The 2022-23 college basketball season tipped off Monday night and all of the top teams took care of business early on and won easily. The Jon Scheyer era started at Duke with a 71-44 win over Jacksonville, and the Blue Devils will face their first big test Nov. 15 in Indianapolis for the Champions Classic as they square off against the defending national champions, No. 5 Kansas.
No. 1-ranked North Carolina, which returned four starters and added grad transfer Pete Nance from Northwestern, is the early favorite to win it all this season.
Other familiar teams are at the top but there are a few surprises to keep an eye on. With the transfer portal in full swing, which players will be instant-impact players on new teams this season?
Yahoo Sports takes a look at way-too-early Final Four favorites and sleepers, must-watch games this season and top transfers.
Final Four favorites
North Carolina (No. 1)
Both Caleb Love and Armando Bacot elected to return for another season instead of testing the NBA waters after falling short in the national championship game last season. The Tar Heels have a target on their back this season and there's enough talent and depth.
North Carolina won its first game of season, defeating UNC Wilmington 69-56. It wasn't an offensive dominating performance by any means and the group on the court looked more like a team learning to play with one another than returning four starters. North Carolina accounted for only four assists as a team, the fewest it had in a game since 1980. Head coach Hubert Davis chalked it up to nerves, telling reporters during his postgame news conference, "I just felt like, especially on the offensive end, we were moving at such a nervousness, anxiousness type of pace, that times we couldn’t even catch the basketball. I know we have a veteran group, but it was the first game and a lot of it was a result of a combination of being nervous and being anxious.”
Houston (No. 3)
Houston's 83-36 win over Northern Colorado on Monday gave head coach Kelvin Sampson his 700th career win. Sampson has built Houston into one of the best programs in the country and this season's team is loaded with talent. The Cougars are returning the talented backcourt duo of Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead and added a potential first-rounder in the upcoming NBA draft, Jarace Walker. Sasser led all players with 21 points in the landslide victory (including four 3-pointers) and added four steals and three assists.
UCLA (No. 8)
Mick Cronin has a lot of returning players and also players who were part of that Final Four run two years ago. Tyger Campbell will be running the point with standout freshman Amari Bailey joining him in the backcourt. Jaylen Clark, Jaime Jaquez and freshman Adem Bona will round out the starting five. This is a deep squad mixed with older players that know what it takes to make a Final Four run and key freshmen talent that give UCLA athleticism and speed.
Creighton (No. 9)
The Bluejays have never made the Final Four in school history and this team has all the tools to make a deep run this season. Sophomore Arthur Kaluma is getting first-round draft buzz heading into the season and can score from all three levels on the court. Creighton also returns Ryan Nembhard, Ryan Kalkbrenner and Trey Alexander to a team that went toe-to-toe with Kansas last season and defend the perimeter very well.
Final Four sleepers
Tennessee (No. 11)
This might be the team to propel Rick Barnes past disappointing showings in the NCAA tournament. The Vols easily beat No. 2 Gonzaga, 99-80, in an exhibition scrimmage on Oct. 29. They looked like a seasoned team. Tennessee has a speedy point guard in sophomore Zakai Zeigler, who runs the offense so well, and the darkhorse for the Vols has been Indiana State transfer Tyreke Key, who shoots lights out from deep. Guard Josiah-Jordan James is still sidelined recovering from minor knee surgery, but his frame looks stronger than last season.
Texas (No. 12)
Second-year head coach Chris Beard has a lot of weapons this season. Returning players Timmy Allen, Marcus Carr and Brock Cunningham are the leaders on the team along with adding Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter. Also joining this year, potential lottery pick freshman Dillon Mitchell, who is one of the most athletic newcomers to college hoops, and freshman combo guard Arterio Morris. Morris led all players coming off the bench in a preseason exhibition win against No. 10 Arkansas, connecting for 19 points (6-for-9 from the field and 4-for-6 from three). Texas has its first big test against No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16.
Illinois (No. 23)
This is a completely different team from the group that went into the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed two seasons ago. The Illini landed key transfers in Terrence Shannon Jr. from Texas Tech and Matthew Mayer from Baylor. Both were key contributors to tough teams in the Big 12 and have the experience to lead this team far this season. Shannon Jr. led the team with 24 points in an 87-57 win over Eastern Illinois to open the season. Illinois also added freshman guard Skyy Clark, who played for powerhouse Montverde Academy his senior year of high school. Clark and Shannon Jr. look comfortable in the backcourt and will only continue to build chemistry as the season goes on.
Arizona (No. 17)
This Arizona team is long and full of shot blockers with three 7-footers who move well for their size. Freshmen Dylan Anderson and Henri Veesaar and junior Oumar Ballo will all see solid minutes this season and can defend multiple positions on the court. Arizona landed a key transfer in former Texas guard Courtney Ramey, and 6-foot-11 junior Azuolas Tubelis is another versatile big who put up 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two blocks in the Wildcats' opening game against Nicholls.
The Champions Classic is a week later this season and gives both teams an opportunity to get a couple games under their belts before this blockbuster game. Kansas is the defending national champ, losing Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun to the NBA. Duke is bringing in the top recruiting class, and it will be a battle between a new team that's trying to find the chemistry early with a new head coach and a Kansas team that is also bringing in two top freshmen in Gradey Dick and MJ Rice.
This is a completely different Kentucky team with a plethora of new talent surrounding the leading rebounder from last season, Oscar Tshiebwe. Kentucky has not had great shooting teams in the last few seasons and put up 11 3-pointers in the first game against Howard. This will be a true battle inside with Tshiebwe and Gonzaga's Drew Timme, and the guards matchup is pretty even with the Zags' Nolan Hickman and Julian Strawther going head-to-head with Kentucky's Cason Wallace and Sahvir Wheeler.
One of the best non-conference matchups this season. Two new head coaches squaring off with UNC's Davis and Indiana's Mike Woodson. These are two evenly matched teams and all eyes will be on frontcourt battle of Bacot and Trayce Jackson-Davis. Assembly Hall is a tough environment to come into and if North Carolina can maintain the No. 1 ranking heading into this game, the atmosphere will have a March-like feel.
An argument could be made that UCLA vs. Arizona is the biggest rivalry in the Pac-12. These two teams do not like one another and it's always an electric atmosphere anytime they play. Both teams are going to play to their strengths this season, with Arizona getting the hand up on size and length and UCLA using its veteran team and depth. Last season got a little heated when Mac Etienne appeared to spit on a fan after the 76-66 loss in Tucson and was later arrested and cited for assault in relation to the incident. There will be a lot of anticipation leading up to this game.
Duke vs. North Carolina never disappoints, and the stakes are high with the older, experienced Tar Heels facing the top recruiting class coming in led by Dereck Lively III, Dariq Whitehead, Mark Mitchell, Kyle Filipowski and Tyrese Proctor. North Carolina ended Mike Krzyzewski and Duke's tournament run last season when the crosstown rivals squared off in the Final Four. Anytime these two face one another, it's must-watch basketball but this season is the changing of the guard with a new head coach in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Transfers to watch
Terrence Shannon Jr.
Old school: Texas Tech | New school: Illinois
Shannon Jr. could have a similar season to former Kansas wing Agbaji. The 6-foot-6 senior is reliable from deep, averaging 38.4% last season for Texas Tech. Illinois could surprise a lot of teams and with Shannon Jr.'s added experience and confidence. Look for him to be a leader on this Illini team.
Old school: SMU | New school: Memphis
Davis is the reigning AAC player of the year and shot 37.2% from 3-point range on 6.5 attempts per game. At 5-11, he is a versatile point guard who can also facilitate in the lane. In his Memphis debut, Davis posted 16 points and added six assists and two steals in the 76-67 win over Vanderbilt.
Old school: Indiana State | New school: Tennessee
Key sat out the 2021-22 season with a shoulder injury before transferring to Tennessee for a graduate year. The 6-2 sharpshooter ranks sixth on Indiana State’s all-time scoring list with 1,650 career points and is confident shooting from anywhere on the court. Key caught the attention of NBA scouts in an exhibition game against No. 2 Gonzaga where he led all players with 26 points, shooting 8-for-12 from the field with four 3-pointers.
Old school: Missouri State | New school: Missouri
Mosley led the Missouri Valley in scoring last season, averaging 20.4 points per game and shooting 50.4% from the field. Mosley had two 40-point games against Loyola-Chicago and Northern Iowa during the regular season and is stirring early NBA buzz with his scoring versatility as a 6-5 guard. Dennis Gates has put together a great roster mixed with returning players, a pair of four-star recruits and a key transfer like Mosley.
Old school: South Dakota State | New school: Creighton
This is a very deep Creighton team and with 6-foot-7 Kaluma collapsing the defense in the paint with his inside game, it will allow space on the perimeter for shooters. Scheierman was the Summit League Player of the Year last season and the lefty averaged 46.9% from 3-point range on 5.1 attempts per game. The Big East is very competitive this season, and if Scheierman gets hot from deep, this will be a very dangerous Creighton team.