UNC, Zags lead preseason edition of John Fanta’s Top 15

John Fanta spent the past few weeks counting down his top 15 teams in the country ahead of the 2022-23 college basketball season. Here’s a look at the poll and a full breakdown of each team.

number 1: North Carolina

The Tar Heels welcome back four starters from last year’s national runner-up team, highlighted by preseason All-American and current ACC All-Player Armando Bacot. Hubert Davis also made one of the transfer splashes in the offseason by bringing in Pete Nance from Northwestern to fill the void left by the departing Brady Manek. The only question is simple: Which North Carolina team will this edition be closer to: the team that started 18-8 and fell at home in Pittsburgh, or the team that won 11 of its last 13 games and shocked the college basketball world?

Read a complete breakdown of North Carolina

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number 2: Gonzaga

The return of elite bigs is the trend in college basketball and this is no different in Spokane. Drew Timme is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate, and Mark Few’s squad has a mix of experience, newcomers and potential rising stars. Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton are back, and the Zags made a big transfer in Malachi Smith in the offseason. This program has gone 192-18 in its last six seasons. There is no slowing down for the Bulldogs.

Read a full breakdown of Gonzaga

number 3: Houston

Kelvin Sampson has the best guard in college basketball in Marcus Sasser to work alongside a big distributor in Jamal Shead. Beyond the Cougars’ high level of experience and toughness, Houston also has its highest-ranked recruit in program history in forward Jarace Walker.

Read a full breakdown of Houston

number 4: Kentucky

The reigning National Player of the Year is receiving it for the first time since Tyler Hansbrough did it for North Carolina in 2008. Oscar Tshiebwe averaged 17.4 points and 15.1 boards last year. What awaits you in 4th year? The Wildcats also have another experience with point guard Sahvir Wheeler setting things up. Five-star freshmen Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston figure to play an immediate role, and Jacob Toppin looks poised for his best year yet.

Read a complete breakdown of Kentucky

number 5: Baylor

Scott Drew has star guards Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer back to lead the way, and Keyonte George is one of the highest-rated recruits in Bears program history. Transfer Jalen Bridges figures to play forward while veteran Flo Thamba should keep things going at center. Baylor can legitimately win its second title in three years and is my pick to do so.

Read a full breakdown of Baylor

number 6: UCLA

The Bruins aren’t going anywhere. Mick Cronin has marked the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, including a Final Four two years ago. With Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell in the fold, and star freshmen Amari Bailey and Adem Bona, the Bruins have a great mix on their roster. They are clearly the Pac-12 leader.

Read a full breakdown of UCLA

number 7: Creighton

Greg McDermott has the best sophomore class in America with Ryan Nembhard, Trey Alexander and Arthur Kaluma highlighting the group. Ryan Kalkbrenner is an elite rim protector and the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Add all those pieces together with Baylor Scheierman’s transfer and the Jays are the class of the Big East.

Read a full breakdown of Creighton

number 8: duke

Jon Scheyer takes over the best recruiting class in the country, but also a roster that lost five players to the NBA Draft over the summer. Jeremy Roach must lead the way for the Blue Devils. How will Dariq Whitehead fare and what can we expect from Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively. Of the top-10 teams, Duke may have the most questions to answer with so many new parts on the roster.

Read a full breakdown of Duke

number 9: Kansas

Now it’s the Jalen Wilson show in Lawrence. Kansas has great versatility with Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar as a major in-conference addition in the offseason. Starting point guard Dajuan Harris is also back, but Bill Self will need Gradey Dick and a loaded freshman class to contribute from the jump for the Jayhawks to win the Big 12 again. As for Self’s four-game suspension for start the year? It’s minuscule in the grand scheme of things as far as this season goes.

Read a complete breakdown of Kansas

number 10: Arkansas

Eric Musselman has built the Razorbacks into a monster with back-to-back Elite Eight appearances. Arkansas now has the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class according to 247 Sports, highlighted by five-star prospects Nick Smith, Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh.

Read a complete breakdown of Arkansas

number 11: TCU

The Horned Frogs won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1987 a year ago and Jamie Dixon returns all five starters, highlighted by guard Mike Miles. With Damion Baugh, Chuck O’Bannon Jr., Emanuel Miller and Eddie Lampkin also in the fold, TCU will have one of the most connected groups in the country and the defense will be a given. This could be one of the best years in program history.

Read a full breakdown of TCU

number 12: Texas

Chris Beard hit a grand slam off Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter. How he works together in the backcourt with Marcus Carr will be fascinating to watch with the Longhorns’ second-year head coach. Dillon Mitchell will also be one of the top freshmen in college basketball.

Read a complete breakdown of Texas

number 13: Indiana

The trend of big men continues in Bloomington with the return of elite talent Trayce Jackson-Davis. Mike Woodson has the preseason favorites in the Big Ten, welcoming back four starters as well as five-star freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino. With Xavier Johnson to steer the ship and a top-25 defense, Indiana can make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years.

Read a complete breakdown of Indiana

number 14: Villanova

Not only is the loss of Jay Wright devastating, but not having Collin Gillespie to run the show is a game changer for Villanova. Can Kyle Neptune keep the Wildcats near the top of the Big East in his first year? We wouldn’t have them in the Top 15 if we didn’t feel that way. It falls to Caleb Daniels, Brandon Slater and Eric Dixon up front. The big question: What is the injury timeline for Justin Moore (Achilles) and five-star freshman Cam Whitmore (thumb), and what will they be like once they return?

Read a full breakdown of Villanova

number 15: San Diego State

The Aztecs were the preseason No. 2 team in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency for a reason last season. Matt Bradley is a star and Brian Dutcher adds to the offense with a major X-factor in Jaedon LeDee. San Diego State also has elite rim protection and experience in center Nate Mensah. There’s a lot to like about the Mountain West leaders, which is why they round out our Top 15.

Read a complete breakdown of San Diego State

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John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers sports in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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