Every year once football gets rolling, and baseball starts winding down the first thing I think of is college basketball is coming! This 2022-23 CBB season is set to be, for the first time in a while, the year of the upperclassmen. With most major programs returning important players.
There is no such thrill like a college basketball game, and for many reasons. The competitive spirit is fierce, putting it all on the line during those 40 minutes of game time. Every year different stars of the game rise, and on the other end of that spectrum is the seniors.
The players that made it so close to a championship, seasons ending with an emptiness. Seasons ending with next year speeches. Yet, seniors who now know, there is no next year. These players came back to win a National Title.
Nine Teams Led by Upperclassmen With a Chance to Win It All:
There are nine teams that I am eyeing with a chance to win a National Championship and are led by Juniors and Seniors. Having a core that has been together for March Madness runs and summer workouts, having a common goal. These nine college basketball programs will witness something special this season, as these kids put their sweat, blood, and tears on the hardwood. One last time together.
University of North Carolina Tar Heels
The core of Caleb Love, Armando Bacot, and RJ Davis has been something special to watch the last few seasons. This team made it all the way to the championship game last season. One win short of winning a title.
With this “big 3” returning North Carolina is ranked number 1 in the pre-season polls. The 2023 Tar Heels might be one of the best college basketball teams, ever; when April rolls around. A lot of basketball to be played between now and April though.
This team will need to defend at a high level and allow their offense to work from the inside out. Feeding the post will give their perimeter spot up opportunities. Relying on off-the-dribble jump shots should be the last option for this group. Looking out to run as much as possible.
University of California Los Angeles Bruins
Mick Cronin has brought winning basketball back to the UCLA campus, with defense being the focus. Senior point guard Tyger Campbell has run the offense to perfection, led the intensity on the defensive end and been a leader on and off the court.
With him Jaime Jaquez Jr is returning for another run at the big tournament in March. The last two seasons this Bruins core has gone deep into the tournament, reaching the Final Four two seasons ago.
It has been a while since the UCLA blue was part of the blue bloods dominating, this season we should see them continue to be one of the top teams in the country.
Mark Few has been within minutes of putting a championship under his belt, and every time it has avoided his grasp. The last few season superstar Drew Timme has been a part of the journey. Timme has had moments that will live forever in college basketball highlight reels.
Gonzaga has always been the underdog story of little school in the tournament. Recently they have changed that narrative, becoming a power house. This year will be the end of the Drew Timme era, he is already a tournament legend.
This year is the opposite of what might think when it comes to Kentucky basketball. The usually freshman filled one and done roster has become full of six Seniors for the 2023 season.
Big man Oscar Tshiebwe is the center of this team, also the center of this teams heart. As he goes this team goes, he in the anchor on both ends. CJ Fredrick, Jacob Toppin, Sahvir Wheeler, Antonio Reeves, and Brennan Canada are the other Seniors this team will rely on.
This team is deep, and talented, and will look to score at the first open shot you give them. Tshiebwe will be the biggest factor to this teams success.
This season will be special to watch the final year of seeing what these kids became. Wilson grew up in front of our eyes as he reaches his potential.
Michael Jankovich and Kevin McCullar Jr will be the other Seniors enjoying their last season as a colligate athlete. This group is currently ranked sixth in the pre season polls and will likely be in the top 10 all season long.
University of Houston Cougars
Coming into this season after 2 deep runs of their own in the tournament. This Cougar team is ranked third in the pre season poll and a lot of people’s dark horse Final Four pick. Marcus Sasser, Mylik Wilson, and Jamal Shead are the upperclassmen poised to lead this team.
This core scores at an efficient rate, using stifling defense as the focus of team success. Coach Sampson is one of the best coaches in the country both on the court, and mentally to his student athletes.
I personally would be shocked not to see this team in the sweet 16 come the end of March.
BIG10 Big Men:
Three BIG10 schools will lean on a very big presence in the paint as Seniors to lead their programs to the top of the mountain.
Hunter Dickinson for the Michigan Wolverines has been remarkable to watch the last three seasons. This year we will watch all of those years of knowledge culminate into one final run. To cap off his legacy in the Ann Arbor.
Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson have been twin towers at Indiana for the Hoosiers and will be remembered for decades to come. Playing together through seasons of off court drama surrounding the program that had nothing to do with them. This season they have an opportunity to bring pride and tradition back to Indiana.
Zach Edey, the 7 foot majestic force in the middle for the Boilermakers of Purdue University will likely see his first year playing a starting role. His impact off of the bench has been a bright spot the last 2 seasons. Proving himself a factor for the starting unit will be a challenge I expect him to succeed in. No role is too big for this man.
2022-23 Upperclassmen in CBB:
The NCAA Basketball season is right around the corner. January will come soon enough and conference play will begin. These programs and players mentioned have opportunities to do something special to add to their legacy.
Along with the hundreds of other programs with players waiting in the wing. Waiting to get a chance to dance in March, maybe this year is their year. After all as of now, any and every body has the opportunity.
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Rowan Donaghey is a Sports and Betting Insider for Fantom Sports Industries. Follow him on twitter for daily content via @RowanDonaghey
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