Prediction Roundtable: 2023-24 CBB Bold Predictions

The 2023-24 college basketball season is officially off and running. Between the national frontrunner and 2024 Draft conversation, there's plenty of uncertainty. Here, our Max Feldman, Colby Giacubeno and Travis Graf dish out their bold predictions for the season ahead.

Todd Golden and the Gators make their ascension — Max Feldman

Golden and his staff have treated roster construction like an NBA franchise since their arrival in Gainesville, and I think this season is where it comes to fruition on the floor. The Gators are as talent-rich as just about any team in the country for my money, and have done so by identifying undervalued high school prospects and mid-major stars. Riley Kugel is where it all starts for the Gators, a prospect we were sky-high on coming out Dr. Phillips (FL), and now looks to be charging towards Lottery status. Alongside Kugel, Walter Clayton, Will Richard and Zyon Pullin bring a ton of different things to the table. In the frontcourt, Tyrese Samuel should bring steady production on the glass and as an interior scorer alongside two budding NBA prospects in SO Micah Handlogten and FR Alex Condon. Picked to finish in the bottom half of the SEC, I think Golden and the Gators have different plans.

Deshawn Harris-Smith takes home B10 FOY Honors — Colby Giacubeno

The early reports out of College Park is that freshman guard DeShawn Harris-Smith has been dominant in spurts throughout the preseason. The 6-foot-5 southpaw guard out of Paul VI Catholic was a prized commitment for head coach Kevin Willard after his first season on the job. One of his biggest pitches to Harris-Smith during the recruiting process was how much he'd be featured in the offense. He'll likely share duties on the ball alongside Jahmir Young  and will have the opportunity to be the primary guy when Young is out of the game. Despite the amount of key returners for this Terps' team, I'm expecting Harris-Smith to be a foundational piece and a big reason why they'll have a chance to make a run in March. In the process, being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year will be an obvious choice.

Texas A&M is this season's sleeper —Travis Graf

Last season, the Aggies started off really strong before tapering off towards the end of the year. They finished ranked No. 17 in the final AP Poll, and return their top two scorers from a year ago in Wade Taylor and Tyrece Radford. A&M also added a quality guard out of the portal this off-season in UIC’s Jace Carter. They’re currently 12/1 to reach the final four, which is 26th in the country. They’re also the third-highest favorites to win the SEC at 5/1. I think there’s incredible value in both as the Aggies are one of the more underrated teams in the country. 

A pair of PAC-12 forwards burst onto the national scene — Max Feldman

Colorado's Tristan Da Silva garnered a bit of preseason buzz, and I don't think it'll be long till he's being discussed as one of the best players, and potentially prospects, in the country. The 6-9 forward had a fantastic junior season for a Buffs team that landed in the middle of the PAC, but with key pieces back in the fold, valuable portal pieces and a few freshman ready to step on the floor, they should be ready to climb up the standings. In a 2024 draft conversation that's cloudy at this stage, I think Da Silva continues to emerge as one of the best upperclassmen prospects. Been a favorite for sometime now, and it seems the piece are now aligning for the ascension.

A five-star prospect in the class of 2021, Nate Bittle looks primed to make a leap as a junior. The seven-foot forward closed last season with consecutive career highs in the NIT, going for 15 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks per game through their three games in the tournament. Bittle averaged 7 points and 5 boards in 18 minutes per game, and at times struggled settling into a groove at the four spot. With another offseason under his belt and a vote of confidence in him to close his sophomore campaign, I think he steps into a key role next to N'Faly Dante. 13 rebounds and 9 rebounds in a win to open the season is a nice start. 

Carlton Carrington blossoms into a first-round pick — Colby Giacubeno

This prediction isn't as bold as it was before opening night as Pittsburgh freshman guard Carlton Carrington notched a triple-double in a win over North Carolina A&T. His stat line of 18 points (7/12 FG), 12 rebounds and 10 assists are a representation of what he brings to the floor. The 6-foot-5 guard brings efficiency both as a scorer and decision maker, a frame that will fill out nicely over the next 2-to-3 years and an overall approach that translates to the professional ranks. Carrington uses his dribble for profit and at any time can rattle off three-straight buckets. He's someone the defense cannot afford to let have a clean look off the catch, but is also capable of delivering demoralizing makes when being contested. I wouldn't be shocked if this wasn't Carrington's last triple-double of the season, which will launch him onto NBA Draft radars as a valuable one-and-done prospect.

A frontcourt player will not win the Wooden Award — Travis Graf

You have to go back to the 2017-2018 season and Jalen Brunson for the last time a forward or center has not won the Wooden Award. I think that streak breaks this season, and while I don’t know which backcourt player I’d pick to win it, I believe a handful of candidates will emerge by December. The top five candidates to win the award in the pre season are big men, but I think a current longshot enters the race at some point. If I was forced to choose one of the big men at the top of the odds board, I would pick Kyle Filipowski. 

B10 Picks: Wisconsin overperform and Bruce Thornton surprises — Max Feldman
 Rough season for the Badgers a year ago, going 20-15 and finishing 11th in the Big Ten. A year later, their picked to finish 5th in the conference, and I think it might a notch too low. Greg Gard returns his five most used players from a year ago, while bringing prized transfer AJ Storr and a pair of Top-150 prospects in John Blackwell and Nolan Winter. Deep, experienced, have more juice athletically than previous rosters and have the core of Hepburn, Wahl and Crowl to lean on. I like them to challenge for a top three spot in the conference.

Bruce Thornton was included in my "20 Sleeper Sophomores" article from a few weeks back, and I'll continue to double down. A bowling ball getting downhill to go with a lights out shooting stroke, if he can take the next steps as a playmaker on a roster that hopes to be more proficient spacing the floor, he'll surprise some folks. On a roster that seems to be awaiting a breakout from one of their young pieces, I think Thornton emerges as the guy by the time B10 play rolls around. 

Villanova will win the Big East — Colby Giacubeno

While there is plenty of rightful buzz surrounding the three programs ranked in the top-10 including Marquette, UConn and Creighton, the Wildcats boast a lineup that shouldn't be overlooked. Head coach Kyle Neptune and his staff did a great job of hitting the transfer portal for experienced, tough-nosed players who will fit seamlessly alongside arguably their most important piece in Justin Moore. Bringing in Tyler Burton (Richmond), Hakim Hart (Maryland) and TJ Bamba (Washington State) all will prove to be instrumental in their success playing in what many believe to be the toughest conference in the country.

 Adou Thiero plays himself into the first round discussion — Travis Graf

As a three-star prospect in 2022, Adou Thiero was the least-heralded out of all the Wildcats’ recruiting class. Fast forward a year later and he’s packed on a lot of muscle while showing positive shooting improvements during preseason games in Canada and exhibition games. At around 6’8”, he’s able to guard all positions on the floor for spurts and can also handle the ball well to create mismatches at his position. In what appears to be a weak draft pre season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see teams check out the late bloomer that’s able to do a little bit of everything while possessing a great build. 

International duo surprises folks, but not the two you expect — Max Feldman

Changing of the guard for the UCLA Bruins in 2023-24, losing Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jaquez, Jaylen Clarke and Amari Bailey among others. They reload the roster with a very young roster, in specific with four freshman who come in with big reputations from their time in Europe. Much of the focus, including draft conversations, has centered around Aday Mara and Berke Buyuktuncel. And for due reason, as Mara specifically is one that I think comes alive by the time conference play rolls around. But Jan Vide and Ilane Fibleuil will be two I'm locked in, and two I think wind up over-performing. Vide is a highly skilled creator who is adept making tough shots, playing in traffic and picking apart defenses in ball screens. Fibleuil is a hyper-athletic wing who is at his best playing in off-ball actions and scoring out of the mid-range. Both bring a unique dynamic to the table for this group, as I think Vide's ability to play in isolation, tilt the defense and make a read in traffic may resemble some of what Jaquez brought. As for Fibleuil, I think he brings a different level of juice than anyone in the group. The 6-6 wing defends in space, creates advantages and can kick the tempo up a notch with his transition ability. For the time being, as Vide's shot diet and ability to scale to a lower usage role fall into place, and Fibleuil adjusts to the physicality, there may be some quiet outings like last night's. But in time, I think they assert themselves. As shown by the season opener against St. Francis, I'd expect Mick Cronin and company to slow roll it with the young guys. The older, experienced guards will get the first opportunity, but if the Bruins are going to remain at the top of the PAC and gun for another run in March, the freshmen will be the X-Factor. 




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