The 2022-23 college basketball season is finally here and that means it is time for the first power rankings of the year. There wasn’t too much excitement in the first week, but there could be as many as seven ranked matchups in week two with the Champions Classic and a top five bout between Gonzaga and Kentucky headlining the upcoming slate.
Until then, I’ll get you up to speed with what to know from the first week and what to expect for the rest of the season. Here is the first look at the top 16 teams in the nation:
1. Houston (2-0)
The Cougars are my personal favorite team in college basketball this year and I think they have the makeup to win their first national championship in school history. Marcus Sasser’s return to school and the successful culture Kelvin Sampson is creating is a dangerous combination that any team in college basketball will struggle with.
Sunday’s trip to Eugene will be a phenomenal early test and if they escape with a win, there is a clear path to an undefeated regular season for the Cougars.
2. Baylor (2-0)
After winning the first championship in school history two seasons ago, Scott Drew earned another top seed in the NCAA Tournament before North Carolina ended their season in the Round of 32. I expect his team to continue this trend and earn another one seed once March comes around. They have an elite backcourt that is as good as anyone in the nation and true freshman Keyonte George (pictured) already has the makings of a star.
3. Kentucky (2-0)
Oscar Tshiebwe became the first national player of the year to return to school since Tyler Hansbrough, who led the Tar Heels to a national championship the following season. Tshiebwe can realistically do the same thing for the Wildcats this season, who looked terrific in their first two games even without their star center. A pair of matchups against Michigan State and Gonzaga will be the true litmus test as Tshiebwe eyes his return for this massive week in Lexington.
4. North Carolina (2-0)
It sure wasn’t pretty, but the Tar Heels managed to make it through the opening week unscathed despite a couple of scares from UNC Wilmington and College of Charleston. Armando Bacot proved why he is an All-American and the rest of the team is too talented not to figure it out soon. The Phil Knight Invitational in two weeks will show what this team is truly made of, but I wouldn’t be surprised if AP voters punish the Heels for their sluggish start to the season.
5. Duke (2-0)
The Blue Devils went on three separate runs of 14-0 or better against SC Upstate and they’ll only get better as they get healthier. They boast the best group of freshmen in the nation and their most talented, Dariq Whitehead, still hasn’t suited up. When he does, he could lead this uber-talented roster right back to the Final Four in April.
6. Creighton (2-0)
With some help from the transfer portal and better health, Greg McDermott assembled the best roster he’s ever had and the Big East is now theirs to lose. I truly believe they might have the best starting lineup in college basketball, but the bench production will determine whether the Blue Jays are good or great this year. My guess is great.
7. Texas (2-0)
Now that Chris Beard is accustomed to his new job in Austin, I expect him to get the Longhorns to bounce back in big way in year two. They just held Houston Christian to under 20 points in both halves and I expect them to frustrate Gonzaga this week and come away with a signature win to start the season.
8. Gonzaga (2-0)
There weren’t many games during the opening week that I would label “must-watch TV” but the Gonzaga-Michigan State matchup on the USS San Francisco lived up to the hype. It wasn’t the typical fast-paced, high scoring matchup that we’re used to watching when Gonzaga is involved, but the Zags managed to escape with a victory against the scrappy Spartans. It won’t get any easier this week and Mark Few should be thankful to walk away with any victories in the next seven days.
9. Alabama (2-0)
The most underrated win from this week had to be Alabama’s rout over the Liberty Flames, who could easily be back in the NCAA Tournament from the Atlantic Sun. The Tide ran them out of the building, winning by 36 and doing it without potential starters in Jahvon Quinerly and St. Bonaventure transfer Dom Welch.
10. Arizona (2-0)
There was one major mistake on the first AP Poll of the season and it was the egregious ranking of No. 17 for Tommy Lloyd and the Wildcats. This will be one of the best offenses in the nation this year, which is no surprise considering their head coach, and they’re already proving it with the fifth highest scoring offense through one week.
11. Kansas (2-0)
The defending national champions looked sharp in their opening week, but they’ll face a major test at the Champions Classic when they face off with Duke on Tuesday. I won’t be surprised if the Jayhawks compete for a Big 12 championship, but I think Baylor is a tier above them with a championship hangover looming for Bill Self’s squad.
12. Arkansas (2-0)
I mentioned the elite freshmen in Durham already, but if any freshman class can go head-to-head with the Blue Devils, it’s Arkansas. Nick Smith and Anthony Black are elite prospects and there are enough pieces surrounding them to make some noise in the SEC and in the NCAA Tournament.
13. UCLA (2-0)
The Bruins have two potential All-Americans in Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell and a weak Pac-12 should open the door for another top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament for Mick Cronin. They’ll also be part of one of the premier matchups of the week when they take on No. 23 Illinois on Friday night in Las Vegas.
14. Auburn (2-0)
While Jabari Smith might be gone, Bruce Pearl still brought back some elite talent with a loaded backcourt and a game-changing shot blocker in Johni Broome to fill Walker Kessler’s shoes. This team will be tough to beat on their home floor and it’s easy to forget that they were ranked first in the country in February last season. Don’t sleep on the Tigers.
15. Indiana (2-0)
Trayce Jackson-Davis is back and should be one of the best players in the country this year to lead the Hoosiers back to national relevance in 2022. The defense won them their games last year, but it’s the vastly improved offense that will help them make the jump to good to great in a weaker Big Ten that is up for grabs at the top.
16. Michigan (2-0)
Emoni Bates and Eastern Michigan provided quite the scare for the Wolverines on Saturday but Hunter Dickinson’s 31 points fended off the upset attempt. Dickinson is my pick for National Player of the Year this season and if Jett Howard can step up alongside him, this team will make some noise in March.
Next 5: TCU, San Diego State, Seton Hall, Iowa, Michigan State
Players of the Week
Emoni Bates, SF, Eastern Michigan Eagles
Let’s just say it hasn’t been the exact transition that Emoni Bates was expecting when he reclassified and enrolled at Memphis last season as a 17-year-old. He transferred after one season and is now the star of the show at Eastern Michigan. He lived up to it on Friday. His 30 points on 12-19 shooting weren’t enough to pull off the upset, but it was enough to get himself back in the spotlight for the right reasons as he looks to reignite his once extremely promising career.
Hunter Dickinson, C, No. 22 Michigan Wolverines
The only reason Bates’ stellar performance wasn’t enough for an opening week upset was Michigan’s junior center. Dickinson poured in 31 points of his own and helped lead a second-half comeback that could prove critical for the Wolverines who will have plenty more challenges in the non-conference schedule in the coming weeks.
Foster Loyer, PG, Davidson Wildcats
There may not be a transfer that is working out better for a player than Loyer’s decision to leave for Davidson after a few seasons at Michigan State. He broke out as a star last season and opened his super senior campaign with a pair of 30-point performances, including a 38-point outburst against Wright State on Wednesday. One more assist would’ve resulted in one of the most impressive triple-doubles in recent memory, but it was still a performance to remember for the 6-0 guard.
Kerr Kriisa, PG, No. 17 Arizona Wildcats
While Loyer ended up one assist shy of a triple-double, Kerr Kriisa did not and successfully filled the role as the superstar in Arizona in week one. Ben Mathurin left quite the void, but Kriisa was able to score 14 points, grab 11 rebounds and dish out 12 assists in Friday’s win over Southern. If this trend continues, Arizona will be a one-seed this March once again.
Brandon Podziemski, SG, Santa Clara Broncos
Jalen Williams earned a lottery selection from Santa Clara last season and the Broncos might have another breakout star this season to take over the WCC. Podziemski transferred from Illinois after inconsistent playing time and the sophomore shooting guard averaged 32 points in his first week as a starter. Keep an eye on this guy as a potential NBA Draft sleeper and west coast star who is worth staying up late for to watch.
Play of the Week:
Two years ago, Keyontae Johnson looked like a solid NBA prospect and a rising star at the University of Florida. Then he collapsed in the middle of a game and didn’t play another basketball game again. Until Monday. He started for Kansas State and helped lead the team to an opening night victory over UT Rio Grande. Enjoy this clip of his first, of hopefully many, baskets to come as he finally gets his chance to return to the court.