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 North Carolina Central Eagles head coach LeVelle Moton Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Basketball North Carolina Central Eagles head coach LeVelle Moton Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /

260. Sacred Heart Pioneers – Last Season Ranking: 298

Conference: Northeast

The Pioneers have been on the cusp of their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance for a few seasons now. They are extremely well-coached, and they exceeded my expectations a season ago. Sacred Heart lost a ton of talent between the start of last season and the 2019-2020 offseason, so much so that I had them pegged as one of the worst teams in the Northeast Conference.

The Pioneers have their entire team back from a season ago, one that saw them win nine games in the conference and finish third. The Northeast Conference is usually wide open every year and anyone can win that tournament. Sacred Heart has the likely player of the year in the conference in Tyler Thomas so could this finally be the year?

259. Brown Bears – Last Season Ranking: 351

Conference: Ivy League

Under current Head Coach Mike Martin, the Bears have been trending upward but have yet to get themselves over the hump. A lot of is not due to their lack of success but rather their inability to be better than Princeton, Harvard, and Yale on a consistent basis. Brown is one of the top four teams in the Ivy League, but can they beat the big three this year?

They have what it will take with a great defender who you can put on an island against the opposition’s best player in David Mitchell. Brown also has an alpha on offense in graduate senior Tamenang Choh. Choh is one of the top players in the Ivy League and could average around 20 points per contest. If he does that Brown may have a chance to knock off the big three.

258. North Carolina Central Eagles – Last Season Ranking: 161

Conference: MEAC

North Carolina Central was destroyed by the Pandemic last year. They barely played or practiced, and while last season counts in the record book, the Eagles and their fans are going to throw it out. North Carolina Central had a giant Covid pause from December 13th to January 29th and then another one from February 10th through the 24th. It was hard for the Eagles to live up to their expectations when they couldn’t practice or play games.

This season is a full season and while some of the key pieces for the last couple of seasons are gone, it is never smart to bet against coach Levelle Moton in the MEAC. Deven Palmer is the guy this year for the Eagles.

257. Ball State Cardinals – Last Season Ranking: 157

Conference: MAC

Ball State shoots a ton of threes every year and they usually have a couple of guys who can shoot the lights out a building. That was the case a season ago as the Cardinals also had one of the oldest teams in the country. This year that is flipped as Ball State now has one of the younger teams in the country and no returning player who has averaged over double-digit points per game.

Head coach James Whitford is in a rebuild and it is going to be tough for Ball State to make any headway this season given the newness of the Roster. The Cardinals better hope that they can gel quickly and that their transfers into the program learn the system quickly otherwise it is going to be a long year in Muncie. Ball State finishes near the bottom of the MAC. Tyler Cochran, a transfer from Northern Illinois, is going to be the guy who is going to be expected to carry the scoring load.

256. Towson Tigers – Last Season Ranking: 150

Conference: Colonial

Towson had a tough year a season ago and it was all from the offensive end. The Tigers were one of the worst offensive teams in the country a year ago. The shooting percentages across the board were bad, they averaged under 10 assists per game, so the ball got extremely sticky last year, and a lot of one on one ball was played.

That is never going to be a recipe for winning. Head coach Pat Skerry doesn’t have his team take a ton of threes but when they have shooters, he has shown they will take around 20-25 per game, which is about average. Towson does get fouled a lot and their prowess from the line helped them not be so bad on offense.

This year the Tigers bolstered their roster with shooters and guys who are proven scorers. Coach Skerry has a good track record of turning bad teams around and this year he should be able to do the same thing. Towson likely finishes middle of the pack in the Colonial.  Nicholas Timberlake returns this season to lead the Tigers.

255. Fort-Wayne Mastodons – Last Season Ranking: 202

Conference: Horizon League

I thought the transition to the Horizon League would have gone a little smoother for the Mastodons. Fort Wayne, under head coach Jon Coffman, has always had a high-powered offense and they have usually been able to defend a little bit to win them some games. Fort Wayne was one of the worst defensive teams in the country last year.

One thing that can bring the defense back to a respectable level is guarding the perimeter and having a lock-down defender to provide some resistance to getting into the paint. Fort Wayne may have found that in the transfer portal. The Mastodons also turned the ball over a ton on offense as well, and that very same player will help alleviate that as well.

Damian Chong Qui, who starred at Mount St. Mary’s for the last four years, is going to stabilize the backcourt and help Fort Wayne reach their goals. The Mastodons also have their top three scorers back from last season.

254. Samford Bulldogs – Last Season Ranking: 315

Conference: Southern Conference

Samford plays as fast as possible for the entire game. They are the definition of a team that believes they can outscore you and doesn’t play much in the way of defense. Head Coach Bucky McMillan believes in this philosophy and it was working at Samford as the Bulldogs garnered national attention for their exhibition game beating of Greenville 174-99. So, you can see high possessions, high speed, and up and down the floor as fast as possible. Samford would have been fine had they not lost their last 10 of 11 games.

There were a few Covid shutdowns thrown in and for a young team that was devastating. AJ Staton-McCray was named Southern Conference freshman of the year last season and is fun to watch.

253. Troy Trojans – Last Season Ranking: 335

Conference: Sun Belt

Troy is in good hands with their current head coach Scott Cross. The rebuild of the Trojans back to an NCAA Tournament-caliber team is going to take a while. Just like every championship team it all starts with defense and buying into the coaches’ philosophy. The Trojans seem to have done that. They were 10-10 mid-way through the season last year and then went on to lose 8 of 9 which secured last place in the Sun Belt.

Troy doesn’t have the firepower yet to climb all the way out of the Sun Belt basement, but the Trojans are going to continue to be more competitive and get closer and closer to .500. Junior forward Zay Williams is going to be in for a big year.

252. UNC Asheville Bulldogs – Last Season Ranking: 162

Conference: Big South

Head coach Mike Morrell has not done much with a lot of talent for UNC Asheville. The Bulldogs are average across the board and that shows with their .500 record last year. Even though Asheville doesn’t play all that fast they do shoot quite a few threes and make them at a good percentage. The problem lies within the roster for the Bulldogs.

Outside of one-star player, the rest of the depth still needs to develop and a lot of it isn’t going to score a ton of points. UNC Asheville does have a ton of experience returning this year and that will hopefully help them be a little bit better but the top of the Big South is pretty good and it is going to take finding a second and third scorer to consistently score in double digits for Asheville to reach that ceiling. The Bulldogs are likely a middle-of-the-pack Big South team. Tajion Jones is the star for the Bulldogs.

251. College of Charleston Cougars – Last Season Ranking: 215

Conference: Colonial

It is never smart to count out a Pat Kelsey-coached team and the former Winthrop headman is now the head coach for the Cougars. Charleston is always one of those teams that is ready to be penciled in as one of the tops in the Colonial already but are not always a realistic threat to make the NCAA tournament. College of Charleston does have a largely revamped roster given the coaching change, but coach Kelsey was able to get some high-quality transfers all of whom can score.

It won’t take long for the Cougars to turn into a perennial power who is always a threat to make the tournament. Bucknell transfer John Meeks led the NCAA in scoring at 25 points per game a season ago before he took the rest of the year off. Meeks only played six games last year, but he is a huge weapon for coach Kelsey to unleash.

250. Quinnipiac Bobcats – Last Season Ranking: 260

Conference: MAAC

The Bobcats have only won the conference regular-season one time. Quinnipiac has never made the NCAA tournament, but in their brief history in NCAA Division 1 they have been a competitive team in the MAAC for the most part. Last year was a tough year as the Bobcats lost a lot of key pieces from the previous year. Quinnipiac has always taken a lot of threes under head coach Baker Dunleavy; they have also had the uncanny ability to play slow like the rest of the MAAC.

The defense for head coach Dunleavy is always a good one they hold their opponents to low-efficiency ratings but also give up more FG’s than they take on offense. This year the Bobcats have two key pieces returning in leading scorer Jacob Rigoni and a former All MAAC player and country leading rebounder two seasons ago Kevin Marfo returns to Quinnipiac after one year away at Texas A&M.

249. Jackson State Tigers – Last Season Ranking: 240

Conference: SWAC

The SWAC had two teams who were undefeated in conference play last year. Jackson State was one of those teams and Prairie View was the other. The Tigers are another one of those teams under head coach Wayne Brent who are trending way up and have a chance to become a dynasty.

Jackson State plays slow and does their damage on the defensive end. They are one the best defensive teams in the country, and they held their opponents to under 40% shooting from the floor. Jackson State denied the three-point line, as opponents only were able to take about 15 attempts from deep a season ago.

If you like offense Jackson State games are not for you. The Tigers also shot under 40% from the floor on the offensive side of the ball. Jayveous McKinnis is a monster as he averaged 13 points and 14 rebounds a game a season ago is ready to win player of the year in the SWAC.

248. Norfolk State Spartans – Last Season Ranking: 239

Conference: MEAC

Head Coach Robert Jones has built a consistent contender in the MEAC and his team was finally rewarded last year with an NCAA tournament appearance. The Spartans also got their second NCAA tournament win when they beat Appalachian State in the First Four game before losing to Gonzaga.

Norfolk State was a great three-point shooting team and they were good at getting to the foul line as they averaged about 24 attempts per game last season. The Spartans are expected to contend near the top of the MEAC again this season as they are every year under their current head coach. Joe Bryant Jr. is the player who makes Norfolk State go.

247. Canisius Golden Griffins – Last Season Ranking: 309

Conference: MAAC

Canisius was one of many teams who had a Covid 19 pause last year but the Golden Griffins had a long one. They did not play a game from January 2nd to February 12th. Canisius only ended up playing 13 games total and they showed well in those games all things considered. The Golden Griffins play quickly and like to maximize their possessions and then slow their opponents’ way down into a half-court offense where they deny the three.

There really is no issue with this most years, except that Canisius loved shooting from deep but turned out to be one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country. If that flips the Golden Griffins could be one of the best teams in the MAAC. Likely though Canisius is still a middle-of-pack MAAC team. Malek Green is one player who could average a double-double easily.

246. Radford Highlanders – Last Season Ranking: 270

Conference: Big South

Former head coach Mike Jones did a fantastic job at Radford and made them a perennial power in the Big South Conference. Jones has now moved on and the Highlanders are starting the Darris Nichols era. The Highlanders have always been known for their defense and for their uncanny ability to get everyone involved and not having a “star.”

Coach Nichols may change the style a little bit, but he has a roster that has some experience and he also filled it with some tremendous shooters from the lower college ranks. Radford has some length and some guys who can make this offense very explosive. The defense should be fine.

The Highlanders do have some question marks though as every team does going into their first season with a new coach. Those question marks are keeping them from the top two spots in the Big South. Watch out for transfer Camron McNeil he can score and rebound with the best of them.

245. Georgia Southern Eagles – Last Season Ranking: 141

Conference: Sun Belt

Heading into the second year of the Brian Burg era and it’s hard to know what to expect. The Eagles had a great season last year considering their roster a season ago was made up of a lot of unproven players but they still committed on the defensive end and led the Sun Belt in turnovers forced and ended up allowing less than 70 points per game overall.

On the offensive end, Georgia Southern didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from deep or from the three-point line. The Eagles did shoot the ball well from inside the arc. The only problem is that under Burg the Eagles took almost 40% of their shots from deep. Coach Burg came from Texas Tech where he was the lead recruiter for coach Chris Beard and was a huge part of the National runner-up team.

Georgia Southern is in good hands but they are in a little bit of a rebuild right now, but the younger players should develop, and they will likely get more from their role players than they did last year. It has been mentioned before, but the pandemic was terrible for teams transitioning to a new coach because they had no time in the offseason.

This year was a full offseason and Georgia Southern will be better off for it. They are still likely a .500 team based on talent but have a chance to be better than that. Elijah McCadden will lead this team.

244. Eastern Washington Eagles – Last Season Ranking: 147

Conference: Big Sky

New head coach David Riley has been a coach at Eastern Washington for the last 10 seasons, he enters his first year as the head coach of the program. This year may be a slight rebuilding year for the Eagles though as the roster he was left with doesn’t have much experience. The Eagles lost virtually all of their scoring from last year and the players they do have returning didn’t play many minutes last year.

Coach Riley has a pulse on the program and is going to do a fine job with the program, but year number one may be a little bit tough given just the sheer number of new players that Eastern Washington has this season. They enter the year as one of the younger teams in the Big Sky.

Rylan Bergersen, a transfer from Central Arkansas, comes to Eastern Washington as a career 18 point per game scorer and a great shooter from deep. Bergersen is going to be the leader for the Eagles on offense. He is one of the only proven scorers on the roster.

243. Longwood Lancers – Last Season Ranking: 259

Conference: Big South

Can head coach Griff Aldrich turn Longwood into a consistent middle-of-the-pack Big South team?  I believe that he can turn the Lancers into just that. Longwood doesn’t have the best facilities and they are a team that the country doesn’t know much about. The Lancers are a physical grind-it-out team on both offense and defense. They will shoot threes at about a 35% clip.

They will stick with all their opponents on the glass. Longwood rarely turns the ball over on offense and they don’t foul when they play defense. Those factors are things that will help teams win games when they may be talent deficient. Sophomore Justin Hill is on pace to become one of the best players to ever wear the Longwood uniform.

242. Valparaiso Beacons – Last Season Ranking: 244

Conference: Missouri Valley

Valpo is no longer the Crusaders and have officially changed their name to the Beacons. That will take some getting used to. Head coach Matt Lottich has had his team trending up for the last few seasons. Two years ago, they lost a heartbreaker in the Valley title game and then last year they played well enough in conference to finish in the middle of the pack.

The one thing that really head the Beacons back was their inability to shoot from the outside. They were a bad three-point shooting team and not a great offensive team overall. Coach Lottich went out and got three transfers from the Big Ten to help bolster the roster. Leading scorer Ben Krikke returns to help get this team back to the tournament. Valpo is a legitimate threat near the top of the Missouri Valley.

241. The Citadel Bulldogs – Last Season Ranking: 344

Conference: Southern Conference

Head Coach Duggar Baucom finally had a winning record as the head man of The Citadel. In true Citadel fashion the Bulldogs played a wide-open style and scored early and often, they shot a ton of threes and hit high percentage two-point shots. They are a thing of beauty to watch on the offensive end. However, they have yet to ever figure out how to defend under their current head coach and that is holding them back immensely.

They are also one of the shortest teams in the country as well. 13 wins were the most for the Bulldogs under their head coach and they have most of that roster coming back this season including double-double machine, super senior, Hayden Brown.

240. North Florida Osprey – Last Season Ranking: 190

Conference: Atlantic Sun

The Osprey comes into the year as one of the youngest teams in the country and the Atlantic Sun is going to be much better this year and really loaded at the top. North Florida shoots a ton of threes they averaged about 28 attempts per game last year and made 10 of them. The Osprey has a ton of guards returning who can really shoot the ball.

On the defensive end, the Osprey will struggle a little bit as they are not a great rebounding team, they don’t force turnovers, and rarely get steals. That likely doesn’t change much this year, but they can score a lot of points. Carter Hendricksen returns to lead the offense, but given the defensive struggles, this team finishes middle of the pack in the Atlantic Sun.

239. Morgan State Bears – Last Season Ranking: 228

Conference: MEAC

When Kevin Broadus was hired by Morgan State the goal was to get the Bears up to prominence and turn them into an annual contender in the MEAC. Morgan State has been a great team the last two seasons and last year they were fantastic on offense. The Bears played at the fastest pace of any MEAC team and honestly, most teams in the conference could not keep up with the pace and Bears were outscoring most of the MEAC teams they played. The team did play in the finals of the MEAC for a chance to go to the NCAA tournament before falling to Norfolk State in the title game.

This year they look to have another explosive offense as coach Broadus returns three of his four top scorers and adds a huge transfer. Morgan State is going to be one of the teams that compete at the top of the MEAC. De’Torrion Ware will easily lead the MEAC in scoring and should win player of the year in the conference.

238. Merrimack Warriors – Last Season Ranking: 234

Conference: Northeast

The first year in the Division 1 ranks for Merrimack was a tough act to follow in year 2. The Warriors won the Northeast Conference in their inaugural year in Division 1. Year 2 was marred by inconsistency as the Warriors finished 9-9 and were firmly in the middle of the conference. This season it is hard to say how it will go. Merrimack has all their production back from last season and the Northeast Conference is always up for grabs.

The Warriors were a bad rebounding team and didn’t shoot the ball well from deep a season ago. Those things will need to change if they wish to reach their full potential. Jordan Minor is extremely important to Merrimack as he should average double-digit rebounds this year

237. VMI Keydets – Last Season Ranking: 311

Conference: Southern Conference

Progress was made for VMI last year under head coach Dan Earl. It was the first time the Keydets had a winning record with their current headman. It seemed like everything clicked last year. VMI was one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country especially from long range as they shot 38% from deep last year and made over 10 threes per game.

The Keydets are a fun team to watch as they play fast and every guy that comes out on the floor takes and makes threes. Big man Jake Stephens returns to try and improve an offense that already averaged 80 points per game a season ago.

236. Rider Broncs – Last Season Ranking: 299

Conference: MAAC

The Broncs finished dead last in a competitive MAAC last year. After the turnover that roster had going into last year, it was going to be hard to be good and then throw the Covid year in there. Rider should be a lot better this year especially considering they have their top three scorers back from a season ago and they added a familiar face to the Roster this year.

Dimencio Vaughn returns after spending last season at Ole Miss. Vaughn is one of the best players in Rider history and with him back along with 16 points per game scorer Dwight Murray Jr., Rider is going to be much improved. If they gel well, they have an outside chance to make the NCAA tournament.

235. Fairfield Stags – Last Season Ranking: 325

Conference: MAAC

The MAAC is a competitive conference every season and last year was no exception. The league may be the best it has been in a very long time. The Stags are getting better under head coach Jay Young, but Fairfield still has a terrible time putting the ball in the basket. Their offensive numbers across the board were near the bottom of the NCAA in every category and it only led to Fairfield scoring about 62 points per game.

The Stags are a great defensive team going back to coach Young’s roots at Rutgers. Fairfield needs to play slow and keep games low scoring to have a chance. Stag fans can be happy knowing that star player Taj Benning is back, but Fairfield is still a bottom-tier MAAC team.

234. UTSA Roadrunners – Last Season Ranking: 246

Conference: Conference USA

UTSA got almost 70 shots up per game a season ago. They were one of the fastest teams in the country. The Roadrunners have always represented their mascot well under head coach Steve Henson. It also doesn’t hurt that UTSA had two of the most dynamic scorers in the nation. Those two players are no longer on campus now and the Roadrunners may have to get slightly creative in how they are going to score.

Even if they don’t have two extremely dynamic scorers they are going to play fast, but they likely are not going to finish top half of the league. Big man Jacob Germany is going to have to step up his game a lot for the Roadrunners this season.

233. North Alabama Lions – Last Season Ranking: 269

Conference: Atlantic Sun

North Alabama enters year four of their Division 1 tenure, and the end of year three for coach Tony Pujol and the Lions was a very successful one. The Lions made a run to the conference championship game and while they were still not eligible for the NCAA tournament it was still a huge stepping stone for the program. North Alabama was close to knocking off Liberty in the Atlantic Sun championship game a season ago as well.

The Lions love to play close games and they are a good rebounding team who doesn’t turn the ball over. Those are all recipes for a sustained run. North Alabama still doesn’t quite have the talent even with star Jamari Blackmon returning. The Lions look to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the stronger Atlantic Sun.

232. Texas Southern Tigers – Last Season Ranking: 196

Conference: SWAC

There is going to be a three-team race at the top of the SWAC this season and Texas Southern is one of the teams that is going to be in that mix. The Tigers were the unexpected champion of the SWAC tournament last year and showed well in the NCAA Tournament as they ended the year winning 15 out of their last 17 games.

The Tigers are always going to be one of the teams in the SWAC who are always going to have a chance. Texas Southern is a very popular destination for players from power schools who are looking for a fresh start and a lot of the appeal for the transfers is the head coach Johnny Jones. Jones is a good coach and has built a powerful program in the SWAC.

This season the Tigers return a good portion of their team from last year and the tournament run. John Walker III leads a talented group of seniors who are going to make noise in the SWAC.

231. South Alabama Jaguars – Last Season Ranking: 112

Conference: Sun Belt

The Richie Riley era for South Alabama has seen the team flip the roster almost every year and take on all transfers. The same with this year, the roster is largely flipped, and much of the roster is comprised of transfers from power five schools who didn’t work out at their other schools.

Most of those transfers didn’t do much at their previous schools and a change of scenery will do them good. The Jaguars have always been one of those teams who are extremely projectable in the preseason because of their mass amounts of talent on the roster. They have yet to make the NCAA tournament and don’t look any closer to doing that this year.

The Jaguars love to shoot threes and they love to play fast. Greg Parham, a transfer from VMI, is one of the best shooters in the country and he is likely going to score 20 a game for the Jaguars.