HomeSportsCollege basketball tiers: Purdue, UConn, Arizona among top teams

College basketball tiers: Purdue, UConn, Arizona among top teams

Raise your hand if you predicted Purdue and UConn as the top-two teams in the nation at the holiday break … anyone?

We are almost two months into the 2022-23 men’s college basketball season, and while the likes of Houston, Kansas and Arkansas have lived up to preseason expectations, the same can’t be said for others.

Last week, we took a look at which highly touted freshmen have been performing best this season. Now, my focus shifts to the top-performing teams in the nation.

Here are my college basketball team tiers.

Purdue, UConn, Arizona & Houston top Andy Katz’s college basketball tiers.

Andy Katz shares his team tiers at this point in the season. Purdue, UConn, Arizona and Houston could be No. 1 seeds if the season ended this week.

Tier 1: Teams that could be No. 1 seeds if the season ended this week

Purdue: The Boilermakers have answered every challenge thus far and have the best player in the country — or at least the most productive and hardest to match — in 7-foot-4 big man Zach Edey. He is averaging 22.6 points per game and leads the country with 13.9 rebounds per contest. The Boilermakers already have wins over Gonzaga and Duke, outscoring the two college hoops powerhouse programs by 18 and 19 points, respectively. 

UConn: The Huskies weren’t supposed to be this good this early, but they are obviously one of the best teams in the nation. It’s very possible Dan Hurley’s team could blow through the Big East with one or two blemishes at most. The only ranked team remaining on the Huskies’ schedule is No. 24 Marquette, who they play twice. 

Arizona: If you haven’t seen Arizona play yet this season, do yourself a favor and watch the athletic, long, active bigs on the Wildcats. Every game seems like a show. The one-two punch of Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo form the top frontcourt duo in America. Both average more than 17 points and eight boards per game. This Arizona team is beatable, but it’s going to be an event every night they take the floor.

Houston: The Cougars got clipped at home by Alabama earlier this month, but Kelvin Sampson’s team turned around and won at Virginia one week later. This team is tough, led by do-it-all senior Marcus Sasser, who is putting up 16 points per game this season. Jarace Walker‘s development will be key to this team making a national title run this season.

Tier 2: Teams that could be national title contenders

Tennessee: The Vols beat Kansas in Atlantis, but lost at Arizona last weekend in Tucson. No shame in that at all. Bruce Pearl has a very balanced squad this year with five players averaging between 10 and 12 points per game. They are going to be in a fight for the SEC title with the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Auburn.

Kansas: The Jayhawks ran Indiana out of Phog Allen and are improving every day. They don’t have the size, but they’ve got the shooters and defense to win it again. Jalen Wilson is a bona fide star and Gradey Dick is looking like one of the top freshmen in the country, playing his best in the biggest games.

UCLA: The Bruins are back in business after an East Coast sweep of Maryland and Kentucky in College Park and New York, respectively. All eyes will be on the Bruins and Wildcats in the Pac-12, and fortunately, they play each other twice. Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell and the two-way play of Jaylen Clark make the Bruins a title threat. 

Tier 3: Teams that have been battle tested

Gonzaga: Drew Timme is back in the conversation for national player of the year after three straight games of 26-plus points and six-or-more rebounds. He had 29 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the Zags’ win over Alabama in Birmingham, which was a wakeup call to not forget about this team.

Alabama: Wins over North Carolina, Houston and Memphis were three of the better ones any team has had this season. Brandon Miller is arguably the top freshman in the country, while junior guard Mark Sears has been a welcomed addition after transferring over from Ohio. The SEC is loaded from top to bottom this season, but Nate Oats’ team has the talent to compete for a conference title.

Arkansas: The Hogs didn’t win the Maui Invitational, but the talent is there for Arkansas to win the SEC. Eric Musselman’s group has won seven in a row and have an upcoming road matchup against a solid LSU team on Dec. 28. Star freshman Nick Smith Jr. is out indefinitely with a knee injury, but this team is going to continue to get better as the season progresses. 

Tier 4: Teams that continue to rise up the charts

Baylor: Baylor’s guard play is good enough to compete for a national title, but it’s still unknown if this team is elite. Scott Drew’s club notched a pair of impressive wins over UCLA and Gonzaga, but also lost by 26 to Marquette earlier this season. 

Texas: The overtime loss to Illinois was a bit of a wakeup call after a dominant win over Gonzaga last month. Not having Chris Beard on the sideline is still a disruption. The Longhorns’ head coach was suspended due to a family violence charge

Miami: The Canes were in the Elite Eight last season, and they have the goods to get back again. Jim Larrañaga’s team proved that following an impressive 66-64 win over No. 6 Virginia. Junior guard Isaiah Wong is a star, averaging more than 17 points and 4.8 assists per game.

Virginia: The Cavs have cooled off a bit after looking like a No. 1 seed earlier in the season. Kihei Clark is the leader of this team and is one of the top floor generals in the ACC. Virginia will compete for a conference title because the defense won’t rest with this squad.

Duke: Injuries contributed to the loss at Wake Forest and the size of Purdue bothered the Blue Devils inside. This is a young group, but they still have plenty of time to improve. Kyle Filipowski has the look of a star and Jeremy Roach is the perfect floor general for this squad.

North Carolina: The preseason No. 1-ranked team looked the part in an overtime win against Ohio State with Armando Bacot, Caleb Love and RJ Davis playing up to their potential. Northwestern transfer Pete Nance hitting a game-tying shot at the end of regulation was a positive sign.

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Andy Katz is a longtime college basketball writer, analyst and host. He can be seen on the Big Ten Network, as well as March Madness and, and he hosts the podcast “March Madness 365.” Katz worked at ESPN for nearly two decades and, prior to that, in newspapers for nine years.

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