Predict Which College Basketball Teams Can Win the 2023 National Championship Based on First-Round Talent

Back in January CBS Sports found that since the merger of the ABA and NBA in 1976, every college basketball national champion has produced at least one top-30 pick in the NBA draft. Forty-four of those 45 teams produced a first-round pick, with only 1987 Indiana not reaching that checkpoint as there were only 23 first-round picks at the time (Steve Alford has opted for pick #26 overall). That trend continued last season with Kansas winning the national championship largely thanks to Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun, who were ranked No. 14 and No. 21, respectively, in the June draft.

Obviously, having a first-round pick doesn’t make a team a national title contender, and the 46-year streak of top-30 picks doesn’t mean the winner of the 2022-23 title is guaranteed to have one. However, it was an indicator to follow. And while some first-round picks aren’t really on our radars right now — Braun, for example, wouldn’t have been a projected first-round pick at this point a year ago — generally speaking, most top prospects were considered long before the traditional mock draft season.

So, as a fun exercise, we watched Kyle Boone’s recent story never too soon NBA Mock Draft 2023 to see which teams plan to have a first-round talent on their roster. For reference, we’ve added where these teams sit Top 25 and 1 by Gary Parrish. Not every team with a potential first-round pick will be in contention for a national title, but the baseline at the start gives a ray of hope for the following programs:

Drew Timme may be back for the Bulldogs, but it’s Julian Strawther (No. 17) and Nolan Hickman (No. 29) who slip in the first round here. Strawther tested the waters this spring after averaging 11.8 points and 5.4 rebounds and shooting 36.5 percent from 3. Hickman could slip into Andrew Nembhard’s point guard spot as a sophomore after produced 5.1 points and 1.3 assists in 17.2 minutes per game as a key freshman reserve. Top 25 And 1 rank: 1

The Cougars look like one of the top five teams in 2022-23 with Kelvin Sampson bringing in five-star forward Jarace Walker (#18) to go along with goaltender Marcus Sasser (#28). Walker already has a pro-ready body and earned good reviews in practices, while Sasser averaged 17.7 points per game and shot 43.7% from 3 before suffering a season-ending injury. . Top 25 And 1 rank: 3

NBA teams seek out 3-and-D archetypes, but often the latter part of that equation is valued a little less. But in freshmen Cason Wallace (No. 7) and Chris Livingston (No. 27), Kentucky has two players who are likely to embrace defensive work right away. It’s the shooting element that could determine how far they go next summer. Top 25 And 1 rank: 4

The Blue Devils signed the top-ranked 247Sports Composite class in Jon Scheyer’s first year on the track as Duke’s head coach. That includes three of the top four players, according to 247Sports, in Derek Lively, Dariq Whitehead and Kyle Filipowski. Whitehead actually slips past Lively in Boone’s mock draft, with the first being No. 8 and Lively selected at No. 12. Filipowski also earned first-round pick status at No. 21. Top 25 And 1 rank: 5

The Razorbacks clinched the No. 2 recruiting class in the 247Sports Composite thanks to three five-star prospects. These three players were part of Boone’s predicted first round with Nick Smith (No. 4) and Anthony Black (No. 9) slipping into the lottery and Jordan Walsh following at No. 22. Top 25 And 1 rank: 6

Keyonte George made a strong debut for Baylor dropping 32 points in 28 minutes against Italy in the GLOBL Jam. A pure goalscorer and the No. 8 player according to 247Sports checked in at No. 10 in Boone’s mock draft. Top 25 And 1 rank: 7


The Jayhawks brought in arguably the best shooter of the 2022 class in 6-foot-7 guard Gradey Dick. And while Dick faces an uphill battle to earn a first-team job – the last spot next to Kevin McCullar and Jalen Wilson is likely to go to Dick, fellow freshman MJ Rice or his student in second year Bobby Pettiford – he lands a place in Boone’s simulation at No 24. Top 25 And 1 rank: 8

The Volunteers have inked the nation’s No. 18 player in 247Sports rankings in Julian Phillips, a 6-foot-8 winger. And the high-potential freshman could use his combination of length and athleticism to leave school early, with Boone projecting Phillips as the No. 23 pick. Top 25 And 1 rank: 9

Athletic combo keeper, Amari Bailey ended the 2022 recruiting cycle as the ninth best player in the 247Sports rankings. And while the Bruins have older players to soak up the pressure, Bailey should be an impact player and a top-20 pick (No. 19 on Boone’s mock draft). Top 25 And 1 rank: 10

Arthur Kaluma averaged 10.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a rookie but showed his potential with 24 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and four 3-pointers in the Bluejays’ narrow loss to Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. He just slipped into the lottery here at No. 13. Top 25 And 1 rank: 11

Chris Beard received good news when three starters elected to return to Austin. However, it also didn’t hurt to add some outside pop, and that’s what he did with five-star athlete Dillon Mitchell, who could use that athleticism and defensive potential to go at No. 11, where Boone has it. Top 25 And 1 rank: 12

Cam Whitmore is expected to be one of the most dynamic players in college basketball as a rookie with a combination of power, aggression and athleticism. This led to Boone placing Whitmore just outside the top five in his fake draft, at No. 6. Top 25 And 1 rank: 15

Kel’el Ware climbed to 6th in the rankings, according to 247Sports. And although the 7-foot five-star player has top-five draft potential, he was the first pick outside the lottery at No. 15 in Boone’s mock draft. Ware is a bit raw, but his tools with his length could lead to a unique existence. Top 25 And 1 rank: 20

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