College basketball rankings 1-353: From Kansas to No. 353 and an interesting fact on every team
October has come again. It’s a time for artistic changing of the seasons, overplayed debates about pumpkin-spiced foods, maybe the best sports month of the year, and a reminder that Division I men’s college basketball has way too many freaking schools. This is never more apparent than when I annually take on the ultimately rewarding but undeniably psychotic task of ranking every single team in this beautifully unruly sport.
College basketball’s population of programs has gathered moss over the past two decades, adding more low-major squads in clusters and bloating from just over 320 teams at the turn of the century to 353 at the start of this season.
The concept of having 353 teams of vastly different resources competing for the same championship is part of what makes college hoops unique and outstanding — but also highlights why the sport faces so many issues that tangle its threads: barricades against optimal scheduling, cost-of-attendance inconsistencies, coaching salaries, a fight for regular-season relevancy.
Regardless, the start of another splendid season is less than two weeks out. I hope this list gets you all the more excited for the chaos to come across the ensuing five months. Consider this your biggest single/scannable preseason asset for college basketball in 2018-19.
For this year’s ranking, I’m trying something new: I’ve veered from Gary Parrish’s Top 25 (and one) for the first 26 teams, which is why you’ll see differences between his rankings and mine. Click and compare! Also, there were 54 coaching changes between last season and this one. All schools that have a new lead man on the bench are identified at the start of their respective capsules.
For correspondence on how accurate this list and how much you approve of where I have every team slotted, feel free to send a note on your unquestioned appreciation.
Here we go.
The Jayhawks have gone a ridiculous nine straight seasons with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament; 2019 will make for 10 in a row. Kansas is at the top of the list thanks to the unexpected boost of a late return by Lagerald Vick, who earlier in the offseason seemed sure on leaving college early. Instead, he’s back and so is Udoka Azubuike. Injected into this roster are Dedric and KJ. Lawson (formerly of Memphis) and Charlie Moore (formerly of Cal), who help give Kansas an edge in experience that warrants its spot at No. 1. Freshmen to know: future first-rounder Quentin Grimes and smooth point guard Devon Dotson. Not only is the rest of the Big 12 playing for second, but so is the rest of the country.
It’s going to be 20 straight NCAA Tournament appearances for Mark Few and the Bulldogs this season. WOW. To do this coming out of the WCC is astounding. The Zags have four (Rui Hachimura, Josh Perkins, Killian Tillie, Zach Norvell) of the 50 best players in the sport — and that’s not accounting for freak transfer Brandon Clarke and grad transfer Geno Crandall. The Bulldogs are only two seasons removed from losing in a close national title game to North Carolina. This team looks better than that one.
I’ve made this point all offseason, but since we’re all together right now allow me to say it one more time: If Nevada’s roster situation were applied to a school in a power conference coming off a Sweet 16, chances are high that team would be ranked No. 1 in the preseason. I only barely like Kansas and Gonzaga more than Nevada, which boasts nine (!) transfers on its roster. The standouts being Caleb Martin (18.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline. Then you take into account top-20 2018 prospect Jordan Brown. Eric Musselman’s got a bunch of grown-up men on this roster. The Wolf Pack will be a national title contender for the first time in school history.
The Wildcats’ roster hasn’t been better set up to win a national championship since the 2014-15 team that went 38-1 and had Karl-Anthony Towns. This one has all the pieces that suggest John Calipari is banking on reaching the seventh Final Four of his career. Grad transfer Reid Travis will average a double-double. Sophomore P.J. Washington will Hulk-flex an average of four times per game. Freshman Keldon Johnson might be the best pro prospect. Freshman Tyler Herro could grow into the dagger man by January, and heck, maybe he averages 15 points. Sophomore Quade Green could be the one who holds it all together. There’s plenty more, too. This is a deep team and it shouldn’t take long to get it right.
I’m going to get through this paragraph without mentioning it. So, who’s back? Future first-rounder De’Andre Hunter is. Potential First Team All-ACC guy Kyle Guy is. Eminent Virginia Player Ty Jerome as well. Jack Salt and Mamadi Diakite are in the fold again, too. Let the record show I had UVA ranked fifth even before Braxton Key was ruled eligible, but all the better. Virginia rated as the best team in college basketball’s regular season last year. Tony Bennett has proven to be reliable in this regard, and I’m not bailing on the Wahoos. This will be the best team in the ACC.
Rest assured, even though Duke isn’t projected by most to be the best, they’ll probably be the most interesting. Zion Williamson alone will take care of that (so long as his eligibility remains aboveboard, which seems to be the case). R.J. Barrett’s going to storm through this season and outshine every other Blue Devil, but we can’t overlook how offensively talented frosh Cam Reddish is and how important point guard Tre Jones will be. Tidbit on Duke: Though they’re not ranked No. 1 here, and are unlikely to earn the top spot in the preseason AP Poll, if the Blue Devils work their way to numero uno in 2018-19 — and UCLA doesn’t — Duke will overtake UCLA for most weeks at No. 1 in the history of the poll. The two programs are tied at 134 all time heading into the season. That’s more than six seasons’ worth of being ranked No. 1 for each school.
The Volunteers could have a neck-and-neck race all season with Kentucky in vying for the title of SEC’s best. The good news for the Vols is that they bring back nearly 90 percent of their minutes and almost all of their offense from a season ago, when they won 26 games and were one of the biggest surprises in college basketball. Grant Williams, who was the SEC Player of the Year, is the first player in the league to win the award and return the next season since Chris Lofton did it for UT in 2007. Admiral Schofield is a dude.
8. North Carolina
UNC’s won either 26 or 33 games the past four seasons. I think the Heels wind up between those numbers this year, probably closer to 33. Luke Maye is a preseason national player of the year candidate, but he’s not the most talented guy on his team. Nassir Little, a freshman who probably goes in the 2019 lottery, is someone you’ll want to watch from game one. Cam Johnson’s now a senior; he’ll be crucial to UNC’s ACC title hopes. But the guy who’s name could flame up in a good way is Kenny Williams, who steps into an even bigger role, and Coby White, who will inherit much from Joel Berry II.
It’s cruel timing for the rest of the Big East that Villanova will take a little step back … and yet there’s probably no one else in the league with the coaching and roster in place to dethrone the Wildcats. Eric Paschall and Phil Booth return for the reigning national champions. We’ve got a reload here. Joe Cremo, a transfer from Albany, will be one of the key new guys on this team, someone who probably puts up 13 per game and kills off a few teams with late 3-pointers this season. If he doesn’t, freshman Cole Swider will. He’s arguably Villanova’s best incoming newbie, a long-range threat who will make sure Nova keeps up with its 3-point assault. Collin Gillespie’s moment is about to arrive as well.
10. Michigan State
Sparty appears to have no contender for the top of the Big Ten. Cassius Winston’s going to pop nationally, and I think Joshua Langford’s going to put the pieces together in his junior season. Nick Ward is among the most efficient players in college hoops. Can he become a dominant big man? Matt McQuaid hit 39 percent of his 3-pointers last season; I kinda think he ups that to 45 percent or better in 2018-19. MSU certainly lost some pieces (if Jaren Jackson Jr. had returned, which of course was never going to happen, MSU would unquestionably be a top-five preseason team) but enough is coming back to justify a top-10 ranking.
After a shockingly good regular season, Auburn laid arguably the biggest egg of the NCAA Tournament (Arizona also in the running with its loss to Buffalo) when it fell 84-53 to Clemson in the second round. But it was a 26-8 season for a Tigers team that was mired in FBI talk all season long and didn’t have some of its core players because of that. It gets Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy back from suspension, which is why Bruce Pearl’s team is ranked so high. Bryce Brown returns too: he’s the team’s best player and shooter. The breakout star will be Anfernee McLemore, a multifaceted wing on his way back from a scary ankle injury.
The Ducks are going to romp in the Pac-12. Oregon fans await Bol Bol and Louis King, two freshmen who have length and should be standouts on defense in the frontcourt. Throw in Kenny Wooten’s ability to play high above the rim and you’ve got the trappings of the best defensive team in the conference. I haven’t even gotten to point guard Payton Pritchard yet — he’s Oregon’s best player. This program won 23 games last season and is going to be vastly improved. Ducks have a No. 3-seed ceiling.
13. Virginia Tech
Justin Robinson is owed a lot of due this season and he’ll get it when Virginia Tech manages to remain ranked more weeks than not throughout 2018-19. Buzz Williams is on his way to becoming the greatest coach in program history already. Va. Tech (don’t you know Hokies fans just hate it when you call it that) has never made three NCAA Tournaments in consecutive years. It’s happening five months from now, though. Hokies have a sneaky good draft prospect Nickeil Alexander-Walker, one of four starters who returns.
Tyus Battle (19.2 ppg) and Oshae Brissett (14.2 ppg) are a top-10 1-2 punch in college hoops. Then you’ve got veteran point guard Frank Howard (14.4 ppg, 4.7 apg) to keep things steady. This is a roster that’s backdoored into the NCAAs two seasons in a row only to win six games in those two tournaments. Jim Boeheim’s squad should absolutely be top-five in a very good ACC. I’m curious what freshman combo guard Jalen Carey’s role in the offense will be, but he could be a sparkplug. Orange fans have high expectations, but feels like Syracuse isn’t buzzing throughout college hoops just yet.
15. Kansas State
Kansas State hasn’t obviously had this much collective talent heading into a season since Michael Beasley, Bill Walker and Jacob Pullen were on campus in 2007. Now it’s preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Dean Wade, leading scorer Barry Brown and fringe NBAer Xavier Sneed propping up K-State as a top-tier team in the league and probably a top-10 defensive unit nationally this season. Bruce Weber, let’s see what you can do with a platter full of expectations in front of ya.
16. West Virginia
When last season ended I figured WVU was due to dip significantly because of the graduations of Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. But I didn’t give the roster enough credit. Esa Ahmad will put up fine numbers and play a ton of minutes. James Bolden is going to lead the backcourt. And Sagaba Konate will again be the most entertaining — if not best — shot-blocker in college basketball. Bob Huggins needs 28 wins this season to tie Jim Calhoun for 13th all time with 873 in Division I.
Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, Isaiah Livers and Jordan Poole are back. That’s a quality quartet coming off a Final Four appearance. Simpson’s a bulldog of a player, Livers is a terrific defender who’s still growing into his role, and Matthews is going to earn an NBA paycheck. Poole? He’s going to live forever off this moment.
Get ready for Tremont Waters, the sophomore point guard who could be a top-five entertaining player (and All-American) this season. Waters was more statistically impressive than any other returning sophomore in college hoops. He’s got a new partner in Naz Reid, a freshman who won’t be an unknown for too long after the season starts. For LSU, it’s going to be a bittersweet campaign, though. This team tragically lost one of its players, Wayde Sims, to a murder in September. No resolution can bring closure in the year ahead, you wouldn’t think.
19. Florida State
To all the Noles fans, I hope we can move on and live in peace. When FSU made the 2018 NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed, I expressed a particular opinion that Leonard Hamilton’s team not only wouldn’t win a game in the tourney — but that it wasn’t even interesting enough to warrant an at-large bid. Well … FSU went on to the Elite Eight. Now, with Terance Mann, Trent Forrest, M.J. Walker and David Nichols back, it’s only right and fair to put FSU in the top 20. Love that it opens the season against Florida.
20. St. John’s
Transfers should have significant impact on teams chasing No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 seeds this season. Mark St. John’s in that group, as Mustapha Heron’s eligible and doesn’t have to sit a season after earning a hardship waiver from the NCAA. The former Auburn shooting guard has Johnnies fans dreaming of March. He and Shamorie Ponds and Justin Simon are probably going to be the highest-scoring trio in the Big East. For coach Chris Mullin, this has to be the time. I look forward to catching this team in person multiple times.
21. Mississippi State
Last made the NCAAs in 2009. Quinndary Weatherspoon is one of the top 20 seniors in college basketball. Lamar Peters alongside in the backcourt makes for a promising team. Can they come through? Ben Howland has the roster age, balance and talent combination he’s been slowly building toward since getting to Starkville, Mississippi in 2015. I am a soft buy on MSU this year, but it would be a genuine surprise if this team, coming off 25 wins, doesn’t dance.
Think I might be higher on UW than anyone not specifically covering Pac-12 hoops. Jaylen Nowell (best sophomore in the league), Matisse Thybulle (best defender in the league) and Noah Dickerson (best rebounder in the league?) are going to win a lot of games for Mike Hopkins in his second season in Seattle. Since Washington returns its starting five and brings in some green-but-game freshmen, seems a safe bet this team earns a single-digit seed on Selection Sunday.
You’re going to hear about, read up on and see a lot of freshman Romeo Langford, who’s already been crowned prince of basketball in that state after a legendary high school career. But I swear to you: Juwan Morgan is the most valuable and best player Indiana has. He averaged 16.5 points and 7.4 rebounds a season ago, opted to return, and in doing so sets up Indiana for a year of resurgence. I don’t think IU will be deep but I think it will win the way some of Archie Miller’s good Dayton’s teams did.
Between Kris Wilkes, Jaylen Hands and Prince Ali, the Bruins should get 50 points per game from the trio and fight for second place in the Pac-12. Steve Alford will hear calls for his job if this team doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament, but I don’t see that being the case. Barring any more injuries (freshmen Shareef O’Neal and Tyger Campbell are done for the season already), the Bruins should be nationally relevant. Remember to keep a look out for Cody Riley and Jalen Hill; both big men sat all last season after being involved in the LiAngelo Ball shoplifting saga in China. Yeah, remember that?
The Horned Frogs have an overlooked 3-point stud in Desmond Bane, who will see his role increase this season. Jaylen Fisher, if he can stay healthy, will be Bane’s change-of-pace complementary teammate. The school won 79 games in the five seasons prior to Jamie Dixon getting there. If TCU gets to 30 victories this season (a challenge, but not unthinkable), TCU will have 75 wins in three seasons under Dixon.
While UCF won the preseason poll in the American, I am going with reliable ol’ Cincy as the best team in the conference for 2018-19. The Bearcats are going to be elite on defense again. They lose Jacob Evans, Gary Clark and Kyle Washington, which is sizable, but they bring back Jarron Cumberland, Cane Broome, Justin Jenifer and Tre Scott. Cumberland’s grown into a borderline stellar college player. Mick Cronin’s made eight straight NCAA Tournaments and must be listed among the 25 best coaches in the game.
Steve Wojciechowski is feeling some pressure from an anxious fan base that wants to get back to the level it was at under Buzz Williams. I’m calling it: in year No. 5, Wojo’s going to amass more wins than he has the previous four seasons (last year’s total of 21 is best). Markus Howard and Sam Hauser might combine to make 250 3-pointers this season — and shoot a collective 45 percent while doing so. Dangerous! There’s more: slick shooter Joseph Chartouny, formerly of Fordham, is in the mix. Former Nebraska starter Ed Morrow is also on board here. The Golden Eagles are a sleeper pick to steal the Big East.
Mike White’s Gators will be just fine, thanks to seniors Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen returning to UF. A name that should emerge by February: freshman Noah Locke, who will provide Florida with range and keep this team’s offense in the top half of the SEC. Kevarrius Hayes rounds things out down low and will be the muscle man in the paint. Turn up the Petty and flip on the Florida game: All’s good in Gainesville.
This stands to be one of the best Huskers teams in program history. The name to know is James Palmer Jr., a vigorous forward with a good chance at getting drafted in 2019. But Nebraska’s also bringing back Glynn Watson Jr., Isaac Copeland, Isaiah Roby and Thomas Allen. Tim Miles’ team won 22 games last season. It should get to at least 24 in the next five months.
I’m not calling the Tigers a one-hit wonder. After one of the best seasons in school history, Clemson returns to a tough ACC but with two really good players back on campus. Marcquise Reed (15.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.3 apg) is a good sleeper pick to be one of the five best players in the league. Elijah Thomas is a workhorse on both ends. Brad Brownell’s endured a lot to get Clemson to this point; now the school’s positioned to make consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 2011.
The Knights are ranked second here among AAC teams, in part because Cincinnati’s more consistent but also because injuries have hurt this school in recent years. But If B.J. Taylor (love watching this guy do his thing) and Tacko Fall can play most if not all UCF’s games this season, this team should be back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.
The Terps are a hard team to size up. I’m going to buy relatively high, considering they lost two NBA picks in Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson. Anthony Cowan, who’s arguably a top-10 point guard in college basketball, is back and could run some beautiful offensive action with Bruno Fernando. Mark Turgeon could get to a fourth Big Dance in five years if freshmen Jalen Smith and Aaron Wiggins wind up becoming serious playmakers.
33. Notre Dame
T.J. Gibbs will be the star, while Rex Pflueger is going to be the X-factor. There’s this new player, a freshman named Nate Laszewski, who’s probably going to hit 80-plus 3-pointers this season. Mike Brey’s never one to fret. I think the Irish’s viability in the ACC will ultimately land on whether or not Gibbs is a top 10 player in the conference. He should be, but keep in mind he’ll be asked to play as much as almost anyone in major-conference college basketball.
The Crimson Tide has a tempting roster, which is not common spot for a program like Alabama after it loses a rare lottery pick (Collin Sexton, we hardly knew ye). There’s still plenty of talent coming back. John Petty, Donta Hall and Dazon Ingram all averaged around 10 points per game last season. Herb Jones could be the breakout player on this team, and Tevin Mack is now eligible after transferring from Texas. There’s enough here to keep Alabama, arguably, as good as it was a season ago.
35. Southern California
You might recall that USC was the highest-rated team to miss the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The Trojans finished 23-11 in the regular season, were second in the Pac-12 but still got shut out. (To me, they should have been in.) Andy Enfield’s building an elite 2019 recruiting class, but for the season ahead I think Southern Cal’s set up to be pretty good too. Bennie Boatwright came back after flirting with the draft. And here’s the name to know: Kevin Porter Jr. The blue chip recruit steps onto campus with a shot at being the sleeper lottery pick of this year’s freshman crop.
If you’re a Bucky fan I know you’re upset where I have Greg Gard’s guys here. But Wisconsin went 15-17 last season, finished 70th at KenPom and ranked 244th in 3-point percentage. I love me some Ethan Happ (17.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and do think a return to form (sorta) is coming for this team. Just don’t buy it as a surefire NCAA Tournament squad. Want to see what this team looks like after six or seven games in.
New coach: Travis Steele.
The highest-ranked team on this list with a new coach is the Xavier Musketeers. Steele had been on staff for a long time under Chris Mack. Now one of the steadiest programs in college basketball is his to guide. Xavier was a No. 1 seed last season but lost a lot aside from Mack. Key returnees include Quentin Goodin, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall and Tyrique Jones. X is still going to be quality, but a big step back is irrefutable.
The Longhorns were picked to finish tied for fourth in the Big 12 by league coaches. I think that’s about right. Shaka Smart’s best player is Dylan Osetkowski (13.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg), but Matt Coleman, Kerwin Roach II and Jericho Sims all aren’t that far behind. I expect Texas to squeak into the NCAAs, helped in part by the strength of the Big 12 which will boost its NET ranking.
I openly admit that there are some teams throughout this list that are too tough to pin down. Providence is one of those teams for me. Could be No. 25, could be No. 50. Trying to split the difference here — and I’m trusting Ed Cooley, who’s made five straight NCAA Tournaments and is already the greatest coach in school history. Alpha Diallo’s the standout for the Friars, but keep an eye on freshman David Duke. Not an ideal name, but certainly a top-shelf freshman in the Big East.
The Coogs should still have a chance to be bubble-or-better by early March. Losing Rob Gray is a huge hit, but DeJon Jarreau, who sat last season, will be a nice fill-in at lead guard. Then there’s Corey Davis Jr., who one coach in the league told me he’d take over every other player in the American. Davis averaged 13.1 ppg and 3.1 rpg in 2017-18 and made 43 percent of his treys. There’s enough here to keep UH near the top of the conference.
The Hurricanes are the highest-ranked team on this list who also appear on my will-not-make-it-back list for the 2019 NCAA Tournament. I may come to be wrong about that prediction! Here’s why: Chris Lykes, Dewan Hernandez (formerly Huell), Anthony Lawrence II — all of whom would start for most teams in the ACC — are back. The Hurricanes are still viable. My point on them not making the NCAAs is in regard to their noncon schedule, which is way too poor.
Taking a gamble here and predicting Arizona to have its worst season since 2011-12, when the Wildcats won 23 games and went to the NIT. Every starter from last year is gone. Now the team will be led by Dylan Smith, formerly of UNC Asheville; Brandon Randolph, who might be more pro prospect than big-time college player; and sophomore wing Emmanuel Akot, a work in progress. Former Duke forward Chase Jeter is eligible this season. Freshman Brandon Williams could emerge as an indispensable talent.
I’m as high on Minny as maybe any prognosticator in the country — and I’m still putting them lower than I really want to. The Golden Gophers have Jordan Murphy (16.8 ppg, 11.3 rpg) and Amir Coffey back. They have Isaiah Washington set to break out. I think this becomes a top-40 offense in college basketball. Richard Pitino saves his job with a big season in Minneapolis, which is also host of the 2019 Final Four.
Carsen Edwards rightfully is demanding a lot of pub for Purdue this season, but Evan Boudreaux is a transfer from Dartmouth who could be the boost Purdue needs to get back to the NCAAs. I’m fascinated by what Purdue could be, as 7-3 center Matt Haarms, who has arms like helicopter rotors, should be vastly improved. Underrated senior: Ryan Cline. Breakout candidate: Nojel Eastern. OK, so why do I have Purdue 44th? That’s the thing: I don’t know.
45. Western Kentucky
A year after a five-star player (Mitchell Robinson) never played a game for Rick Stansbury at WKU, five-star Charles Bassey has enrolled on campus and is set to be the best talent in Conference USA. Sophomore Taveion Hollingsworth is a rugged guard with a good shooting streak. There’s a good bit of talent coming back from top to bottom in the league, but WKU is far and away the tops in C-USA.
46. San Diego State
The Mountain West is set for a strong season. I think at least two teams are a lock for NCAA Tournament inclusion and four will be in the overall conversation to make the Big Dance in early March. San Diego State has a good chance to return to the NCAAs for the second consecutive season. Back is sophomore combo forward Jalen McDaniels, who’s damn good. Senior guard Devin Watson’s impact is so solid that one coach I spoke to said he believes SDSU has top-30 potential.
47. NC State
I suspect the Wolfpack will dip just a little from last season’s 21-12 showing and No. 9 seed in the tournament. Kevin Keatts lost four seniors. Given Keatts’ style, expect NCSU to show improvements on defense but not quite be as good on offense (the Wolfpack were 21st in offensive efficiency at KenPom last season).
The winner of this year’s highest-ranked team from a projected one-bid league goes to the Bulls, who were last seen throwing down and disassembling No. 4 Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (before losing to Kentucky). Nick Perkins was the MAC Sixth Man of the Year, while Jeremy Harris and C.J. Massinburg combined for 176 3-pointers on 41 percent shooting. Runaway favorite in the MAC. Nate Oats could be up for a promotion in March.
49. Saint Joseph’s
The Atlantic 10 is a kaleidoscope this season. I don’t know what to make of it. I reached out to multiple coaches in search of how they saw the league. After all the research and intel, I’m just barely going with Joe’s to wind up as the best team in this union. After missing most of last season, Charlie Brown and Lamarr Kimble are expected to be big-time players for Phil Martelli’s club. The defense can be at the top of the league.
50. Saint Louis
SLU was the preseason pick to take the A-10, so I’m slotting the Billikens right behind Joe’s and hoping for the best. Senior Javon Bess is a hoss, someone worth tuning in for. Travis Ford’s issue last season was severe lack of depth. Thanks to some big wins in recruiting, hopes are high. We’ll see what comes. It certainly looks like this is now the most talented team in the conference.
51. Brigham Young
I know Saint Mary’s is the pick for many to take second to Gonzaga in the WCC this season, but I’m not seeing it. BYU returns top-100 player Yoeli Childs in addition to scoring threats T.J. Haws and Nick Emery (who returns from suspension). Cougars will have the offense and should contend for the NCAA Tournament. Dave Rose has done an exceptional job in the big picture since he got to Provo, Utah in 2005.
52. South Dakota State
Longtime readers/followers will remember my championing of Nate Wolters, a living SDSU legend. Well, I’m here to say that Mike Daum is set to exceed Wolters’ lore. Daum (23.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg) is on pace to become one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball history and could hit the 3,000-point mark this season. If it doesn’t happen, it’ll be because of sophomore David Jenkins, who was a top-25 freshman in the country last season. Should be a fourth straight NCAA tourney for South Dakota State.
Obviously Mizzou’s stock takes a significant hit now that Jontay Porter’s ACL and MCL injuries have put him out for the season. Porter could have been one of the five best players in the SEC, but now the Tigers will scramble a year after Michael Porter Jr.’s back problem sidelined him for most of 2017-18. The Tigers’ best available player becomes Jeremiah Tilmon, who is capable of having a huge sophomore season. But hard to see Cuonzo Martin’s team in the NCAAs in 2019.
54. Illinois State
For those scrolling through this and wondering where Final Four darling Loyola-Chicago’s at, don’t worry, we’re not too far off now. But guess what? Illinois State’s going to be the best team in the Missouri Valley this season. Milik Yarbrough might be the toughest matchup in the conference and Phil Fayne is arguably a top-five MVC player. Dan Muller, now in year seven in Normal, Illinois has knocked on the NCAA tourney door thrice before. In 2019, he enters the room.
55. Seton Hall
The Pirates don’t lose as much as some might think, but the exodus of Angel Deglado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez is not ideal. Fortunately, Myles Powell’s a top-115 player in the nation. Toss in Syracuse transfer Taurean Thompson and things get intriguing.
56. Iowa State
A big bump up for the Cyclones, who are coming off their worst season in a decade. Fortunately for Steve Prohm, Lindell Wigginton is back. He’s among the best sophomores in college hoops, and yet on some nights he’ll be outshined by fellow soph Cameron Lard. ISU ended its season on a seven-game losing streak. The guys are probably salivating over the Nov. 6 opener against Alabama State.
Bryce Drew has brought in maybe the best recruiting class in school history. It’s highlighted by point guard Darius Garland and combo forward Simi Shittu. The Commodores also have Saben Lee, who should average between 11-14 points. If the SEC wasn’t so top heavy, Vandy would have a better chance at making the NCAAs.
The Thundering Herd have a potential #CBBTwitter (can this grow into its own niche, campier version of #NBATwitter?) star in Jon Elmore, who dropped 27 against Wichita State in Marshall’s upset of the Shockers in last season’s NCAA Tournament. He might average 22 points, eight boards and seven dimes this season if he doesn’t watch himself. Fun offense, good team. Can push C-USA to a two-bid situation in 2019.
I was talking with distinguished CBS Sports HQ host Chris Hassel recently — Hassel’s from Iowa — and he noted how disappointing 2017-18 was for Hawkeye fans. A year ago, the feeling was that Fran McCaffrey’s team would jockey for bubble position. Instead, it won 14 games. I think this year’s team, led by Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon, plays to last preseason’s expectations. Cook is underrated.
60. Arizona State
Bobby Hurley got ASU off to a 12-0 start last season and took out eventual No. 1 seeds Xavier and Kansas in the process. Then things went haywire and the Sun Devils had a bloody crawl into the First Four. With so much backcourt talent gone, ASU has a lot to sort out. I do think sophomore Remy Martin will entertain. Rob Edwards, by way of Cleveland State, could be the most impactful transfer in the Pac-12 this season.
61. Texas Tech
Here’s where I probably make a fool of myself. (OK, so it’s one of 50 or 60 instances in this very story where that’s bound to be the case.) After making the Elite Eight (and losing Zhaire Smith to the lottery and Keenan Evans to graduation along with four other seniors), I think TTU is going to fall quickly back to earth. Now, Jarrett Culver’s still on this roster and he’s going to be borderline great. But I worry about the offense. I think the NIT is where Tech lands in 2019.
62. St. Mary’s
The Gaels again should be a good watch and hit the 25-win mark. But this team lost 60 percent of its minutes from last season. Transfers should factor in. There’s this freshman from New Zealand, Dan Fotu, expected to put up big numbers right away. Malik Fitts, a potential impact transfer via South Florida, is also one to watch. Best player: junior guard Jordan Ford.
And finally we’ve come to the beloved Ramblers. I tried not to let last season’s run influence my ranking too much; if anything, perhaps I’ve overthought this. But Porter Moser (who couldn’t schedule up the way he hoped) did lose key starters from last season’s dream team. Returning is reigning MVC POY Clayton Custer (13.2 ppg, 4.1 apg). Cameron Krutwig, a sophomore with a game out of 1962, is back. So is Marques Townes (11.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg), who I think becomes this team’s best player this season.
New coach: Dan Hurley.
The Huskies probably wouldn’t rank this high on any other media member’s theoretical list of 353 teams. I’m going in though because Dan Hurley’s proven to be a borderline great coach already and he has one of the three best players in the American in Jalen Adams. If Alterique Gilbert can stay healthy, the American is going on notice with him and Adams, given how Hurley’s been successful with creative and slashing guards.
New coach: Chris Mack.
The Cardinals of 2019-2020 will probably be a preseason top 25 team. The Cardinals for the season ahead are more mysterious. It remains to be seen who’ll be the team’s best player: V.J. King, Jordan Nwora, Steve Enoch, Darius Perry are all in play. Expect an up-and-down season, but thanks to a loaded 2019 recruiting class, Louisville fans will enjoy Mack’s first trip around the sport and hope good surprises are in store.
Makai Mason whooped on Baylor in the 2016 NCAA Tournament when he played for Yale. Now he’s playing for Baylor and will start at point guard. Tristan Clark’s load in the front is going to go up significantly. BU is in for an interesting year, I think. Tough to see how this group is one of the five best in the Big 12, though. Will struggle a bit on D.
Oh, yeah. Some Big Sky love. If Buffalo and South Dakota State are the most obvious preseason favorites in mid-major leagues, then Montana’s not far behind. Michael Oguine, Ahmaad Rorie and Jamar Akoh return — and they’re three of the five best players in the conference. The Grizzlies should make their seventh NCAA Tournament in 15 years. That’s great for any school outside a multi-bid conference.
Bob McKillop’s team is projected by some as the A-10’s best. I’ll resist that just a bit. I do enjoy Kellan Grady’s game. I do think this offense is poetically efficient. And I do want more people to recognize how good Jon Axel Gudmundsson is. (#CBBTwitter potential is high!) He shot 40.6 percent from 3-point range while averaging 13.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists. That kind of stat line in college hoops is as scarce as hen’s teeth.
This will be Fran Dunphy’s final season as a coach. Dunphy’s team will have an outside shot at getting into the NCAA Tournament. If Temple can get a huuuuge season from Quinton Rose, that will change things for the better. Dunphy’s a Philadelphia basketball legend and one of the most interesting coaches in the game. He also once represented the United States and played alongside Mike Krzyzewski.
70. Ohio State
The Buckeyes weren’t expected to do much last season — then they went on to be a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Chris Holtmann loses a lot, though, and it feels like a reset is coming this season. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe he overachieves again. It wouldn’t stun me. Kaleb Wesson’s progress is paramount to OSU staying relevant.
The Bluejays seem set for an average season because they lost Khyri Thomas and Marcus Foster, two guards (who I loved watching play) who moved CU’s gears so much in 2017-18. At point guard, Davion Mintz tries to make the leap. The team’s best player seems to be Martin Krampelj, and this is nothing directly against him, but that slots Creighton as having the least impressive best player of any team in the Big East.
The SoCon’s best team has three players who could wind up on the league’s all-league roster: Francis Alonso, James Dickey and Demetrius Troy. UNC-G made the 2018 NCAA Tournament, helped by its three-quarter-court defensive attack. Wes Miller is a coach on the rise, someone destined to be at a bigger school in 2019 or 2020. The Spartans grind you down and win on their terms. Can take a game or two in this season’s Dance. Alonso, the Spaniard, is a 3-point threat.
The Runnin’ Rebels will uplift the Mountain West this season, led by Shakur Juiston. He might average 17-and-10. Most in the league believe Juiston was better last season than one-and-doner Brandon McCoy. There are also transfers incoming that will deepen Marvin Menzies’ deployments.
I’m all too aware of the chances that I’ve likely underestimated the Bulldogs here. If that winds up being the case, I think opportunistic junior scorer Sean McDermott will be a big factor. It goes without writing — but let me write it — that Kamar Baldwin is a star in Indianapolis and will be pivotal to Butler going two for two in NCAA Tournament appearances under LaVall Jordan. The Big East on the whole is tougher to project this season, however. I’m dropping BU because someone’s gonna surprise for better or worse.
The Buffs would be 10-15 spots higher if big man Dallas Walton wasn’t out for year. That’s a blow. But Tad Boyle, who never runs from a challenge, has a bona fide dude in McKinley Wright IV. The lead guard was awesome last season as a freshman. Now he’ll have the keys and can steal a few games in the Pac-12 for CU.
76. New Mexico
The Lobos would be a few spots up if they didn’t lose Ohio State transfer JaQuan Lyle for the year to an Achilles injury. Former UConn player Vance Jackson and former Kansas big Carlton Bragg are going to factor in heavily for Paul Weir’s team. This group can press and go for 40 minutes, which gives them a nice advantage in the altitude of the Pit.
77. Oregon State
Seems like over the past decade, every couple of years, we’ve had the son of a head coach become an exceptional player. Tres Tinkle, back to full health, fills that role this season at Oregon State. He’s also one of the best scorers in the Pac-12. The Beavers won 16 games last season and should take a step forward.
Jarrey Foster is now the standout player for the Ponies, who’ve had a really enticing star each of the past five seasons. The trouble for SMU is losing Shake Milton to the NBA. Hopefully point guard Jahmal McMurray can become as good as many of the coaches in the league think he’ll be. As for Tim Jankovich, a factoid: he’s maybe the best guitar player among head coaches in college basketball.
The Huskies only lost one guy from the rotation. This team fell in the CAA title game on an iffy call. It’s a well-coached squad with good length. They add in another shooter, a transfer from George Washington named Jordan Roland. Senior guard Vasa Pusica (17.9 ppg, 5.1 apg) has good size as a point and never gets sped up; he thrives in ball screen situations. He’s so dangerous because of his patience, shooting and penchant for seeing a second ahead of the defense.
The (healthy) return of Bryce Aiken and getting Seth Towns and Chris Lewis back means Tommy Amaker has three of the 10 best players in the Ivy League. After three seasons away, the Crimson should return to the NCAAs — although that’s more of a question now since the Ivy League (unfortunately) went to a four-team tournament to decide its auto bid.
Lost some decent seniors who helped the Utes get to a 23-win season and a 2 seed in the NIT. It could be a strange year for Utah in that Larry Krystkowiak doesn’t seem to have a well-rounded team on offense. Sophomore Donnie Tillman could emerge as the team’s best player.
82. South Carolina
Chris Silva presides near the top of the list of most underrated big men in college basketball. He’ll team up with Maik Kotsar and give South Carolina some prideful presence in the paint. Sophomore wing Justin Minaya does a little bit of everything. The Gamecocks, I think, will finish similar to last season’s 17-16 mark.
83. Boston College
Ky Bowman’s probably going to average 20/game, but this team won’t be all about him, even after Jerome Robinson left to become a lottery pick. Jordan Chatman is one of the best shooters in college basketball and will keep defenses honest. Jim Christian probably saves his job if BC can stay above .500 again.
New coach: Penny Hardaway.
Jeremiah Martin (the only player from the Josh Pastner era still on the roster) squeaked into our top 100 (and one) list of the best players in college basketball. Hardaway takes over; the fan base is borderline maniacal over this. But there’s so much mystery behind how successful Hardaway can be as a D-I coach/tactician. I’ll buy really low to start. Fans care more about whether James Wiseman commits than how the team plays this season anyway.
John Becker, who should have been hired to a bigger job by this point, continues to have the best team in the America East. Anthony Lamb is the top player in the conference and Ernie Duncan, fuego from deep, figures to be not that far behind. Can play into a 13 seed if it steals a few games in November and December.
86. Boise State
Leon Rice’s team lost NBA player Chandler Hutchison, but the Broncos still do have talent. Zach Haney, a senior post player who stands 6-11, is a matchup problem in the league. Justinian Jessup a 6-6 wing who shot 46 percent from 3-point range last season, is one of the five best players in the Mountain West. I think Boise State is best built to pick off a game from Nevada in conference play.
87. Texas-San Antonio
UTSA brings much of what it needs back in order to make the top of C-USA intriguing. Speedster Jhivvan Jackson helps this team push the ball, which they do strategically. It’s a bit of an undersized squad but it plays tough man-to-man defense regardless. Italian-born point guard Giovanni De Nicolao is going to have a breakout season — unless all-conference freshman Keaton Wallace overtakes him.
Brad Underwood needs one more year to get his pieces in place. Illinois has an overlooked talent in sophomore Trent Frazier, but that won’t last for long. More than anything, the Illini are a team in need of bigger bodies. Adonis De La Rosa, at 7 feet, is on an island.
89. UC Irvine
Yes, the Anteaters are a top-100 team. They have five starters back from a group that played in Big West title game. Tommy Rutherford and Evan Leonard are both all-league players. Eyassu Worku can’t be ignored either. What’s crazy for the Big West is, just four years ago the league had four top-100 teams in the RPI. The RPI’s gone, but you get the point. And now more than half the conference has at least eight players returning. League has a chance to be top-16 in college hoops.
A SoCon team with a pro player. Where have we heard that before? (Ahh, Mr. Curry.) The Terriers have nine players back from last season, a year in which they won 21 games. Fletcher Magee could start for any team in America. Cameron Jackson in the post is deserving of some shine as well. What brings the Terriers to a new level is the addition of Charleston transfer Chavez Goodwin, who will work the post and step out and cash. If Magee makes 154 3-pointers this season, he’ll break Oakland’s Travis Bader’s D-I record for most in a career (504).
91. New Mexico State
The Aggies are going to be the top of the WAC, even with just one returning starter and 10 new players in the mix. One reason to believe: arguably NMSU’s best player, Johnny McCants, will return form injury in January. A.J. Harris, a 5-9 problem, will be the team’s guiding light.
The Sooners are eager to show that they can be much improved a year after riding the Trae Young train. It could happen, but I want to see it happen before I predict it to happen. Young’s teammates, for whatever reason, weren’t good most of last season. So who steps up and makes up for some of the offense Young created? I do think Brady Manek and Christian James will account for a lot of that.
93. Stephen F. Austin
Similar situation to what’s happening with Montana. SFA has T.J. Holyfield, Shannon Bogues and Kevon Harris — three of the best players in the league. OK, I’ll say it; the three best players in the Southland. There’s good distance between the Lumberjacks and everyone else. They’ll be shooting for a 30-win season.
94. Georgia State
D’Marcus Simonds is the breakout national star on this team. He might average 24/game. Ron Hunter is set to make three NCAA Tournaments in five seasons. This team played bigger than its size last season and guarded very well. Top squad in the Sun Belt.
95. Jacksonville State
Check out all the teams from mid-major leagues who cracked the top 100 this year. I love it. The Gamecocks have a loaded crew with good athletes up front. Combo guard Detrick Mostella sat out last season but figures to be a top-three player in the Ohio Valley. Forwards Jason Burnell and Christian Cunningham protect the rim and will help Jax State separate from most in the league. Ty Hudson, a transfer from Clemson, only makes the Gamecocks deeper.
96. Eastern Michigan
The top of the MAC. James Thompson IV, one of the 100 best players in college basketball, is now a senior and is on pace to be one of the most statistically accomplished players in conference history. Rob Murphy’s team won 22 a season ago but got picked off by Toledo in the league playoff. EMU last made the NCAAs in 1998. Drought has a nice shot to end in 2019.
97. Southern Illinois
Hybrid forward Armon Fletcher is going to keep SIU in company with Illinois State and Loyola-Chicago in the Missouri Valley. The Salukis return 83 percent of their minutes from a 20-win team that held its own often on the road. A lot of potential in Carbondale.
98. Oklahoma State
Cam McGriff will be the star on this team. And if second-year coach Mike Boynton Jr. didn’t need enough humor or motivation, consider this: Oklahoma State was picked to finish last in the Big 12 a year ago. The Cowboys went on to a 19-14 record, swept Kansas in the regular season and won at West Virginia. OSU has again been picked last in the Big 12 (including by yours truly). Another mea culpa coming in four months?
99. Wichita State
A tumble is irresistible. The Shockers’ top four players are gone. Young talent is there, though. Gregg Marshall gets ample credit for being a top-30 coach in college basketball. If he can manage to get this roster to the NCAA Tournament in 2019, he’ll lock up top-15 status in that regard. Markis McDuffie is the lone big name on this roster.
Because the Hoyas haven’t been relevant in a few years, Jessie Govan’s become one of the most overlooked big men in college basketball. He averaged 17.9 points and 10.0 rebounds, but Marcus Derrickson was more efficient for G’town and I think that played into it. I also think Govan shines as a senior and Georgetown is better by January.
101. UC Davis
The Aggies won the Big West regular-season title last season and have the league’s best player in T.J. Shorts. Jim Les has a good club which also boasts a great stretch 4 in A.J. John and standout defender in Siler Schneider.
102. San Diego
New coach: Sam Scholl
San Diego is the dark horse team in the WCC. With Isaiah Pineiro, Isaiah Wright, Olin Carter III and Tyler Williams — all seniors — set up to average double digits, the Toreros should have their best team in a decade. The WCC could really use some new blood taking target on Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.
Dylan Windler is the best pro prospect to come through Belmont, and yes I’m aware that Ian Clark played for Golden State. The Bruins will be fighting for the OVC auto bid, but it’s going to be interesting because the team has seven scholarship freshmen on its roster due to some medical redshirts from a year ago. Probably will be a much better team in March than in November.
104. Old Dominion
This team’s going to win with defense again. It ranked 34th in the country a season ago and won 25 games. Seniors Ahmad Caver and B.J. Stith are both steady for different reasons. Stith is a big for his size at 6-5, while Caver commands tempo well. Our good will is sent to ODU coach Jeff Jones, who is once again battling prostate cancer.
One opposing coach told me Jarrell Brantley is toughest player to guard in the Colonial Athletic Association. He and junior guard Grant Riller are the best 1-2 combo in the league, which is why Charleston’s ranked well again this season. Brantley missed some time last year due to injury but managed 17.3 ppg and 7.1 rpg and was second team all-league. Riller put up 18.6 points per. Team is crazy deep.
The Hogs have a really good sophomore in center Daniel Gafford, but 80 percent of the minutes accrued by players last season are gone. Hard to see how this team plays its way into the top eight or nine of the SEC. There will be six freshmen injected into the rotation (or lack thereof).
New coach: Tom Crean
The Bulldogs will take on a new identity, as Crean is back in college hoops after spending last season as a commentator. No one’s sure how this will work in year No. 1; UGA went 18-15 last season and figures to slip from that position. Give it a couple of years in Athens.
108. Fresno State
New coach: Justin Hutson
Senior point guard DeShon Taylor might be a top-three player in the Mountain West. He’s an elite 6-2 ball-handler who plays without fear among the big guys down low. If Fresno State hadn’t lost Bryson Williams to transfer as well (he followed former FSU coach Rodney Terry to UTEP), the Bulldogs would be in the top 100.
109. Ball State
The Cardinals’ best player is Taylor Persons, a 6-3 senior point guard who can guide his team a 22-win-or-more season for the first time in 17 years. Ball State’s second game of the season is at Purdue, on Nov. 10. It’s also at Loyola-Chicago on Dec. 5. Expect both to be close.
110. Wright State
The Raiders set up as the best team in the Horizon League this year. Sophomore power forward Loudon Love (great name) is their best player, while junior point guard Cole Gentry is a top-10 player in the league as well. Scott Nagy’s team is also the toughest scout in the league, coaches in-conference told me.
Jerod Haase’s roster isn’t in dire straights — and there’s options at each position — but there’s not a standout player here. The Cardinal are mired in some mediocrity. Last season: 19-16, and improvement from the one before that. But there’s not a ton to be excited about. Three of the first five are against UNC, Wofford and Wisconsin — all teams ranked higher than Stanford.
This Justin James kid that Wyoming has nearly made our top 100 (and one) list. He’s an athletic perimeter player who thrives in Wyoming’s system. James averaged 18.9 points and 6.0 rebounds last season. He’s good enough to push the Cowboys to 20 wins or so. Allen Edwards is cultivating the talent in Laramie.
113. Murray State
The Racers could be undervalued a bit here. The name you need to know is Ja Morant, an NBA prospect who is on the short list of best players in mid-major leagues. He could average 15/7/7 this season. The problem for Murray State is it lost three rotation players to transfer. However, freshman DaQuan Smith has a chance to be the best first-year guy in the OVC.
114. North Texas
The Mean Green has a dynamic duo. Point guard Ryan Woolridge came on strong at the end of last season, matching output with Roosevelt Smart, who’s definitely a top-10 player in Conference USA. Keep an eye on C-USA this year; the league is going to a new scheduling format that will separate the top teams in February as means to improve seeding and selection for the NCAAs.
115. George Mason
The Patriots have hopes of stealing the A-10 title. It’s a tall task to ask for a team that’s coming off a 16-17 season, but Otis Livingston II (17.3 ppg, 4.4 apg) will make this team entertaining. Dave Paulsen is trying to get Mason back to the NCAAs for the first time since Jim Larranaga left in 2011.
116. E. Tennessee State
I don’t want to doubt Steve Forbes, so since the Bucs’ starting five has left, I’ll slip them in at 116 and call it a wash. Just two players who averaged double-digit minutes are back. One of them is rather important: Southern Conference Freshman of the Year Bo Hodges. Serbian sophomore Mladen Armus is a true mid-major center. This school has made the SoCon title game all three years under Forbes.
The difference between teams projected No. 3 through 10 in the MAC seems exceptionally thin this season. I’ll go with the Rockets in the third spot. Tod Kowalczyk’s offense should be potent enough to get Toledo to 20-plus wins again. The team’s three best players all shot better than 40 percent beyond the arc last season.
I suspect the Braves will have a good season but will have poor non-conference numbers that will drag it down lower in the ratings systems vs. how good the team actually should be. Won 20 games a season ago. I think it matches or betters that in 2018-19. Darrell Brown is the best smallest player in the MVC.
Bob Marlin’s got a 6-8 combo forward named JaKeenan Gant who is all-league caliber in the Sun Belt. Gant helped the Ragin’ Cajuns to a No. 6 ranking in offensive rebound percentage last season.
DaQuan Jeffries, Sterling Taplin and Martins Igbanu all should be double-digit scorers for Frank Haith’s team. Tulsa’s a middle-of-the-pack school in the American. Things are interesting there at the moment; Haith actually gave back some of his salary to help with budget costs in the athletic department.
121. Georgia Tech
Josh Pastner gets the opportunity to enter a season as a big underdog again. Two years ago, it worked well for him as he started at Georgia Tech. This team will be defense-first. The Yellow Jackets lack an alpha and only managed 13 wins with first-round draft pick Josh Okogie last season.
Things are a bit nuts with DePaul these days. Two current assistants on staff have been accused through evidence to have paid former five-star recruit Brian Bowen II prior to them getting to DePaul. Another former assistant has a protection order against him on behalf of Dave Leitao and the school’s AD. As for the team, senior small forward Max Strus is an awesome player to watch hoop.
Been a long time since Rider was the best team in its conference, but that’s the case with the MAAC and the Broncs this season. Dimencio Vaughn and Stevie Jordan are all-league quality. This is one of the fastest teams in college hoops, made all the more fun by its MO to launch 20-25 triples per contest.
124. Northern Kentucky
A close second in this year’s Horizon League. John Brannen lost a couple of good players via transfer, but Drew McDonald is the preseason Player of the Year in the eyes of many in the conference. NKU’s ball-screen motion offense has been a success in recent seasons. Keep an eye on Zaynah Robinson, a senior transfer from Norfolk State.
125. South Dakota
New coach: Todd Lee
This team lost some important pieces — Matt Mooney transferring out was a big hit in addition to Craig Smith getting Utah State’s job — but Triston Simpson’s back and Trey Burch-Manning is a do-it-all defensive guy. One coach told me: “I was not disappointed to see Craig Smith leave our league. Very good coach.”
126. Texas A&M
Billy Kennedy’s program has a good one in senior Admon Gilder, but the loss of D.J. Hogg, Robert Williams and Tyler Davis is going to take a huge toll. I’m predicting A&M to land just below .500 at season’s end.
127. Miami (Ohio)
The last time the Redhawks finished a season above .500 was in 2009. That will change this season. Best all-around player is Darrian Ringo, who stands 6-2 and plays like he’s 6-6.
128. Wake Forest
I’m suspicious of Wake’s chances at being a top-10 ACC team, but I do think Brandon Childress and Chaundee Brown are going to be a LOT of fun this season. Doral Moore’s shocking leave to chase a pro career leaves a void.
Steve Pikiell’s got things going in the right direction, but this team’s offense is almost certainly going to pale in comparison to most other teams from major conferences. Realistic objective: shoot to finish 11th or 12th in the league.
130. Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon lost to a lot to graduation and is sitting some important transfers, so it’s unlikely this team wins the WAC. Though some WAC coaches still believe this team has the most overall talent. A “high-major frontline” one coach told me, referring to Michael Finke, Alessandro Lever and Roberts Blumbergs. The big question is at point guard.
Vic Law (12.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg) becomes the standout for Chris Collins’ program, which is trying to keep the momentum going from the NCAA Tournament run of two years ago. A bump should happen in 2019-2020.
132. Indiana State
Jordan Barnes is one of the five best players in the Valley. The Sycamores open their conference season with road games against Illinois State and Loyola-Chicago. That’s a rough hand to be dealt, but this group should land above .500 in conference play.
133. Weber State
Quite a bit of turnover throughout the Big Sky this year, but the top five teams all have the top five-to-seven players, so there will be a big gap between the haves and have-nots. For Weber State, Jerrick Harding tries to follow in the footsteps of Damian Lillard and Joel Bolomboy in being the next draft pick out of Ogden.
134. Rhode Island
New coach: David Cox
Fatts Russell — what an elite college basketball name — now gets his time to star. He showed well in the 2018 NCAA tourney. Plus, Jeff Dowtin has been such a good set-up man for this team. Rams still a factor in the A-10.
135. Kent State
Rob Senderoff’s team has five juniors and two seniors to lead the way and should probably finish in the top five in the MAC. Best player is a senior guard by the name of Jaylin Walker.
This will be the best team in Denver since the 2012-13 squad that went 16-2 in the WAC. Joe Rosga is a 6-4 point guard who’s smart, who can shoot, who is long and who is among the best 3-point launchers in the sport.
Everybody’s back. Garrison Matthews could wind up as the all-time highest scorer in A-Sun history. He can score it from everywhere — and is best player in the league. Rob Mayberry is a transfer by way of Western Kentucky, a good interior guy and came up huge for in March to lift Lipscomb into the NCAAs.
Lance Tejada’s a very good athlete who can shoot, a challenging head-to-head player and maybe the toughest matchup in the Patriot League. Lehigh is the best team in the Patriot for 2018-19.
The Flames have a lot to overcome after losing one of the best shot-blockers in the country in Dikembe Dixon. Juniors Tarkus Ferguson and Marcus Ottey are the best perimeter attack in the Horizon League. The Flames play an aggressive defense, so teams can get to the rim on them in spurts.
Josh Cunningham is a top-five player in the A-10, a fifth-year guy who will have a deeper team around him to be even more effective. There’s 5-7 teams that I feel like I’m 10-15 spots too low on, and I can’t shake the feeling Dayton’s one of them.
The Quakers will be a quality Ivy League team, but losing Darnell Foreman and Caleb Wood to graduation is going to be an issue. Juniors A.J. Brodeur or Ryan Betley should get even better — this team could wind up as the best in the IL … by March 2020.
142. San Francisco
Let us all stop and celebrate the fact that college basketball has a player named Frankie Ferrari. I mean, how perfect. San Francisco is his team. Ferrari could put up 15 per game this season and help make the top half of the WCC as good as it’s been in years. Here’s to hoping.
The second best team in the America East has John Carroll and Jason Dunne combining forces to try and pull a UMBC and knock off Vermont. This is a school that won nine games just two years ago and is now set to win more than 20.
144. Cal State Fullerton
Took the auto bid in the Big West last season. Led by Kyle Allman, maybe the most valuable player in the conference and is someone who’s grown exponentially as a player in the past two seasons. Allman’s a special guard who might be able to average 23 per game this season. Consistency is biggest issue with this team. Khalil Ahmad, Allman’s wingman, must be noted as well.
145. Georgia Southern
Tookie Brown and Ike Smith will tandem up and be the best backcourt in the Sun Belt. Mark Byington’s team takes care of the ball and seldom beats itself against in-conference opponents.
Made the NCAAs last season on a buzzer-beater to win the Big South Tournament and got win in the First Four against LIU Brooklyn before losing as a No. 16 seed to Villanova. The Highlanders should be the best team in the Big South, given the man with the mean game, Ed Polite, is back.
Bob Richey did well with a veteran roster last season. Now a new backcourt takes over, so Furman’s got some questions to answer. Andrew Brown is a hybrid, physical forward. Matt Rafferty is a fun stretch 5. Should still be compelling in the SoCon.
148. Southern Miss
The Golden Eagles bring back almost everyone of note. Doc Sadler’s team thrives off its size mismatches. Conference USA is going to be even better this season, and this is the sleeper squad to win the league tournament.
You have to find the time to watch Justin Wright-Foreman (24.4 ppg, 3.2 apg) this season. He’s one of the 100 and (one) best players in college basketball, an entertaining scorer who’s capable of winning games on his own — and probably will this year. By season’s end, his streak of double-digit scoring games should hit at least 83.
New coach: Jeff Capel
The Panthers are starting over with a coach who’s capable of recruiting the team back into the top half of the ACC. There will be some lumps to take this year — the roster needs revamping — but Pitt fans are basically thrilled Kevin Stallings was pushed out. They’ll live off those fumes this season.
Want a team that can play fast and has a lot of vets? Better call Saul. (I may have used this pun once or five times before.) Coach Saul Phillips has some promise with this Bobcats team, highlighted by Jordan Dartis’ 3-point range.
152. Montana State
Tyler Hall just missed out on making a repeat appearance in our top 100 (and one) list of the best players in college hoops, but he’s still a big talent and will try to push MSU past Montana and Weber State in the Big Sky. Team needs to make a big jump on D.
153. Northern Iowa
We’re in for a good year of Missouri Valley basketball. I know that because I have UNI much lower than the metrics at this point, and other Valley teams clearly shape up as top-130 quality.
Hell of a season last year for the Golden Griffins. Twenty-one wins, a 15-3 record in the MAAC. Look out, Isaiah Reese is back. MAAC fans know.
With six juniors who figure to average 20-32 minutes per game, Mike Rhoades’ team should be a year away from making it back to the NCAA Tournament. The key will be for VCU to be good enough as to not lose any of those players to transfer.
MAC-heads know that the league is setting up to play for second behind Buffalo. Former Illinois coach John Groce is in his second season at Akron and figures to make a jump on defense. Lost Eric Parrish to Nevada, which stings.
157. Utah State
New coach: Craig Smith
The Aggies lost their best player, Koby McEwen, to Marquette. So now a lot will fall on Sam Merrill, who can pour it in from 22 feet but isn’t a great athlete. The backcourt will have some pains to overcome.
Bucknell’s been the best team by far the past two seasons in the Patriot League, but it’s time for a power shift. The Bison lost three all-league players; they won’t be as deep. Kimbal Mackenzie now becomes the go-to guy.
‘Nooga’s coming off a last-place finish, but there are a few major jumps every year in college basketball. I got the Mocs vaulting. Fairfield transfer Jerry Johnson Jr. and Arizona State transfer Ramon Vila will push this team to the top half of the SoCon by March. Kevin Easley is the best frosh in the league.
Bakari Evelyn’s a stat-getter (top-five player in the Valley, maybe?) and will pump more life into a Valpo team that was 15-17 last season but should flip that record in 2018-19.
161. Colorado State
New coach: Niko Medved
The Rams are fighting an eligibility case at the moment. Their outlook on 2018-19 is good, considering the team softened to an 11-21 mark a year ago. Medved just pulled off an overhaul at Drake.
162. Austin Peay
Terry Taylor, a 6-5 combo forward, is going to make year No. 2 occasionally enjoyable for coach Matt Figger. The Governors again look like a top-shelf rebounding team in the Ohio Valley.
163. St. Francis (Pa.)
With Keith Braxton, Jamal King and Andre Wolford, the NEC title should go through Loretto, Pennsylvania.
164. Penn State
I’ve dropped PSU pretty drastically from what it was at the end of last season, but the Nittany Lions are losing nearly 50 percent of their minutes from a season ago. Tony Carr, who pushed PSU to another level in the final month of the season, left early. Mike Watkins is probably going to be a big impact player now, and Lamar Stevens (15.5 ppg) is Pat Chambers’ best.
Tim Cluess lost ace assistant Jared Grasso to the Bryant job, so the Gaels look to stay contending in the MAAC without Grasso and without 60 percent of last season’s minutes accrued by departed players. Rickey McGill is the name in bold on the scouting report.
166. Missouri State
New coach: Dana Ford.
Give him three years and Ford will have Missouri State in the MVC title game. Give him five years, tops, and he’ll have a job in a power conference.
167. Southeastern Louisiana
Marlin Veal — a jet — moved from being a driving and slashing-only player to being a jump shot threat. He’s also awesome on defense. The Lions have their best two players back in Veal and Moses Greenwood. This is the toughest team to prepare for in the Southland because of how many sets it runs.
Jordon Varnado and Alex Hicks give Troy a shot on any given night to take a game in the Sun Belt. Troy joins Duke, Xavier, Temple, Marshall, Rider, Bradley, George Mason, Stephen F. Austin and James Madison, among a few others, whose school names double as actual names of humans.
169. Purdue Fort Wayne
In speaking to Purdue Fort Wayne coach Jon Coffman, he relayed to me that the team’s metrics listed John Konchar as a top-five most efficient returning player in the country. Kason Harrell must be mentioned as well. Mastodons are big on optimism.
170. William & Mary
Center Nathan Knight (18.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is a good defender one of the top bigs in the CAA. With David Cohn leaving, there’s a need at point, which is a small issue since this team runs a Princeton-type offense. Matt Milon (41 percent from deep) is one of the more consistent shooters in mid-major hoops.
171. Louisiana Tech
Junior point guard DaQuan Bracey was hurt a lot last season after a good freshman year, so it’s tough to tell what Eric Konkol’s team will be to start the season. Graduation of Jacobi Boykins is a big loss.
172. Maryland-Baltimore County
And so here we are. The Retrievers land at 172 after they hit gold and provided one of the most memorable upsets in NCAA Tournament history. The truth: UMBC was good for a low-major program … but ranked 166 at KenPom even after beating Virginia. It lost some really good players. This is now Arkel Lamar and Joe Sherburne’s team.
173. St. Bonaventure
The Bonnies will slip-slide from the NCAA Tournament pool all the way to middle point of college basketball’s universe. Senior forward Courtney Stockard is now in position to become a top-10 player in the A-10 by March.
As some readers know, I live in Connecticut and am not so far from Yale. So with that in mind, I plan on making the drive to New Haven and watching Miye Oni play this season. The junior is a vintage Ivy League workhorse.
175. Bowling Green
Finished 16-16 last season and lost only one senior, who didn’t play a lot of minutes. The Falcons absolutely should better their record in 2018-19.
176. Charleston Southern
The Big South is going to be one of the toughest leagues to get a handle on among mid-majors. This was a good young team last year. Christian Keeling and most others return. Quality man-to-man defense. The future is nice here.
Could wind up having Seattle 50 spots too low if the transfers (Dashan McDowell via SMU, Trey Hopkins via Boise State, Delante Jones via American, Myles Carter via Seton Hal) wind up changing the power structure of the WAC. “I think they are the sleeper with the fellas waiting in the wings and (Jim) Hayford is a really good head coach,” one WAC coach told me. “They could compete for the top spot.”
There is a ton of competition for the greatest name in college basketball, but Luwane Pipkins is officially my winner. He also happens to be the second best player in the A-10 to Davidson’s Kellan Grady. Pipkins has free reign to shoot — and soon so will Carl Pierre.
Jahlil Tripp, a positionless senior who’s a multi-tool player, could be one of the top three guys in the WCC. Some think he’s a potential NBA player as well. Damon Stoudamire enters his third season running the program.
Hawaii brings eight of its top 10 back and also has three (!) freshmen who stand 6-11 or taller. Fascinating group for Eran Ganot. Brocke Stepteau, a senior point, is one of the best shooters in the sport. Last season he shot 81 from the foul line, 59 from 2-point range and 42 from 3-point range.
181. Washington State
Ernie Kent is coaching for his job this season, you would think, after Wazzu’s failed to win more than 13 games in a season in the four years he’s been there. And this season? KenPom projects the Cougars to go 13-19.
182. Appalachian State
Ronshad Shabazz is a senior wing who can be a top-five player in the Sun Belt if he breaks through his ceiling. The school is looking for its first winning season since 2010-11.
The Patriot League this season should be the best it’s been, top to bottom, in six or seven years. Colgate will push for the No. 2 spot in the standings and get all it can squeeze out of junior power forward Will Rayman.
Mike Dunleavy’s NBA pedigree has me wondering if and when Tulane gets significantly better and enhances the American’s profile in the process. The Green Wave had an NBA prospect — a good one! — in Melvin Frazier last season but went just 14-17. Ray Ona Embo and Jordan Cornish now assume the most responsibility.
David Efianayi and D.J. Laster can combo to put up 34 points per game for the Bulldogs. Opens the season at VCU. That could be a close one on Nov. 6.
New coach: Darian DeVries
The Bulldogs are on their third coach in three years, as Niko Medved went back to Colorado State. Fortunately Nick McGlynn stayed for his final season, which is massive for this team.
187. Northern Colorado
Senior point guard Jordan Davis is a Big Sky standout but also a rare case of a small point who is a bad 3-point shooter. The Bears play fast and loose — and their best player is better off not shooting beyond 16 feet. In his career he’s 54 percent from 2-point range and 27 percent from 3-point range. Crazy.
188. North Florida
This was the second youngest team to Kentucky last season. Six of the top nine guys last season didn’t play D-I prior to, yet the Ospreys still finished fourth in the A-Sun. Matthew Driscoll, who’s now a go-to Twitter meme, is the longest tenured coach the league.
189. Ole Miss
New coach: Kermit Davis
At 58, Davis finally gets the SEC job he’s been chasing for two decades. It’s going to take a few years to get this going, but check back in 2021 when Ole Miss is in the top half of the SEC and winning with 22-year-old former JUCO standouts.
The Golden Bears are the lowest-ranked team from a Power 5 conference. Still very young. Wyking Jones made changes to his staff and needs another season of seasoning.
191. New Orleans
The Privateers were young last year but tough last year. Mark Slessinger is very respected among his fellow coaches in the Southland. Ezekiel Charles, a senior shooting guard, is a top player in the conference.
192. South Florida
David Collins is the key piece for Brian Gregory’s team, which will look a lot difference this year because of how many transfers are going to be in uniform.
193. South Alabama
New coach: Richie Riley
Rodrick Sikes is an artful senior shooting guard for the Jaguars. And there are certain teams where you hope you’re within a 30-spot radius of getting it right. South Alabama’s one of those teams.
194. Northern Illinois
NIU has been patient with Mark Montgomery, who’s got an uphill battle in the MAC every year. But Eugene German could make things fun for the Huskies. German shot 36 percent of NIU’s attempts last year, fourth-most in the country.
195. Long Beach State
Deishaun Booker at the point and Temidayo Yussuf, an all-league Big West player, is in the middle as an undersized PF/C. Dan Monson’s 49ers need to be better from 2-point range this season.
Jaelin Llewellyn’s mix with Princeton’s experienced guards is going to be an interesting dynamic. How the team shares the ball with Devin Cannady (best player) may take some time. Tigers figure to be better than last season.
197. Sacramento State
Give it up to Sacramento State for even existing as a thing. This season’s team might be the best at the school in decades, led by Joshua Patton and Jordan Tolbert.
198. Florida Atlantic
New coach: Dusty May
It’s the mystery team in the Conference USA. May comes in, gets Justin Massey back, but the range could be seventh to last for the Owls.
199. Air Force
Lavelle Scottie has put on 20 pounds from last year, he’s good shooter who would start for any team in the league outside of Nevada. Look for sophomore Keaton Van Soelen to be a breakout guy. This is a top-five toughest job in college basketball.
200. Eastern Kentucky
New coach: A.W. Hamilton
Nick Mayo’s still here and still has the NBA interested. Probably won’t be drafted but certainly should make an NBA summer league roster next year. Weirdly, despite Mayo’s talent, EKU’s never finished in the top eight of the OVC since he got there.
Interesting opener for former Villanova assistant Baker Dunleavy: his Quinnipiac team starts its season at Nova on Nov. 10. Cameron Young and Jacob Rigoni are two of the better players in the MAAC.
Pat Kelsey’s team is a mystery to even him at this point, he told me, and it’s going to be an adventure because the Eagles lose back-to-back players of the year in Xavier Cooks — by far the best player in the Big South last season — and Keon Johnson.
203. Santa Barbara
UCSB coach Joe Pasternack remains an interesting character in the college basketball FBI story/case, but if he remains on without issue then the Gauchos should be 20-win team behind sophomore guard Max Heidegger.
204. Green Bay
Sandy Cohen isn’t just a pivotal character in the mid-’00s series The O.C., it’s also the name of a projected top-five player in the Horizon League. The Phoenix are coached by Linc Darner, who sounds like a character out of a Leonard Elmore novel.
205. Loyola Marymount
James Batemon at the point is a reliability — and 7-3 center Mattias Markusson is a problem for all in the WCC. There is good young talent at LMU, as it races with Pepperdine and Portland to get out of the league’s basement.
206. Boston University
Max Mahoney is an undersized but tough, effective power forward. If BU can be better from the foul line (it ranked 344th nationally), it can make a move up in the Patriot League.
New coach: Walter McCarty
Yes, former Kentucky Wildcat/NBA veteran Walter McCarty. He joins a number of former NBAers who are now running college programs. Evansville’s defense will go as far as its bench depth allows.
208. Fairleigh Dickinson
FDU resides in the NEC, which promises to be fairly wide open after St. Francis (Pa). Greg Herenda’s team shines by following the lead of senior forward Mike Holloway.
209. Eastern Illinois
Terrell Lewis, a 5-7 point guard coming off a redshirt injury, could be the most pivotal player for the Panthers. Program last made the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and would need a Cinderella run in the league tourney to get there in 2019.
Few teams can say their best player is 6-10, but that is the case with Richmond’s Grant Golden. Chris Mooney has been at UR since 2005-06; if the Spiders wind up around 210 by year’s end, might be best for a fresh start for man and team.
Mercer, like many SoCon teams, loses a lot of production from last season. Ross Cummings popped mid-season last year and should be the go-to guy.
Ryan Allen (CAA Rookie of the Year) and Kevin Anderson were immediate impact players as freshman. This team has an identity. Allen is lethal from multiple spots on the floor — but he’s out until mid-December due to a fractured left foot.
213. North Dakota State
David Richman’s Bison lost just about everybody of impact except 6-6 athletic wing Tyson Ward. His consistency is paramount to NDSU’s push for the top half of the Summit League.
214. Western Michigan
Here’s what we know for sure about this team this season — Steve Hawkins is the coach, the mascot is a Bronco and do-everything combo guard Thomas Wilder graduated. From there, the mystery spills out like a busted bag of Skittles on a hardwood floor.
New members in the A-Sun, which is good timing since 80 percent of the team is back and coaches around the league think six squads (Liberty included) are capable of winning the conference title.
Sydney Johnson was rightfully kept on as coach of the Stags, who came one win away from making the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 1997.
217. Utah Valley
UVU got hurt by graduation the most of any team in the WAC. They have the type of system that works so particularly well for the players they recruit; former JUCO point guard Conner Toolson has some hype to his name.
218. Abilene Christian
Defensively, the Wildcats are going to be a sieve, but should have four players average double figures.
Raiquan Clark is Derek Kellogg’s workhorse, a 6-6 forward who does a little bit of everything. The Blackbirds are the speediest team in the NEC.
The window for Don Verlin’s team was last season when it had six seniors in the rotation and finished 126th in KenPom.
Greg Kampe’s got a whole bunch of new players and is looking for some comfort after watching his roster endure five season-ending injuries a year ago. This after Oakland was expected to be a top-70 team.
Few mascots in college basketball more metal than Louisiana Monroe’s Warhawks. Travis Munnings and Michael Ertel could both wind up as all-league Sun Belt players, but will they get any offensive help elsewhere?
223. Stony Brook
I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn on Stony Brook’s campus in August for a wedding. It was nice; I woke up in the hotel to discover the Bears traded for Khalil Mack. Also, this team has a player named Akwasi Yeboah who is a talent, and coach Jeff Boals is recruiting well for the Seawolves.
224. Tennessee Tech
The offense will probably be an issue, but this program thrives off chaos and can win games in the low 60s or high 80s.
225. Santa Clara
A plodding team that has a good senior point guard in K.J. Feagin. Opponents shot 40 percent from 3-point range against the Broncos last year, which is not ideal for the Broncos.
226. St. Peter’s
New coach: Shaheen Holloway.
From a facilities and infrastructure standpoint, this is one of the toughest jobs in the crowded, clustered pocket of mid-major hoops in the northeast.
The Blazers lost their four best players and will have to pace themselves for a rough league season. The nonconference schedule is fairly easy, which could boost morale for January.
New coach: Michael Fly
Some in the league think this FGCU team is just as talented as any prior group. One coach told me “they will have the most talent despite losing their starting five.” Marquette transfer Haanif Cheatham will star.
Sometimes I like to sport an awful southern accent and intentionally mispronounce Duquesne as “DOO-KWEZ-NEE” for no apparent reason. Oh, this program hasn’t been above .500 in seven seasons. Big bump this year?
230. Texas State
Nijal Pearson and his Bobcats teammates are a middle-of-the-pack Sun Belt team under Danny Kaspar. Texas State ranked 348th out of 351 teams last season in tempo.
231. James Madison
The Dukes can be a sneaky CAA team, I think. JMU has some talent. Stuckey Mosley is now a proven, confident scorer. Matt Lewis is a good sidekick for him.
232. Middle Tennessee
New coach: Nick McDevitt
Conference USA underwent more coaching changes than just about any league. McDevitt knows he has a long year ahead after a big exodus following big success in recent seasons under Kermit Davis.
233. The Citadel
All-SoCon forward Zane Najdawi can go inside or out and be a matchup issue. Grad transfers Connor Kern and Lew Stallworth will make The Citadel a beatable but unpredictable opponent, due to junk defenses Duggar Baucom tosses out like candy.
It’s the basketball program whose name sounds like a soccer club in the Premier League. The Bearcats failed to win two straight after Dec. 17 last season.
235. Oral Roberts
A strong coaching staff has ORU set up to make headway in the coming two seasons in the Summit League.
Going to be interesting for the Pirates, as they make a big jump from the MEAC to the Big South. Jermaine Marrow isn’t efficient but he also doesn’t tire. It could be a carnival ride for him against new competition.
Senior forward Devontae Cacok was the best rebounder in college hoops last season (13.5 per game) and the year before set an NCAA record by shooting 80 percent on the season. He’s dominant and deserving of some pub this year.
The Panthers need more time under Pat Baldwin to get their offense in a better place. The goal for 2018-19 is to manage to go .500 in the Horizon League.
Manhattan’s a moving target for me. As you see with some other teams, I have no issue admitting that some of these are blind guesses; the Jaspers could prove to be top-180.
240. Holy Cross
Well, 90 percent of the team’s production from last season is back. Holy Cross went 12-19, though. In Jehyve Floyd, the Crusaders have a very good defender and best post player in the Patriot League.
The Camels run a Princeton offense, which is what makes Chris Clemons’ (24.9 ppg) push to 3,000 career points all the more impressive. I voted him preseason Third Team All-America for CBS Sports.
242. Southeast Missouri State
In Ledarrius Brewer, SEMO has a a big guard who averaged 15 points and helped Rick Ray’s team offset its poor defense. Team is a year away from pushing through the wall.
243. Sam Houston State
Only four teams in Texas have won 20 or more games in four of the past five years: Stephen F. Austin, Baylor, SMU — and Sam Houston State. Josh Delaney (39.7 percent) is one of the best mid-major shooters in the country.
Going to be in almost every Ivy League contest because the Bears return everyone of note, most notably sophomore shooting guard Desmond Cambridge.
245. Robert Morris
Andy Toole enters his ninth season at RMU. Those above Toole in the school hierarchy believe fully in him. There’s been financial commitment to making Robert Morris an elite NEC program.
Big man Brian Dawkins graduating is a big hit for Elon to recover from, but senior Tyler Seibring, Dainan Swoope and Steven Santa Ana are going to be a great triumvirate.
Marcus Shaver Jr. could be a 15/5/5 guy for the Pilots. I’m not sure how good the Portland basketball team can be this season, but I’m taking this opportunity here to declare Portland as an irrefutable top-10 city in America.
Great Danes coach Will Brown was less than 20 minutes from being a legend. His Albany team in 2006 led No. 1 overall seed UConn deep into its first round game in the NCAA Tournament. Brown’s been at UAlbany since 2001.
249. Arkansas State
Ty Cockfield leads an Arkansas State team that could finish anywhere from fourth to 10th in the Sun Belt.
Jason Gardner’s Jaguars had a few important transfers sitting out last season, and word coming out of Indianapolis is that this team could break out come mid-January. Plenty of mystery here.
251. Western Illinois
The Leathernecks (college basketball should have more monikers like this and a lot fewer Bulldogs, Wildcats and Tigers) are probably doomed to another sub-.500 season in the Summit League.
252. Portland State
Coming off its best season in almost a decade, the Vikings figure to have a rotation of seven sophomores, which seems like the most abundant such rotation in college hoops this season.
253. Central Michigan
No team in the MAC has a greater discrepancy between good offense and poor defense than Keno Davis’ Chippewas.
Ed DeChellis told me it’s going to be a fun challenge this year because he’s got of gob of young guys to mold.
255. California Riverside
New coach: David Patrick
With Patrick now running the program and a higher level of commitment to men’s basketball made by the school, expectations are that Riverside can compete atop the Big West by 2022.
Pat Skerry’s team is undergoing one of the most volatile roster turnovers in mid-major hoops this season. But the Tigers play a tough style and usually overachieve, so watch ’em steal games in the CAA.
257. McNeese State
New coach: Heath Schroyer
The Cowboys will find it’s hard to establish an identity or momentum with a new coach when you have one home game before Christmas.
Cornell really took a hit losing stretch 4 Stone Gettings to Arizona. The team’s best player is still Matt Morgan, who I think has a chance for Ivy League Player of the Year.
259. Coastal Carolina
Zac Cuthbertson is the centerpiece for a team who’s nickname, the Chanticleers, is an imaginary rooster.
260. Eastern Washington
Bogdan Bliznyuk’s graduation opens up a lot of opportunities for a roster that’s got a balanced spread of age and height.
Yes, it’s been a steady slip in the ratings for the Hawks, who will get games against four teams that could wind up as the best in their respective leagues: Kentucky, Saint Joe’s, Lehigh and Yale.
262. George Washington
Leadership duties on this team remains a situation that’s up for grabs, but Arnaldo Toro and Armel Potter could be setting the table for an improved situation a year from now.
263. Texas-El Paso
New coach: Rodney Terry
This team’s definitely year away, but could take be a problem immediately as well. “Won’t take them long,” one C-USA coach told me.
Devastating hit in losing late transfer Tramaine Isabell, who put up 40 in a game last season. Alihan Demir is an underrated big, someone who will actually play the point at times too. JUCO transfer Zach Walton is the biggest secret in the league.
265. Cal State Bakersfield
Damiyne Durham is a typical tough/undersized senior point guard who’s going to give Cal State Bakersfield two or three more wins than it would have had without him.
Hampton left the MEAC, so who steps up as the top dog in 2018-19? Likely the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman. Shawntrez Davis and Isaiah Bailey can get this team to the NCAAs.
Romone Saunders is a wild card of a player for Bashir Mason’s Seahawks, who’ve been close but unable to pop through the conference tourney title game in the NEC.
268. UT Martin
Returns were positive early for UT Martin, which won a closed scrimmage over A-Sun favorites Lipscomb.
269. Prairie View A&M
The SWAC is a guard’s league and the Panthers have the best deployment of them. Gary Blackston, a senior guard, is the best player in the conference.
270. Central Arkansas
The Bears are going to take a dip this year because it lost best guard in the Southland, Jordan Howard. Some coaches I spoke with labeled this team as a sleeper to finish top three in the conference nonetheless.
Junior point guard Mike Smith is the Lion’s best chance to spoil predictions and get this team into the top four of the Ivy League.
272. Army West Point
A tricky team to forecast because a lot of the roster returns, but it’s still a young group and it only won 13 last season.
273. East Carolina
New coach: Joe Dooley
The lowest-ranked team of 2018 among Major 7 conferences are these Pirates, who have hope thanks to super sophomore Shawn Williams and the AAC’s most prolific passer, Isaac Fleming.
New coach: Lorenzo Romar
How about Romar’s path: from Washington coach to Arizona top assistant to a top-five campus in America in a three-year span.
The Cardinals had four guys sitting out last year. Jordan Hunter, a point guard via New Mexico State, and Nick Garth, a well-rounded shooter, will buoy Lamar’s most athletic team in a half-decade.
276. Nebraska Omaha
Zach Jackson, a 3/4 driving forward who can shoot from far out, is one of the toughest matchups in the Summit League. Omaha hoping to dodge the injury bug that bogged it down last season.
277. Cleveland State
Best freshman in the Horizon League last season, Tyree Appleby, gets a fun opportunity right away by opening up the season against Davidson.
Francois Lewis, a kid who was ineligible for some of last season, is back after being cleared academically. Lewis, by a good margin, was the best PER player in the Big South.
A team that brings a lot back, but we wait to see if J.D. Notae, who encountered injury last season, can prove to be the best sophomore in the Atlantic Sun.
New coach: Tavaras Hardy
The Greyhounds might have underrated talent, but Hardy will need some time to get this program running apace.
Christen Cunningham (to Louisville), Justin Coleman (to Arizona) and Wyatt Walker (to NC State) have robbed Samford of what could have been a very good season. At least there’s eight noncon games at home.
282. La Salle
New coach: Ashley Howard
Program is under a lot of curiosity, given Howard hired former Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson, who was accused under oath of blatant NCAA violations dating back to his time with the Cardinals.
283. Central Connecticut State
The Blue Devils dealt with a rash of transfers and go for a re-load as Year No. 3 begins for Donyell Marshall at CCSU.
It’s about this time on the list where delirium really starts to set in. Say hello to the Purple Eagles! Niagara has defensive issues but still will drop 90 a few times this season.
285. Morehead State
A lot of players return from a team that won six games against Division I competition and turned the ball over way too much.
286. New Hampshire
I’m gonna say this team team wins 12 games this season. Bill Herrion needs an offensive revamp.
287. Idaho State
And I’m gonna say this team wins 11. Jared Stutzman’s 3-point shooting is the biggest weapon the Bengals have.
288. New Jersey Tech
Four starters back on a Princeton offense scheme that features an all-league man in Abdul Lewis, who’s probably the fourth best player in the Atlantic Sun.
289. North Carolina Central
Raasean Davis, a senior power forward, could average 18 and 10 for the most consistent team in the MEAC over the past five seasons.
290. Northwestern State
Sixty-two percent of this team’s points came from 2-point field goals last season, which was the highest rate in college hoops. That’s not good, as Northwestern State’s offensive efficiency ranked 349th.
New coach: Chris Ogden
After learning for years under Rick Barnes, Ogden got the job following his influence in turning Texas Tech into an Elite Eight team last season.
292. Texas Southern
New coach: Johnny Jones
Derrick Bruce and Jayln Patterson are a couple of studs who will try to keep this team atop the SWAC even after the program lost its coach, Mike Davis, to Detroit.
293. Southern Utah
Todd Simon pushes the pace, which can help (and hurt) when the roster lacks length. This university is located in Cedar City, Utah, which I’m sure is a pretty great place to live for all that the environment provides … but it’s also got to be among the 10 most isolated universities in D-I.
Ha. And what I wrote directly above this also has to apply to Hanover, New Hampshire’s own proud university as well. Dartmouth again will be cellar-dwelling in the Ivy.
New coach: John Dunne
Dunne made the uncommon move of bouncing from one job to another … in the same league. He spent the previous dozen seasons at MAAC rival St. Peter’s.
296. San Jose State
This poor program can’t get out of the Mountain West’s basement. After having the worst 3-point defense in college basketball, its three best players left.
297. Norfolk State
Hey, you’ve made it even further into the rankings — thank you. I love writing this, I hope, just as much as you love reading it. Norfolk State figures to be near the top of the MEAC.
298. High Point
New coach: Tubby Smith
Jahaad Proctor is very good but the frontcourt could be the issue with them. It’d be hilarious if Tubby Smith strolled into the Big South and won a league title by 2020.
Getting the 299 ranking isn’t something to be proud of, but UMKC in the big picture is trending upward and it’s been a long time coming.
Have written it before, and it feels truer than ever: Fordham is a program with good history and nice opportunity but is in the wrong league.
New coach: Jared Grasso
Junior shooting guard Adam Grant gets a new box of cookies thanks to Grasso’s offensive playbook making its way over from Iona.
New coach: Ron Sanchez
Jon Davis is a quality player, the kind of talent that a lot of coaches in new spots would like to inherit. After former NBA star Mark Price was fired midseason, the 49ers turned to Sanchez, who spent more than a decade as an assistant to Tony Bennett.
303. Western Carolina
New coach: Mark Prosser
Forward Marc Gosselin, shooting wing Matt Halvorsen and guards Desmond Johnson and Marcus Thomas give WCU a lot to work with despite defensive issues inside.
New coach: Mike Davis
A complete reset on the program just two years after Bacari Alexander was hired.
Alex Petrie is a talented sophomore and someone who might be the best player in the Patriot League two seasons from now.
I drive the R.J. Cole bandwagon. He was a top-15 freshman last season (yes, even out of the MEAC) and could average 25 points this season. He’s awesome.
New coach: Jamion Christian
The Saints unexpectedly had to bring in a new coach after allegations of misconduct were levied against Jimmy Patsos, prompting a new regime.
A lot of new pieces in place for the Hatters, so it’s going to be a humble journey in 2018-19 for one of the tougher jobs in the south.
309. Houston Baptist
Lost a lot of quality seniors and their good freshmen transferred. Key is senior Josh Ibarra — a 6-10, 265-pound load on both ends — who must stay healthy.
310. Tennessee State
New coach: Penny Collins
A year ago we had no head coaches named Penny in college basketball. Now we have two. Coaches at TSU believe the team will be in the top six of the OVC by the end of next season.
311. Cal Poly
Donovan Fields is back, which helps, but the reality is the Big West only had two true bad teams last year — and this was one of them.
312. Little Rock
New coach: Darrell Walker
With a new coaching taking over one of the worst offensive units in the sport, it’s tough to validate putting Little Rock in the 200s.
313. Kennesaw State
The Owls lost some key transfers and the best shooter in all of college basketball last season, Nick Masterson, who made 55 percent of his 118 3-point attempts.
New coach: Mike Morrell
UNC Asheville lost its best eight players due to graduation or transfer. Morrell’s a young coach in his first head job who’s got a chance to keep this program in the thick of the Big South.
315. UMass Lowell
Although it’s not likely to happen, the River Hawks are now eligible to make the NCAA Tournament after five years transitioning to D-I.
316. Nicholls State
New coach: Austin Claunch.
Will be a year of opportunity for Savannah State transfer Dexter McClanahan, who is a bulldog that gives this team a needed spark.
Probably the best starting big men in the SWAC reside in Grambling, Louisiana: Axel Mpoyo, Devante Jackson, Zavier Peart. Plus, Ivy Smith Jr. distributes with authority.
318. North Dakota
Figures to be a rough year of transition, but a better natural fit, as UND goes from the Big Sky to the Summit League.
319. St. Francis (N.Y.)
One of the smallest teams in the country, the Terriers have an evolving core of players who hope to make more gains after going from four to 13 wins over the past two seasons.
320. Youngstown State
Devin Morgan, a transfer from Delaware State, could be one of the five most impactful up transfers in mid-major college hoops this season.
321. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Willis Wilson carries a lot of responsibility within the athletic department down in Corpus Christi, Texas. If he wants, he’d make a good AD at a mid-major once he gets out of coaching.
322. Florida International
New coach: Jeremy Ballard
Hard to see this team making many waves in C-USA in the first year of a coaching change. Program made its only NCAAs appearance in 1995.
Another one of those teams that I could whiff on. Sa’eed Nelson is good but inefficient, as was most of the offense last season, but many pieces come back.
324. North Alabama
New coach: Tony Pujol.
This program and Cal Baptist are the two new ones to D-I this season. It went 15-13 in 2017-18, its final season in D-II.
325. South Carolina Upstate
New coach: Dave Dickerson
The worst of the worst on defense in college basketball last season, per KenPom’s metrics. That won’t repeat, so 325 sounds about right.
326. Morgan State
Morgan State is the first opponent of 2018 for reigning champs Villanova.
327. Texas-Rio Grande Valley
The Vaqueros were 15-18 and scored 2,490 points last season, 605 which came via free throws. That’s 18 per game, most in the country.
328. Sacred Heart
If Anthony Latina can get through this season, he’ll be moving up swiftly in the NEC by 2020.
329. Coppin State
Juan Dixon’s Eagles put up 86.3 points per 100 possessions last season, which was the worst in college basketball. Weird to see that be the case with a coach who was so good at Maryland.
In a decade at the D-I level, has yet to win more than 12 games.
331. Northern Arizona
Located in the beautiful outpost of Flagstaff, Arizona, the Lumberjacks might be overlooked — and therefore devious — in the Big Sky. NAU coach Jack Murphy told me this team will be much better than last year’s 5-27 squad.
Bubba Parham will be as necessary to his team’s offense as maybe almost any player in college hoops this season. The Keydets won just nine games last season.
333. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Here’s the home of the best player in the SWAC, Martaveous McKnight, a senior combo-guard who probably averages 21 or so this season.
New coach: Sean Woods.
Obviously an amazing pep band. Interesting opportunity/coaching rebirth for Woods, who lost his job at Morehead State after abuse allegations.
Toughest job in Conference USA. Coach Scott Pera’s a good one, though.
336. North Carolina A&T
Uh, big shouts to UNC Greensboro’s Wes Miller for scheduling a road game to open the season at NC A&T. That is awesome to see. A&T will be pushed by Kameron Langley.
337. Incarnate Word
New coach: Carson Cunningham
In speaking to coaches in the Southland, this team has the least expectations around it.
New coach: Richard Barron
It’s going to take something of a minor miracle to get this program to compete consistently at the top of the America East.
New coach: Griff Aldrich
To no surprise, you’re seeing much of the bottom of this list populated by programs in bad leagues who are undergoing coaching changes. Longwood is still trying to find footing in D-I.
340. Jackson State
Walter Payton’s alma mater should always have my respect. Tigers might have four double-digit scorers
341. Mount St. Mary’s
New coach: Dan Engelstad
I know little of Mount St. Mary’s team other than to tell you I’ve played pickup hoops with its new coach. All but one player from last year’s roster is gone!
342. Alabama State
Jacoby Ross, a sophomore whirling dervish, and rebound reliability Branden Johnson can get this program to its first NCAA Tournament since 2011.
343. Maryland-Eastern Shore
New coach: Clifford Reed (interim)
An athletic department in flux and a team that will be middling in the MEAC.
New coach: Mark Gottfried
Terrell Gomez, Big West frosh of the year, is back. But not much else. And Gottfried’s name has been attached to the FBI scandal.
345. California Baptist
First year converting to Division I. This team plays in the WAC and I’m going to underestimate it, not knowing quite what to expect.
346. South Carolina State
Because it’s younger than it was last season, chances are decent this team is the worst on defense in college basketball.
347. Chicago State
New coach: Lance Irvin
This program is still in the WAC. Some wondered if it might fold after recent seasons’ performance. Good luck to Mr. Irvin, who was tapped to replace Tracy Dildy by former Chicago Bear Chris Zorich, the Cougars’ new athletic director.
348. Alcorn State
An overload of wings/guards here. Last made the NCAAs in 2002.
349. Delaware State
New coach: Eric Skeeters
One of the final schools this offseason to settle on a coach. Needs cohesion.
350. Alabama A&M
New coach: Dylan Howard (interim)
Everything’s starting to blur. Couple more steps and we’re past the finish line, folks. A&M at least has a veteran presence on the roster amid a coaching change.
351. Mississippi Valley State
The Delta Devils have lost at least 14 straight games to start the season three years in a row. I know these SWAC teams don’t get a lot of shine, but I sometimes think about what those players go through as they get run over every November and December.
352. Savannah State
The Tigers don’t seem set up for success this season, but they should continue to bomb away: Savannah State got 43 percent of its points off 3-pointers last season, which was top-five in the country.
353. Florida A&M
My pick for last for 2018-19 rated as second-worst team a season ago with a 2-27 record. I’d love to be wrong, Rattlers, so good luck to ya.
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