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 Utah Valley Wolverines center Fardaws Aimaq Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
NCAA Basketball Utah Valley Wolverines center Fardaws Aimaq Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

230. Siena Saints – Last Season Ranking: 152

Conference: MAAC

Carmen Maciariello is 32-15 in two seasons as the coach of the Siena program and that is the best two-year run the Saints have had since Fran McCaffrey was the coach. Siena has been able to get a lot of guards who are able to get into the lane and make something happen. They have been able to pair those guards with a dominant big man underneath and that formula has led to a ton of success for Siena in the regular season.

The Saints have still yet to make an NCAA tournament, but their time could be coming quickly. Siena, like almost every team in the MAAC plays slow. The Saints were one of the slowest teams in the country a season ago, they didn’t shoot many threes, and shot an extremely high percentage inside the arc. Siena also made a lot of threes they did choose to take. The offense doesn’t have to be high-powered when you have a defense that locks down the paint, takes away the three-point line, and forces teams to take terrible shots.

Siena did lose their two key players but was able to secure some good talent in the transfer portal. The Saints likely won’t finish at the top of the MAAC but should still have a top-three finish in the league. Big man Jackson Stormo is primed for a breakout year.

229. Monmouth Hawks – Last Season Ranking: 233

Conference: MAAC

The Hawks have always been an easy team to root for, whether it was the Bench Mob, or it was the dunk at Kansas in the waning seconds when Monmouth was down over 20. The fact is Monmouth has also been a great team in the MAAC for the most part as well. Head coach King Rice has this team competitive and they usually finish in the top half of the conference.

The Hawks tend to get fouled a ton, they like to play fast and get into the driving lanes as quickly as possible, which often will lead to fouls by the opponent. Head coach Rice was able to secure two high-quality transfers along with returning star George Papas. Papas was the player who stole the ball and dunked it at Kansas in the waning seconds. Every fan has seen and remembers that moment.

228. Hawaii Warriors – Last Season Ranking: 206

Conference: Big West

Hawaii and head coach Eran Ganot have an uncanny ability to always finish in the middle of the Big West. They are usually not going to be a whole lot better, and they likely won’t be worse and will finish around fifth or sixth in the league. Last year that exact thing happened, and the Warriors were extremely average across the board. Hawaii shot the ball well from deep but was not overly efficient overall.

They didn’t turn the ball over very much, but they also didn’t turn the opponents over very much as well. Hawaii projects to finish in the direct middle of the Big West again as they did lose two key pieces from last year’s team but also gained a player who opted out last year. Samuta Avea is back after sitting out the season due to the Covid 19 pandemic and he is experienced and is going to help this team on both ends of the floor.

227. Niagara Purple Eagles – Last Season Ranking: 275

Conference: MAAC

Greg Paulus has done a remarkable job in only two seasons at Niagara. He took a team that was really struggling and was a bottom feeder in the MAAC and turned them into a middle-of-the-pack, competitive team. Every team must learn to win, and the Purple Eagles are slowly starting to learn how to win. When this season begins for Niagara, they will have one of the most experienced teams in the MAAC.

In addition, it is now a foregone conclusion they are going to play defense, if the offense can come around at all Niagara could be a very formidable team and still should finish right around the middle of the MAAC. A good season for Niagara guard Marcus Hammond and he should be right in the thick of the MAAC Player of the Year race.

226. Tarleton State Texans – Last Season Ranking: 256

Conference: WAC

The Texans came on strong at the end of last season and year two in Division 1 is likely going to go a lot better than year 1 did. Tarleton State was good from beyond the arc, but the defensive end is where they really hung their hat. They were unbelievable on that end as they only allowed 62 points per game.

Even further than the numbers, they played such lock-down defense that their opponents got less than 50 shots up per game and Tarleton State averaged a little over 10 steals per game which was tops in the country.

If the Texans can continue that on defense and keep it up from beyond the arc, which most Billy Gillispie teams have been able to do year to year, they will be just fine. Montre’ Gipson is a player who will probably average around 20 a game.

225. George Washington Colonials – Last Season Ranking: 167

Conference: Atlantic 10

The Atlantic 10 is an extremely competitive league and George Washington has been victim to that a few times over the last few seasons. Head coach Jamion Christian is a good coach who is going to do good things for the Colonials. It could be another lean year for George Washington as they lost two key players from last year. One player graduated and the other player transferred.

Coach Christian does still have some quality pieces that can develop depth and he was able to secure some quality transfers to help with the scoring. The Colonials are going to have two of the better players in the league but beyond them, there are a lot of questions, and as mentioned Christian will have to develop that quality depth.

James Bishop returns for George Washington. Bishop averaged 20 points per game last year and his usage rating was high. It may need to come down a little bit for the Colonials to reach their full potential.

224. Portland State Vikings – Last Season Ranking: 166

Conference: Big Sky

The former head coach of the Vikings is now off to be an assistant at Texas Tech and that meant that head coach Jase Coburn gets to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a head coach. Portland State is going to have a virtually new roster this season as most of the players who were on the current roster transferred at season’s end.

The Vikings have landed some transfers from some mid-major schools that are known for their scoring. If they all gel quickly they have a chance to finish in the top half of the league. Portland State is more than likely a team that is going to have its ups and downs and will knock off a few of the Big Sky leaders. The Vikings will finish near the middle of the pack. Marlon Ruffin, a transfer from Omaha, is a good scorer and team leader. He can get a bucket when the team needs one the most.

223. New Hampshire Wildcats – Last Season Ranking: 218

Conference: America East

The Wildcats have never made an NCAA tournament, but head coach Bill Herrion has New Hampshire trending in the right direction. New Hampshire finished one game above .500 last year after finishing .500 the year before. New Hampshire isn’t efficient on offense, so they are going to play games in the upper sixties or low seventies to win most nights.

The defense and rebounding are where head coach Bill Herrion hangs his hat. He has always had a penchant for finding undersized wings that are extremely athletic and great rebounders. The Wildcats have their top two scorers back from a year ago and Jayden Martinez can shoot from deep rebound and score at will at points.

222. Nicholls State Colonels – Last Season Ranking 172

Conference: Southland

The Colonels are on the cusp of having a Gonzaga and Kansas-like dynasty within the Southland Conference. Nicholls State has a lot of talent and it would be a giant upset if they didn’t make the NCAA tournament this season.  Head coach Austin Claunch is one of the best young coaches in the game and is going to have a lot of teams calling and offering him jobs.

The Colonels play a fast and exciting brand of basketball and are never going to need a shot clock. Nicholls also leads their opponents into a lot of steals, as they averaged about eight per game on defense. The Colonels lost a little bit of scoring last year but replaced it with a lot of scoring and experience. The experience were guys that played in the NCAA tournament as well.

Nicholls State returns their star player Ty Gordon who is going to win the Conference Player of the Year. The Colonels are going to scare a lot of bigger schools and absolutely have a team worthy of this ranking and a team who can knock off a team in the NCAA tournament.

221. Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs – Last Season Ranking: 188

Conference: Big South

Gardner-Webb is still going to be relevant in the Big South as they do a lot of things as a team that is going to win games in that league, but they are not likely to be relevant nationally and will likely end with a losing record overall. The Runnin’ Bulldogs shoot a ton of threes and every guard on the roster can make a three at any point in time when they are on the floor.

Gardner-Webb is still young, and they lost a great player who won a lot of games in a Gardner-Webb uniform. Head coach Tim Craft is a good coach and he is going to find some wins for his team, and they are never out of a game, but they look like a middle-of-the-pack Big South team. D’maurian Williams leads the way for Runnin’ Bulldogs

220. Penn Quakers – Last Season Ranking: 353

Conference: Ivy League

The Quakers are always a hard team to rank. They are extremely well-coached and usually have one of the stars in the Ivy League. They usually finish top half of the Ivy and they are always a threat to make the NCAA tournament. Penn lost a lot of production from 2019-2020 to now and that is going to be a huge factor.

Last season was lost, and no Ivy teams could have organized practice because of the pandemic. That makes breaking into a new team very difficult. The emergence of star point guard Jordan Dingle and hopeful return of Michael Wang should help ease the transition for coach Steve Donahue.

219. Lipscomb Bisons – Last Season Ranking: 149

Conference: Atlantic Sun

The Bison finished in the top half of the Atlantic Sun again. The league is going to be better this year, especially at the top and Lipscomb is going to be a factor in the standings. The Bison do not play overly fast, and they are extremely efficient shooting the ball especially inside the arc. Lipscomb is a fundamentally sound team that doesn’t beat themselves.

In addition to their high-efficiency ratings they also don’t turn the ball over, and they rarely foul on the defensive end. Lipscomb is going to pose a challenge to the top teams in this league because they have two excellent players and have a good defender and rebounder in the middle of the floor.

Head coach Lennie Acuff has filled this roster with good guards who can pass and shoot and a big man who flat-out dominates games. Ahsan Asadullah returns for his senior year and is going to have a few games this year where he completely takes over. When he is going well, he is unstoppable.

218. Prairie View A&M Panthers – Last Season Ranking: 266

Conference: SWAC

The Panthers are starting to become a dynasty in the SWAC. Prairie View has gone from one of the worst programs in the country historically to one of the most consistent under current head coach Byron Rimm. Prairie View has become a very popular destination for players looking to close out their careers with one final shot at making the NCAA Tournament. Prairie View went 13-0 in the league last year before falling to Texas Southern in the conference tournament.

This year the Panthers bolstered their roster with some big-time transfers that are going to help them immensely especially on the offensive end. Leading scorer and potential SWAC player of the year Jawaun Daniels returns.

217. Hartford Hawks – Last Season Ranking: 227

Conference: America East

Hartford has had an eventful two years. It all started in March of 2020 when they were slated to play in the America East conference title game for their first chance at the NCAA tournament. Then the remainder of the season was canceled due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Last season the Hawks finished the deal and qualified for the NCAA tournament by winning the conference tournament.

Shortly after the tournament, the Hartford athletic department announced this would be the last one in Division 1. The school plans to file a motion to move to Division III in January of 2022. The move shouldn’t be effective until 2025. The Hawks play slow and are very deliberate in everything they do. They play lock-down defense and grind out wins.

Head coach John Gallagher said the entire team was staying together to make another run at the NCAA tournament and he was true to his word as most of the contributors are back again for another season. Austin Williams leads the team in everything.

216. North Carolina A&T Aggies – Last Season Ranking: 174

Conference: Big South

The Aggies were heartbroken last year, as they had to pause the season due to a Covid 19 outbreak one day before the conference tournament started and had to withdraw from the tournament. It was a big deal because North Carolina A&T dominated the MEAC all season long.

The Aggies are another team that doesn’t have a ton of individual talent, they also move the ball well and try and get the best shot possible. North Carolina A&T bolstered their roster with a lot of grad transfers from good basketball programs. The Aggies are the team that is likely going to win the Big South this year as they have the most complete team. It is their first season as a member of the Big South.

Kameron Langley may lead the country in assists, should be the frontrunner for MEAC Player of the Year, and likely will win Defensive Player of the Year in the league as well. Langley is good and deserves a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.

215. UC Davis Aggies – Last Season Ranking: 168

Conference: Big West

UC Davis was another team that had a long covid pause in the middle of the season. The Aggies were off for a month and a half, and then they lost four out of their first five after returning from their long break. Davis has a talented group of guards who do everything for this team. Head coach Jim Les is a throwback who likes to drive the lanes and has his players get fouled.

The Aggies shoot very few threes, but they shoot a ton of free throws. They shot about 21 free throws a game last year and ended up shooting almost 80% from the line. The good shooting from the line helps UC Davis make up for what is otherwise very average shooting numbers elsewhere. Star guard Ezra Manjon returns, and he does everything for this team. Manjon is also one of the best free throw shooters in the country as he shoots almost 90% from the line overall.

214. UMBC Retrievers – Last Season Ranking: 189

Conference: America East

UMBC was coached by one of the upstarts of college basketball in Ryan Odom. UMBC likely is never going to repeat the success he had at UMBC the last time they made the NCAA tournament when they knocked off Virginia in the first round. That game will live on forever and will always be a part of any NCAA tournament coverage. Coach Odom left to take a bigger job and the Retrievers are now coached by Jim Ferry.

The Retrievers were an average offensive team who didn’t do anything special, but they made enough shots to keep them close in most games. The defense is good, and they keep teams out of the restricted area and force teams to make tough contested jumpers, which in turn leads to lower shooting percentages.

UMBC lost some production from last year, but coach Ferry has a lot to work with so they should still finish in the top three of the America East. Darnell Rogers is the shortest player in Division 1 at 5’2” tall.

213. Elon Phoenix – Last Season Ranking: 205

Conference: Colonial

It’s hard to think that Elon would not have been closer to the top half of the Colonial a season ago had it not been for the two long Covid pauses and the fact that the Phoenix had no offseason program to develop their young team. The backcourt has a chance to be good and one of the best in the Colonial if everything goes as planned for head coach Mike Schrage.

Elon takes a ton of threes and never turns the ball over on offense. The Phoenix should shoot the ball much better than they did last year, and if that happens, they have an immense ceiling because they have a ton of talent especially in the backcourt. Hunter Woods is one of the best rebounding guards in the country and he will have a much better year scoring the ball. This will allow the guards to really reach their potential.

212. Long Island University Sharks – Last Season Ranking: 155

Conference: Northeast

Head Coach Derek Kellogg has done a great job entering his fifth season at the helm of the Sharks. He is about .500 in his tenure there which is extremely impressive given the limitations that he has recruiting and facilities-wise. The Sharks are one of those teams who should bully everyone they play underneath as their frontcourt is unbelievable and experienced.

Last season LIU was a good rebounding team averaging about 40 a game. 48% of their rebounds came from two players in the frontcourt. Those two players return and are going to help LIU tremendously. The Sharks ended up at .500 last year because they have a lot of question marks with their backcourt.

They don’t turn the ball over, but they are a terrible shooting team from deep, and there are times especially late in games when the entire team doesn’t always take the best shots. The guards do not provide much in the way of perimeter defense either. If the Sharks can figure out the backcourt and someone emerges to help the frontcourt, then LIU can really take off. Eral Penn is a walking double-double and is ready for a breakout.

211. Cal State Fullerton Titans – Last Season Ranking: 271

Conference: Big West

The Big West is another low major conference that a lot of teams have a shot at winning. Maybe not winning it in the sense of the regular season but a lot of the teams can win the conference tournament to secure the NCAA bid. Cal State Fullerton made a ton of threes last year and they had a high-powered offense that could put points up quickly.

The Titans also gave up a lot of points and they were a bad rebounding team. Head coach Dedrique Taylor has got to figure out a way to slow the Big West offenses down enough to win some games. Fullerton does have a star in Oakland transfer Tray Maddox Jr.

210. Utah Valley Wolverines – Last Season Ranking: 264

Conference: WAC

The Wolverines finished second in the WAC last season during Mark Madsen’s second full season as head coach. The WAC is wide open, perhaps more than it has ever been and that may bode well for Utah Valley as they look to make their first NCAA tournament in school history.

The Wolverines were an unbelievable rebounding team last year and they had one of the best offenses in the country. Utah Valley gets fouled a lot and they took the sixth-most free throw attempts per game with 24 a game. They drastically need to improve on their free throw percentage though as they only shot 63% from the line for the whole year. If they are going to get to the line that much the Wolverines need to make them. It could drastically change their wins and losses in a season.

Fardaws Aimaq was the most prolific rebounder in the nation at 15 per game and averaged 14 points per game. He is the most important player for Utah Valley.

209. George Mason Patriots – Last Season Ranking: 182

Conference: Atlantic 10

George Mason made a splash in the offseason when they hired Kim English. English is a very charismatic guy who has a tremendous rapport with his players and it going to be one of those coaches who the fans and the media love. The Patriots may go through a slight rebuilding process as they did lose a good chunk of their roster from last year and it’s a natural transition to a new coach.

One thing that could also hold George Mason back is the fact that the roster was built quickly. The roster was gutted in the transfer portal once former coach Dave Paulson was fired. English is a good coach and will get the Patriots turned around and he did enough in the transfer portal to get this team to a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 finish. DeVon Cooper is a transfer from Morehead State who can really score.

208. Eastern Kentucky Colonels – Last Season Ranking: 144

Conference: Atlantic Sun

The move to the Atlantic Sun from the Ohio Valley made a ton of sense for Eastern Kentucky. Even on a good year they were still never going to be better than the two teams at the top of that league. Joining the Atlantic Sun, the Colonels will now provide some competition for the top of the conference as well. Eastern Kentucky took the most shots in the country a year ago.

They averaged just under 70 shots per game a year ago, made 45% of their shots, and scored 81 points per game. The Colonels were not overly efficient, but they do play extremely fast and that mitigated a lot of that. On the defensive end, Eastern Kentucky was able to grab the second-most steals in the country a year ago and just a little over 10 per game.

The Colonels did lose a lot of their scoring from last year, but they do have a star returning in Jomaru Brown. Brown only played four games last year before suffering an injury. Had he played the entire year Eastern Kentucky would potentially have had the best offense in the country.

207. Charlotte 49ers – Last Season Ranking: 118

Conference: Conference USA

Charlotte is one of the more talented teams in the Conference USA, at least on paper. They have filled the roster with a lot of division one retreads from power five schools. All of those players have tremendous amounts of talent, it just didn’t work at their old schools for whatever reason.

One thing about Charlotte that may hold them back from reaching their full potential is how slow they play. They played one of the slowest paces of any team in the country a year ago. The 49ers only took a little over 50 shots per game a year ago, and they were not very efficient with the shots they did take. Playing slow can still win a lot of games with efficient offense, so head coach Ron Sanchez went out and got some quality transfers who have been efficient players in the past.

The hope is to still play slow while making many more shots. If the 49ers come together quickly, they could be one of the better teams in the league. If it takes them a bit to come together, they will finish in the middle. Jahmir Young returns for the 49ers and he will probably average 20 points per game.

206. Cal Baptist Lancers – Last Season Ranking: 257

Conference: WAC

Heading into last season, I was not very high on Cal Baptist as they had a virtually new roster and a ton of question marks. Here I am with egg on my face because as it turns out The Lancers were one of the best offensive teams in the country and they really made teams pay from deep. Honestly, at times this offense moved like a well-oiled machine. There was perfect spacing, and the ball moved a lot. Cal Baptist has their entire team back from a fourth-place WAC finish.

This year the WAC is wide open, and the Lancers must be in the conversation as a team who could win the league. 43% three-point shooter Reed Nottage returns.

205. Illinois State Redbirds – Last Season Ranking: 290

Conference: Missouri Valley

Illinois State just completed their second-worst season in school history. The Redbirds were young, but they looked disinterested at times last year and this is now two seasons in a row where head coach Dan Muller has failed to win more games than he lost. The goodwill for the Redbirds is quickly running out. Illinois State doesn’t project to be very good this season either as they still don’t have a lot of quality depth.

They did add a very intriguing transfer from Utah State in Liam McChesney who if he can get healthy can provide this team a huge spark. Even still it is going to be tough to climb out of the MVC basement.

204. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers – Last Season Ranking: 122

Conference: Sun Belt

Cliff Ellis has been the head coach of Coastal Carolina for a long time and almost every year you know what you are going to get with the Chanticleers. They play a fast pace and are one of the best passing teams in the country. In addition to their prowess passing the ball, Coastal Carolina was second in the country last season in total rebounds, as they averaged about 44 rebounds per game.

The offense is explosive, even though they did lose a 20 point per game scorer a season ago. The rebounding is still going to be excellent and they are still going to move the ball. On the defensive side of the ball the Chanticleers set everything up, as they want you to take threes, they allowed almost 30 threes per game last year but they were not good shots and the opponents missed them a lot. They didn’t allow anything from inside the arc. Coastal Carolina allowed teams to shoot under 40% from the season, but they accomplished that in a very unorthodox way.

Ebrima Dibba is the most important player on this roster. He does everything he scores, rebounds, and is an elite passer. He is a huge difference-maker for the Chanticleers and is often the difference between winning and losing.

203. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles – Last Season Ranking: 286

Conference: Atlantic Sun

The Eagles may finally be getting back to Dunk City and this year should finally finish near the top half of the Atlantic Sun. Florida Gulf Coast loves to play fast and spread the floor. Head Coach Michael Fly loves to take three-pointers and the Eagles took the 17th most threes of anyone in the country last year. The problem is they didn’t make any of them and that lead to low offensive numbers.

Florida Gulf Coast being in Fort Myers, FL is always going to be a popular destination for transfers and that is the same this year as the team has a really good portion of their scoring back from last year and has also bolstered the rotation with high-quality transfers. Cyrus Largie is back to lead the Eagles.

202. Cal St. Bakersfield Roadrunners – Last Season Ranking: 248

Conference: Big West

Head coach Rod Barnes had his team playing unbelievable defense last year. The Roadrunners already have a great home-court advantage with their blue court, but another thing they do is that they make it terribly hard to even get a shot up against their defense. They only allowed a shade over 50 shot attempts a game last year and they have an uncanny ability to allow their opponents to get nothing on the glass.

The issue lies with Bakersfield not having a go-to guy on the offensive end. They were not a bad offensive team by any means, but they were average on offense and have no one on the current roster who averaged over 10 points per game. Justin Edler-Davis will try and be the leader of this team on the offensive and defensive end this year.

201. Boston University Terriers – Last Season Ranking: 137

Conference: Patriot League

It’s hard to think of last year as a disappointment for Boston University. They head into the season as one of the favorites to win the Patriot. They had their entire team back from 2019-2020, the one that captured the Terriers’ first-ever Patriot League title, and they had a ton of confidence from the way the 2019-20 season closed out.

It was just so difficult last year for Boston University in a lot of ways, the Patriot League said no to non-conference and the teams only played those teams that were in driving distance from their school, so the Terriers only played five different opponents all year. That coupled with the no fans and a month-long Covid pause really affected the program. This year may be the year again for them to finish near the top of the league, as the stronger league teams a year ago don’t look nearly as strong, sans Colgate.

The Terriers also have their whole team back again from last year. The team has a ton of experience as their core three are all super seniors. JaVante McCoy had a breakout season last year and this year he is primed to try and help get his team back to the NCAA tournament.