Who will be this year Iowa State? Or Wake Forest?

And by that, we mean which team will take us all by surprise in 2022-23 — in a good way. Iowa State went from 2-22 in 2020-21 to 22 wins and the Sweet 16 last season. ​​​​​​​Despite Wake Forest narrowly missing out on March Madness, the Demon Deacons improved from six wins to 25.

Some team or teams are almost guaranteed to come out of nowhere this season. The trick is finding them. That’s the challenge we set our panel of 17 experts for today’s topic. As you can see from the results, there was no consensus choice and 15 different teams received at least one vote. Who, if anyone, will be right?

Now let’s listen to the arguments of our experts:


Isaiah Wong is one of the most underrated players in the country despite being crucial to Miami’s Elite Eight run last season. He’s back, and the Hurricanes added two of the nation’s top transfers in All-Big 12 guard Nigel Pack and the Sun Belt Player of the Year Norchad Omer Offensive guru Jim Larrañaga noted, he has a lot of pieces to work with. — Brendan Marks

There were flashes of incredible potential last year, often in the form of some kind of crazy run under Isaiah Wong, and it all came together in an unexpected run to the Elite Eight. The team lost two of its best players in that streak this year, but it also adds arguably the best transfer available to the Nijel Pack. — Nicole Auerbach

Texas A&M

If you look at the trajectory of Buzz Williams programs, and in particular his work in the Virginia Institute of Technology, you know we’ve reached the point where the work of recovery stops being brave and starts to become real. As for the talents, well Agis there was no business nearly plowing his way into the field a year ago; this time they will just be good. — Eamon Brennan

It’s easy to mock Buzz Williams for speaking out against the NCAA Tournament selection process when his Aggies, who had lost eight in a row midway through the season, didn’t make the field last year. But the core of that team, which rallied to win 12 of its last 15 games and reach the SEC and NIT championships, is back and has something to prove. I think they will go into the tournament and advance. — Kyle Tucker


The bear cats stumbled last season but returns some standouts (David DeJulius, Micah Adams-Woods and Jeremiah Davenport), and then added some interesting transmissions (Landers Nolley, Rob Finisi). Also, an American might just be fine after Houston, giving Wes Miller a run. — Hugh Kellenberger


Dayton. There were no winners when COVID shut down the 2020 postseason, but it was an especially tough deal for a Dayton team that went 29-2 and was likely the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. After a few more under-the-radar seasons, Dayton is reminding everyone how good that program was and can be again. — Justin Williams

State of Florida

I’m surprised I don’t see the Seminoles on preseason top 25 lists anymore. Their sophomores led by v Matthew Cleveland and Jalen Worley incredibly talented and now experienced. Also, they’ve done a great job of finding Leonard Hamilton-style guys on the transfer portal over the last two years, such as Cam’Ron Fletcher, Jaylon Gainey and Darrin Green. This roster is stacked and should contend for the top three in the ACC. — Sam Vecheni


I have Illinois winning the Big Ten, which may seem wild if Kofi Cockburn and the team’s starting backcourt continue, but Sky Clark leads a loaded group of beginners that includes Baylor transmission Matthew Mayer. Also, the Big Ten isn’t very good. — Joe Rexrod


With Matt McMahon starting his tenure with zero scholarship players and the stench of Will Wade’s tenure still hanging low, I don’t think anyone could have predicted a likely Year 1 success. But do not sleep on the Tigers. Juice Hill and KJ Williams are certainly entry-level SEC players, and McMahon is very coachable. No, the Tigers won’t contend for an SEC title, but they will far exceed expectations. Don’t be surprised if they dance. — Brendan Quinn

Ole miss

The Rebels went 13-19 last year, their worst record under Kermit Davis, but it’s worth noting that their two leading scorers missed significant time due to injury. They return five of their top six scorers from a year ago while adding the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year Theo Akwuba and MAC Defensive Player of the Year Josh Mballa. Not to mention several freshmen who should make an impact. — Tobias Bass


Watch Purdue and Matt Painter at your discretion. He has height (as usual) and a quality backcourt. Boilers should be right there Indiana in the Big Ten race. — Scott Dochterman


Last year was the best season of Jamie Dixon’s tenure at TCU as the Horned Frogs made the NCAA Tournament and finished as the No. 1 seed. Arizona to overtime in the second round. With security Mike Miles coming back, this looks like a legitimate Sweet 16 contender. — Austin Meek


Um, no offense to some of my fellow voters, but let’s be bolder than picking a team that made the elite eight last year, or teams that are already ranked, shall we? The Green wave return almost everyone from a young team that showed promise last season, including a star guard Jalen Cook, which certainly lives up to its name. No one is saying Tulane is going to the Final Four, but a return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995 is certainly possible. And maybe we’ll get more great March moments from coach Ron Hunter. — Brian Bennett


The Trojans are in a transition year, but Andy Enfield has firmly established himself as a top-tier program builder. He had a roster led by veteran backfield Boogie Ellis and Drew Petersonthree top-50 freshmen (including McDonald’s All-American forward Kiani Wright), and he just added an intriguing international prospect in 7-0 freshman center Jaroslav Nyagu. The Pac 12 will again be strong at the top, but not very deep, so the Trojans will likely be in the top tier and therefore on the fringes of the top 25 for most of the season. — Seth Davis


Not to say the Cavaliers will be good in the Final Four, but they will be good from an ACC perspective. Tony Bennett returns five of his top starters and, thanks to a large number of freshmen, really has depth again. A “bad” Virginia team still went 21-14, 10-8 in the ACC and won two games in the NIT. — Dana O’Neill


Can the Virginia Way still win? Tony Bennett is about to find out


Wyoming will enter the top 20 teams at the turn of the calendar and stay there all year. Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike are the top two tight ends in the nation, and Jeff Linder has deepened his rotation with a trio of Pac-12 transfers. — CJ Moore


Say what you will about Sean Miller, but the guy is one of college basketball’s premier minds. Musketeers will be rich in experience and old men tend to win in this sport. There may not be an All-American on the roster, but the school went all-in on Miller for a reason. He can be the difference in a player’s development – between results like this and attention-grabbing controversy sooner rather than later. — Brian Hamilton

(Our full panel of experts: Nicole Auerbach, Tobias Bass, Brian Bennett, Eamon Brennan, Seth Davis, Scott Dochterman, Brian Hamilton, Hugh Kellenberger, Brendan Marks, Austin Meek, CJ Moore, Dana O’Neill, Brendan Quinn , Joe Rexrod , Kyle Tucker, Sam Veseny and Justin Williams.)

Preliminary predictions:

A mid-major that can make March

The most interesting player in the country

The most exciting game of 2022-23

The first coaching change

(Photo Tyrese Redford: Kevin Langley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


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