Bracketology — Where we’d rank all 358 Division I men’s college basketball programs to start 2021-22


The 2021-22 college basketball season begins Tuesday with a full day of matchups across the country, including a meeting between two top-10 teams in No. 9 Duke and No. 10 Kentucky (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). And with the start of the season comes Bracketology.

Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas and Michigan have earned the 1-seeds, and we’ve also identified our customary “Last Four In,” “First Four Out” and “Next Four Out” groups. For the next four-plus months until Selection Sunday on March 13, we’ll regularly change our NCAA tournament projection, identifying the 68 programs that would qualify if the Big Dance started that day.

But why stop there? The start of a new season calls for something extra. While only 68 teams will earn a chance to play for a spot in the Final Four in New Orleans, we ranked every Division I team looking to make the tournament.

Bracketology headquarters proudly presents its inaugural 358-team ranking, sorted by conference and postseason prospects, just in time for opening night.

Let the haggling begin!

Listed below is Joe Lunardi’s projected order of finish within each conference. National rankings are in parentheses.


ACC

  1. Duke (9)

  2. Florida St. (19)

  3. North Carolina (21)

  4. Virginia (29)

  5. Virginia Tech (32)

  6. Syracuse (34)

  7. Notre Dame (35)

  8. Louisville (37)

  9. Clemson (64)

  10. NC State (65)

  11. Georgia Tech (66)

  12. Miami (80)

  13. Wake Forest (99)

  14. Pittsburgh (124)

  15. Boston College (130)

Tournament contenders

  • Final Four: Duke

  • Sweet 16: Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Syracuse

  • NCAA Bubble: Notre Dame, Louisville

  • NCAA Round of 64: Clemson, NC State, Georgia Tech

  • NIT: Miami, Wake Forest

  • Sleeper: Notre Dame

Overview: The ACC hasn’t exactly thrived since garnering three No. 1 seeds in 2019. The conference hasn’t had one since, and will likely go without a top seed again in 2022. Combine that with the UNC and Duke coaching transitions and it’s fair to wonder if the conference is trending in the wrong direction.


AMERICA EAST

  1. Vermont (126)

  2. Stony Brook (193)

  3. Hartford (230)

  4. New Hampshire (234)

  5. UMBC (238)

  6. UMass Lowell (283)

  7. Albany (284)

  8. NJIT (318)

  9. Binghamton (341)

  10. Maine (344)

Overview: Vermont has been the conference’s best team for seven of the past eight seasons, but has only won the conference tournament twice in that span. It’s time for the Catamounts to do both, likely propelling coach John Becker to bigger and better things.


AMERICAN

  1. Memphis (12)

  2. Houston (13)

  3. Wichita State (62)

  4. UCF (67)

  5. SMU (70)

  6. Cincinnati (106)

  7. Temple (116)

  8. Tulsa (121)

  9. Tulane (129)

  10. East Carolina (165)

  11. South Florida (183)

Tournament contenders

  • Final Four: Memphis

  • Sweet 16: Houston

  • NCAA Bubble: Wichita State

  • NCAA Round of 64: UCF, SMU

  • NIT: Cincinnati, Temple, Tulsa

  • Sleeper: SMU

Overview: In its short-lived existence, the American has given us a national champion (UConn, 2014) and a second Final Four team (Houston, 2021). But the upcoming season might have to be its last hurrah, with Houston, Cincinnati and UCF bolting for the Big 12. Long live Memphis!


ATLANTIC SUN

  1. Liberty (103)

  2. Jacksonville State (157)

  3. Eastern Kentucky (176)

  4. Bellarmine (199)

  5. Florida Gulf Coast (221)

  6. Lipscomb (224)

  7. Stetson (236)

  8. North Florida (264)

  9. Jacksonville (271)

  10. Kennesaw State (321)

  11. North Alabama (324)

  12. Central Arkansas (342)

Overview: The new members — Jacksonville State (OVC), Eastern Kentucky (OVC) and Central Arkansas (Southland) — give the Atlantic Sun some depth, but this is still Liberty’s league until proven otherwise.


ATLANTIC 10

  1. St. Bonaventure (22)

  2. Richmond (38)

  3. VCU (88)

  4. Dayton (90)

  5. Saint Louis (96)

  6. Rhode Island (101)

  7. Davidson (105)

  8. UMass (119)

  9. Saint Joseph’s (174)

  10. George Mason (182)

  11. Duquesne (185)

  12. La Salle (204)

  13. George Washington (223)

  14. Fordham (243)

Tournament contenders

  • Sweet 16: St. Bonaventure

  • NCAA Bubble: Richmond

  • NCAA Round of 64: VCU, Dayton, Saint Louis

  • NIT: Rhode Island, Davidson

  • Sleeper: Saint Joseph’s

Overview: The A-10 hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 2018, though Dayton certainly would have won its share in the canceled 2020 event. St. Bonaventure is more than legitimate and will carry the league back into the NCAA win column in 2022.


BIG EAST

  1. Villanova (5)

  2. UConn (24)

  3. Xavier (30)

  4. St. John’s (46)

  5. Seton Hall (50)

  6. Creighton (56)

  7. Butler (60)

  8. Providence (68)

  9. Marquette (84)

  10. Georgetown (85)

  11. DePaul (111)

Tournament contenders

  • Final Four: Villanova

  • Sweet 16: UConn

  • NCAA Bubble: Xavier, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Creighton

  • NCAA Round of 64: Butler, Providence

  • NIT: Marquette, Georgetown

  • Sleeper: Providence

Overview: Villanova has so dominated the “new” Big East that the conference needed to reach back in time for a challenger. UConn is going to win the league at some point, maybe even this year, but it’s long past time for other members — St. John’s, Marquette or DePaul? — to earn their keep.


BIG SKY

  1. Southern Utah (115)

  2. Weber State (125)

  3. Montana (156)

  4. Montana St. (186)

  5. Northern Colorado (207)

  6. Idaho State (212)

  7. Portland State (229)

  8. Eastern Washington (237)

  9. Sacramento State (286)

  10. Northern Arizona (320)

  11. Idaho (334)

Overview: Southern Utah compiled arguably the best season (20-4 overall, 12-2 Big Sky) in program history, only to drop an overtime heartbreaker to Montana State in the conference tournament semifinals. Look for the Thunderbirds to finish the job in 2022.


BIG SOUTH

  1. Winthrop (158)

  2. Campbell (179)

  3. Gardner Webb (219)

  4. UNC Asheville (249)

  5. Longwood (251)

  6. North Carolina A&T (281)

  7. Radford (290)

  8. High Point (313)

  9. Presbyterian (315)

  10. Hampton (340)

  11. Charleston Southern (351)

  12. USC Upstate (354)

Overview: North Carolina A&T makes the move from the MEAC, following in the footsteps of Hampton three years ago. The gap between Winthrop and the rest of the league is closing, but the Eagles remain the class of the Big South.


BIG TEN

  1. Michigan (4)

  2. Purdue (6)

  3. Illinois (10)

  4. Ohio State (15)

  5. Maryland (20)

  6. Michigan State (25)

  7. Indiana (28)

  8. Rutgers (47)

  9. Iowa (51)

  10. Wisconsin (57)

  11. Northwestern (59)

  12. Penn State (74)

  13. Nebraska (77)

  14. Minnesota (117)

Tournament contenders

  • Final Four: Michigan, Purdue, Illinois

  • Sweet 16: Ohio State, Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana

  • NCAA Bubble: Rutgers, Iowa

  • NCAA Round of 64: Wisconsin, Northwestern

  • NIT: Penn State, Nebraska

  • Sleeper: Indiana

Overview: Once again, the Big Ten has multiple national championship contenders. Once again, the Big Ten will be trying to end its two-decade title drought. Once again, we can only ask, “Is this the year?” With no 800-pound gorilla on the national scene, why not?


BIG WEST

(Projected order of finish, national rank in parenthesis)

  1. UCSB (102)

  2. UC Irvine (109)

  3. UC Riverside (142)

  4. UC Davis (197)

  5. Cal State Bakersfield (206)

  6. Hawaii (210)

  7. Cal State Fullerton (225)

  8. Long Beach State (269)

  9. Cal State Northridge (294)

  10. UC San Diego (295)

  11. Cal Poly (303)

Overview: There might not be a tighter regular-season race in the country than the Big West. A case could be made for any of the top three teams, with UC Riverside chasing the first NCAA bid in school history.


BIG 12

  1. Kansas (2)

  2. Texas (7)

  3. Baylor (8)

  4. Texas Tech (27)

  5. Oklahoma State (31)

  6. West Virginia (36)

  7. Oklahoma (52)

  8. TCU (78)

  9. Kansas State (79)

  10. Iowa State (114)

Tournament contenders

  • Final Four: Kansas, Texas

  • Sweet 16: Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia

  • NCAA Bubble: Oklahoma

  • NIT: TCU, Kansas State

  • Asleep: Oklahoma State

Overview: It’s a little dicey when your pick to win the national championship (Kansas) is one registered letter away from program disaster. And this from a conference that is almost assuredly losing at least one tournament unit following Oklahoma State’s unsuccessful appeal. Ouch.


COLONIAL

  1. Northeastern (135)

  2. Delaware (150)

  3. James Madison (166)

  4. Drexel (178)

  5. Hofstra (196)

  6. Elon (202)

  7. Charleston (246)

  8. Towson (259)

  9. UNC Wilmington (278)

  10. William & Mary (291)

Overview: Throw a blanket over the top half of the CAA and any of the teams, including defending champion Drexel, can walk away with the NCAA bid. All we really know is that James Madison won’t win it, which is an unfortunate story for another day.


CONFERENCE USA

  1. UAB (76)

  2. Louisiana Tech (92)

  3. Western Kentucky (95)

  4. Marshall (120)

  5. Old Dominion (134)

  6. North Texas (138)

  7. Rice (170)

  8. UTEP (175)

  9. Charlotte (188)

  10. Florida Atlantic (190)

  11. Southern Miss (205)

  12. UTSA (242)

  13. Middle Tennessee (273)

  14. Florida International (302)

Tournament contenders

Overview: It’s easier to list the schools staying in Conference USA than those planning to depart. In the meantime, this remains a pretty good basketball league with a handful of teams that can give the big boys trouble.


HORIZON

  1. Wright State (108)

  2. Cleveland State (131)

  3. Northern Kentucky (151)

  4. Milwaukee (162)

  5. Detroit Mercy (200)

  6. Oakland (203)

  7. Purdue Fort Wayne (248)

  8. Illinois Chicago (263)

  9. Youngstown State (267)

  10. Robert Morris (274)

  11. Green Bay (314)

  12. IUPUI (331)

Overview: At least for the time being, Cleveland State has replaced Northern Kentucky as Wright State’s chief rival atop the Horizon League. But the Horizon hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since Butler’s back-to-back appearances in the NCAA final.


IVY LEAGUE

  1. Yale (147)

  2. Harvard (177)

  3. Princeton (180)

  4. Penn (214)

  5. Brown (239)

  6. Dartmouth (288)

  7. Cornell (296)

  8. Columbia (323)

Overview: Yale has been terrific under coach James Jones, yet has somehow stayed under the radar. Jones’ best team lost a likely NCAA bid in 2020 and, of course, the Ivies didn’t play last season. But the Bulldogs are back and will try to navigate a very balanced league in 2022.


MAAC

  1. Iona (140)

  2. Saint Peter’s (172)

  3. Monmouth (217)

  4. Siena (240)

  5. Marist (241)

  6. Rider (244)

  7. Fairfield (245)

  8. Quinnipiac (261)

  9. Manhattan (265)

  10. Niagara (266)

  11. Canisius (289)

Overview: It seems a matter of when, not if, Rick Pitino lifts Iona to a level capable of winning in the NCAA tournament. In the meantime, the Gaels enter year two of the Pitino Era hoping to hold off a solid Saint Peter’s squad.


MAC

  1. Buffalo (83)

  2. Ohio (93)

  3. Toledo (118)

  4. Kent State (132)

  5. Akron (136)

  6. Miami-OH (149)

  7. Bowling Green (155)

  8. Ball State (227)

  9. Western Michigan (272)

  10. Central Michigan (276)

  11. Eastern Michigan (293)

  12. Northern Illinois (299)

Tournament contenders

  • NIT: Buffalo, Ohio

  • Sleeper: Toledo

Overview: Believe it or not, there was a time when the Mid-American cared as much about basketball as football. Now the conference has gone over two decades without an at-large bid. What in the name of Wally Szczerbiak is going on out there?


MEAC

  1. Morgan State (231)

  2. Norfolk State (270)

  3. Howard (308)

  4. North Carolina Central (325)

  5. Coppin State (330)

  6. Delaware State (339)

  7. South Carolina State (348)

  8. Maryland Eastern Shore (356)

Overview: The MEAC is losing members at a concerning rate. It also hasn’t managed an NCAA seed better than No. 16 since 2014. Yes, I would be concerned about the long-term viability of the conference at the Division I level.


MISSOURI VALLEY

  1. Loyola Chicago (42)

  2. Drake (54)

  3. Missouri State (82)

  4. Northern Iowa (98)

  5. Southern Illinois (127)

  6. Bradley (154)

  7. Indiana St. (173)

  8. Evansville (181)

  9. Valparaiso (191)

  10. Illinois State (208)

Tournament contenders

  • NCAA Bubble: Loyola Chicago, Drake

  • NIT: Missouri State, Northern Iowa

  • Sleeper: Northern Iowa

Overview: If Loyola Chicago survives the Porter Moser transition — likely, given that Sister Jean is still on campus — one wonders if the Ramblers would ever have wandering eyes. All of its one-time private, Catholic partners in the Valley are gone.


MOUNTAIN WEST

  1. Colorado State (40)

  2. San Diego State (45)

  3. Nevada (55)

  4. Boise State (58)

  5. Utah State (81)

  6. Fresno State (123)

  7. UNLV (145)

  8. Wyoming (161)

  9. New Mexico (235)

  10. Air Force (275)

  11. San Jose State (282)

Tournament contenders

  • NCAA Bubble: Colorado State, San Diego State

  • NCAA Round of 64: Nevada, Boise State

  • NIT: Utah State

  • Sleeper: San Jose St.

Overview: The top four teams in the Mountain West are all good enough to win a game in the NCAA tournament. The challenge, of course, is getting there. The conference hasn’t gone past two bids since 2015, but it has a real chance to break through in 2022.


NORTHEAST

  1. Bryant (195)

  2. Wagner (201)

  3. Merrimack (226)

  4. Mount St. Mary’s (250)

  5. Long Island (252)

  6. Sacred Heart (287)

  7. St. Francis-PA (297)

  8. St. Francis-NY (322)

  9. Fairleigh Dickinson (337)

  10. Central Connecticut (352)

Overview: Bryant has emerged as the top program in the NEC, but COVID-19 and bad luck in the league tourney have kept the Bulldogs from an NCAA bid. This year’s race figures to come down to Bryant and Wagner, as Merrimack has not yet completed its transition period from Division II.


OHIO VALLEY

  1. Belmont (73)

  2. Murray State (143)

  3. Morehead State (159)

  4. Southeast Missouri State (253)

  5. Tennessee State (285)

  6. Tennessee Tech (309)

  7. Austin Peay (312)

  8. SIU Edwardsville (328)

  9. Eastern Illinois (347)

  10. Tennessee Martin (353)

Tournament contenders

  • NCAA Bubble: Belmont

  • NIT: Murray St.

  • Sleeper: Tennessee State

Overview: The OVC race between Belmont and Murray State figures to be another doozy, with the added angst of the Bruins leaving the league after this season for the Missouri Valley. It’s not impossible both teams earn an NCAA bid, as was the case in 2019.


PAC-12

  1. UCLA (3)

  2. Oregon (18)

  3. USC (26)

  4. Colorado (43)

  5. Washington State (48)

  6. Arizona (53)

  7. Arizona St. (63)

  8. Stanford (71)

  9. Oregon State (72)

  10. Washington (91)

  11. Utah (94)

  12. California (100)

Tournament contenders

  • Final Four: UCLA

  • Sweet 16: Oregon, USC

  • NCAA Bubble: Colorado, Washington State, Arizona

  • NCAA Round of 64: Arizona State, Stanford, Oregon State

  • NIT: Washington, Utah

  • Sleeper: Washington State

Overview: Most notable about the Pac-12 isn’t UCLA’s return to glory, significant though it might be. No, the best news for the conference is the marked improvement among recent bottom teams. Perennial doormat Washington State is nearing NCAA status, Oregon State is coming off an NCAA bid, and Cal finally appears headed in the right direction.


PATRIOT LEAGUE

  1. Colgate (128)

  2. Navy (189)

  3. Boston University (198)

  4. Army (262)

  5. American (268)

  6. Loyola MD (298)

  7. Lafayette (307)

  8. Lehigh (317)

  9. Bucknell (319)

  10. Holy Cross (336)

Overview: Colgate is the consensus pick in the Patriot League, but keep an eye on Navy. The Midshipmen won the regular-season title a year ago and are looking to become the first service academy to make the NCAA tournament since Air Force in 2006.


SEC

  1. Kentucky (11)

  2. Alabama (14)

  3. Arkansas (16)

  4. Tennessee (17)

  5. Auburn (23)

  6. LSU (33)

  7. Florida (39)

  8. Mississippi State (49)

  9. Ole Miss (69)

  10. Vanderbilt (86)

  11. Missouri (87)

  12. Texas A&M (89)

  13. South Carolina (97)

  14. Georgia (148)

Tournament contenders

  • Final Four: Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas

  • Sweet 16: Tennessee, Auburn, LSU

  • NCAA Bubble: Florida, Mississippi St.

  • NCAA Round of 64: Ole Miss

  • NIT: Vanderbilt, Missouri, Texas A&M, South Carolina

  • Sleeper: Mississippi St.

Overview: We’re almost at the stage where Alabama-Auburn is as important on the hardwood as it is on the gridiron. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but the mere concept is a sign of just how far the SEC has come in basketball. Kentucky is no longer the presumed favorite, and that’s a good thing.


SOUTHERN

  1. Furman (112)

  2. Chattanooga (122)

  3. Wofford (137)

  4. East Tennessee State (146)

  5. UNC Greensboro (169)

  6. Mercer (171)

  7. VMI (211)

  8. The Citadel (247)

  9. Samford (255)

  10. Western Carolina (306)

Overview: Furman has become a consistent top-100 program under coach Bob Richey, but without an NCAA bid to show for it. That can change in 2022, but at least a half-dozen teams will be in the hunt. The SoCon is an underappreciated league.


SOUTHLAND

  1. Nicholls State (216)

  2. New Orleans (260)

  3. Southeastern Louisiana (292)

  4. McNeese St. (327)

  5. Northwestern State (329)

  6. TAMU Corpus Christi (332)

  7. Incarnate Word (333)

  8. Houston Baptist (349)

Overview: With only eight schools remaining — and only one of them in the top 250 — the Southland is Exhibit A of how Division I expansion has gotten out of hand. If ever the NCAA needed a form of relegation, here it is.


SUMMIT

  1. South Dakota State (107)

  2. North Dakota State (133)

  3. Oral Roberts (167)

  4. South Dakota (192)

  5. UMKC (233)

  6. Western Illinois (254)

  7. North Dakota (310)

  8. Nebraska Omaha (326)

  9. Denver (335)

  10. St. Thomas-MN (338)

Overview: St. Thomas of Minnesota is the newest Division I member, but the Summit League remains dominated by the Dakotas and Oral Roberts. Just ask Ohio State and Florida if they’ve had enough of Max Abmas and the rest of an underrated conference.


SUN BELT

  1. Georgia State (110)

  2. Texas State (152)

  3. Louisiana Lafayette (160)

  4. Appalachian State (164)

  5. Arkansas State (187)

  6. Coastal Carolina (209)

  7. South Alabama (218)

  8. Troy (232)

  9. UT Arlington (257)

  10. Georgia Southern (258)

  11. Little Rock (279)

  12. Louisiana Monroe (280)

Overview: Georgia State has become the Sun Belt’s most consistent program but will have its hands full this year with several contenders. Among them, Appalachian State was an upset winner of the conference tourney a year ago and has its eyes on a repeat.


SWAC

  1. Texas Southern (220)

  2. Prairie View A&M (228)

  3. Jackson State (256)

  4. Grambling State (301)

  5. Florida A&M (305)

  6. Southern (316)

  7. Alabama A&M (343)

  8. Alcorn State (346)

  9. Alabama State (350)

  10. Bethune Cookman (355)

  11. Arkansas Pine Bluff (357)

  12. Mississippi Valley State (358)

Overview: The SWAC has seemingly secured its future by poaching travel partners Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman from the MEAC. At the top of the conference, Texas Southern and Prairie View A&M have alternated all summer and fall as our projected winner.


WAC

  1. New Mexico State (104)

  2. Grand Canyon (144)

  3. Stephen F. Austin (153)

  4. Seattle (168)

  5. Abilene Christian (184)

  6. Sam Houston State (194)

  7. Utah Valley (213)

  8. Cal Baptist (215)

  9. Tarleton State (222)

  10. Lamar (300)

  11. Dixie State (304)

  12. UT Rio Grande Valley (311)

  13. Chicago State (345)

Overview: The WAC didn’t just raid the Southland Conference, it took several of the SLC’s top programs in Stephen F. Austin, Abilene Christian and Sam Houston State. The WAC has serious designs on becoming a top mid-major outfit and will take another step in that direction next year when Chicago State bids a merciful goodbye to Division I.


WEST COAST

  1. Gonzaga (1)

  2. BYU (40)

  3. Saint Mary’s (44)

  4. San Francisco (61)

  5. Loyola Marymount (75)

  6. Santa Clara (113)

  7. Pepperdine (139)

  8. Pacific (141)

  9. San Diego (163)

  10. Portland (277)

Tournament contenders

  • Final Four: Gonzaga

  • NCAA Bubble: BYU, Saint Mary’s

  • NIT: San Francisco, Loyola Marymount

  • Sleeper: Saint Mary’s

Overview: You might have heard that Gonzaga is again pretty good. What you might not know is that top-100 programs account for at least half of the WCC. Even with BYU’s pending departure, this is a very good league in basketball and beyond.



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