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

CBS Sports college basketball writers Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander surveyed nearly 100 coaches for our annual Coaches Candid Series. They surveyed everyone from coaches at elite programs to assistants at some of the smaller Division I schools. In exchange for complete anonymity, the coaches gave unfiltered honesty about a variety of topics. Over the next few weeks, we will post the results of the questions asked.

We’re kicking off our annual Coaches Honest series with one of the questions we ask each season, a probe designed to see which team college coaches from every level of the sport believe is most likely to win the 2023 NCAA Tournament. I’ve said for a while now that I don’t think there will be a preseason consensus No. 1, and this exercise more or less confirmed it as A) no school received even 40% of the vote and B) 12 DIFFERENT SCHOOLS received at least one vote. That said, 85% of the votes went to one of the teams I ranked first, second or third in CBS Sports’ preseason Top 25 And 1. So there seems to be something close to a consensus top three. But the roughly 100 coaches we polled didn’t vote 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 gives them an edge over other teams in my mind. I also think the addition of Pete Nance and the continued development of Puff (Johnson) will help them. One of the freshmen, Tyler Nickel , is an absolute monster. and can make a difference this year as well.”
  • “I was very impressed with how Hubert Davis stayed true to his coaching roots, but was also willing to adapt and adjust to his personnel while playing outside of the Carolina System that had been so successful for decades. They come back and have added all the pieces. their run from last March had to be repeated. Brady Manek was such an attacking threat and will be hard to replace, but I have no doubt that Hubert will quickly learn how this team can be more dangerous.”

At Gonzaga

  • “Gonzaga is bringing in too much talent from a great team to not be the favorite to win it all. Drew Timme should be better than ever and I think this will be the year they win the national title.”
  • “Gonzaga still brings back a dominant player in Timme, but they have more guys that have been in their program, and I think it’s a huge benefit to bring back not only playing experience, but guys like Hunter Sallis and others that have been there. I don’t have as many laps, maybe, as others. I also think there is some value in a culture that has been consistent over time and has been strong.”

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’m going with Houston. They have a friend in Marcus Sasser, good players around him and depth. Plus, I trust Kelvin Sampson a lot more to get the best out of his team and understand better rotations and combinations. than (other coaches) with the best teams.”

In Kentucky

  • “I think, top to bottom, they’ve definitely got the best roster and they’re led by the guy (Oscar Tshiebwe) 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 they should get back to. the 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 lineup might not have enough shooting. I think that’s fair. But they have bench shooting, and the best in college basketball. I think this is the year Cal gets a second championship. If I had any list, I’d want his.”


I had North Carolina ranked no. 1 in version 1.0 of the Top 25 and 1 that was posted immediately after the 2022 NCAA Tournament championship game, but eventually kicked the Tar Heels down at Gonzaga after Rasir Bolton surprisingly returned to campus and Southern Conference Player of the Year Malachi Smith committed to the Zags. That said, as I’ve mentioned many times, I have no problem with anyone who thinks UNC should have stayed no. 1 even after these developments — and 37% of the coaches we surveyed are people who fall into this category. They consider North Carolina the preseason favorite largely because the Tar Heels are returning every rotation player except Manek from a team that advanced to the championship game of the 2022 NCAA Tournament after beating Duke twice in the final month of the season and ending the Hall by Mike Krzyzewski. The career of fame.

However, betting markets disagree.

Houston and Gonzaga — who finished second and third in our Candid Coaches poll — are actually the co-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 does underscore is how it makes sense to rank those three teams either way — and that the 2023 NCAA Tournament is up for grabs in a way that isn’t always so clear in August.

It should be a fun season.

For what it’s worth, eight of the other nine teams that received honest coaches votes are also teams I’ve ranked in the Top 25 and 1 — specifically the 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 team not in the Top 25 and 1 to receive the honest coaches vote is Virginia. When I asked the coach who submitted 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 took pains to say he thinks the Cavaliers will be really good: “(They) realized that at the end of last year. They’re going to end up first or second in our league”.

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