Busting Brackets

NCAA Basketball: Ranking all 358 D-I programs for 2021-22 season

Oct 15, 2021; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero (5) dunks as his jersey is pulled by forward Theo John (12) during Duke Countdown to Craziness at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2021; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero (5) dunks as his jersey is pulled by forward Theo John (12) during Duke Countdown to Craziness at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports /
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Missouri State junior Gaige Prim  Tbears Bb00207
Missouri State junior Gaige Prim  Tbears Bb00207 /

120. Northern Iowa Panthers- Last Season Ranking: 63

Conference: Missouri Valley

Many had extremely high expectations for Northern Iowa last year and it was because they had some of the best shooters in the country heading into the year and the front runner for the Missouri Valley player of the year. After three games the best player got hurt and the Panthers were never able to recover.

Heading into this year the Panthers should still have high expectations as they have all five starters returning and the hope is that their star will return from injury to help the team. When Northern Iowa is right, they hit a ton of threes, spread the floor, and play fast. If they can get back to that then they will likely make the tournament and make a lot of noise while doing so.

AJ Green was the 2019-2020 Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley, he was well on his way to winning the award again last year before he got hurt. If he is healthy and returns to form this year the ceiling is very high for the Panthers.

119. Georgia Bulldogs – Last Season Ranking: 98

Conference: SEC

At this point, it must be hard for Georgia fans to stand in Tom Crean’s corner. He is a decent coach, but he cannot keep players in the program. The Bulldogs do not have a single player, who was part of the regular rotation, back again this season. That is going to be near impossible to project for them.

One thing is likely certain and that is going to be that the Bulldogs may be one of the worst power schools in the country and are likely destined for a dead-last finish in the tough SEC.  Coach Crean has always been able to recruit at a high level and secure a ton of talent into the Bulldog program but it is becoming rarer that he is able to win with the talent that he has. The offense won’t be a problem, as Georgia has always found a way to score points, but with so many new pieces defense is once again going to be tough.

If Georgia can’t figure out their defense again then it is going to be a tough year. If they can play a little defense they may surprise, as the roster is not without talent. Jabri Abdur-Rahim, a transfer from Virginia, is going to have one of the highest usage ratings in the country.

118. Furman Paladins – Last Season Ranking: 74

Conference: Southern

The Paladins have been a good team within the Southern conference for a few years now and have yet to make it over the hump. They are still looking for their first NCAA tournament appearance since the 1979 season. Head coach Bob Richey has a chance to get them there this year as he does have arguably the best player in the league.

Under Richey, the Paladins are going to shoot a ton of threes, every player on the floor for Furman regardless of position will take and make threes. When a defense tries to take away the three-point line the Paladins shot over 60% from inside the arc last year.

The offense is explosive and hard to stop. This year Furman did lose two very prolific shooters and scorers but do still have 3 out of the five starters back from last year and a lot of depth pieces return as well. Furman finishes near the top of the pack in the Southern Conference. Mike Bothwell is the best player in the Southern Conference. He is going to get even better if he improves upon his three-point shooting.

117. Iowa State Cyclones – Last Season Ranking: 54

Conference: Big 12

Let’s just cut to the chase with Iowa State; they were terrible last year, they won two games all year and didn’t win a single game in the conference. They had one of the worst offenses and worst defenses in the country last year. That was enough for Steve Prohm who started out so promising as the head man of the Cyclones but went 14-42 in his last two seasons.

Enter head coach TJ Otzelberger who is a great recruiter and great in-game coach. The new headman has his work cut out for him this year as Iowa State enters the year with an 18-game losing streak and an entirely new roster. However, the roster has tons of talent and was all acquired through the transfer portal. It is all players who never panned out at their old schools or left due to a coaching change.

Iowa State will be better as there is only one way to go from there and that is up. Hilton will finally be rocking again. Izaiah Brockington is a graduate transfer from Penn State. He can score and play defense and both of those are things that Iowa State desperately needs.

116. Vermont Catamounts – Last Season Ranking: 99

Conference: America East

John Becker has done a tremendous job as the coach of Vermont; he has his Catamounts consistently at the top of the America East conference. The team also consistently has the best player in the league as well and even in a rebuilding year, the Catamounts are still going to project near the top of the league. Vermont is always one of the best free throw shooting teams, and one of the teams that is extremely efficient from inside the arc. Coach Becker prides himself on those aspects of the game.

One other thing about a signature Catamount team is their ability to shut down their opponents and make offense a chore. The Catamounts play slow and get teams to take low percentage shots. They are fundamentally sound on the defensive end and it has led to a ton of wins for Coach Becker.

Vermont is going to be right back in their comfortable position at the top of the America East again this season. Ryan Davis, who has already won the sixth man of the year two seasons ago. Is looking to win back-to-back player of the year awards.

115. Southern Utah Thunderbirds – Last Season Ranking: 249

Conference: Big Sky

I was not overly high on Southern Utah heading into last year because they had never been good before and their roster still had some question marks. The Thunderbirds ended the year with one of the best winning percentages in the country a season ago at 20-4. Southern Utah also had an extremely high-powered offense. They took a ton of shots and took a ton of free throws.

The Thunderbirds made almost 60% of all their shots, were tremendous on the glass, and never turned the ball over. Those are all things that going to make winning sustainable and with all of their significant production back from last season Southern Utah is likely going to finish near the top of the Big Sky again. Tevian Jones will likely win Big Sky Player of the Year and don’t be surprised if the Thunderbirds have one of best winning percentages in the country again.

114. Marshall Thundering Herd – Last Season Ranking: 119

Conference: Conference USA

Marshall returned 96% of their scoring and minutes a season ago, so them finishing near the top of the Conference USA was expected. The Thundering Herd head coach Dan D’Antoni is another coach who recruits to his system and doesn’t care about stars. He always seems to have a few players who can light up a scoreboard as well. Marshall shoots a ton of threes and they were one of the fastest teams in the country a year ago. Another signature of the Thundering Herd is their ability to have good rebounding guards.

Marshall doesn’t return as much as they did last year but they do still have their top two scorers including 20 point per game and 41% three-point shooter Taevion Kinsey. Kinsey is one of the best pure shooters and scorers in the country. Marshall is going to compete near the top of the Conference USA again this season.

113. Ohio Bobcats – Last Season Ranking: 197

Conference: MAC

Ohio finally reached their full potential last year when they made a run and won the MAC tournament and then knocked off Virginia in the NCAA tournament. All five starters for the Bobcats were in double figures and the offense was a thing of beauty.

Ohio passed the ball well and averaged about 18 assists per game, they were extremely efficient inside the arc as they have a ton of guys who like to get downhill and get to the rim. With so much ball-handling it would be understandable if turnovers were just a product of Ohio played. Wrong, they didn’t turn the ball over either.

The Bobcats have four of their five starters back and a tremendous freshman at point guard. Ohio may dominate the MAC this season. They have the best team on paper, and the second-best team isn’t nearly as talented as Ohio projects to be. Freshman point guard Mark Sears has huge shoes to fill as the replacement for Jason Preston. Sears had a great season last year and is primed for a huge breakout this season.

112. UCSB Gauchos – Last Season Ranking: 146

Conference: Big West

Head coach Joe Pasternak has never won less than 20 games in his four full seasons as the head coach of the Gauchos. UCSB finally made the NCAA tournament last season and showed well as they took Creighton down to the wire. The Gauchos have a lot of their roster back from last season, and that team was unbelievable on the glass. They allowed the 10th fewest rebounds in the country last year at just under 30, and the Gauchos averaged about 35 rebounds per contest last year.

It isn’t every year that a coach can find a player who is a lockdown defender and UCSB has multiple guys who fit this bill. The Gauchos didn’t really do anything flashy last year they were just a solid team who didn’t beat themselves and it didn’t hurt that they were extremely efficient from the floor last year. The Gauchos shot 55% from inside the arc and ended up shooting about 48% from the floor overall.

Even though UCSB lost their best player to the NBA, the team has staying power and Pasternack has figured it out and has a team that does nothing but win. The Gauchos are a top of the Big West team. Amadou Sow returns to lead the Gauchos.

111. Rhode Island Rams – Last Season Ranking: 107

Conference: Atlantic 10

I can’t speak for every writer, but I can speak for myself and I will say I had much more faith in Rhode Island heading into last season. I figured they would be a factor in the top four of the Atlantic 10. I was wrong, as the Rams struggled to score all year and ended up with a losing record and a middle-of-the-pack finish in the conference. This year doesn’t look to be any better as Rhode Island didn’t really do anything overly impressive in the offseason.

The one thing the Rams can hang their hat on is the fact that they should be experienced this year. They do have a lot of guys on their roster who played a lot of basketball last year. They were not efficient, and they don’t shoot many threes. Rhode Island was and should still be a good rebounding team, but they don’t score enough for it to matter. The Rams finish middle-of-the-pack again. Senior guard Jeremy Sheppard leads the way for Rhody.

110. Liberty Flames – Last Season Ranking: 200

Conference: Atlantic Sun

Liberty under head coach Ritchie McKay is turning into a mid-major dynasty and they are also turning into one of those teams that are going to find it harder and harder to schedule a power five team. The Flames do what they do and what they do is take and make a ton of threes, they have extremely balanced scoring, and the most important is they play lock-down defense. Their defense just isn’t something that is only good in the Atlantic Sun. The Flames make it unbelievably hard to score because they pack, they paint, and deny you the three-point line.

Liberty also makes it tremendously hard to get a rebound, and then they play slow and shorten the game. The Flames are one of the best mid-major teams in the country until they prove they are going to have a down year. Atlantic Sun reigning player of the year Darius McGhee likely wins it again and Liberty runs away and hides in the Atlantic Sun.

109. Georgia State Panthers – Last Season Ranking: 171

Conference: Sun Belt

The Panthers have not missed a beat in the transition from coach Ron Hunter to Rob Lanier. Georgia State had one of the most prolific offenses in the country as all five starters ended up in double figures. The Panthers play fast and get shots up, and they are extremely efficient when they shoot. They were in the top 20 in the country in made field goals, field goals attempted, and points per game. They were in the top 50 overall in shooting percentage.

All five starters and most of the depth return for Georgia State as they are the preseason favorite to win the Sun Belt and make the NCAA tournament. The Panthers should be putting some power schools on watch because they are going to give them a game with their ability on offense. The frontcourt can rebound and protect the rim.

There is a lot to like with the Panthers. Senior guard Corey Allen can really score. He shot about 43% from deep last year and he takes a lot of threes and led Georgia State in scoring a year ago.

108. Missouri State Bears – Last Season Ranking: 193

Conference: Missouri Valley

Head coach Dana Ford has had his Bears trending up for the last few years and this year may be their best year yet. Missouri State plays a relatively slow style and they are a tremendous rebounding team.

The Bears gave up about 60 shot attempts a season ago and teams were horribly inefficient against them only shooting about 41% overall from the floor. The Bears don’t play a pressure style on defense, and they don’t force a lot of opponent turnovers, but they are extremely physical underneath and are a great rebounding team.

Missouri State has their three top scorers back and added a great player from another Missouri Valley team. Isiaih Mosley is going to average 20 plus points per game and has a chance to lead the Missouri Valley in scoring.

107. New Mexico State Aggies – Last Season Ranking: 60

Conference: WAC

Last season should be thrown out for New Mexico State. The Aggies had an extremely tough go of it last year. First, there was the mandate that no events could be held in an indoor arena in their state, so New Mexico State had to relocate to Arizona for the non-conference portion of the season. Then if that wasn’t enough the Aggies had two long Covid shutdowns. It just seemed like New Mexico State could never get their minds right and stumbled to the finish line.

Well, they are back again this year, and they still have the best team in the WAC. However, this season will be a little different for the Aggies than in the years past given that the conference is stronger top to bottom. They now must deal with not only Grand Canyon, who they have never had much trouble with, but also Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State. Those are two teams who are going to close the gap with the Aggies.

New Mexico State went out and got some good transfers on the market and return their three top scorers. They may have the best starting five of any team in the league and have two guards who can light scoreboards up. Jabari Rice returns for the Aggies and is one of the best guards no one in the country knows about. That all changes this year.

106. Utah State Aggies – Last Season Ranking: 61

Conference: Mountain West

New head coach Ryan Odom is going to have a lot of key pieces returning from an Aggie team that underachieved last year. Craig Smith was the coach last season and he led the team to 20 wins and third-place finish in the Mountain West but given what the team had returning some consider that a failure.

Smith is now off to Utah and former UMBC head coach Odom takes over. Odom brought his two-star players with him to join forces with the two experienced holdovers for Utah State and that is going to create a formidable starting five. The Aggies may be one of the best rebounding teams in the country next year and they are going to have a steady point guard who doesn’t turn the ball over, that is a formula for winning games especially if the role players can hit their shots and play defense.

Utah State is still one of the top teams in the league. Justin Bean returns and he is a double-double machine and should get some serious looks for the Mountain West Player of the Year especially if the Aggies win some games and finish near the top of this league.

105. UC-Irvine Anteaters – Last Season Ranking: 117

Conference: Big West

UC Irvine and head coach Russ Turner have never been a flashy offense, they do enough to win games. The Anteaters, under Turner, have always been one of the better defensive teams in the country and that was true last year. The Anteaters play a style that allows the opponents to take shots, but they are usually low percentage shots and Irvine is a very good rebounding team who can clean up the misses and only give teams one look at the basket.

Heading into this season the Anteaters are going to have a great defense again and their offense is not going to be flashy, but it will be good enough. The defense may take a second to adjust as the Anteaters did lose their best defender last year, but coach Turner will get his guys coached up and their defense will still shut teams down. Collin Welp returns for his senior year and he leads Irvine in everything on both ends of the floor.

104. Washington Huskies – Last Season Ranking: 59

Conference: Pac-12

Mike Hopkins has not done well as the coach of the Huskies. They have gotten worse every year he has been there and last year may have been rock bottom. This can’t be what the athletic department envisioned when they decided to fire Lorenzo Romar. The Huskies are on their way to becoming the worst power five school which is astounding given how much talent has come through the program over the last 15 years. Washington has four rotation players back from last year’s team that won 5 games, so it is a full-blown rebuild in Seattle.

Coach Hopkins did go out and get some good talent in the transfer market but it likely won’t be enough. Will the team buy-in on both ends of the floor?  No expectations could be good for a program like Washington, the Huskies have enough talent to put it together and be a lot better than they should be. Jamal Bey is one of the returning starters, and he posted career highs in scoring and rebounding last year. He is a good shooter and will get the ball a lot in this offense.

103. Minnesota Golden Gophers – Last Season Ranking: 81

Conference: Big Ten

New head coach Ben Johnson has his work cut out for him as he had to build a whole new roster entirely from scratch. The last time that happened in the conference was with Fred Hoiberg and Nebraska in his first year. We all know how that went. The Gophers should be better than that Nebraska team, but they still seem to be destined for a dead-last finish in the league.

Minnesota has a lot of question marks and the first one being is how good will Ben Johnson be as a coach?  Likely pretty good as he comes from a great coaching tree. The other question is how well will these players adapt to playing with each other and will they score enough?  Those are all questions that will be soon be answered.

I am concerned that the Golden Gophers will struggle out of the gate, never gain their momentum, and have one of the worst years in school history. We have seen this movie before in the conference. Sean Sutherlin, a transfer from New Hampshire, is one of the best rebounding guards in the country, and he averages double-digit points. He plays the game unlike any other guard in the league and that could be a huge advantage for Minnesota.

102. Saint Louis Billikens – Last Season Ranking: 47

Conference: Atlantic 10

Heading into last season the Billikens were one of the two teams I had the most confidence in making the NCAA tournament last year and I was wrong on both. Saint Louis had an unbelievable backcourt last year who accounted for the bulk of their scoring and their production.

On the defensive end, the Billikens were one of the best rebounding teams in the country, they also didn’t allow their opponents to get many rebounds either they allowed the 9th fewest rebounds in the country at 30 per game. Saint Louis has one of the best pure passing point guards in the country and he is a huge asset to the team as the Billikens are at their best when they are moving the ball. Head coach Travis Ford isn’t a fantastic coach and his offenses are never great.

The defense for a Ford-coached team is always good. This year though Saint Louis returns a good portion of their roster. They did also add the nation’s leader in three-point attempts. The Billikens didn’t take a ton of threes last year, but coach Ford has shown that he will shoot the ball from deep if he does have the shooters.

This year, Saint Louis could see an uptick in three-pointers. Yuri Collins is the point guard and he is one of the best passers and defenders at the position in the country. He doesn’t score a ton of points, but no player is more important to the success of a program than Collins. When he plays Saint Louis is good as he gets everyone involved and makes everyone around him better.

101. Colgate Raiders – Last Season Ranking: 143

Conference: Patriot League

Colgate was a great basketball team a year ago and they were the second-best offense in the country. There wasn’t much that anyone could do to stop them on the offensive end of the floor, they were 10 in assists with 18 per game, third overall in three-point percentage with 41% per game, and the Raiders made the second-most shots of anyone in the country with just over 30 makes per game.

As a team they shot near 50% from the floor overall, they were one of the top defensive rebounding teams in the country and never turned the ball over. Colgate is developing a little dynasty in the Patriot League, and last year they were a very trendy pick to knock off Arkansas in the NCAA tournament. Head coach Matt Langel returns a lot of the roster from a season ago and it would be a huge upset if Colgate didn’t find themselves back in the NCAA tournament for the third time in three years. The Raiders do have the ability to beat a power conference school especially if they are hitting their threes and playing at their pace of play, which is fast.

Jack Ferguson shot over 50% from deep last year and he is probably going to do it again this year. Colgate is going to be a fun team to follow this year as they are capable of winning every time they step on the floor.