ESPN announced its early-season tournament schedule for the 2022-23 college basketball season early this week — a slate that highlights some of the game’s top programs and elite players, and builds on the 2021-22 campaign, which ended with four powerhouses in the Final Four: Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and Villanova. Here is our handy guide to the men’s games that will all appear on the ESPN family of networks in those seven events.
Foster Loyer makes a sweet dime
2022 Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic
Dates: Nov. 17-18, 20
Site: TD Arena, Charleston, South Carolina
Team to beat: Virginia Tech experienced some crucial turnover this offseason — Keve Aluma and Nahiem Alleyne are both gone — but Mike Young has endured change throughout his career, and still managed to average 21 wins over the past five seasons. Hunter Cattoor (10.0 PPG) and Justyn Mutts (10.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG) will join Wright State transfer Grant Basile (18.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.6 BPG) as Virginia Tech aims to win this event and keep Young’s streak alive.
Sleeper team: Davidson. The Wildcats lost two of their top three scorers from last season (Hyunjung Lee and Luka Brajkovic) and Bob McKillop is retired now. But his son, new head coach Matt McKillop, will turn to Foster Loyer (16.1 PPG, 44% from the 3-point line), the program’s leading scorer last year, to succeed here and beyond — including competing for the Atlantic 10 title in the first season of Davidson basketball without Bob McKillop since 1989.
Player to watch: G.G. Jackson. He was a top prospect in the 2023 class before he made the decision to reclassify into the 2022 class, decommit from North Carolina and then commit to new head coach Lamont Paris and South Carolina — suddenly making the Gamecocks a must-watch program in 2022-23.
Something for the college hoops junkies: When Drexel transfer Camren Wynter, a key pickup for Penn State this offseason, was on the floor last season, the Dragons shot 53% from inside the arc.
2022 Myrtle Beach Invitational
Dates: Nov. 17-18, 20
Site: HTC Center, Conway, South Carolina
Team to beat: Texas A&M. After making a run to the NIT championship game last season, the Aggies are positioned to finish in the SEC’s top tier. Buzz Williams’ squad returns three of its top four scorers from 2021-22, including Henry Coleman III (11.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG), and adds Wichita State transfer Dexter Dennis (8.4 PPG).
Sleeper team: Boise State. The offseason story has centered on what the Broncos lost (Emmanuel Akot, Abu Kigab), but Marcus Shaver Jr., (13.3 PPG) is one of the top point guards in the country, and Tyson Degenhart (2021-22 Mountain West freshman of the year) is poised to take the next step in his development.
Player to watch: This will be a good opportunity for Tristan da Silva, a 6-foot-10 athlete who averaged 9.4 PPG and connected on 37% of his 3-point attempts last year, to prove he can anchor a Colorado team that lost its top three scorers in the offseason.
Something for the college hoops junkies: When he was at South Carolina, new UMass head coach Frank Martin finished top 50 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings in six of the past eight seasons. UMass has failed to achieve a top-50 mark for eight consecutive seasons.
Logan Johnson steals the rock and finishes with the big-time flush for the Gaels.
Paycom Wooden Legacy
Dates: Nov. 23-25
Site: Anaheim Convention Center Arena, Anaheim, California
Team to beat: Saint Mary’s got a boost in April when Logan Johnson (11.9 PPG) announced that he would return for a fifth year, after leading the program to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Yes, the Gaels lost Tommy Kuhse and other standouts, but Randy Bennett’s track record suggests that the team will be competitive in the West Coast Conference again.
Sleeper team: Mike Hopkins has not accrued the momentum many had anticipated when he arrived at Washington, following his role as a Syracuse assistant, but transfers Keion Brooks Jr., (Kentucky) and Noah Williams (Washington State) hope to give the Huskies a chance to be competitive this season.
Player to watch: Brooks struggled to find his way at Kentucky, where he averaged 10.8 PPG last season. A fresh start in Seattle could help him showcase his potential.
Something for the college hoops junkies: Since the 2007-08 campaign, Randy Bennett’s Saint Mary’s squads have finished with at least 25 wins 11 times.
Dates: Nov. 24-27
Site: Moda Center/Veterans Memorial Coliseum/Chiles Center, Portland, Oregon
Team to beat: North Carolina. Yes, the news of G.G. Jackson’s decommitment from North Carolina has been a major headline this summer. But the Tar Heels return the key players from 2022’s national title game run, including Armando Bacot (16.3 PPG, 13.1 RPG), and add Northwestern transfer Pete Nance, a 6-10 forward who averaged 14.6 PPG and shot 45% from 3 last season. North Carolina will not only be the team to beat in Portland, the Tar Heels could be the team everyone is chasing once the NCAA tournament begins.
Sleeper team: Collin Gillespie and Jay Wright are both gone. But first-year head coach Kyle Neptune will begin the new era of Villanova basketball with a crew that counts on veterans Eric Dixon (9.1 PPG) and Caleb Daniels (10.3 PPG), along with five-star prospect Cameron Whitmore, a 6-7 forward and projected lottery pick in ESPN’s latest 2023 mock draft. Neptune boasts the talent to maintain the same pedigree the program enjoyed under Wright.
Player to watch: A key member of an Oregon squad that chases a Pac-12 title this season, Kel’el Ware, a 7-footer from North Little Rock, Arkansas, is projected to be the 11th pick next summer, per ESPN’s most recent 2023 mock draft.
Something for the college hoops junkies: Before transferring to Alabama for the 2022-23 season, Mark Sears (19.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 4.1 APG at Ohio) helped the Bobcats keep turnovers to just 14.1% of their possessions, according to hooplens.com.
After Drew Timme’s announcement saying he’s coming back to Gonzaga, take a look at some of his best moments from last season.
2022 Phil Knight Legacy
Dates: Nov. 24-27
Site: Veterans Memorial Coliseum/Moda Center/Chiles Center, Portland, Oregon
Team to beat: While a talented young Duke squad might need some time to mature under new head coach Jon Scheyer, Gonzaga and Drew Timme — who will be a preseason All-American on every reputable list entering the season — will be ready to put last season’s Sweet 16 loss to Arkansas behind them and make another run toward the program’s first national title. Chattanooga transfer Malachi Smith (19.9 PPG, 41% from 3) will also boost a Bulldogs offense that lost lottery pick Chet Holmgren in the NBA draft.
Sleeper team: The NIT championship run not only helped Xavier reboot after a rocky finish to its regular season, it also convinced the nucleus of that team to return — a group that includes Jack Nunge (13.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG) and Colby Jones (11.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG). New head coach Sean Miller is also high on UTEP transfer Souley Boum, who averaged 19.8 PPG and shot 37% from beyond the arc last season.
Player to watch: Dereck Lively and Dariq Whitehead are the top two recruits in the 2022 class according to ESPN, but Jeremy Roach (8.6 PPG) — a hero in Duke’s Final Four run last season — is the veteran who will play a significant role for Scheyer in his first year as head coach.
Something for the college hoops junkies: Zach Edey made 77% of his shots at the rim for Purdue last season, per hoop-math.com.
Stanford’s Harrison Ingram & Spencer Jones make back-to-back 3s to keep the game tight against Arizona.
2022 ESPN Events Invitational
Dates: Nov. 24-25, 27
Site: ESPN Wide World of Sports, Orlando, Florida
Team to beat: Memphis lost key players to the transfer portal and Jalen Duren to the NBA, but the addition of Kendric Davis (19.4 PPG, 37% from 3 last season), who will enter the season with All-American and Wooden Award aspirations after a stellar career at SMU, will give Penny Hardaway a chance to make another run at the NCAA tournament. Boise State transfer Emmanuel Akot (10.6 PPG) and returnee DeAndre Williams (11.1 PPG) will further boost an intriguing roster.
Player to watch: Stanford coach Jerod Haase has quietly built a program that can compete for the Pac-12 title with Spencer Jones and Harrison Ingram, the top scorers from last season’s team. But Michael Jones, who averaged 11.8 PPG at Davison last season, could determine where the Cardinal land in the conference standings.
Something for the college hoops junkies: Poor shooters can become great shooters over time, too. Take Al-Amir Dawes (Clemson), one of three key transfers for Shaheen Holloway’s Seton Hall squad that could upset the field here and throughout the season. He finished 48-for-151 (nearly 32%) from beyond the arc as a freshman before improving to 84-of-211 (nearly 40%) in the same stat last season.
Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic
Dates: Dec. 22-25
Site: Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu, Hawai’i
Team to beat: Rick Pitino’s Iona squad won 25 games last year on its way to a MAAC regular-season championship. Nelly Junior Joseph, a first team all-MAAC player, is back, and he will join Cruz Davis, a four-star recruit who originally committed to Oregon State, as Pitino aims to win a second consecutive league crown.
Sleeper team: Although Darrion Trammell (17.3 PPG) transferred out, Cameron Tyson (14.7 PPG, nearly 38% from 3) and Riley Grigsby (12.8 PPG) are back to help a Seattle team that weathered an early-season coaching change to capture a share of the WAC crown in 2021-22.
Player to watch: Louisville transfer Samuell Williamson is now at SMU, where he hopes to match the hype that has followed him since he was a five-star recruit in the 2019 class.
Something for the college hoops junkies: In his 33 years as a head coach, Rick Pitino has just one losing season (1980-81, at Boston College).