Coaches Candid: Which college basketball team will be the best in the country in 2022-23?

CBS Sports College basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander polled approximately 100 coaches for our annual Candid Coaches series. They polled everyone from head coaches at elite programs to assistants at some of the smallest Division I schools. In exchange for complete anonymity, the coaches provided unfiltered honesty on a range of topics. Over the next few weeks, we will publish the results of the questions asked.

We’re kicking off our annual Candid Coaches series with one of the questions we ask each season, a poll designed to see which team college coaches from each level of the sport think is most likely to win the NCAA Tournament in 2023. For some time now i said i didn’t think there would be a consensus preseason #1, and this exercise more or less confirmed it, given that A) no school got even 40% of the vote and B) 12 DIFFERENT SCHOOLS get at least one vote. However, 85% of the votes did go to one of the teams I ranked first, second or third in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 and 1. So there really seems to be something close to a consensus top 3. But roughly the 100 coaches we polled did not vote for Gonzaga, North Carolina and Houston in the same order that I ranked Gonzaga, North Carolina and Houston in the Top 25 and 1. The results of their responses are below.

Who will be the best team in college basketball this season?

Quotes that stood out

In North Carolina

  • “Their returning core I think gives them an edge over other teams. I also think the addition of Pete Nance and the continued development of Puff (Johnson) will help them. One of the freshmen, Tyler Nichol, is an absolute monster and could make a difference this year as well.”
  • “I was so impressed with how Hubert Davis stuck to his coaching roots, but was also willing to adapt and adapt to his staff, playing outside of the ‘Carolina System’ that has been so successful for decades. They are bringing back and adding all the parts needed to replicate their performance from last March. Brady Manek was such an offensive threat and will be hard to replace, but I have no doubt Hubert will learn quickly how this team can be more dangerous.”

To Gonzaga

  • “Gonzaga returns too much talent from a great team to not be the favorite to win it all. Drew Timm should be better than ever and I think this will be the year they really win the national title.”
  • “Gonzaga still returns a dominant player in Timme, but they have more guys that have been in their program, and I think that’s a huge benefit of not only returning playing experience, but guys like Hunter Sallis and others who have been there. I probably don’t have as much turnover as others. I also think there’s some value in a culture that has stood the test of time and is as stable as a rock.”

In Houston

  • “Houston has an elite culture. They probably play harder than any team in the country. With the talent they’re getting, the way they defend and the chip on their shoulder, I think they’re capable of winning it all.”
  • “I’ll go with Houston. They have a guy in Marcus Sasser, good players around him and depth. I also trust Kelvin Sampson a lot more to get the best out of his team and come up with rotations and combinations better than (other coaches) do with top teams.”

In Kentucky

  • “I think top to bottom they have probably the best squad and they’re led by the guy (Oscar Chibwe) who I think will be player of the year again. I think there’s also something to be said for how their season ended and who should be back. You look at Virginia a few years ago (winning the national title after losing to UMBC in the first round of the NCAA tournament a year earlier). I don’t know if they’ll win a title, but they’ll be my betting pick to do it.”
  • “I heard you say on the (Eye on College Basketball) podcast that Kentucky’s most talented roster might not have enough shooting. I think that is correct. But they have shooting off the bench and the best in college basketball. I think this is the year Cal gets a second title. If I could have any list, I’d want his.”

The taking

I had North Carolina ranked No. 1 in version 1.0 of the Top 25 and 1 posted just after the 2022 NCAA Tournament Championship Game, but eventually dropped the Tar Heels to Gonzaga after Rasir Bolton made a surprise return to campus and Southern Conference Player of the Year Malachi Smith committed to the Zags. However, as I’ve mentioned many times, I have no problem with anyone who thinks UNC should have remained No. 1 even after these developments — and 37% of the coaches we polled are people who fall into that category. They see North Carolina as the preseason favorite in large part because the Tar Heels return every rotation player except Manek from a team that advanced to the 2022 NCAA Tournament championship game after beating Duke twice in the final month of the season and ending the Hall of Mike Krzyzewski Fame Career.

Betting markets, however, disagree.

Houston and Gonzaga — who finished second and third in our Candid Coaches poll — are actually the favorites to win the 2023 NCAA Tournament at +850, according to Caesars Sportsbook, while UNC is just behind the Zags at +1,000. What it highlights is how reasonable it is for these three teams to be seeded in any order — and that the 2023 NCAA Tournament is very much up for grabs in a way that isn’t always so clear in August.

This should make for a fun season.

For what it’s worth, eight of the other nine teams that received Candid Coaches votes are also teams I’ve ranked in the Top 25 and 1 — specifically No. 4 Kentucky, No. 5 Duke, No. 6 Arkansas, No. 7 Baylor, No. 8 Kansas, No. 9 Tennessee, No. 10 UCLA and No. 11 Creighton.

Interestingly, the only non-Top 25 and 1 team to receive Candid Coaches voting is Virginia. When I asked the coach who sent in that ballot why he voted for Tony Bennett’s team, this is what he said: “(The Cavaliers) are all back and I feel like they’re ready for another monster year. (They) also (have) ) ​​some underrated recruits.”

Added another ACC coach who didn’t vote for Virginia but went out of his way to say he thinks the Cavaliers will be really good: “(They) figured it out at the end of last year. They will finish first or second in our league.”

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