The first preseason polling released before the men’s college basketball season features a familiar program atop the list and several more blue bloods challenging for supremacy after a chaotic ending to March Madness 2023.
46 of the 63 first-place votes were awarded to the Kansas Jayhawks. According to the NCAA, they’ve now tied Kentucky as the only teams to be named preseason favorites four times since this kind of balloting began.
The others getting love from pollsters include second-ranked Duke (11 first-place votes), #3 Purdue (3), #4 Michigan State (1), and the defending champions from a season ago, the UConn Huskies. Dan Hurley’s tournament juggernaut from the spring will begin the 2023 season as the number six team in the country and received a pair of votes for the top spot in the poll after some key departures in the offseason.
We’ll dig into which teams are getting attention heading into the season, whether the sportsbooks agree, and provide our best bet for season-long value.
Latest Odds from FanDuel SportsBook
|San Diego State||+7500|
Just like your favorite Netflix show, we reached back into the EatWatchBet archives from late March to review our Final Four preview from Houston earlier this year. As a quick refresher, we highlighted that three of the four teams were making their first Final Four appearance, which hadn’t happened since 1970.
That Florida Atlantic, Miami, and San Diego State trio is fully represented in the preseason top 25 heading into this season. FAU slots in at tenth, the Canes rank 13th, and SDSU is a respectable 17th.
The Connecticut Huskies captured their fifth national title in six Final Four appearances, becoming just the fifth team in tournament history to win every game by 10+ points. All four previous instances have happened since 2000, with Michigan State and Duke going back-to-back in 2000-01, UNC accomplishing the feat in 2009, and Villanova’s 2018 team matching them during their second title in three seasons.
The top three teams heading into this season all suffered disappointing, early exits from the NCAA tournament a season ago. Kansas and Duke both fell in the second round as slight favorites, but it was Purdue that had the tournament to forget.
The Boilermakers joined Virginia in infamy as the only top-seeded teams to lose to 16-seeds in the round of 64. Fairleigh Dickinson held the Big Ten champs to 19% shooting from three and forced 16 turnovers to make history. Purdue returns all five starters this season, which, and both arguments could be made, either helps or harms their chances of improving upon 2023’s end result.
The sportswriters and sportsbooks are on the same page with the top three. Kansas, Duke, and Purdue top both lists in that order. Seven of the top-ten ranked teams are represented in the top ten programs at the betting window, with the exceptions being #8 Creighton (+2500), #9 Tennessee (+3000), and FAU at ten (+4000).
The Jayhawks (+1000) return three of their top-five scorers from 2022-23 and added Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, the All-American center, to give them one of the most talented rosters in the country on paper. Three other teams from their conference are ranked in the early poll, including newcomer Houston. Kansas will be tested early out of their conference with games against Kentucky and UConn within their first six contests.
Bookmakers have shown an affinity for the 16-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, who are fourth on the odds sheet at +1400. John Calipari’s program has not made a Final Four since 2015, though they signed three of the top six recruits in the 2023 incoming class, according to 247 Sports. The freshmen reload strategy has worked in the past in Lexington, and the sportsbooks are banking on that to be the case again this season.
Duke (+1100) returns all four of their leading scorers to earn the distinction of top challenger to Kansas’ ranking. Coach Jon Scheyer, who signed a six-year extension after his conference-winning inaugural season as head coach, leads preseason All-American Kyle Filipowski and company in the second year of the post-Coach K era.
Zach Edey and Purdue (+1200) would love to follow in the footsteps of the 2018-19 Virginia Cavaliers after the way their season ended in March. Tony Bennett’s team won the program’s only championship after being the first #1 seed to fall to a 16-seed in the prior NCAA Tournament.
Edey himself is repeating what Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe did last year: return to his team after being named National Player of the Year instead of opting to go pro. He and his familiar surrounding cast will need to significantly improve on last year's tournament result to be considered successful.
Michigan State (+1500) is fourth in the polls and fifth on the odds list, coming off two straight seasons where they entered the NCAA Tournament as a 7-seed and were gone before the Elite Eight. Dick Vitale declared Sparty to have the best backcourt in the country in one of his ESPN season previews, led by All-Big Ten selection Tyson Walker.
Winning a championship is hard but defending that feat may be even more difficult. No reigning NCAA Basketball champion on the men’s side has advanced past the Sweet 16 since Florida’s back-to-back national titles in 2006-07.
You’d have to look back to the 2015-16 Duke Blue Devils to find the last time a team made a Sweet 16 appearance a season after cutting down the nets. For Connecticut, all five of their championship runs have come within the last 25 years.
In the four previous seasons that followed their title-winning campaigns, they have three second-round exits (1999-00, 2004-05, 2011-12) and one missed NCAA Tournament (2014-15).
We'll make the case for the optimistic scenario in East Lafayette. Matt Painter’s team has all five starters returning this season, which continues to resemble the turnaround that UVA underwent to lift the championship trophy in 2019.
Edey is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as the Wooden Award winner. Michigan State stands out as the team most likely to dethrone them within the Big Ten during the final year of the conference’s current makeup, and Purdue beat them twice last season.
Their combination of experience and talent will make them competitive in every game this season, and early tests against Gonzaga, Alabama, and Arizona will be worthy benchmarks as to what their national title hopes should be. We’ll hop aboard the train and ride with the Boilers in 2023-24.