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 Hampton Pirates guard Akim Mitchell Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Basketball Hampton Pirates guard Akim Mitchell Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports /

290. Lafayette Leopards – Last Season Ranking: 226

Conference: Patriot League

The Leopards were an extremely dynamic offensive team last year and they were great from deep. It didn’t hurt that they had one of the best shooters in the country a season ago. This year the Leopards may take a step back as they lost a ton of production from that team. This year should be a full Patriot League season and Lafayette is likely going to take their place right in the middle of the pack in the league.

Unless they find a lot of guys who can score quickly there is no way they are going to average around 80 points per game this year. They are still going to shoot a lot of threes but likely won’t make as many, Neal Quinn becomes the new leader for the Leopards.

289. Cal State Northridge Matadors – Last Season Ranking: 303

Conference: Big West

The Mark Gottfried era ended at the culmination of last season. Northridge was never ever to reach the lofty heights many expected with Gottfried as the head coach. Especially when he had two of the better players in Big West basketball during his tenure there. Trent Johnson takes over on an interim basis and is going to have a total rebuild.

The Matadors are going to have to learn to defend quickly or they are not going to be in many games. They gave up about 78 points per game a season ago and that isn’t going to ever be good enough. The defense has been too leaky for too long in Northridge. Hopefully, coach Johnson can get his team to play a little defense. Right now, even with senior guard Lance Coleman returning, Northridge still appears to be a bottom-tier Big West team.

288. Robert Morris Colonials – Last Season Ranking: 153

Conference: Horizon League

The Colonials’ first go around in the Horizon League didn’t go well. Robert Morris came in with a talented team on paper and finished last in the league and was one of the worst teams in the country last year. The Colonials were dreadful on defense a season ago and they didn’t really do much in the offseason to combat that. Robert Morris was a popular destination for some low major transfers who wanted a fresh start.

The recruiting has seen an uptick for Robert Morris, which was to be expected going to a conference with steeper competition than they saw every night in the NEC. The guards for the Colonials will be very good, but they still don’t have any quality size or any proven interior defenders. It may be another tough year for Robert Morris. Bryant transfer, Michael Green III is likely going to lead this team in scoring, and he is a decent defender.

287. Cornell Big Red – Last Season Ranking: 354

Conference: Ivy League

In the 2019-2020 season Cornell averaged under 70 points per game and was a bad offensive team. That team won seven games, this year after taking last season off do not have the services of their top four scorers from the 2019-2020 team. Ivy League schools are not able to offer athletic scholarships.

Their student-athletes must qualify academically and be placed on academic scholarship before they are able to attend one of the Ivy Schools. With no athletic scholarships to hand out, Head coach Brian Earl is going to have to get creative to find ways to score points because as mentioned the team doesn’t have much in the way of returning scoring. Senior guard Dean Noll returns to lead Cornell.

286. Howard Bison – Last Season Ranking: 175

Conference: MEAC

Howard was the team who had a ton of helium coming into the season last year. They were able to secure the first five-star commitment in their school history when Makur Maker committed to the school. Unfortunately, the Bison only played five games a season ago and Makur didn’t play much as he got injured. The Bison return a very talented roster, which many argue could be their most talented of all time.

How will Howard fare this year?  They have struggled mightily in the MEAC for the last decade or so but this year the roster has a ton of depth and a lot of good scorers. Offense has never been the problem for the Bison. No matter the talent their teams have never been able to buy in on the defensive end, and statistically, they are one of the worst defensive teams in the country.

This year Howard finally finishes in the top half of the MEAC. Big man Steve Settle III is the most talented big man in the MEAC. If he can put it all together, he will be first-team all-conference.

285. UNC Wilmington Seahawks – Last Season Ranking: 302

Conference: Colonial

I was not high on the Seahawks to start the season last year and something tells me they may overall be worse. Wilmington only won one game in the Colonial last year, but they started out hot and looked like they were going to potentially be a force in the league but two long Covid pauses derailed their seasons. The pauses along with their overall lack of good quality talent led to them only winning one game in the Colonial.

The Seahawks lost a lot from last season and filled this team with some transfers. It may take a while to get the chemistry right with this team with all the new pieces. Mike Okauru returns and is going to have to be a big part of the offense.

284. Dartmouth Big Green – Last Season Ranking: 352

Conference: Ivy League

The Big Green play slow, and low-scoring games. Dartmouth likes to play in the mid 60’s and they have a defense that is aggressive and will keep most of the opponents they play right there in the mid 60’s. Their offense is also not good enough to light the nets on fire but good enough to keep most of the games they play close. They don’t allow much to come easy on the defensive end and they don’t allow many threes.

On the reverse side, the Big Green doesn’t shoot the ball well from deep and they also don’t make offense look pretty. Aaryn Rai returns for his senior year to lead the Big Green on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor.

283. Albany Great Danes – Last Season Ranking: 232

Conference: America East

Over the last couple of seasons, Albany has struggled to find the magic that made them one of the best teams in the America East. Over the last three seasons, the Great Danes have had a losing record and look nothing like the team who made three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances from 2012-2014. The Great Danes used to be a great shooting team and an efficient offensive team but all of that has gone by the wayside as the years have gone on.

Head coach Will Brown was able to secure some transfers that should help his team this year, but Albany is far away from competing for the top of the America East. Jarvis Doles returns and is likely going to be the team leader this season.

282. Lehigh Mountain Hawks – Last Season Ranking: 263

Conference: Patriot League

Head Coach Brett Reed is not entering his 15th year as the coach at Lehigh and he has done some big things for the Mountain Hawks in his tenure. However, the last few seasons have not been some of the good ones. Lehigh hardly ever takes threes in a game as they took the fifth-most shots from inside the arc in the country last year.

The philosophy doesn’t appear to work the same on the defensive end as the Mountain Hawks allowed teams to shoot five more threes than them per game and those teams made about 37% of them. That coupled with Lehigh not much else in the way of steals or blocks to slow the opponent down it was a recipe for disaster. Lehigh is likely destined for the bottom of the Patriot again. Marques Wilson returns to lead the offense.

281. High Point Panthers – Last Season Ranking: 321

Conference: Big South

High Point is coached by a legend at the end of his career who wants to help his alma mater. Tubby Smith is the coach of the Panthers and they much like Coach Smith plays a throwback style.  They play a ton of defense, keep games low scoring, play slow, and don’t shoot threes much. The Panthers rely on two-point shots and free throws to account for the bulk of their offense. This style has not brought High Point or Coach Smith much success as the game has evolved past this.

One of the Big South’s brightest stars plays for High Point in John-Michael Wright. Wright tested the transfer portal this year and decided to come back for his last year at High Point and hopefully get this team a little closer to some postseason basketball. They are likely a bottom-to-middle-of-the-pack Big South team again.

280. American Eagles – Last Season Ranking: 238

Conference: Patriot League

American only played 10 games last season as they had an extremely large Covid pause and the Eagles didn’t play non-conference last year. The Eagles didn’t play a game from Jan 24th to February 20th. However, American did show well in their 10 games, they had an overall losing record, but they were a good shooting team from deep. Head Coach Mike Brennan likes to play slow and American rarely ever gets fouled as they only took about 14 free throw attempts per game.

This year the Eagles will play a full schedule and it will be much easier to get a read on them heading into next year. Stacy Beckton Jr shot 45% from deep last year and should be one of the best shooters in the Patriot League again this year.

279. William & Mary Tribe – Last Season Ranking: 272

Conference: Colonial

Two years post-Nathan Knight and William & Mary are still trying to find the right formula to win consistently. The Tribe has had two of the best players in college basketball history in Marcus Thornton and Nathan Knight, but the team has never been able to get over the hump and make the NCAA tournament. A season ago which was the first season, without Knight the Tribe were anemic on offense. The ball got stagnant a lot, and they were dreadful from shooting from the outside.

William & Mary also had a relatively young and inexperienced team a season ago. This year they have some more experience and added a key transfer from a Division 2 school, that it should be a better season for coach Dane Fischer and the Tribe. Connor Kochera had a great freshman season and looks to build off that this season.

278. Hampton Pirates – Last Season Ranking: 288

Conference: Big South

The Pirates are now into year four of their transition into the Big South. The transition has gone smoothly considering that the Pirates have finished in the middle of the standings most every year and two seasons ago they were the conference tournament runner-ups.

Hampton looks to finish near the middle of the Big South pack again, and they could get higher if they could just tweak a few things on the defensive end. Hampton gave up about 40 rebounds per game last year, that isn’t good and that is going to give teams extra possessions especially when you gave up 12 offensive rebounds per game.

If Hampton can bring that number down and become just a little more efficient on the offensive end, then they can turn their season around. Point guard Deuce Dean is already a tremendous passer but he is now going to have to be relied on to score and he is likely going to be one of the best players in the Big South when the year is over.

277. UMass-Lowell River Hawks – Last Season Ranking: 305

Conference: America East

The River Hawks had a very successful season by their standards last season. They were the runner-ups in the America East and were one win away from making their first NCAA tournament. UMass Lowell took a good Ohio State team to the wire and had one of the best scorers in the country. The River Hawks do have a lot of experience coming back from their runner-up team and have filled the roster void with other experienced players from mid-major programs.

Head Coach Pat Duquette has his team rolling and it will be interesting to see if they can repeat the success, they had last year. Adding USC Upstate transfer Everette Hammond will help, and Lowell likely finds themselves in the top half of the conference and in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid.

276. New Mexico Lobos – Last Season Ranking: 135

Conference: Mountain West

The Paul Weir era is finally over for New Mexico, the Richard Pitino era starts this year, and honestly, Lobo fans should be excited. Pitino had success at Minnesota and was able to get them to the tournament a few times. The main thing that is going to help with Pitino is his ability to recruit, he is a great recruiter and once he lands a player they usually stay.

This year the rebuild is going to continue for New Mexico but they should be a lot better given that coach Pitino was able to get some power school transfers to come and play basketball at New Mexico. The best Pitino teams were those teams that a dynamic point guard, a shooter, and a dominant big man.

There are a lot of guys on this team who are looking to take the next step in their development who fit into one of the criteria above. Valdir Manual is a real skilled big man who is likely in for a big year, even though the Lobos may finish bottom of the pack in the Mountain West.

275. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders – Last Season Ranking: 308

Conference: Conference USA

How the mighty have fallen, the Nick McDevitt era for Middle Tennessee is not going well. It’s hard to believe that only six years ago the Blue Raiders beat Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This is also a team that won at least 25 games three seasons in a row. Former head coach Kermit Davis was responsible for those seasons and since he left campus, Middle Tennessee has won 24 total games in three seasons.

I was a lot higher on the Blue Raiders last year than I should have been, they were one of the worst offensive teams in the country and don’t have a single double-digit scorer returning this year. Looks like another lean year for the Blue Raiders. Jalen Jordan leads the way for Middle Tennessee.

274. Army Black Knights – Last Season Ranking: 310

Conference: Patriot League

Army has been an extremely consistent team for its entire existence. They are usually hovering right around .500 and their overall record shows them at only 14 games under .500, and never making an NCAA tournament. The service academies have a terrible time recruiting as they have so many factors to consider, you are not just asking a recruit to commit to Army to play basketball, but also enlist in the armed forces and protect the country. It is a lot to consider for so many athletes.

All of that aside, the Black Knights have a good core returning and are going to finish in the middle of the pack of the Patriot League and likely finish a little below or a little above .500. Josh Caldwell returns and will lead Army in scoring again.

273. Southeast Missouri State Redhawks – Last Season Ranking: 314

Conference: Ohio Valley

Brad Korn enters year two as the head coach of the Redhawks and year one is any indication it appears that SEMO will be in good hands. Southeast Missouri played 11 games that were decided by five points or fewer. The Redhawks were considerably more competitive last year than in the years past.

Southeast Missouri State also finished in the middle of the pack in the Ohio Valley, which is a huge jump in year one considering the two years before they had finished in 11th and 12th respectively. The Redhawks also have their top three scorers back from a year ago led by Chris Harris.

272. Lamar Cardinals – Last Season Ranking: 237

Conference: WAC

There will be a lot of firsts this season for Lamar. This will be their first season in the WAC after leaving the Southland, it is also going to be the first year playing for new head coach Alvin Brooks. Brooks took over for Tic Price. The Cardinals made the semifinals of the Southland Conference last year for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.

This year, Lamar has bolstered the roster, as they have their stars back from that team but also added one of the best mid-major players in the country as a transfer. It is looking to be an elite backcourt, arguably the best backcourt in the WAC this season. Jordyn Adams the transfer from Austin Peay is going to be very good for Lamar and is hoping to get them back to the NCAA tournament.

271. Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers – Last Season Ranking: 283

Conference: Northeast

The Mount is one of those teams that is extremely fundamentally sound, they play slow, physical games in which they wear down their opponent. The Mountaineers are not a thing of beauty on the offensive end, but they do play magnificent defense and they also win a lot. Mount St. Mary’s had one of the worst scoring offenses in the country last year and one of the best scoring defenses.

On the offensive side of the ball, they work it into the post, open up driving lanes and get easy baskets at the rim. The Mountaineers take minimal three-point shots. On the defensive end, they guard the three-point line, block a ton of shots, and outrebound most everyone they play, and they do it all without ever fouling. They are likely going to finish right at .500 again and Nana Opoku is a double-double threat every night.

270. Manhattan Jaspers – Last Season Ranking: 289

Conference: MAAC

It is hard to know what you are going to get with Manhattan. The Jaspers and head coach Steve Masiello made two consecutive NCAA tournaments in 2013 and 2014. The head coach was a hot name for some jobs and then some things came out about Masiello and he was no longer considered for those jobs. It has been downhill ever since for Manhattan.

The Jaspers have not had a winning record since 2014 and have not been realistically in the mix in the MAAC since then either. If you have never watched Manhattan basketball prepare yourself for a slow defensive battle in which the Jaspers try to muck the game up as much as possible. They are dreadful on offense, especially from the three-point line.

Even though Manhattan has Seton Hall transfer, Anthony Nelson, back on campus again this year the top half of this conference is just too strong. They are likely a middle-of-the-pack team in the MAAC.

269. Western Illinois Leathernecks – Last Season Ranking: 339

Conference: Summit League

All things considered the first year for Rob Jeter as the head coach of Western Illinois was better than a lot expected. They still only won seven games overall but given the lack of experience on the roster and a lot of unknowns on the floor that is a successful year. Year two under Coach Jeter should be a lot better if the Leathernecks can defend. Western Illinois gave up over 80 points per game last year and had a heck of a time on that end of the floor.

A lot of that can also be attributed to the lack of experience and the lack of any of these kids playing together. Super Senior Will Carious is a legitimate star and the main source of offense for Western Illinois.

268. Fordham Rams – Last Season Ranking: 312

Conference: Atlantic 10

Fordham has had zero success on the floor, they have not had a winning season since 2015-2016 and they have finished at the bottom of the Atlantic 10 for the last four seasons. The Jeff Neubauer era is finally over, and they have brought in a great young coach in Kyle Neptune who was a top assistant at Villanova for the last handful of years. The Rams had the worst offense in the country last year barely cracking 50 points per game. The overall offensive numbers were terrible as they only shot 39% from the floor and 28% from deep.

Neptune went out and got some high-quality transfers who are proven scorers at their last school. Still going to be an uphill climb for Fordham for the first few years but Darius Quisenberry should at least be able to put the ball in the hole consistently enough to keep them in games.

267. Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks – Last Season Ranking: 296

Conference: Sun Belt

The Warhawks are in a full rebuild right now. They have only won 16 games over the last two seasons and have finished in the bottom of the Sun Belt both years. The offense has not been good over the last few seasons as Louisiana Monroe has seen a lot of talent graduate and leave campus via transfer. The Warhawks are a bad rebounding team and that contributed immensely to the lack of offensive firepower.

Head coach Keith Richard has had to change the way he likes to play due to the lack of enough players to fit his system. They do have their two leading scorers back this year and should be better with more experience, but the league is still good at the top. Russell Harrison is the player who the Warhawks are going to rely on for most of the offense.

266. St. Francis (Pa) Red Flash – Last Season Ranking: 276

Conference: Northeast

The window for Saint Francis University has likely closed and they are likely a bottom of the conference type of team. The Red Flash have made one NCAA tournament and that was in 1990-1991 and the team appears no closer to getting to that mark than they have been in the previous 30 seasons.

The one good thing for Saint Francis is that the conference is always wide open, and anyone can win the conference tournament and find themselves in the NCAA tournament. The Red Flash was not a good shooting team from deep overall, and if they can find a way to get that turned around, they were good enough everywhere else that a run is not out of the question.

Saint Francis does have a star in potential All-conference caliber player Ramiir Dixon- Conover, but even with him, Saint Francis will have to work hard to climb out of the middle of the NEC pack.

265. Illinois-Chicago Flames – Last Season Ranking: 192

Conference: Horizon League

Head coach Luke Yaklich has a track record for development and recruiting. He was also the right-hand man for Tom Izzo at Michigan State before he got the Flames job. Last year would have looked a lot better and would have garnered more confidence heading into this season had Illinois-Chicago lost nine of their last 10 games. The Flames struggled on defense at points last year and they were only able to average about 10 defensive turnovers per contest and perhaps the most glaring of those stats is the fact that the Flames only averaged three steals per game a year ago.

Illinois-Chicago was terrible at drawing fouls and they never had an alpha on offense who you could trust to take over the game. Coach Yaklich went out to change that through the transfer portal. He was able to secure a lot of quality talent for lower major schools and all of them are going to make the Flames much better.

Kevin Johnson, the transfer from Nicholls State, is perhaps the most important player on the team. He is a great point guard who can score and perhaps his biggest asset is that he is one guy you can trust to lock down his man on defense. The Flames should be improved but are still a middle-of-the-pack Horizon team.

264. Marist Red Foxes – Last Season Ranking: 317

Conference: MAAC

Every team that plays Marist better be ready for a grinder. The term Rock Fight often comes to mind when playing the Red Foxes. They are not a great offensive team by any means, all that aside the Red Foxes make offense for their opponents an absolute chore. They play slow and they protect the rim and anything you are going to get is going to have to come by way of jumpers.

As mentioned, while Marist was one of the best defensive teams in the country, they were also one of the worst on offense. I don’t think it is from lack of offensive talent just more like a philosophy by coach John Dunne. He preaches defense first and his team bought in last year.

Marist continues to get better and better under Dunne. Sophomore guard Ricardo Wright is going to get better and better as well the longer he stays in MAAC.

263. Texas-Arlington Mavericks – Last Season Ranking: 236

Conference: Sun Belt

The Mavericks play fast, shoot a ton of threes, and at times a joy to watch play offense. If you look at the numbers, it is hard to figure out how Texas Arlington finished .500 and then you realize that outside of making a ton of threes they were horribly inefficient on offense. To alleviate that problem first-year head coach Greg Young went out and got a lot of high-quality transfers and built the roster with some projectable freshmen.

The defense was not always great last year but the Mavericks do have one of the best shot blockers in College Basketball on their roster in Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu. He averaged 3.3 blocks a season ago which was third-best in the country.

262. UMKC Kangaroos – Last Season Ranking: 265

Conference: Summit League

Heading into year three of the Billy Donlon era I would consider it a success. The Kangaroos have not made the tournament yet, but that is coming sooner rather than later. UMKC got after teams last year on defense and they denied just about every shot. Their opponents averaged 47 field goal attempts per game, even if they make over 50% of them that is likely going to win you a lot of games.

The Kangaroos also added two good transfers who are going to help this team immensely especially at the guard position. UMKC finished in the middle of the Summit pack their first year in the league. They look to be a top-three team in the league this year with what they have returning and the transfers they added. Josiah Allick has first-team all-conference potential and he may average close to 20 a game for the Kangaroos.

261. Saint Joseph’s Hawks – Last Season Ranking: 268

Conference: Atlantic 10

An optimist would look at Saint Joseph’s and say it looks like the Hawks may have figured it out towards the end of last year when they won four out of their last five games. The pessimist would look at the Hawks and say they have the exact same roster back from a team that started the season 1-14, couldn’t defend anyone, and were out of most games by halftime. Likely Saint Joseph’s falls somewhere in the middle.

They are going to be a bottom-tier Atlantic 10 team and they likely will still have a losing record. Hopefully, they found something towards the end of the year on the defensive end because their defense has been awful the last two seasons. Taylor Funk may score 25 a game and it won’t be enough most nights.