North Carolina leads the way in Heat Check CBB’s preseason Top 25 college basketball rankings but Houston and Baylor are within striking distance to start the new year.

At long last, the new college basketball season is almost here.

After an eventful offseason full of draft decisions, transfer movement and NIL headlines, 363 teams are set to embark on the new campaign. The race for the 2023 national title is projected to be as wide-open as any season in recent memory with a handful of squads capable of cutting down the nets in Houston.

Every Monday throughout the season, the Heat Check CBB staff will release its consensus Top 25 college basketball rankings. Our voters include Eli Boettger, Andy Dieckhoff, Lukas Harkins, Brian Rauf, Connor Hope and Riley Davis.

The Heat Check CBB preseason Top 25 is below.

Florida Basketball season preview: How will Todd Golden handle Year 1?

Rising Coaches’ ‘Next Up’ initiative promotes next wave of coaching stars

Bold predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten

Received votes: Florida State, Michigan, Saint Louis, Texas Tech, Iowa, UAB, Notre Dame

25. Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana earned a No. 12 seed to the NCAA Tournament last season, and now returns the vast majority of its core rotation. Most notably, the frontcourt duo of Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson is set to reprise their starting roles alongside point guard Xavier Johnson. Freshman guard Jalen Hood-Schifino should be among the best first-year players in the country. The Hoosiers have the potential to contend for the Big Ten title. -Lukas Harkins

24. Miami FL Hurricanes

Miami reached the Elite Eight for the first time in program history last season, and might be better this time around. Head coach Jim Larranaga brings back star guard Isaiah Wong, plus dominated the transfer portal. Nijel Pack and Norchad Ormier are two significant additions for a group hoping to threaten the bluebloods of the ACC. Miami will have to overcome a lack of size, but is very talented. -LH

23. Florida Gators

Fresh off guiding San Francisco to its best season since the ‘80s, Todd Golden now takes the clipboard in Gainesville. Convincing Colin Castleton to return to the Gators was a huge step for the analytically minded coach, but he also secured a big-time transfer class. Will Richard, Alex Fudge, and Trey Bonham will help Florida contend in a tough SEC. Watch for Kowacie Reeves to take a big step, and for Myreon Jones to post a bounceback shooting season. -LH

22. UConn Huskies

The Huskies have the length along the perimeter to be one of the country’s elite defenses: Tristen Newton, Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson all check in at 6-5 or taller. And that’s not even mentioning UConn’s centerpiece, Adama Sanogo – a glass cleaning, shot swatting back-to-the-basket monster. If Dan Hurley can get enough shot-making from Newton, Hawkins and Virginia Tech transfer Nahiem Alleyne, the Huskies can win the Big East. -Riley Davis

21. Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game since capturing the national title in 2019. However, Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers are poised to bounce back and compete atop the ACC this season. Each of the six UVa players who played at least 17 minutes a night last season are back, including veteran point guard Kihei Clark and leading returning scorer Jayden Gardner. Can Ohio transfer Ben Vander Plas be the difference? -Eli Boettger

20. Dayton Flyers

Dayton had the youngest team in college basketball last season, and early growing pains proved costly come Selection Sunday with the Flyers narrowly missing the tournament. A10 Rookie of the Year DaRon Holmes has a sky-high ceiling and is the star of the returning nucleus. While the Flyers probably won’t go 29-2 again like they did in ‘19-20, there is plenty of reason to believe Anthony Grant’s squad will make national headlines just like the Obi Toppin-led group. -EB

19. Illinois Fighting Illini

No Kofi, no problem. Brad Underwood re-tooled the Illini roster this summer, bringing in Terrence Shannon (Texas Tech) and Matthew Mayer (Baylor) to fill feature roles. With those two, alongside sophomore RJ Melendez and junior Coleman Hawkins, Illinois will deploy a versatile, “position-less” lineup focused on spacing on offense and switchability on defense. If freshman point guard Skyy Clark re-gains his pre-injury form, the Illini should pull away from the rest of the Big Ten. -RD

18. Auburn Tigers

The fact Auburn lost two first-round picks, including a top-3 overall pick in Jabari Smith, and is still ranked in our preseason top 20 is a testament to what Bruce Pearl has built on The Plains. The talented but volatile backcourt of Wendell Green and K.D. Johnson returns and are joined by a pair of talented newcomers – top-25 freshman Yohan Traore and Morehead State transfer Johni Broome – in the frontcourt. I would not expect this group to repeat as SEC champions, but they will be in the mix again. -Brian Rauf

17. Arizona Wildcats

Tommy Lloyd’s first season at Arizona was a resounding success, posting a 33-4 record and earning a No. 1 seed to the NCAA Tournament. Benn Mathurin, Christian Koloko, and Dalen Terry are no longer walking through the door, but the Wildcats bring back plenty. Kerr Kriisa, Azuolas Tubelis, and Oumar Ballo return – and there aren’t many breakout candidates better than Pelle Larsson. Courtney Ramey (Texas) adds more firepower to a talented backcourt. -LH

16. Texas Longhorns

Chris Beard was not as successful in his first season in Austin as the Longhorns failed to deliver on lofty preseason expectations. Things might be different in Year 2, however, thanks to the return of stars Timmy Allen and Marcus Carr. Landing Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter, one of the best players to hit the portal this offseason, was also huge along with the addition of five-star freshmen Dillon Mitchell and Arterio Morris. Finding enough shooting remains a question mark but this roster has enough talent for a big season. -BR

15. Villanova Wildcats

In Jay Wright’s place steps Kyle Neptune, a long-time assistant who propelled Fordham to just its fourth season above .500 in the last 30 years this past season. Neptune’s efforts in one season with the Rams were commendable, and he will have lots of talent to work with on the Main Line. Caleb Daniels and Eric Dixon return, as do some potential breakout sophomores. Cam Whitmore and Mark Armstrong should be elite freshmen. If Justin Moore can return at any point, it would be another plus for a program hoping to remain elite. -LH

14. TCU Horned Frogs

TCU was a blown call away from pulling the biggest non-Saint Peter’s upset of the NCAA Tournament and now returns the core from that team that nearly knocked off top-seeded Arizona. Star point guard Mike Miles Jr. was named the Big 12’s Preseason Player of the Year and is the heartbeat of one of the nation’s best defensive teams. If the Horned Frogs improve from 3-point range, this may prove to be too low of a preseason ranking. -BR

13. San Diego State Aztecs

Despite one of the best regular-season winning percentages in college basketball the last five years, San Diego State has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game under Brian Dutcher. The ‘21-22 group should not only return to its fourth consecutive Big Dance but also have the firepower to advance deep in the tournament. Matt Bradley and Nathan Mensah are back for another year, Jaedon LeDee is coming off a redshirt, and SDSU has two high-level transfer pickups in Darrion Trammell (Seattle U) and Micah Parrish (Oakland). -EB

12. Alabama Crimson Tide

Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide are hoping that last season’s late struggles won’t carry over into 2022-23, and the talent on this roster indicates that it won’t. Star guard Jahvon Quinerly is back and former five-star prospect Nimari Burnett is healthy. Throw in an elite transfer in Mark Sears (Ohio) and a top-10 recruiting class (led by five-star wing Brandon Miller), and Alabama should be in the SEC title race yet again. -BR

11. Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee has posted three KenPom top 15 finishes in the last six years, and another might be on the horizon. Head coach Rick Barnes lost Kennedy Chandler to the NBA, but still returns a steady backcourt duo of Zakai Zeigler and Santiago Vescovi. In total, the Volunteers return five of their top seven players from a top 10 team last year. They also add five-star recruit Julian Phillips. Tennessee will be one of the teams to beat in a loaded SEC. -LH

10. Creighton Bluejays

Creighton never cracked the KenPom top 50 last season, yet expectations are sky-high this season. Why? Well, the Bluejays return one of the most exciting sophomore classes in the country with Ryan Nembhard, Arthur Kaluma, and Trey Alexander; any or all could take massive leaps in Year 2. Head coach Greg McDermott also features an elite interior anchor in Ryan Kalkbrenner, who could be a dark-horse to contend for All-America honors this year. Adding Baylor Scheierman in the transfer portal provides some much-needed perimeter shooting. -LH

9. UCLA Bruins

The Bruins project to be the class of the Pac-12 behind a pair of All-Pac-12 performers in Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell. Five-star freshmen Amari Bailey and Adem Bona are projected to play big roles, too, for this deep roster. Mick Cronin has yet to win a conference regular season title since taking over in Westwood – expect that to change this season. -BR

8. Arkansas Razorbacks

Eric Musselman has propelled Arkansas into national relevance in a hurry. He has won 20-plus games in each of his first three seasons, including back-to-back Elite Eight appearances. Seeking a third straight this year, Muss still has his patented collection of transfers, but he also parlayed his success into landing elite high school talent. Nick Smith, Anthony Black, and Jordan Walsh all arrive as five-star prospects this season to pair with Davonte Davis and a five-man transfer class. If the chemistry develops, watch out. -LH

7. Kansas Jayhawks

The defending national champions suffered significant departures this offseason, losing Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun and David McCormack. However, this is still Kansas, and it’s still Bill Self. The Jayhawks have never finished outside of the AP top 17 under Self’s leadership, and they have ended in the top 10 in 13 of the last 16 seasons. Jalen Wilson figures to be KU’s leader this season, while Gradey Dick (five-star freshman) and Kevin McCullar (transfer) were significant additions. Expect more of the same from Kansas and Self. -LH

6. Duke Blue Devils

Jon Scheyer’s first season as head coach of the Blue Devils will be highly scrutinized – good thing Duke’s roster might have more talent than anyone else. The nation’s top recruiting class is led by projected lottery picks Dereck Lively and Dariq Whitehead, though Tyrese Proctor has also shown potential throughout offseason workouts. This team is young and might be inconsistent, but its upside is tremendous. -BR

5. Kentucky Wildcats

John Calipari and Kentucky are certainly ready to exorcise some demons – from last year’s first round exit to the debacle that was the 2020-21 season, Big Blue Nation hasn’t experienced a postseason run in what feels like forever. Good thing the ‘Cats feature the reigning National Player of the Year in Oscar Tshiebwe. The biggest question is, who emerges as his running mate? Will it be enticing uber-athlete Jacob Toppin? Sophomore stretch-big Daimion Collins? Or 5-star freshman guard (and defensive menace) Cason Wallace? -RD

4. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Drew Timme’s decision to return to Spokane for his senior season solidified the Zags as a top-5 team for 2022-23. The All-American will be the focal point of Mark Few’s attack again, but Gonzaga is counting on breakout seasons from Julian Strawther and Nolan Hickman, who is making the transition to point guard. Gonzaga’s ability to reach the peak of its teams from the last couple of seasons will depend on that duo’s growth and production. -BR

3. Baylor Bears

Baylor is 81-13 with three consecutive KenPom top 5 finishes and a national championship over the last three years. Head coach Scott Drew lost four key players from last year’s team this offseason, but still has plenty to contend among the nation’s best. Keyonte George will be a top-scoring freshman, and he pairs with Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer to form a talented backcourt. Flo Thamba is an experienced frontcourt piece and Jalen Bridges (West Virginia transfer) was a notable addition to place alongside him. There are lots of new faces, but Baylor is loaded. -LH

2. Houston Cougars

Houston’s Elite Eight run without Tramon Mark or Marcus Sasser last season only set the stage for what could be a banner year for Kelvin Sampson’s squad. Both star guards return with a breakout season for Jamal Shead also looming. Five-star forward Jarace Walker will be holding down the interior, too. This team has the talent, experience and ferocity needed to accomplish just about anything it wants to in 2022-23. -BR

1. North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels return the core of last season’s team that made the national championship game led by preseason All-American Armando Bacot. Caleb Love and RJ Davis combine to form one of the best backcourts in the country with Northwestern transfer Pete Nance and a top 20 freshman class adding depth. UNC was a top-15 team in the country throughout the second half of last season — expect them to maintain that level of play throughout the ’22-23 season. -BR