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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Memphis Tigers guard Emoni Bates NCAA Basketball Jrca9946a
Memphis Tigers guard Emoni Bates NCAA Basketball Jrca9946a /

15. Arkansas Razorbacks – Last Season Ranking: 51

Conference: SEC

Arkansas made a dynamite hire when they hired Eric Musselman and it is paying off tenfold. Musselman wins and he wins a lot, he is a fantastic recruiter and he always gets his teams to play extremely hard for him. Last year Arkansas came into the season with expectations all over the board, but they turned out to be one of the best teams in the country all year and ended up with a run to the Elite Eight.

This year Arkansas lost a lot of talent to graduation and the NBA draft, but they just reloaded and are ready to make another run in the NCAA tournament. Never ever sleep on coach Musselman. JD Notae was huge for the Razorbacks down the stretch and in the NCAA tournament last year. He was the SEC Sixth Man of the Year, and this year he may be a starter, but he is still going to produce.

14. Memphis Tigers – Last Season Ranking: 65

Conference: American Athletic

Memphis won the NIT last year but that feels like a failure honestly. The Tigers have consistently been able to assemble one of the best rosters in the game, and head coach Penny Hardaway has not been able to get this team over the hump. Sure, they won 20 games but with the roster they had last year, they should have been a second-weekend team.

This year the roster is better as Memphis was able to land some great transfers. In addition to the transfers, the Tigers landed two of the top recruits in the country. Memphis should absolutely have tournament expectations this year. Anything else would be a failure of a season. Over his tenure, it seems as if Penny and his teams have just coasted in a few games, they lack the killer instinct and it has led to some questionable losses that honestly have kept the Tigers out of the tournament to date. The defense is fantastic, and the offense leaves a lot to be desired and is often clunky.

If Memphis can get the offense figured out they might be unstoppable. Emoni Bates was at one time thought of as the next LeBron James. He isn’t that obviously, but he was the number one recruit in the class and hopefully, he plays the entire season. He will only be in college for one season.

13. Kentucky Wildcats – Last Season Ranking: 5

Conference: SEC

A pandemic, where everything was shut down, couldn’t meet in person, and then a team couldn’t practice is never going to be good for teams like Kentucky and Duke who have an overhauled roster every season. Never getting to practice with each other to build a rapport or get used to each other, especially with a bunch of 18-year-old kids is never going to be working well.

Head coach John Calipari may have realized last year that what he was doing wasn’t working so he decided that instead of being one of the youngest teams in the country every year he would try to get a little older. This is the oldest Wildcats team that Calipari has ever had and that could mean something. Kentucky is usually out securing one of the best recruiting classes in the country and while they did do that again they also were able to add some older quality transfers to the mix.

There was a narrative going around that suggested that Kentucky didn’t shoot the ball overly well from deep, and the numbers don’t support that narrative as they shot 36% from deep in the SEC but 34% overall. So, they were average, none the less the Wildcats need to shoot the ball better and they need to find guys who can move without the ball and who take good shots. They had so many guys who wanted to play one on one and that usually resulted in bad shots.

Kentucky went and found some shooters in the transfer portal and they are still good enough to find themselves in the top 25. Davion Mintz is a true point guard and he did lead the Wildcats in scoring last season. He likely won’t lead them in scoring this year, but he is going to be extremely important distributing to the wide-open shooters that Kentucky is going to have. Mintz can score and he is a very capable three-point shooter. The Wildcats just have a ton of options that Mintz isn’t going to have to carry them on offense this season.

12. Alabama Crimson Tide – Last Season Ranking: 17

Conference: SEC

Alabama was a joy to watch play basketball last year. They played extremely fast and took a ton of threes, about 30 a game which was the fourth most of any team in the country. They also made about 11 threes per game which were also good for fourth-most in the country. Those numbers were tops in the SEC. The Crimson Tide were the best rebounding team, got the most steals and most blocks in the SEC as well.

Head coach Nate Oats has a well-oiled machine on offense, and they blew out a lot of their opponents. There were so many times that Alabama just overwhelmed their opponents. With their prowess shooting the ball from deep they put up points fast. The Crimson Tide is the favorite to win the SEC again this season. Even though they lost a lot of talent a season ago they reloaded and still have a lot of the production back from last year.

Jaden Shackelford led the team in scoring a season ago without any fanfare. He isn’t the flashiest player, but he gets the job done, takes the most shots in the offense, and has the trust of head coach Oats. The junior guard is going to lead Alabama on offense again.

11. Oregon Ducks – Last Season Ranking: 15

Conference: Pac-12

Oregon lost their top three scorers from last season, and in true Dana Altman fashion, he just went and reloaded in the transfer portal. The Ducks are one of the most consistent teams in the country over the last decade. They consistently win the Pac-12 and they consistently make the NCAA tournament. They seemingly always make the second weekend. The Ducks shot 38% from deep last year and 40% in the Pac-12 and were extremely efficient from everywhere on the floor. They are also one of the better defensive teams in the country as well.

Oregon is ranked again to start the year and is likely going to make the second weekend because that is just what that program does. As mentioned, the Ducks hit the transfer portal hard and like always were able to secure some five-star recruits. Will Richardson is a great three-point shooter and fantastic point guard and he is going to lead this dynamic backcourt and help lead them to the second weekend of the tournament again.