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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NCAA Basketball
NCAA Basketball Central Arkansas Bears guard Masai Olowokere Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports /

350. Denver Pioneers – Last Season Ranking: 294

Conference: Summit League

Denver was a team that I still didn’t think would be very good but figured they would be a lot better than they ended up being. Denver won two games last year and fired their coach Rodney Billups. All of their key players have left. The Pioneers hired Jeff Wulbrun and year one is going to be a bad one as Denver does not have a single player who averaged double-digit points last year. Denver is not going to be good and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they are one of the worst teams in the country this year. Portland transfer Michael Henn is going to be asked to score early and often.

349. Houston Baptist Huskies – Last Season Ranking: 340

Conference: Southland

Just to clarify Houston Baptist has never had a problem putting the ball in the basket. Their problems come at the other end of the floor, the Huskies are leaky on the defensive end and have one of the worst defenses in College Basketball. They allowed over 80 points per game last year. Head Coach Ron Cottrell has not done much at the Division 1 level and has only won 10 games over the last two seasons. Za-Ontay Boothman returns to build of a very impressive Freshman campaign for Houston Baptist. Houston Baptist isn’t the worst team in the Southland, but they are one of the bottom tier teams.

348. Incarnate Word Cardinals – Last Season Ranking: 278

Conference: Southland

Incarnate Word lost their last six games a year ago but before that they were playing like one of the top half Southland teams. The Cardinals were one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country a season ago, making 38% of their shots a season ago. Incarnate Word and head coach Carson Cunningham are going to have to find a way to account for the loss of their star player from a season ago. It is always going to be tough to sustain success when one player on your team averages 20 points and the rest of the team doesn’t average double figures. This year the scoring should be more balanced led by Brandon Swaby. The Cardinals are looking destined for a bottom-tier Southland finish.

347. Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks – Last Season Ranking: 285

Conference: Ohio Valley

Head coach Anthony Stewart died unexpectedly right before the 2020-2021 season got underway. The Skyhawks were put in an impossible position because of it, Tennessee-Martin never lived up to their potential last year as playing a game due to a global pandemic and losing your coach and mentor became extremely difficult.

This year the Skyhawks hired one of the best young coaches in the college game in Ryan Ridder from Bethune-Cookman, and while Ridder will get his team where they need to go, year one may be tough. Tennessee Martin does not have a single player on this year’s roster who played for them last year. Coach Ridder has done a great job of getting talent quickly, but it is likely going to be an uphill climb this year. Darius Simmons was an elite scorer at Lenoir-Rhyne before grad transferring to the Skyhawks for his last season.

346. Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders – Last Season Ranking: 225

Conference: Southland

I clearly had way too much confidence in Texas A & M Corpus Christi last year. They were one of the worst teams in the country last year and it led to the Islanders hiring a new coach for this season. Current head coach Steve Lutz has been known to develop players quickly. This year he was able to retain some of the talent that TAMU Corpus Christi had and upgrade the rest of the roster quickly with transfers. The only way to go for the Islanders is up and Lutz should be the man for the job.

This year’s team doesn’t have much experience playing together so a bottom tier Southland finish is still likely. San Antonio Brinson is a transfer from NJIT who is going to help this team quickly on offense and on the glass.

345. Alabama A&M Bulldogs – Last Season Ranking: 331

Conference: SWAC

Dylan Howard is doing a tremendous job with the rebuild of the Bulldogs. When he took over the job Alabama A&M had not done much winning. They are getting closer and closer to .500 and are stocking the program with some good talent. When watching the Bulldogs, they are never very good on offense, but they had one of the best defenses in the SWAC and were top 100 overall a season ago. Star player Jalen Johnson returns to help the offense and if the defense improves some more then Alabama A&M could outplay this ranking.

344. South Carolina Upstate Spartans – Last Season Ranking: 198

Conference: Big South

I was a lot higher on USC Upstate last year because of their guard play, I did fail to consider the remainder of their depth and their lack of height which drastically hindered them on the defensive end of the floor. It doesn’t project to be a great season for the Spartans this year either given that they lost their two best players and leaders on the floor.

The Big South is a good conference and South Carolina Upstate has an uphill climb every year. The Spartans are likely going to finish near or at the bottom of the Big South and don’t be surprised if they are one of the worst teams in the country. Dalvin White returns to lead South Carolina Upstate.

343. Central Arkansas Bears – Last Season Ranking: 322

Conference: Atlantic Sun

Central Arkansas has only been a member of the Division 1 ranks since 2006, and they have never made an NCAA tournament. They have honestly never been near securing a bid to the NCAA tournament and they likely won’t be again this year. The Bears have a very comfortable spot in the bottom tier of the conference. The same will be true in the first year in the Atlantic Sun. The Bears were one of the better three-point shooting teams last year shooting at 36% from deep.

Like so many other teams Central Arkansas has never figured out how to defend they gave up over 80 points per game last year. That is never a recipe for winning basketball. Central Arkansas also lost their best player and star and are going to have a huge hole to fill. Second leading scorer Eddy Kayouloud may be in for a big year.

342. St. Thomas Tommies – Last Season Ranking: N/A

Conference: Summit League

This is year one at the Division 1 ranks for the Tommies. St. Thomas played 7 games last season before the season was lost due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The Tommies won them all and scored about 90 points per game while doing it. Expect some regression in their first transition year into Division 1, but don’t be surprised if the Tommies do make a little noise in the Summit League. Riley Miller shot 61% from deep last year and he takes a lot of threes for St. Thomas.

341. Columbia Lions – Last Season Ranking: 355

Conference: Ivy League

The entire Ivy League cancelled the season last year so this will be the first time Columbia takes the floor since 2019-2020. The Lions have never been able to gain much traction under their new head coach Jim Engles.

Columbia comes into the season with a current 13 game losing streak and in 2019-2020 they had one of the worst offenses in the country scoring under 70 points per game. Ike Nweke returns to try and help Columbia get on the right side of .500.

340. IUPUI Jaguars – Last Season Ranking: 337

Conference: Horizon League

The Jaguars have a new coach, and almost 70% of the scoring from a season ago is no longer on campus. New head coach Matt Crenshaw heads back to his alma mater with a tall task ahead of him. Coach Crenshaw has a full rebuild ahead of him and he doesn’t have anyone who has had a ton of experience scoring at a high level on his team.

The other issue facing IUPUI is their lack of height. The Jaguars were one of the shortest teams in the country a season ago and they have not been able to do much to change that. Division II St. Edwards transfer BJ Maxwell can score, and he is going to need to early and often for IUPUI.

339. Charleston Southern Buccaneers – Last Season Ranking: 207

Conference: Big South

The previous handful of seasons before last year Charleston Southern was a competitive team in the Big South. The Buccaneers really struggled last year and were one of the worst teams in the country. Charleston Southern head coach Barclay Radebaugh has not done anything as the head coach of the Buccaneers and this year the team is extremely young and lost a 20 point per game scorer. Charleston Southern doesn’t have any expectations this year and that is also far too common of an occurrence.

I figured they would be right in the mix in the Big South last year, but I was clearly way off, and they ended up finishing in last. Nothing I have seen from their roster gives me any confidence to say they won’t finish near the bottom again. The bottom of the Big South is projected to be bad. Ja’Quavian Florence will be the team leader for the Buccaneers.

338. Northwestern State Demons – Last Season Ranking: 267

Conference: Southland

The Demons were good enough last year to finish just outside the top 4 in the Southland as they finished in fifth place. Outside of the conference, Northwestern State was extremely overmatched. They had trouble scoring and couldn’t stop anyone, giving up almost 80 points per game. Northwestern State and head coach Mike McConathy have one of the best wins in Southland conference and NCAA tournament history when they defeated Iowa in the NCAA tournament in 2005-2006.

The team has fallen far from that success. The Demons are still likely a middle-of-the-pack Southland team given how bad the bottom of the conference is but won’t be a threat nationally. Carvell Teasett looks to improve on his impressive Freshman campaign.

337. Eastern Illinois Panthers – Last Season Ranking: 136

Conference: Ohio Valley

I had much higher expectations for Eastern Illinois a season ago. They had a lot of talent that just never came together a season ago. The Panthers enter this year with a virtually new roster and a new head coach who has had a ton of success at the mid-major level. Marty Simmons takes over a program that needed a fresh start.

The new head man will have his work cut out for him though this year as all of the previous stars are no longer on campus and he is starting over fresh with a brand new roster. It is extremely rare for a new coach to come out and win a conference or even finish in the middle in the first year.

This season Eastern Illinois looks destined to finish near the bottom of the Ohio Valley, but they do have some very intriguing multi-year transfers to work with. Kejuan Clements is a transfer from Triton College who has shown he can score in bunches. He will have every opportunity to do so with the Panthers.

336. Maine Black Bears – Last Season Ranking: 320

Conference: America East

2012 was the last time that Maine had at least 10 wins in a Basketball season. The offense is terrible as they averaged under 54 points per game last year. The Black Bears shot 39% from the floor as a team last year which is bad. One thing that Maine was good at was playing defense they are another team that plays extremely slow and they must keep games low scoring and keep the possessions low for their team to ever have a chance.

Maine is going to finish last in the America East again because they don’t have enough talent. Junior forward Stephane Ingo should average close to a double-double.

335. Central Connecticut State Blue Devils – Last Season Ranking: 329

Conference: Northeast

Central Connecticut State has been trying to find the magic that led them to two NCAA tournament appearances in the early 2000’s and they may have finally found a coach who can build the program back up. Patrick Sellers is a former Blue Devil and brings with him a pedigree of developing three-point shooters and winning. He has been on a lot of staffs that have won a lot of basketball games and have participated in a lot of NCAA tournaments. The NEC is the one conference that always has a chance for a new team to win it every year.

CCSU has some experience coming back as well. The team was extremely balanced on the offensive end but point guard Nigel Scantlebury had one of the best assists to turnover ratios in the country and had four assists per game last year. A good lead guard is always a great asset to have when rebuilding.

334. Portland Pilots – Last Season Ranking: 332

Conference: WCC

Portland has finally made a dynamite hire, after the disaster that Terry Porter turned out to be. The Pilots enter year one of the Shantay Legans era with a 13-game losing streak, a completely new roster and a team that was awful on defense. A new coach may be something that Portland desperately needs especially considering the Legans built a powerhouse team in the Big Sky conference at his last job.

Portland was destroyed by graduation and transfers, but the Pilots were also able to secure some grad transfers from Eastern Washington, and one of them Tyler Robertson is going to step in and lead the Pilots right away.

333. Alcorn State Braves – Last Season Ranking: 229

Conference: SWAC

It rarely ever happens where a team doesn’t go through a coaching change and still sees as much turnover as the Braves did this offseason. Alcorn State finished middle of the pack in the SWAC last year, I did think they would be much better. The team has two of their major contributors back and only five players back from a season ago. The roster turnover could have been for the better though because Alcorn State was on pace to become one of the youngest teams in the country this year, but they filled the roster with a lot of 5th-year players and even a bonafide scorer from the JUCO ranks.

This may have done enough to keep the Braves out of the bottom tier of teams in the SWAC. Oddyst Walker is the one returning player who has the highest ceiling and should be relied on to score a lot of points.

332. McNeese State Cowboys – Last Season Ranking: 254

Conference: Southland

The Cowboys play one way and that is wide open and as fast as possible. They shoot and make a ton of threes and the ball rarely gets sticky it moves a lot. Sounds like a recipe for a ton of wins, right?  Well former head coach Heath Schroyer could never put it all together and his teams could never commit to fully defending. McNeese State found themselves in a lot of shootouts. Coach Schroyer has now moved on to a full-time role as the AD, and he hired the McNeese State associate head coach John Aiken.

It should be the same old Cowboys who like to play fast and get up shots as quickly as possible. However, one difference on this team is that they added a bonafide stud in the middle of the floor in Brendan Medley-Bacon.

331. Alabama State Hornets – Last Season Ranking: 295

Conference: SWAC

Year one under former NBA star Mo Williams went well, considering his team didn’t get on the court until January and they were not able to have the normal offseason workouts due to the pandemic. The Hornets were able to establish themselves on the defensive end of the floor and didn’t allow many open passing lanes.  Alabama State shot under 40% from the floor for the year and if they ever want to make it back to the NCAA tournament, they are going to have to get it figured out on the offensive end.

The Hornets still project to be one of the shorter teams in division 1, so offense may be a challenge again. Alabama State returns leading scorer Kenny Strawbridge who will realistically lead the team in scoring and rebounding. The Hornets should improve some and find themselves in the middle of the pack in the SWAC.

330. Tennessee State Tigers – Last Season Ranking: 184

Conference: Ohio Valley

Coming off an unexpectedly great season in 2019-2020, many figured Tennessee State would be a lot better last year. The exact opposite happened, and they were one of the worst teams in the Ohio Valley. Not much went right for the Tigers last year. Tennessee State was terrible from the three-point line, they fouled a ton, and they were awful on the glass. All those things combined is a huge recipe for disaster, especially in a conference that is as talented as the Ohio Valley is.

This season head coach Brian Collins went to the transfer portal to try and solve his rebounding woes. He was able to get some high-quality rebounders to add to this team who will be able to help immediately. Marcus Fitzgerald was a heralded recruit who came to Tennessee State and played as advertised in year one. This year Fitzgerald is primed for a breakout in the Ohio Valley.

329. Air Force Falcons – Last Season Ranking: 301

Conference: Mountain West

The Falcons were not a good offense last year and a lot of it was because they rarely ever took a shot. Air Force took under 50 shots per game, but the shots they did take they usually made. They were one of the best teams shooting from inside the arc making about 57% of their attempts from two-point range. The Falcons were okay shooting from deep, at about 33% overall as team.

Air Force rarely got fouled, they were also the worst rebounding team in the country at about 23 per contest. The lack of rebounding is a good way to start explaining why the Falcons took so few offensive attempts. Air Force isn’t going to be good again and will likely finish at the bottom of the Mountain West even with 16 point per game scorer AJ Walker returning.

328. Pepperdine Waves – Last Season Ranking: 140

Conference: West Coast

The 2020-2021 CBI Champions lost a lot from last year. Lorenzo Romar has done a great job at Pepperdine since he has been there and he finally got the Waves to the top half of the league a season ago, but as mentioned that team lost a ton of production from last year and head into this season as one of the youngest teams in the conference.

Pepperdine is going to really struggle this year and may be one of the worst teams in the country. They just don’t have any quality depth behind their star player. The West Coast conference is better and extremely top heavy. The Waves have way to many question marks this year to finish in the middle or top. They are destined for a bottom tier finish. Jade’ Smith returns to lead the offense.

327. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks – Last Season Ranking: 216

Conference: Big Sky

I was much higher on Northern Arizona last season than I should have been, but I felt after an unexpected 16 win season in 2019-2020 and with two of the better shooters in the country returning the outlook I figured was a little better. What happened was a team that was far too reliant on its stars and played no defense.

The defense was weird for the Lumberjacks last year as they limited the number of attempts the teams got as they were one of the top teams at limiting shot attempts, but teams shot almost 60% from inside the arc against them. When your opponents are that efficient it is going to be tough to win any games.

Northern Arizona is in full rebuild mode this year and they are likely not going to be very good at all and destined for a bottom-tier Big Sky finish. Jalen Cone, transfer from Virginia Tech, is one of the better shooters from deep in the country and is hoping to drastically help this offense.

326. Holy Cross Crusaders – Last Season Ranking: 342

Conference: Patriot League

The Patriot League like so many other conferences last year altered their schedule. The Crusaders only ended up playing four different teams but 16 games overall. Every team in the league had very off balanced schedules as the league tried to keep travel minimal and only allowed conference games.

Due to Holy Cross playing the same four teams and playing each of them four times it is hard to gauge how good they were or if they just developed a familiarity with the teams they were playing. Nonetheless, Holy Cross still isn’t likely to be very good. Head coach Brett Nelson is entering year 3 and he has eight total wins. Hopefully this year is a little different and the Crusaders have a dynamic player in Gerrale Gates to hope turn things around for Holy Cross.

325. St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers – Last Season Ranking: 242

Conference: Northeast

The Terriers had one of the best offenses in the country last year. They took a ton of shots and most of them were from inside the arc. While the Terriers were not terribly efficient, they just took a ton of shots which led to their scoring 78 points per game.

In the reverse the Terriers had a horrible defense last season as they gave up 80 points per game. St Francis Brooklyn gave up a ton of shots in the paint and didn’t provide much resistance to anyone who came into the paint. The Terriers also fouled a lot which reset the offense for the opponent.

Head coach Glenn Braica and his St. Francis Brooklyn team have never been to the NCAA tournament. Coach Braica lost a lot from his team last season and is going to have to replace a ton of scoring. Can Rob Higgins become more efficient on offense to help lead this team on offense?

324. Cal Poly Mustangs – Last Season Ranking: 327

Conference: Big West

The Mustangs were overmatched every night in Big West play, and it is usually due to their lack of efficient offense. They were one of the lowest-scoring teams in the country. They were dreadful from inside the arc, shooting 44% as a team. They shot 32% as a team from beyond the arc. Coach John Smith needs to find some offense as the Big West is too good to try and play to many low scoring games.

Cal Poly has gone out and found some much-needed scoring punch and that comes by way of Eastern Washington transfer Jacob Davison who is one of the best shooters from deep in the country. Davison can let it fly and he makes a lot of threes when he is left wide open. That will help the Mustangs immensely on the offensive end.

323. Northern Illinois Huskies – Last Season Ranking: 185

Conference: MAC

Northern Illinois is on their third coach in under a year as they went through two coaches a season ago. The Huskies were bad on offense and bad on defense and a fresh start was exactly what they needed. Northern Illinois decided to bring in former Arizona State assistant Rashon Burno, who is known for his development of scoring guards.

The Huskies don’t have many expectations and it may take a while for Burno to get this program running but once he does, they could turn into one of the better programs in the MAC. This year however is going to be a rebuilding year and Northern Illinois doesn’t project to be very good. Trendon Hankerson returns to help get this team out of the MAC basement.

322. Austin Peay State Governors – Last Season Ranking: 57

Conference: Ohio Valley

Full disclosure, I thought the Governors were going to be one of the best mid majors in the country last year, given the talent they had last season and how they had finished the season prior. Last year was the year or so I thought. Austin Peay stumbled all year and could never get going. Two of their starters had terrible shooting percentages and didn’t take great shots.

To top everything off head coach Matt Figger decided to leave for the UT Martin job and with coach Figger’s exit came the mass exodus of the returning talent. The Governors did hire a great coach in Nate James. James comes from Duke where he was instrumental in developing the front court and was the catalyst for some of the top recruits. This season for Austin Peay is going to be a struggle though as he doesn’t have many players and has put together a makeshift roster to get him through year one.

The roster has a lot of question marks and it would be a surprise to see Austin Peay finish anywhere outside of the bottom of the league. Carlos Paez returns and is going into the season as the starting point guard. He should lead the Governors in every category offensively.

321. Omaha Mavericks – Last Season Ranking: 222

Conference: Summit League

Heading into last season the Mavericks had a lot of their team back from the team who went 16-16 and finished near the top the Summit League. Then last year happened and it was the worst year Omaha has had since they have been a member of Division 1. The Mavericks couldn’t defend anyone, and they had a 14-game losing streak in the middle of the year. Omaha lost two seniors last year who won a lot of games at Omaha and they are going to be hard to replace for the Mavericks.

Omaha needs to figure out its defense and more importantly figure out who is going to score for them. It looks like another lean year for Omaha. La’mel Robinson closed the season strong and should lead Omaha in scoring this year.