The 2023 DI men's indoor track and field regular season is over for most teams and the postseason is here. We're two weeks away from selections — conference championships lie in between — but the regular season has provided enough races to predict this year's future champions.
Unlike the women's indoor track and field predictions where two top contenders have set themselves apart, the men's indoor teams are tightly packed with plenty of teams that have shown title-winning capabilities so far.
So where do things stand and who is my prediction to lift the ultimate trophy come March 11? Let's evaluate the contenders and go from there, with my prediction for the champion at the end.
The teams with podium potential
These teams will need everything to go just right for them to win the championship, but I can still see top-three finishes with strong performances.
No. 16 Northern Arizona
Northern Arizona finished fourth at last year's indoor championships with only three point scorers. The Lumberjacks could finish even higher this year with just two point scorers, Drew Bosley and Nico Young.
Bosley already holds the collegiate record in the 3000 meters and has run the fourth-fastest 5000-meter time this year. Young scored eight points in 2022 and has the fifth-fastest 5000-meter time this year. Bosley and Young are both capable of finishing 1-2 in the 3000 and 5000 meters, which would equal a combined 36 points. That alone would land NAU on the podium.
Throw in the potential of Mitchell Effing in the jumps — or another talented distance runner like Theo Quax potentially scoring — and you have the makings of another impressive NAU surge to the podium.
No. 24 Stanford
Stanford is similar to NAU in that it will rely on a handful of athletes for its point-scoring at indoor championships. The Cardinal will look to sprinter Udodi Onwuzurike for potential points in the 60 meters and 200 meters, with the latter event being his best event. The Cardinal will then need its deep distance crew to perform big.
Ky Robinson, Cole Sprout and Charles Hicks are all talented enough to score points in the mile, 3000 meters or 5000 meters. A great day from all three will land Stanford on the podium.
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The programs where winning will really matter
I can see any of the schools in this category winning the 2023 DI men's indoor title, but it is dependent on first-place finishes. This first-place dependency is asking a lot, so I can't pick them as my title pick, even with the alluring potential.
No. 5 Tennessee
Tennessee needs its best athletes to perform their best for a shot at the title. That means Dylan Jacobs, the current leader in the 3000 meters and 5000 meters after the regular season, needs to keep up his pace. It also means defending indoor 200-meter champion Javonte Harding will have to... defend his title. That's 30 points right there.
Now, the Volunteers will need the rest of its top performers to score points. Leonard Mustari will have to finish as a finalist in the 60 meter hurdles and improve upon his 14th-fastest time after the regular season and Yaseen Abdalla must score points in the 3000 meters for any shot at a Tennessee team title. Don't forget about Emmanuel Bynum either; he'll likely need a 200-400 point-scoring double and maybe even a 400-meter win.
None of this is out of reach for Tennessee, but I can't pick the Vols to win the title when just one thing going wrong can knock them out of title contention.
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No. 8 Georgia
Georgia has a big three that few in collegiate track and field can match. Kyle Garland, Matthew Boling and Elija Godwin are three of the best in not just the NCAA but also the US at their events, but even that may not be enough for a Bulldog title.
For any chance at a title, Georgia will need Garland to win the heptathlon, Boling to win the 200 meters and Godwin to win the 400 meters. The Bulldogs will then need Boling and Godwin to help carry the 4x400 meter relay team to a win. Boling may even need to double in the 60 or 400 meters and score points.
If all that happens, Georgia will score the 40-plus points that will be needed to win the title. I think the Bulldogs could even see freshman Will Sumner add to the point total after the 800 meters. However, that is a lot to ask from four athletes, no matter how elite they are. That keeps Georgia from being my title pick.
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No. 2 Washington
Washington is another great distance program that will rely on its distance runners heavily for point scoring. However, the Huskies are a step above the "podium potential" category because they have potential in more than just distance events.
There's a chance for more top-eight finishes after Nathan Green or Cass Elliott's top-15 regular season performances in the 800 meters and Jacob Englar's 12th-best regular season pole vault. Weight thrower Jayden White has the seventh-best mark in the event and could finish higher at the championships. A potential five to six points from this trio should excite all Huskies fans.
Of course, the distance events will determine Washington's chances of winning the team title, with the mile standing out above them all. Washington has four top-five mile times this season, with another runner in the top 16. There's a world where the Huskies use pack running to take the top-four places in the mile at NCAAs. At least four in the top six are likely needed for a Washington title.
Even if that happens, distance runners like Brian Fay and Kieran Lumb will likely need to double and score in either the 3000 or 5000 meters — maybe both — for Washington to win it all. I'm tired just thinking about the exertion that takes. Washington has a shot, but it will take a lot.
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The dark horses
No. 7 Florida
Florida is a dark-horse team after the regular season. I am confident the Gators will score points from its 4x400 meter relay team and 800-meter runner Sam Austin, who both have the second-best marks after the regular season. Sean Dixon-Bodie will also score points in at least one horizontal jump event. Things get iffier after that.
PJ Austin currently has the 10th-fastest 60-meter time and 14th-best triple-jump mark. Malcolm Clemons sits 14th in the triple jump. Any points they score for Florida will be like icing on a Gator-sized cake. However, Austin and Clemons aren't who make Florida a dark horse, it's the others.
Corvell Todd hasn't matched the potential shown in his runner-up finish at the 2022 NCAA indoor high jump only having the 22nd-best mark after the regular season. Despite having finalists across the board in the 400 meters, no Florida Gator has a top-10 time this season. Ryan Willie, Robert Gregory, Jacory Patterson nor Emmanuel Bamidele land in scoring range. There's still time at SECs for any of them to qualify for the 400 at NCAAs, and if they do Florida could have the depth needed to contend for a title. The same quartet could also qualify in the 200 meters, giving the Gators another chance for more points.
That's why the Gators are a dark horse, but not my predicted title winner. I haven't seen Florida live up to its full potential, but if it does, it has what it takes to win it all.
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Programs in the runner-up range
No. 4 Texas
If everything is bigger in Texas, the score will need to be bigger too come NCAA indoors. Current top-20 mark holders Marcellus Moore (200m), Solomon Washington (LJ) and Patrick Piperi (16) will all likely need to contribute points in their events to boost Texas' title defense.
It gets interesting from there with several potential winners. Leo Neugebaurer will likely be the third-best heptathlete entering the championships amid an all-time field. Yusuf Bizimana and Crayton Carroza are first and third, respectively, in the 800 meters and neither can fall off by much for the Longhorns. Jonathan Jones has long been a great 400-meter runner on an international level. If that wasn't enough Texas has Stacy Brown Jr. in the long jump and Moore again in the 60 meters.
That's six athletes who currently are in the point-scoring range and have all shown flashes of top-three finishes at NCAAs. How many will actually make the top three is where there's uncertainty. Texas has a great chance at a title, but I don't see it repeating.
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No. 2 Texas Tech
Texas Tech has a diverse set of sprinters and field athletes that could carry it to a title. Zach Bradford and Omamuyovwi Erhire could win the pole vault and high jump, respectively, while triple jumper Chris Welch and heptathlete Denim Rogers may also add a point or two. Elsewhere, Courtney Lindsey in the 200 meters and Antoine Andrews in the 60 hurdles are two of the best in the country. Then there's Maryland transfer Caleb Dean.
If Dean can qualify for the 60-meter and 60-meter hurdles finals, he could be what gets the Red Raiders over the top. Yet, time is against him with only 30 minutes between those events on both days of the indoor championships.
Texas Tech has the top-end athletes across events to win a title, but it's still not enough to get the Red Raiders my pick after the regular season because of the final team on the list.
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The predicted 2023 men's indoor champion
No. 1 Arkansas
Arkansas is my 2023 DI men's indoor champion pick after the regular season because of its deep roster. The Razorbacks used the transfer portal to its advantage and now look like the eventual champions.
Let's look at the transfers who have me confident that they will score points this season.
- Wayne Pinnock, the defending indoor and outdoor long jump champion, has the third-best long jump this year
- Carey McLeod, an Olympian, has the fourth-best long jump and 16th-best triple jump this year.
- Lance Lang has the sixth-best 200-meter time this year.
- Jordan West has the fifth-best shot put this year.
- Rojé Stona has the 13th-best shot put this year
- Christopher Bailey leads the nation with his 400-meter time.
- Kason O'Reily has the 15th-best high jump this year.
- Yariel Soto Torrado has the sixth-best score in the heptathlon this year.
That group of transfers alone may score 35 points. Impressively, the listed Arkansas transfers don't even include the most impressive Razorback newcomer, freshman triple jumper Jaydon Hibbert, who leads the nation in the event.
Arkansas' roster is so deep that it could contend for a title without its NCAA-leading 4x400 meter relay or the defending combined-event-sweeping champion and Bowerman finalist Ayden Owens-Delerme. Unfortunately for every other school, the Razorbacks will have both at the NCAA championships.
Even if one athlete underperforms in an event, Arkansas has the depth to score points to make up for it. The Razorbacks should be the clear favorite for the title and are my title pick after the regular season.