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Men’s college basketball has experienced an abnormal amount of first-time champions the last handful of years – Virginia won its initial title in 2019, ending a 13-year drought for new kids on the block. Then, Baylor matched UVA in 2021. We didn’t get a newbie in 2022, but when you look at the top of the sport right now, there is plenty of hope that an inaugural champion will be coronated again.
Now, the NCAA Tournament is bedlam. Every March, favorites for the title fall before the second weekend. The 2023 crown could be bestowed upon the head of a team currently unranked. But I can’t highlight every program that hasn’t achieved supremacy before, so I’m sticking to just the current betting favorites.
These are the top contenders for the national championship who have never done it before.
Eight 2023 College Basketball Title Contenders Without a Chip
Based on odds on Jan. 30, 2023, via BetMGM.
Houston is the odds-on favorite to become the 2023 national champions, which would finally add that coveted trophy the program has come so close to achieving on multiple occasions. With arguably the best defense in the country, a coach who’s been around the block, and the talent of Marcus Sasser running the show, the Cougars are a strong contender.
During the Phi Slama Jama days with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, the Cougars came as close as possible to their first national championship, losing in the title games of 1983 and 1984. Houston also made the Final Four in 1967, 1968, 1982, and 2021 but couldn’t convert those runs any further.
This program has a rich history in the sport – all that eludes it is that precious crown.
The Crimson Tide are not a historical giant, but their stature seems comparable this season. Nate Oats has his squad among the favorites for the title. His deep roster, headlined by 20-point-per-game scorer Brandon Miller, is one of the most talented in the nation.
The closest Alabama has come to an NCAA Tournament title was in 2004 when the team reached the Elite Eight. Otherwise, the Crimson Tide have advanced to 15 Sweet 16s (excluding a vacated trip from 1987), last reaching the second weekend in 2021. In other words, this team could realistically cement itself as the greatest in the program’s history.
Purdue has a long and strong history in men’s college basketball, but it has not yet translated to an NCAA Tournament title. In 1969, the Boilermakers got the closest they ever have, earning a date with UCLA in the title game. But they came up well short, 95-72, against the Bruins. Purdue also made the Final Four in 1980.
This year’s team has one of the most efficient offenses in the country and boasts one of the premier big men in the nation in Zach Edey. A favorite for National Player of the Year, Edey is averaging better than 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. He would become a Purdue legend for life if he could bring a championship to West Lafayette.
The Vols have the fifth-best odds to win the national championship, which would be by far the greatest accomplishment in program history.
Tennessee has never played in the Final Four, let alone won it all. The closest the program came was in 2010 when it reached the Elite Eight, but that was also its only-ever appearance that deep in the tournament. Otherwise, the Volunteers have featured in the Sweet 16 eight times, most recently in 2019.
With an outstanding defense and a balanced scoring attack, this Tennessee team has the opportunity to rewrite the narrative around the program with a national championship.
The closest Texas has ever come to obtaining a national title is the Final Four. The Longhorns have reached the national semifinals three times: 1943, 1947, and 2003. The program has appeared in the Elite Eight on four other occasions.
The 2022-23 Longhorns are operating under a different coach from the one they started with, but that hasn’t slowed them down on the court. With Rodney Terry as the interim head coach, Texas has remained near the top of the sport. Marcus Carr is still scoring, and the team has continued its efficiency inside the arc. Despite conventional wisdom, Texas has stayed among the title contenders.
It’s been 55 years since TCU played in its sole Elite Eight – the Horned Frogs are not a usual suspect near the top of men’s college basketball. Since the Elite Eight run in 1968, TCU has only appeared in five NCAA Tournaments.
But this year’s team is serious. TCU plays tough defense, is very difficult to handle on the offensive glass, and Mike Miles is a scoring force with 19.1 points per contest. Jamie Dixon has his team playing fantastic basketball, and the Horned Frogs cannot be overlooked as a serious contender for the 2023 championship.
Xavier is still seeking its first Final Four appearance. The Musketeers have been to the Elite Eight three times – 2004, 2008, and 2017 – but came up short in all three advancement attempts. The addition of a national championship would do wonders for the national perception of Xavier’s program and for its fans’ arguments with braggadocios Bearcats.
The Musketeers have one of the nation’s most efficient offenses, which includes four players averaging better than 14 points per outing. Xavier is a strong contender for the Big East regular season crown and has pushed itself into the conversation for the national title.
The Zags have come so close to winning their first national championship in recent years but couldn’t finish the job. Gonzaga played in the national championship game in 2017 and 2021 but bowed to North Carolina and Baylor, respectively, in those contests. Those years represent the program’s only Final Four runs, though Gonzaga has earned a spot in the Elite Eight on three other occasions: 1999, 2015, and 2019.
Gonzaga has one of the premier offensive attacks in America, with Drew Timme and Julian Strawther as the biggest guns in Mark Few’s balanced arsenal. Timme is scoring 22 points per game, Strawther is connecting on almost 41 percent of his three-point attempts, and both are rebounding at a high level. This version of the Zags hasn’t been as dominant thus far as other iterations in their recent past, but they’re still among the contenders in this upcoming March Madness.