United States of College Basketball 2021-22: Where every team ranks in each state, from top to bottom


One week. 

One week until college basketball season returns, and returns the way we want it to be. The way it needs to be. The way it hasn’t been in two years. Fans in seats, full schedules, excruciating anticipation for what four months worth of calamity will provide for three weeks worth of madness. 

As we set out for the 2021-22 campaign, it’s time once again to provide a map of college hoops nation. Every territory covered — literally. Today, CBS Sports is happy to provide you with the official preseason bragging rights poster for men’s college basketball. We have the best team in every state for the season ahead, and we have a ranking of every program in all 49 states and Washington, D.C. (Alaska still doesn’t have a Division I basketball program.)

Let’s get to the goods and road trip across this beautiful basketball-loving country.

Alabama Auburn UAB South Alabama Jacksonville State Troy Samford Alabama A&M North Alabama Alabama State

State of the state: We start with the Yellowhammer State, which could reasonably put at least three teams into the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Alabama is coming off one of its best seasons in program history and is my pick to win the SEC. So I give the edge to Nate Oats’ squad over an injured-but-promising Auburn team that should also qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Beyond that clear-cut top two, Andy Kennedy’s in his second season at UAB and is in position to have the Blazers either first or second in Conference USA.

Arizona Arizona State Grand Canyon Northern Arizona

State of the state: A new era begins in Tucson, where Tommy Lloyd will attempt to keep Arizona as a top-20 program in the big picture. The Wildcats seem to have a practical path to NCAA Tournament inclusion thanks to the return of top-100 players Bennedict Mathurin and Azuolas Tubelis. Zona seems to be clearly ahead of Arizona State which, aside from the precious return of Marcus Bagley, could struggle to finish in the top half of the Pac-12. In Phoenix, Bryce Drew has Grand Canyon cooking in the WAC. If you’re not aware, this is one of the best home environments in the game. I believe the kids now refer to scenes such as this as 🔥🔥🔥🔥

Arkansas Arkansas State Little Rock Central Arkansas Arkansas-Pine Bluff

State of the state: The Razorbacks are coming off their first second-weekend NCAA Tournament appearance in 25 years. What will Eric Musselman’s program do to keep the juices flowing? The Hogs look to be anywhere from No. 1-4 in the SEC and are of course the top team in their state. At Arkansas State, Mike Balado enters his fifth season and has what should be his best team yet — a likely top-five team in the Sun Belt.

UCLA USC San Diego State Saint Mary’s San Francisco Stanford UC Irvine Loyola Marymount UC Santa Barbara California Santa Clara Pepperdine Fresno State UC Riverside San Diego UC Davis Cal State Bakersfield Pacific Cal Baptist Long Beach State Sacramento State Cal State Fullerton CSUN UC San Diego San Jose State Cal Poly

State of the state: Cali is always loaded with good hoopers, and now, for the first time in almost 15 years, UCLA both owns the state and enters the season as a top-five team nationally. Mick Cronin returns almost his entire roster, which gives the Bruins and the locals so much reason for sky-high optimism. USC won’t be too far back in the Pac-12, and San Diego State will vie for a Mountain West crown, too. Among mid-majors, Loyola Marymount could have its best season in a generation; UC Irvine has a chance to win the Big West for the fourth time in six years — unless dark horse UC Riverside comes around and plays spoiler. A fair over/under for tournament teams from the most populated state in the country: 5.5. 

Colorado State Colorado Northern Colorado Air Force Denver

State of the state: The Buffaloes may have made the NCAAs last season as a No. 5 seed, but this is no longer their territory — at least not for the year ahead. For the first time in eons, Colorado State enters its season with a reasonable expectation of winning its conference (which it hasn’t done in the regular season since 1990). Niko Medved’s Rams, which narrowly missed the Big Dance earlier this year, have the best player in the Rocky Mountian State (David Roddy) and will be a more likely NCAA Tournament team than a good-but-young CU gang that will take a step back in 2021-22. Northern Colorado, Air Force and Denver (new coach) aren’t expected to finish at the top of their conferences.

UConn Yale Hartford Quinnipiac Fairfield Sacred Heart Central Connecticut State

State of the state: Although maps like this weren’t a thing 10 years ago, let alone 40, that’s basically the last time UConn would’ve been in any danger of not being the logo plastered over the Nutmeg State. Will the Huskies be No. 2, 3 or 4 in the Big East is the more specific curiosity in Connecticut. For Yale, a welcomed return after the Ivy League didn’t play basketball last season. And at Hartford, fresh off its first NCAA Tournament bid in history, the program is playing with a chip on its shoulder after the school’s board voted in May to bump it down to D-III by 2025.

Delaware Delaware State

State of the state: The Blue Hens are one of five teams (Northeastern, James Madison, Hofstra, Drexel) that will almost certainly wind up winning the Colonial this year. The program has one NCAA bid since 1999. Delaware State, meantime, hired Stan Waterman as its new coach.

Florida State Florida UCF Miami FAU USF Florida Gulf Coast Stetson FIU North Florida Florida A&M Jacksonville Bethune-Cookman

State of the state: Leonard Hamilton has been operating the best program in the Sunshine State most of the past seven years. The Noles have produced 10 NBA picks since 2016, and although this year’s roster has some challenging turnover to work through, we’ll probably look up within two years’ time and see at least two more NBAers were involved. Right behind Florida State are the Florida Gators, who also flipped the roster but — similar to FSU — should still be back in the NCAAs again. Beyond those two, I’m skeptical of anyone else winning a ticket in March.

Georgia Tech Georgia Georgia State Mercer Georgia Southern Kennesaw State

State of the state: Personal note: It will be a long time before I forget what happened a year ago when I made this list. I slapped Georgia Tech on the map. Opening night of the season: Georgia State wins in four overtimes at Georgia Tech and promptly finds me on Twitter: 

Two days later: in-state Mercer goes in and beats the Jackets by 10! Embarrassing start … but I was proven correct. Georgia Tech won the ACC Tournament, went 17-9, easily made the NCAAs and had the ACC Player of the Year (Moses Wright). This season’s team won’t be as good, but it will still be the best in the state with a lot of room to spare. Tom Crean’s Georgia team is not expected by those in the SEC to be competitive, so keep an eye out for how that situation evolves as the season goes on.

Hawaii

State of the state: There are many claims Hawaii can make for why it’s the greatest of America’s 50 states. Somewhere between 714 and 928 on that list is the fact its men’s basketball team is always No. 1 on this list — of course without technical competition from D-II Chaminade! No state has had fewer COVID cases and deaths than Hawaii, which makes sense, but all those protocols also made coach Eran Ganot’s job all the more difficult during the pandemic. This was an 11-10 team a season ago. I expect improvement.

Boise State Idaho State Idaho

State of the state: Boise State: the most geographically isolated Division I school. It’s also miles ahead of Idaho and Idaho State, who have gone more than 60 seasons combined without making the NCAA Tournament. The Broncos, on the other hand, have made two since 2010 and have a healthy shot to break on through in 2022.

Loyola Chicago upset Illinois in the NCAA Tournament last season.
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Illinois Loyola Chicago Northwestern DePaul Bradley Southern Illinois Northern Illinois Illinois State Western Illinois UIC SIU Edwardsville Eastern Illinois Chicago State

State of the state: I know Loyola Chicago fans will want the Ramblers logo splashed across the Land of Lincoln — after all, Loyola positively pasted No. 1-seeded Illinois in the second round of the NCAAs — but the truth is Illinois still has the better team this season. Kofi Cockburn’s (silly) three-game suspension to open the season aside, Brad Underwood would seem to have a group capable of winning the Big Ten and getting another 1-seed come March. And Loyola Chicago can do the same once more, re: winning the Missouri Valley. Two fine teams at the top in this state, then it’s a bowl of who-knows-what. Northwestern might finish top-10 in the Big Ten, I’ll say that!

Purdue Indiana Notre Dame Butler Ball State Indiana State Valparaiso Evansville Purdue Fort Wayne IUPUI

State of the state: Purdue fans who’ve been following CBS Sports’ preseason coverage are not surprised to see that big P on this map. The P might as well stand for Painter, as Matt Painter has assembled what must be considered one of his three best rosters since he began coaching the Boilers in 2005. I expect a strong debut season for Mike Woodson at Indiana, and I think Notre Dame is going to flirt with being a top-50 team, but Purdue is on a tier to itself in the proudest basketball state we have. Trevion Williams, Zach Edey and Jaden Ivey are ready to barnstorm through a brutally fun Big Ten.

Iowa Drake Northern Iowa Iowa State

State of the state: Iowa fans know they don’t have a team nearly as good this season as last, but at least the Hawkeyes are much better than Iowa State again. Keegan Murray: know the name. He’ll be the star for Iowa this season and will give Fran McCaffery’s team a chance at staying relevant in the Big Ten. Iowa’s edge for state bragging rights isn’t much, though; Drake went 26-5 last season and, with a full schedule lined up, may well win another 26 games in 2021-22. Meantime, Northern Iowa might have the best player in the state in A.J. Green, if his return after hip surgery can go without a snag. 

Kansas Wichita State Kansas State

State of the state: Kansas. Then draw a line. Wichita State. Then draw a line. Kansas State. No more lines. Three teams, three tiers here for 2021-22. Wichita State will be a top-four team in the AAC, and Kansas State is probably in a do-or-see-you-later year for Bruce Weber. So a quick word on the Jayhawks, who I rank as top-five-good in the preseason. I’ve heard a little bit of skepticism regarding KU’s standing nationally, but most people have slotted Kansas high and with good reason. It depends on Remy Martin, who transferred in from Arizona State. Is he going to be an All-American? Can he share the ball enough to make KU dynamic? The game vs. Michigan State on Tuesday is such a tasty opener to Duke-Kentucky. 

Chris Mack and John Calipari have added some spice to the UK-UL rivalry.
USATSI
Kentucky Louisville Western Kentucky Morehead State Murray State Eastern Kentucky Northern Kentucky Bellarmine

State of the state: Speaking of Kentucky! Sure, the Wildcats won nine games last season and had their worst campaign in … checking my notes here … almost 100 years. Sure. FINE. But have you seen who is on this team? John Calipari has made it a mandate for himself to turn over his roster in challenging ways each season, and yet, he’s never mixed it up like this before. Because of the new transfer-eligibility rules, Kentucky’s never been this experienced with new faces. Objectively speaking, Kentucky getting a No. 4 seed feels like a fair expectation. Louisville isn’t as studded in its lineup but it should be an NCAA Tournament team as well. Mid-major potential with Morehead State, Murray State and Western Kentucky, too. 

LSU Louisiana Tech New Orleans Louisiana Tulane Nicholls State Southeastern Louisiana McNeese State Southern Grambling Louisiana Monroe Northwestern State

State of the state: LSU still wins this by TKO, but it’s been a long time since Louisiana Tech was this close to the Tigers. With Kenneth Lofton Jr. set for a breakout season nationally (he was a top-25 freshman last season), the Bulldogs will be in the mix in C-USA. But LSU is still the top team, though with Adam Miller out for the year due to a torn ACL, Will Wade’s Tigers probably fall closer to the No. 7 spot in the league rather than No. 4 or 5. Down at New Orleans, the Privateers are my pick to win the Southland. 

Maine

State of the state: Maine wins Maine. Maine also is hoping to quintuple its win total from last season, when it was 2-7 and stopped playing due to COVID challenges and roster thinning. 

Maryland Navy UMBC Loyola Maryland Mount St. Mary’s Morgan State Towson Coppin State UMES

State of the state: Maryland is one of five teams (Kentucky, Memphis, Kansas, Texas) with four players represented on our Top 100 And 1 rankings of the best player in men’s college basketball. The Terps are streets ahead of anyone else in Little America, as there isn’t another team in this state projected to be good enough to make the NCAA Tournament. For Maryland, it’s another chance with a good roster to make the Sweet 16 — something the school has done only once since 2003.

Harvard UMass Northeastern Boston College UMass Lowell Merrimack Boston University Holy Cross

State of the state: Sort of a down year for Mass hoops, as a team that didn’t even play last season is probably going to be the best in the Bay State. That would be Harvard, which intends on trading blows with Yale, Princeton and Brown to win the Ivy League. At Boston College a new era begins as Earl Grant takes over in his first season. UMass Lowell, Merrimack and Northeastern all have reasonable chances to be top-three in their respective conferences.

Michigan Michigan State Central Michigan Detroit Oakland Western Michigan Eastern Michigan

State of the state: Michigan vs. Michigan State in football is getting to be as interesting as U-M vs. MSU has been on the hardwood for almost a decade. The Wolverines bring back Hunter Dickinson, a top-10 player, so that means Juwan Howard’s team is going to get an easy nod here. Michigan State has equal parts familiarity and mystery to it. Look for freshman Max Christie to potentially be an even better first-year player than Michigan’s star in the making, Caleb Houstan. There’s another star in the state: Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis, if he wants, could lead the nation in scoring and wind up close to 3,000 career points.

Minnesota St Thomas

State of the state: The Golden Gophers no longer stand alone in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. St. Paul-based St. Thomas now joins the fold and is the lone newcomer to D-I this season. Minnesota should always rank ahead of the Tommies, but it’s possible it isn’t this low for more than a decade. New coach Ben Johnson has almost an entirely new roster after Richard Pitino’s team from last season scattered in a dozen directions. 

Mississippi

Mississippi State Ole Miss Southern Miss Jackson State Alcorn State Mississippi Valley State

State of the state: Exciting times for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The school will likely be a top-half-of-the-SEC team, ideally putting itself in a spot to make the NCAAs, which has been a rarity in the past decade-plus. A year from now Kermit Davis could have Ole Miss back in the top spot, but looking at each roster, it’s hard to make the case Ben Howland doesn’t have the best team in this jurisdiction.

Saint Louis Missouri Missouri State Kansas City Southeast Missouri State

State of the state: This marks the second time in the past four seasons that the Missouri Tigers do not hold the No. 1 spot in the Show Me State. Fans won’t take kindly to that, but Saint Louis has too much back (and Missouri not enough) for me not to put the Billikens at No. 1. It’s pretty close, though, as SLU lost team alpha Javonte Perkins for the season with a torn ACL. Devastating injury, and one that might be the difference between this team making the NCAAs or not. Down at Missouri State, the Bears are the dark horse team in what will be an engaging season for the Missouri Valley.

Montana Montana State

State of the state: The Griz stay on top in Big Sky country, but there’s merely a 28-spot difference in KenPom.com’s preseason rankings (148 to 176). And whereas a lot of mid- and low-major teams that share a state or a region often do not share a league, it’s good for these universities and the Big Sky conference that that’s not the case.

Creighton Nebraska Omaha

State of the state: Creighton still hangs on here, even if the Bluejays will have five new starters this season. Nebraska has a solid chance to prove me wrong. Word out of Lincoln is that freshman Bryce McGowens has first-round NBA potential and could be a top-10 player in the Big Ten by the end of the season.

Nevada UNLV

State of the state: Steve Alford is in his third season with the Wolf Pack and there hasn’t been much of a drop-off since Eric Musselman left for Arkansas. Nevada isn’t the trendy pick to win the Mountain West, but the Pack does have preseason league player of the year Grant Sherfield. Something unthinkable to anyone who knew and loved college basketball 25 years ago: the notion that Nevada would outrank UNLV in something like this. But the schools have traded volleys a lot in recent years. Vegas starts Year One with Kevin Kruger.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Dartmouth

State of the state: As someone who grew up in Vermont and still loves to visit that state annually, I can say the only thing New Hampshire has that Vermont doesn’t do better is twice the number of D-I teams. (OK, fine, and a small coastline to the Atlantic Ocean.) UNH is better than Dartmouth in most seasons, and 2022 will probably bring more of the same. If either team can qualify for a CBI or CIT event, it’s a big win. 

New Jersey

Seton Hall Rutgers Princeton Saint Peter’s Monmouth Rider NJIT Fairleigh Dickinson

State of the state: Has the battle for Jersey ever been tighter than this year between Seton Hall and Rutgers? People are going to be. more heated over this than the disappointment that was “The Many Saints of Newark.” I lean the Hall, but you can just as easily make the case for Steve Pikiell’s Rutgers team, which has the best player in the state (Ron Harper Jr.). Basically a 51/49 win for SHU here, a team that’s expecting Jared Rhoden to come into his own in a big way, plus Syracuse transfer Kadary Richmond is in line to be the breakout player in the Big East. Can’t wait to see these two square off on Dec. 12. 

New Mexico State New Mexico

State of the state: With New Mexico starting over and hiring Richard Pitino, New Mexico State is going to be the better team in the Land of Enchantment for the eighth consecutive season. This will drive Lobos fans nuts, but the metrics, records, NCAA Tournament appearances and conference championships don’t lie. In a year from now, the gap will probably be very close. Two years from now, New Mexico might finally overtake little br– … you know, I can’t even say NMSU is little brother anymore in this scenario. These are like spiteful paternal twins at this point.

New York

St. Bonaventure Syracuse St. John’s Buffalo Colgate Iona Siena Army Hofstra Wagner Niagara Cornell Columbia Stony Brook Canisius UAlbany LIU Manhattan Fordham Marist St Francis Brooklyn Binghamton

State of the state: Bathe in this, Bonnies fans. The most hyped season in five decades is here. Four years ago I ranked St. Bonaventure ahead of Syracuse and Orange fans lost their minds. This time around, probably not as much because most everyone objectively sees that the Bonnies have a superior roster heading into the start of the season. I’ve got Bona No. 19 in my 1-358 and Syracuse No. 46. The gap between the two hasn’t been this big since Bob Lanier was lacing them up in Olean. New York has a lot of teams you could see on your tournament bracket in March. Buffalo, Iona, Siena and Colgate all have their sights set on winning their leagues. And in Queens, St. John’s will probably be No. 4 or No. 5 in the Big East. 

There is usually a lot at stake when Duke and UNC meet.
USATSI
Duke North Carolina NC State Davidson Wake Forest Appalachian State Campbell UNC Greensboro East Carolina Charlotte Gardner Webb Elon UNC Asheville High Point Western Carolina UNC Wilmington North Carolina A&T North Carolina Central

State of the state: Similar to Kentucky, Duke has brought on enough talent to warrant the Blue Devils getting their logo plastered within state borders yet again. Paolo Banchero is the reason; Mike Krzyzewski might have the best player in college hoops, for all we know. We’ll see soon enough. Across Coach K’s 41 years at Duke he’s had the best team in that state more than half the time. No guarantee this year, but I’ll take my chances. Down Tobacco Road, I like North Carolina to have a good season in Hubert Davis’ first year and to comfortably be a single-digit seed. Beyond that, if we’re talking tournament teams, Appalachian State might be No. 3 in terms of most likely to get in, because NC State has some hill to climb in the ACC. 

North Dakota State North Dakota

State of the state: The Bison roam free and powerful in the Roughrider State. In fact, I’d say the gap between NDSU and North Dakota is bigger now than it’s ever been since UND went to D-I 12 years ago.

Ohio State Xavier Dayton Ohio Wright State Toledo Cincinnati Kent State Akron Cleveland State Bowling Green Miami (Ohio) Youngstown State

State of the state: Ohio almost always has a pack of teams worth watching and tracking. Ohio State is normally No. 1, and that’s what we’re seeing again in 2021. The Buckeyes have an All-American in E.J. Liddell and likely a top-four Big Ten outfit. Further south, Xavier is poised for its best season since Chris Mack left for Louisville. There’s a clear top two here, then Dayton has tasty potential as an Atlantic 10 spoiler and Toledo might wind up doing something similar in the MAC. Wright State could become the top team in the Horizon League. As for an obvious team I haven’t mentioned yet, Cincinnati will take its lumps this season before getting back to form on its way to the Big 12 in 2023.

Oklahoma State Oklahoma Oral Roberts Tulsa

State of the state: The Sooner State has just four teams, and it’s rare when at least three of them are compelling enough to draw in national attention. That can be the case this season, however, as Oklahoma State has a shot to be even better even though it lost the 2021 No. 1 NBA Draft pick (Cade Cunningham). Oklahoma brings in Porter Moser to coach after his successful run at Loyola Chicago; the Sooners are projected as a fringe NCAA Tournament team. And then there’s Oral Roberts, the No. 15 seed from March that made a Cinderella second-weekend tournament run and brings back the nation’s leading scorer, Max Abmas. We’re excited to see what the Eagles have in store for an encore.

Oregon Oregon State Portland State Portland

State of the state: Oregon has been the best program in its home state almost every year for three decades. The Ducks are ranked No. 12 in my 1-358; I might be higher on this team than anyone else in the national media. Dana Altman has brought in his latest slew of transfers, led by De’Vion Harmon (Oklahoma), Quincy Guerrier (Syracuse) and Jacob Young (Rutgers). The Ducks easily rank ahead of Oregon State, but the Beavs are coming off their first Elite Eight since 1982. Wayne Tinkle went from having a foggy future with a 10-10 team in February to leading OSU to one of the more surprising Elite Eight runs we’ve ever seen — and signing a new deal with more than $17 million in the process.  

Villanova Penn State Pitt Drexel Temple Duquesne Saint Joseph’s Penn La Salle Lafayette Bucknell Lehigh Robert Morris St. Francis PA

State of the state: I’d love to report that there’s a team within shouting distance of Villanova here, but that’s most certainly not the case. Jay Wright was recently fitted for his Hall of Fame jacket, and he’ll again have the best team in the Big East and a probable Final Four contender. Scan across a state that’s 283 miles long and 160 miles wide and you won’t find another NCAA Tournament-bound team this season. Unusually down year on the whole for this state. 

Providence Rhode Island Brown Bryant

State of the state: The nation’s smallest state should fare well for itself with its four programs. Providence is comfortably the best team of the quartet, but the Friars don’t look to be a top-four team in the Big East. Bryant, however, will have a great chance to win the NEC and Brown is my pick for Ivy League dark horse. Rhode Island probably has an NIT ceiling, but so long as the Rams are in that 80-120 range, they’re doing well as a program and that will be the case again this season.

Clemson Furman South Carolina Wofford Winthrop Coastal Carolina Charleston The Citadel Presbyterian Charleston Southern South Carolina State USC Upstate

State of the state: I tend to forget, and then get surprised, when I rediscover that this state has 14 Division I programs. That’s quite a batch, but South Carolina does rank 23rd in population among all states. For now, there isn’t a top-50 team in the Palmetto State, I don’t believe. Clemson is the default No. 1 due to the South Carolina Gamecocks enduring a submersion that might not find relief for a couple of years. Furman remains one of the better mid-majors; the Paladins should again challenge for the SoCon title. In fact, the middle group here is interesting from a mid-major perspective: Wofford, Winthrop, Coastal Carolina and Charleston all bring something to the table in their conferences this season.

South Dakota State South Dakota

State of the state: South Dakota is a two-school state in D-I hoops, and has been the story for much of the time South Dakota State has been a Division I program, the Jackrabbits have the (bunny) leg up on their Coyote counterparts. Neither school has won an NCAA Tournament game.

Memphis Tennessee Belmont Chattanooga Vanderbilt East Tennessee State Tennessee State Middle Tennessee Tennessee Tech Lipscomb Austin Peay UT Martin

State of the state: Between Memphis, Tennessee and Belmont, the Volunteer State should wind up with at least three NCAA Tournament teams in 2022. Memphis gets the edge over the fellas in Knoxville on account of having four of the 100 best players in college hoops, led by freshmen Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren. And while we’re grateful Memphis and Tennessee will renew their rivalry on the court this season, Belmont’s the Tennessee team most likely to have the gaudiest record; the Bruins were 26-4 a season ago and return almost everyone.

Ex-Texas Tech coach Chris Beard is settling right in as Texas’ next coach.
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Texas

Texas Houston Baylor Texas Tech SMU Texas A&M TCU North Texas UTEP Texas State Rice Sam Houston State Texas Southern Stephen F Austin Abilene Christian UTSA Tarleton State UT Arlington Incarnate Word Prairie View A&M Texas A&M Corpus Christi UTRGV Lamar Houston Baptist

State of the state: A state long known for its deep reservoirs of football talent is also no slouch on the hardwood. Chris Beard’s Longhorns narrowly win out here over a Houston program that’s coming off its first Final Four appearance in almost 40 years. Texas is the trendy top-five team heading into next week, but look around the Lone Star State and the pride of the region is down in Waco, where Baylor is the reigning national champion and should again have a very good team. Given how much BU lost, though, it’s practical to slot loaded Texas and veteran-laden Houston just narrowly ahead of a Bears team with some fun new pieces. There are 24 schools in this state, and it’s a safe projection that at least five will be dancing in March.

BYU Utah State Utah Southern Utah Weber State Utah Valley Dixie State

State of the state: Mark Pope will continue to keep BYU interesting and relevant — so much so that the Cougars should comfortably rank as the best in the Beehive State in 2021-22. Utah State lost Craig Smith to Utah, but that won’t mean USU is behind the Utes this season. That almost certainly won’t be the case, though Utah’s days of being third in this state are probably coming to an end with Smith now running the show in Salt Lake City. Weber State, by the by, could be the best team in the Big Sky.

Vermont

Vermont

State of the state: The Green Mountain State only has and only needs one Division I member. UVM isn’t a shoo-in America East No. 1 seed this season, but it’s probably got the best overall roster again under coach John Becker. The Catamounts have averaged 24.3 wins per season in non-pandemic years under Becker. 

Virginia Richmond Virginia Tech VCU Liberty James Madison Old Dominion George Mason VMI Longwood Norfolk State Radford William & Mary Hampton

State of the state: The Commonwealth is going to have some good basketball teams this season. Virginia Tech should be the dark horse of the ACC. Richmond has one of the oldest teams in the sport and could be No. 2 in the A-10, while VCU won’t be too far behind. Liberty is likely going to win the ASUN again. And James Madison might be the No. 1 team in the CAA. The best program here is still Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers, who aren’t overly talented but still will probably have enough to be a top-four team in the ACC. Hokies vs. Hoos could be a masterful battle in contrasting styles. Bring it on. 

Washington

Gonzaga Washington State Washington Seattle Eastern Washington

State of the state: There’s a gap wider than the Gorge between Gonzaga and everyone else in this state, but at least Washington State has positioned itself to be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament bid under Kyle Smith. The program hasn’t danced since 2008, so keep an eye there. Washington is about to go through a critical season under Mike Hopkins. As for the Zags, what else is there to say before the season gets going? Preseason No. 1 team coming off a one-loss season and there is only one objective: win a national title to shut all the doubters and haters up permanently. 

Washington, D.C.

Georgetown American George Washington Howard

State of the District: D.C. is always Georgetown’s neighborhood. It’s nearly impossible for any of the other three schools to move ahead of Hoya Paranoia. This season will be significant for the long-term viability of Patrick Ewing’s tenure; the Big East Tournament title was a short-term bandage on a wound that needs more tending to in order to restore Georgetown’s aura nationally. 

West Virginia Marshall

State of the state: Bob Huggins has never not had the best team in this state, but he no longer has the best player. Marshall’s Taevion Kinsey made our Top 100 And 1 list, while no Mountaineers can claim the same. The Thundering Herd will be a factor in Conference USA, but WVU will be more likely to make the NCAAs out of the Big 12, provided Taz Sherman and Sean McNeil grow into all-league players. 

Wisconsin Marquette Milwaukee Green Bay

State of the state: The Badgers are still No. 1 here, but they don’t bring the intrigue of Marquette with new coach Shaka Smart, and neither of those teams has the state’s must-see player. Milwaukee will have a shooter’s chance at winning the Horizon League because Patrick Baldwin Jr. — a potential 2022 lottery pick — decided to pass on Duke and instead is playing for his father. There’s a realistic scenario in which the Badger State doesn’t send any teams dancing this season. 

Wyoming

State of the state: The Cowboys went 14-11 last season in Jeff Linder’s first tour as head coach. Wyoming is projected to comfortably finish eighth in an 11-team Mountain West. Had freshman point guard Marcus Williams not bolted after one season for Texas A&M, the Cowboys would have a rosier prospectus for this season. At least they have no in-state competition. 



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