With a little over a month into the College Basketball season, we look at the top teams this season and rank them in a tier.
College Basketball’s First Tier Juggernauts
These are your top-tier best of the best. The teams in this tier are the favorites to win the National Championship. Keep in mind; College Basketball is not the College Football Playoffs. These teams have to string together multiple wins to win it all.
My first team in the first tier is the Texas Longhorns, yes, even after a recent loss to Illinois. Matthew Mayer had to go 5-for-5 from three to keep Illinois in this game, and Texas’s defense will come around under Chris Beard’s supervision. The most impressive part of the Longhorns is the offense; in the third game of the year, they put up 92 points against the second-ranked (at that time) Gonzaga Bulldogs. They also rank third in the Basketball Power Index. If this team gets hot in February, set this team as your National Champion in your brackets.
Another team that I have in this first tier is Virginia. The Cavaliers have already beaten two ranked opponents (Illinois and Baylor). The public considers Virginia a bad choice because of the lack of offense the Cavaliers typically present. However, Virginia is currently averaging 72.1 points per game and allowing 57.9 points per game to opponents. In Virginia’s 2018-2019 National Championship run, Virginia was averaging 71.4 and giving up 56.1. These are very similar numbers, so I’m confident in Virginia at this spot.
The next team that I have as a tier-one is Connecticut. Connecticut is powerful this year; they have a perfect resume so far, beating two-ranked opponents, including, at the time, eighth-ranked Alabama. They currently rank fourth in the Basketball Power Index. They have a relatively easy schedule for their conference, which worries me come tournament time, but this team is a force to be reckoned with.
The fourth team in my tier-one list is Alabama. As mentioned above, Connecticut has beaten them, but that is their only season loss. They have wins over number-one-ranked Houston, North Carolina, and Michigan State. The roster is loaded for Nate Oats in Alabama; Oats should have fun coaching this team. The demanding SEC schedule plays into their favor come tournament time, and they should be a team to look out for in March.
The last and final team I have in my first tier is Purdue. Matt Painter has done it again, a seven-foot or taller center dominating the NCAA. Edey, at seven-foot four-inches, will be a massive mismatch for many teams this year, which is why I have them in my first tier. Purdue is undefeated with wins over ranked teams Duke and Gonzaga.
The Second Tier Possible Winners
The second tier of college basketball is the toughest one for me, especially when you get to the bottom half of the list and need to know whether to put a particular team in the second or third tier. So here are the teams I believe have a good shot of cutting down nets this year.
My first second-tier team is Tennessee. Tennessee has two-ranked wins over Kansas and Maryland. They are second in the Basketball Power Index and defensive BPI. Like Alabama, the SEC conference schedule will prepare this team for the tournament and prepare them for a deep run. Arizona will be a great test to see how good Tennessee’s defense is.
The second team in my second-tier list is a pretty obvious one, the Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawks have dominated college basketball for many years and are considered by most to be one of the best bluebloods’ in the country. Bill Self has his team loaded this year, even with three starters leaving to play professionally. Offensively they are a juggernaut but come tournament time, we’ve seen offensive teams have one terrible shooting night, and their season is over.
Another team I have in this tier is Arizona. Ironically enough, another team in this same tier (Tennessee) will be visiting Arizona Saturday, December 17th. In this tier, the teams have some weaknesses that can be exposed. Arizona’s liability happens to be defense like Kansas, but worse. They currently rank 338th in the country in opponent points per game, but they rank first in offensive points per game. If Arizona can string together six good offensive games, they can win it all come tournament time, but that defense will not win many games.
These last two were extremely tough for this second tier. One team I ended up concluding with is Houston. Houston just came off a tough loss at home to Alabama; Houston has yet to beat a ranked team this year. However, the Houston Cougars rank first in the Basketball Power Index. The BPI bolds well for them, and history shows that the number one BPI team often shows up in the Final Four.
The last team in my second tier of college basketball is Gonzaga. Gonzaga gets a bad rap for already losing three games on the season, but Gonzaga has the second toughest schedule in college basketball. Two of their losses came to a few of my favorites to win the National Championship (Texas and Purdue). The third loss came to a tough Baylor team when Gonzaga went on the road. Purdue is the only team to beat Gonzaga at home this year. This Bulldogs team on the road would be scary to run into during March.
Notable Possibilities For A Title Run
This third and final tier is the ‘notable possibilities’ tier, where teams could eventually come around during the college basketball season. We’ve seen teams in this area get hot at the right time before March Madness and end up making a huge run. I won’t give a team-by-team breakdown but summarize each team I believe to be in this spot.
Baylor is my first team. They have shown signs of greatness (beating Gonzaga) but have been inconsistent; Virginia scoring 86 points on you is a bad look. Kentucky is almost a must every year, and every year we say, “they are young.” This year is the same old song and dance; they should start playing well together come February and be in the running.
Arkansas is the next team up, this team would be way higher, but unfortunately, one of their stars, Trevon Brazile, is out for the season. However, this Arkansas team has four legit NBA first-round pick potential players, and talent can take you very far around March. Illinois would be the next team up, and this team is also loaded with talent. Transfers Terrence Shannon Jr. and Matthew Mayer have been fantastic for the Illini. However, they need the supporting cast to contribute, and Illinois could have something extraordinary.
March Madness is truly one of my favorite times of the year. Every game counts and matters; anything could happen. Today I have outlined the 2023 National Champion in this article. However, as of December 12th of 2022, I would have to say my National Championship favorite would be Texas. Illinois had to have a crazy second-half performance, and they did just that. Texas ranks ninth in opponent points per game and 37th in offensive points per game; that is a recipe for success.
This college basketball season is once again wide open. If you remember, last year, the eighth-seed North Carolina made a miraculously run to the National Championship. These top teams are outstanding this year, and I don’t see a spectacular run like that this year. However, these top teams have a shot at beating one another, which makes for an exciting college basketball season. In April, the possibility of reliving this article is high; when that time comes, we can evaluate and see how we did.