2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Primer: The Stars’ Time to Shine

2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Primer: The Stars’ Time to Shine

The march toward March Madness has begun, and this season is shaping up to be one to remember.

Amid the whirlwind of conference realignment and the transfer portal chaos, the 2023 NCAA men’s basketball season has tipped off. It’s only November, but we’ve already been treated to hard court highlights that can’t help but get you excited for a full season of action.

Michigan State getting upset by … James Madison?

Hunter Dickinson dropping 27 points and 21 rebounds as Kansas edges Kentucky.

Settle in, basketball fans. We’re in for a lot more breathtaking plays, nail-biting finishes and unexpected heroes.

In the meantime, we’ve put together this quick guide to help you wrap your head around some of the most intriguing teams, players and storylines to keep an eye on this season.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Teams to Watch


The reigning NCAA champion Huskies are vying to become the first repeat national champions since the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007. UConn has a new look this year, but so far it’s looking good. Along with returning players like Donovan Clingan and Tristen Newton, the Huskies added impact transfers like Cam Spencer and promising freshmen like Stephon Castle.


The Jayhawks made an early, second-round exit in the NCAA Tournament last March, and they return only four players. But they restocked their roster in style. Kansas landed the top transfer in the portal by bringing in Dickinson, the former Michigan big man. Led by one of the nation’s top coaches, Bill Self, the Jayhawks started the year atop the rankings and have shown no signs of giving up their No. 1 status so far.


Head coach Kelvin Sampson and the Houston Cougars were the class of the AAC last season, champions of both the regular season and conference tournament. Now, Houston has joined the Big 12 and is looking to use the new conference as a stepping stone to a more prominent place in the national landscape. The Cougars have begun the season as a Top 10 team. They’ll have a chance to make some noise.


The Boilermakers are clear favorites to repeat as Big Ten champions, but last season’s shocking NCAA Tournament upset at the hands of 16th-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson University still lingers in fans’ minds. The good news? Center Zach Edey, arguably the top player in college basketball, is back for his senior year. So expect the Boilermakers to be title contenders once again.


Maybe Alabama isn’t just a football school anymore? Under head coach Nate Oats, the Crimson Tide were the clear top team in the SEC a year ago before losing in the Sweet 16 to San Diego State. They will face a more difficult road to winning the conference this year. Yet, with strong early season performances from guards Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada, Alabama may be poised to climb in the rankings.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Players in the Spotlight

Zach Edey, Purdue

Edey could have bolted for the NBA after winning the Wooden Award as the nation’s top college player a year ago. Instead, he’s back for one more year with the Boilermakers. Can the 7-foot-4-inch center improve on last year’s averages of 22.3 points and 12.9 rebounds per game? 

Hunter Dickinson, Kansas

Dickinson was the most sought-after transfer in the country. He chose Kansas as his destination, and, subsequently, the Jayhawks started the season as the consensus No. 1 team in the country. This is not a coincidence. So far, Dickinson improved on his already impressive scoring and rebounding numbers from last season at Michigan.

Armando Bacot, UNC

Bacot, a senior forward, is taking advantage of his fifth year of eligibility to make an even bigger impact for the Tar Heels. He’s already a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection, and he’s averaged a double-double in each of his first four years at North Carolina. If the Tar Heels are to make a push into the top tier of NCAA teams this season, Bacot will be a big reason why.

Wooga Poplar, Miami

An early contender for best name in college basketball, Poplar is off to a fast start for the Hurricanes. The 6-foot-5-inch guard is leading the team in scoring and leading Miami’s charge as it pushes to crack the Top 10. The junior’s continued progression will be critical for the Hurricanes and head coach Jim Larrañaga. 

NCAA Men’s Basketball Storylines to Follow

Can Coach Rick Pitino Lead St. John’s to the NCAA Tournament?

A legendary coach who spent the last three seasons coaching Iona, 71-year-old Pitino surprised many by jumping to St. John’s. The Red Storm have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2011, but with Pitino leading the way, they have a good chance to return to the Big Dance.

Can Kentucky Return to National Prominence? 

Once perennial national championship contenders, the Wildcats slipped a bit in recently years. Is this the year they get back into the title conversation? Freshmen Justin Edwards and Aaron Bradshaw bring a new energy to a team that already includes proven veterans like Antonio Reeves.

Will Bronny James Take the Court for USC?

During a July team workout at USC, Bronny James, the 5-star recruit and son of LeBron James, collapsed after suffering cardiac arrest. Bronny is recovering and attending his classes on campus, but his basketball future is unclear. Though no timeline has been shared by the school, LeBron has said Bronny is hoping to get back on the court this season.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Must-See Freshmen

Isaiah Collier, USC

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Collier is a 6-foot-5-inch, 210-pound point guard and one of the top-ranked recruits in this year’s class. The dynamic Georgia native has wasted no time making an impact for the Trojans, already leading the team in scoring through the season’s first games. 

Ja’Kobe Walter, Baylor

Like Collier, Walter is leading his team, Baylor, in scoring early in the season. The shooting guard is an electric player with the ability to light up the scoreboard when he gets going. He’s one more reason the Bears will be a team to watch this season.


Boilermakers Win It All

Behind towering Edey, the Purdue Boilermakers will barrel through the Big Ten and win the national championship, putting last year’s heartbreaking NCAA Tournament upset behind them. 

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