteran team that bounces them.

First top-25 team to exit the NCAA Tournament

Gasaway: Oregon he missed the tournament last season and returned less than half of his playing minutes. Will Richardson is outstanding. Landing a national top-10 recruit Kel’el Ware was an extremely nice move for coach Dan Altman. However, it’s not entirely clear how this particular rotation is expected or expected to excel.

Medcalf: Illinois. I think Brad Underwood always finds a way to regroup and add Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer is certainly an incentive. But the loss of Kofi Cockburn, one of college basketball’s most impressive players over the last two years, leaves one of the biggest voids in the sport. I could see this team being pretty vulnerable once the NCAA tournament starts.

Lunardi: No one was impressed VillanovaA decade of excellence from this guy from St. Joe. But does any school get John Wooden twice? The loss of Jay Wright is huge. Achilles injury he suffered Justin Moore it was just seven months ago. The Big East has multiple challengers for Villanova’s throne. Credit to new coach Kyle Neptune, who hit all the right notes in succeeding Wright, but the Wildcats only have one shot.

Borzello: Michigan, the only AP preseason top 25 team I don’t have in my top 25 heading into the season. The Wolverines return just one starter from a team that finished 19-15 last season (albeit one that made the Sweet 16 as an 11 seed), and they don’t bring back any surefire lottery picks or game-changing talent. i love Hunter Dickinsonbut coach Juwan Howard will have a lot to figure out with the rest of his roster.

A player not named Tshiebwe or Timme who could contend for the Wooden Award

Lunardi: I’ve already mentioned the potential impact of Trayce Jackson-Davis. The 6-9 sophomore is the most likely Big Ten Player of the Year. Why not take it a step further if the Hoosiers can make it a storybook Final Four season?

Borzello: Armando Bacot. Not such a creative answer, but the best player on the preseason first team in the country? I’ll try that any day. The interior is dominated by bacon. He averaged 16 and 13 last season, then elevated his game in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 15.3 points and 16.5 rebounds — including two 20-plus rebound games. Ridiculous numbers. If it comes close to that for the entire season…

Medcalf: If Zach Edey’s numbers go up — from 14.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG in 19.0 MPG last season — when his minutes increase, he’ll be a strong contender. He will be the anchor for Purdue, which has produced four AP All-Americans since 2011.

Gasaway: Max Abmas. He’s the nation’s third-leading scorer, and there’s a good chance Abmas will make 300 3-point attempts this season. What if they fall? Enough of these four-center all-conference teams. Keep an eye out Oral Roberts scoring machine listed at 6-foot-0.

A story to watch

Borzello: The returning greats. And it’s not just Oscar Tshiebwe, Drew Timme, Armando Bacot, Hunter Dickinson and Trayce Jackson-Davis. The depth at the position is exceptional this season. Adam Sanogo it will be great again. Zach Edey might be the most dominant interior shooter in the country. Colin Castleton is fantastic on both ends of the floor. Ryan Kalkbrenner is incredibly underrated. DaRon Holmes II is poised for a big season. Oh, and the No. 1 recruit on the ESPN 100 was Duke center Dereck Lively. There will be high level individual matches at the position all season long.

Gasaway: Game of change. Will UCLA and USC really join the big ten? (Not if our colleague Bill Walton can help!) About what Gonzaga and the Big 12? Is tournament expansion really on the table, or is it just a story? Will there be a 24 second clock? Does the selection committee really have to live forever? It was a good 40 years with a 60-something team tournament, changing conferences and progressively longer 3-point lines and shorter shooting hours. What’s next?

Medcalf: A Gonzaga A move to the Big 12 would not only change college basketball, but widen the gap between the major conferences and everyone else. But it would also raise more questions about the future of the Pac-12. The Big 12 still feels like the league with the most potential to become a third superconference. If that happens this year, and the transfer portal continues to grow, it’s fair to wonder if college basketball’s non-Power 5 leagues will simply become the college G League in a new era.

Lunardi: The drums for NCAA Tournament expansion are about to get louder. It’s not a terrible idea, as long as it’s done modestly — as in, no 96 teams — and within reason. There are ways to tackle both power conference schools on the broad side and preserve an obvious automatic berth in America’s biggest sporting event. And if the men’s basketball committee can’t figure it out, you’re really just a phone call away.


2022-23 PICKS

2023 FINAL FOUR PICKS (* denotes your national champion pick)

Medcalf: North Carolina*, HoustonKentucky, UCLA
Borzello: North Carolina*, Houston, BaylorUCLA
Gasaway: Baylor*, TennesseeHouston, Duke
Lunardi: Kentucky*, Indiana, Virginia, Creighton

WOODEN AWARD (PLAYER OF THE YEAR) PICI

Medcalf: Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky
Borzello: Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky
Gasaway: Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky
Lunardi: Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

CHOOSES MONEY OF THE YEAR

Medcalf: Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas
Borzello: Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas
Gasaway: Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas
Lunardi: Derek Lively IIDuke

COACH OF THE YEAR CHOOSES

Medcalf: Mick Cronin, UCLA
Borzello: Rick Barnes, Tennessee
Gasaway: Jamie Dixon, TCU
Lunardi: Mike Woodson, Indiana

ALL AMERICAN TEAM SELECTION

Medcalf:
Marcus SasserHouston
Max Abmas, Oral Roberts
Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky
Drew Timme, Gonzaga
Armando Bacot, North Carolina

Borzello:
Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas
Marcus Sasser, Houston
Drew Timme, Gonzaga
Armando Bacot, North Carolina
Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

Gasaway:
Max Abmas, Oral Roberts
Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas
Marcus Sasser, Houston
Hunter Maldonado, Wyoming
Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

Lunardi:
Marcus Sasser, Houston
Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
Drew Timme, Gonzaga
Armando Bacot, North Carolina
Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky



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