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 Gonzaga Bulldogs center Chet Holmgren James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Basketball Gonzaga Bulldogs center Chet Holmgren James Snook-USA TODAY Sports /

5. Villanova Wildcats – Last Season Ranking: 1

Conference: Big East

Villanova was not fully healthy heading into the NCAA tournament, and they were still able to make the sweet 16 and it was much to everyone’s surprise. Heading into the season Villanova was my preseason number one because of the sheer talent and experience that head coach Jay Wright had. The Wildcats always have their best years when they have an experienced group, but they never really seemed to go on their run last year. They did win the Big East regular season but last year’s version of Villanova had some flaws that manifested themselves in games.

They didn’t shoot threes as well as they have in the past, they took the same number of threes as they always do, they just didn’t shoot with the same percentage. There were some things that were the same old Wildcats last year though. They never turned the ball over, averaging less than 10 per game, they made free throws at about 75%, and the Wildcats never fouled on defense. They are always going to be fundamentally sound and they are going to have a bunch of shooters. Even in down years the Wildcats are consistent and make the tournament.

Collin Gillespie returns to run the offense for the Wildcats. The point guard is as steady a player as there is in the country. He never turns the ball over, is a great passer, shoots 40% from deep, and is going to be this team’s emotional leader both on and off the court. Gillespie got hurt at the end of last season and didn’t play in the NCAA tournament. Villanova isn’t number one this year, but they are still a top 5 team in the country and are going to finish as the top team in the Big East.

4. Texas Longhorns – Last Season Ranking: 66

Conference: Big 12

The Longhorns made the tournament last year as a three-seed, and early in the season, they looked like they could have been a legitimate National Title contender. Texas faltered late in the year and then was upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Abilene Christian. The Longhorns decided to go in a different direction and relieved Shaka Smart of his head coaching duties.

Chris Beard, who really needs no introduction was hired to take over the Longhorn program in April. Beard then proceeded to infuse this roster with tons of talent and a ton of scoring. Many argue that the Longhorns have the most talented roster in the entire NCAA. Texas is one of my top five teams and they are a final four and national title contender. Coach Beard is a fantastic coach and he is going to win quickly.

Texas is going to defend like crazy and they have a ton of guys who can score. They don’t have a ton of height, but they have a bunch of athletic guys who can play multiple positions. They are loaded everywhere and are going to be good if they stay healthy.

Tre Mitchell, a transfer from UMass, could already score and change games, but now with a loaded roster around him, he could be one of the national leaders in scoring and should be one of the all-conference players in the league as well as the potential Newcomer of the Year.

3. Michigan Wolverines – Last Season Ranking: 34

Conference: Big Ten

The Wolverines are ranked in the top five and have huge expectations this season. Head coach Juwan Howard has his team in line for the Big Ten title, a final four appearance, and maybe they can finally win the National Title that has been so elusive for Michigan. No team, outside of Gonzaga has had more consistent success over the last ten seasons than the Wolverines.

They recruit well and coach Howard runs a system that is attractive for kids to play in. This season Michigan has one of the best-recruiting classes in the country and is loaded with guards. Some of those guards are holdovers from last year’s team and one was an elite scorer in the mid-major ranks. Coach Howard went and bolstered his backcourt and wings with a ton of top recruits that are going to play right away. It also doesn’t hurt that Michigan has the best center in the Big Ten and he changes games for them.

Michigan has the makings of a team that is going to go undefeated for a while as they just have too many weapons to come at you with. They may run away and hide in the Big Ten and they should have the number 1 seed in the NCAA tournament locked up if they play to their potential.

Hunter Dickinson was the Big Ten freshman of the year, he was a second-team All-American and will likely be a lottery pick this year. He is one of the favorites for the Big Ten Player of the Year and is going to get national recognition as well. Dickinson is a 7’1” elite scorer around the rim and a great rebounder. He is an immovable force in the paint, and he is going to have repeat success this season.

2. Kansas Jayhawks – Last Season Ranking: 4

Conference: Big 12

The Jayhawks were a little bit of a disappointment last year. They never seemed to get it going and go on one of the patented Kansas and head coach Bill Self runs that everyone has become so accustomed to. A few seasons ago there was the discussion as if anyone in the Big 12 would ever be able to catch the Jayhawks as they had over a decade-long stranglehold over the conference.

Present-day, the rest of the league has caught up to Kansas and the Jayhawks are now having to adjust. Like so many other teams who utilize one and dones, coach Self also realized that he is going to have to supplement that with older players and in the transfer portal. This season he has a lot of older players, five super seniors to be exact, and he has six guys who have played at least a season of college basketball.

This could be one of the deepest Jayhawks teams in a long time and are ready to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament. Kansas is going to start the year shorthanded, as one of their best players was arrested over the weekend and will be serving a short suspension.

David McCormack is the big man for Kansas who started to dominant his opponents in the middle of last season. McCormack has been getting a ton of helium as the odds-on favorite Player of the Year in the Big 12. If he continues his dominance in the league, then he should win the award. The big men are very important to Kansas and they are good when their big men thrive especially since Kansas runs a lot of pick and roll.

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs – Last Season Ranking: 2

Conference: West Coast

The Bulldogs were the NCAA tournament runner up and they did enter the title game undefeated. They had the best offense in the country played one of the fastest paces in the country and had so many guys who could score. Gonzaga had depth and they had some of the best talent of any team in the country a season ago.

One could argue that over the last 20 years there has not been a more successful team in the country than Gonzaga. They have made at least the Sweet 16 in six straight seasons, which is the longest active streak in the county. The only thing they have not done is close the deal and win the national championship. This year may finally be the year, they are the preseason number one because they have the best team not only on paper but on the floor as well.

They have two top 10 commits in the class of 2021, and they were still able to return the key pieces to their roster that enabled them to be so successful last year. Gonzaga is going to hit an extremely high percentage of their shots from the floor both inside the arc and outside the arc. They have lock-down defenders and they have incredible depth. They very likely will go undefeated heading into the tournament again and earn the overall one seed in the NCAA tournament.

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Drew Timme returned, and he is going to take his spot in the middle. This year though head coach Mark Few is going to be able to move Timme around and give the defense a different look, and that is going to make the offense that much tougher to defend. Timme can shoot from the outside, he makes his free throws, and he is extremely efficient inside the arc. The big man is going to be a trendy pick for the National player of the year and pretty much every other award he is eligible for. Timme is elite and makes Gonzaga elite.