The college basketball season is returning! It’s always one of the most unpredictable sports in America. That’s why we have March Madness, where we all expect the unexpected in March when it’s time to play in the NCAA Tournament.
But even before the season, everyone has their opinions and expectations. Some teams are returning so much talent that it’d be disheartening if they missed out on playing deep into the NCAA Tournament.
Below, I’ll break down the 4 teams that I have going to the Final Four. Hopefully, we’ll revisit this in March and find that I was at least right on one or two teams!
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are currently exploring moving conferences out of the WCC. That would bring in a lot more revenue, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t have 30-win seasons if that happened. But even if the move is decided on, Gonzaga will still be in the WCC for now, especially this year.
The Bulldogs will bring back Drew Timme, who will start alongside Malachi Smith, Julian Strawther, Rasir Bolton, and Anton Watson. They’ll have players like Nolan Hickman, Hunter Sallis, and Efton Reid III coming off the bench. That’s a ridiculous 8-man rotation that is 11 deep with Kellen Mitchell, Colby Brooks, and Ben Gregg.
Gonzaga didn’t make it into the Final Four last year, losing to Arkansas in the Sweet 16. They’ll be ranked 2 to start the season by the AP Poll and have a legitimate experience that should help them move forward this year.
I’m expecting big things from Julian Strawther and believe Efton Reid III could start for Gonzaga by the time it’s conference time.
Arkansas should take a big leap this year. They’ve brought in one of the best freshman classes in America, but there’s only one starter returning, so it might take some time for Arkansas.
Don’t expect them to dominate out of the gate. But as the team gets more comfortable and gets up to speed with the gameplay, watch out Davonte Davis will take over at shooting guard, where he’s scored 8 points per game over the first 2 seasons. He’ll have Nick Smith as the point guard and Anthony Black at the forward spot.
Both are incoming freshmen who could easily win the top freshman awards in college basketball and are also expected to be lottery picks in the NBA Draft after this season, so you could just imagine the type of talent Arkansas is working with.
Arkansas also brought in Jalen Graham, who scored just under 10 points with Arizona State last year. He should make a quality impact along with Makhi and Makhel Mitchell, who are two wins who transferred from Rhode Island.
Those two are as efficient as anyone when on the floor. With so much talent and a solid run in the NCAA Tournament last year, there’s a good chance we’ll see Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four again.
NCAAB Pick: Arkansas (+500) at BetOnline
Kentucky lost to St. Peter’s last year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They’ll rebound, kind of like how Virginia rebounded after its loss to UMBC. The Wildcats will have Sahvir Wheeler, Jacob Toppin, and Oscar Tshiebwe in the starting lineup. Those three are seniors with experience and they’ll be joined by two incredible freshmen, including Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston.
Both of those freshman prospects are expected to make it into the NBA next season if all goes well. Anyway, those three seniors felt pain last season after losing to St. Peter’s. The team won’t need much time to gel.
And it’s never hard to add a couple of players like Wallace and Livingston into a lineup and still keep the same foundation.
NCAAB Pick: Kentucky (+300) at BetOnline
North Carolina Tar Heels
The UNC Tar Heels ended up in the NCAA Championship last year after starting the season very slowly.
It was Hubert Davis’ first season as head coach and it took time for the Tar Heels to buy in. But eventually, a couple of wins turned the momentum and led UNC to the National Championship game.
Because of the loss to Kansas in that game, everyone who was able to return returned. The starting lineup consists of recognizable talent that should ultimately improve this season. Brady Manek graduated, but the Tar Heels added Northwestern’s Pete Nance to take over his spot.
The team is built exactly like last year and they made it all the way to the Finals. Expect them to earn a Final Four slot again this season.
NCAAB Pick: North Carolina (+300) at BetOnline
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.