It’s never too early to start looking forward!
Check below our list of 5 Dark Horse nominees who could make it to the 2023 Final Four.
Not in a specific order:
TCU: The Horned Frogs give back 89 percent of his goals and all five Novices from a team that won 21 games and was within inches of beating Arizona in the NCAA Championship. Veteran guard Mike Miles (15.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists) must push to earn the All-American honors as a Rookie while the rest of the TCU Novices – Damion Baugh and Chuck O’Bannon Jr. and Emmanuel Miller and Eddie Lampkin – all of whom pride themselves on all-conference possibilities. This would be the best team Jamie Dixon has had at his alma mater since he became the TCU head coach in 2016.
San Diego State: The Mountain West major hasn’t made it to a second weekend of the NCAA Championship since 2014, but they have a great chance of doing so in 2023. Arguably San Diego State returns as Conference Player of the Year Matt Bradley (16.9 points), 5.4 Rebound) plus Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year 6-10 Nathan Mensah. Lamont Butler, Keshad Johnson, Ajik Arup and Adam Seko also returned as valuable players averaging 15 minutes or more in last year’s team that won 23 games and lost to Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. TCU’s transfer Jaedon LeDee is expected to make a significant impact up front, while Seattle’s Darrion Trammell (17.4 points) transfer should immediately add insult and velocity. San Diego State head coach Brian Decher hit a record 30-2 during the 2019-20 season before the NCAA Championship was canceled due to COVID and didn’t get a chance to train as a top seed in the class. Don’t be shocked if he gets another chance to do so in March 2023.
Virginia: Can a team miss the NCAA Championship for a year and then play deep in the next arc? Yes, if that team is Virginia. The Cavaliers recovered 93.1 percent of their goals from last season’s 21-game winning team, topped by a pair of Year Five seniors at Keihe Clark and Jayden Gardner. All five expected Virginia freshmen — Clark, Rhys Beckman, Armand Franklin, Jayden Gardner, and Caden Shedrick — are either juniors, seniors, or graduate students. Ohio’s Ben Vander Place transfer (14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds) should also have an immediate impact due to his off-court shot (67 they scored three points in 2021-22). Expect a big jump in Charlottesville.
Indiana: The Hoosiers may be viewed as the Big Ten favorites by default, but you can’t argue with the facts: Indiana is returning 90.9 percent of its goals from a team that reached the NCAA Championship last season and boasts a seasoned course with All-American Trace Jackson Davis and Reese Thompson. Xavier Johnson and Miller Kopp also return as starters while Jordan Geronimo, Trey Galloway and Tamar Bates are alternate players returning to experience the game. Indiana also added a pair of five-star freshmen in freshmen Jalen Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau. The talent base in Bloomington has improved dramatically.
Tennessee: It’s not an oversight, it’s an insult. If you consider both Zakai Ziegler and Olivier Nkamhua as top-tier players (I am), then Tennessee returns four of its five top scorers and four Rookies from last season’s team that won 27 games and the SEC Tour. Both other returning Vols players – Santiago Vescovi and Josiah Jordan James – should be players in all conferences in 2022-23. Add new five-star student Julian Phillips and you’ve got a team that’s similar to Kentucky’s number one competitor on the Securities and Exchange Commission in terms of return people and overall experience.