The 2021–22 college basketball season begins next week, and after a one-year hiatus, Sports Illustrated’s annual preseason ranking of every men’s Division I team is back.
College hoops often feels all-encompassing—it’s not uncommon to see the sport’s elite teams host even the weakest D-I competition in nonconference play, and every March, programs that the average fan knows nothing about get their chance on the biggest stage. It can be overwhelming to look at the sheer number of D-I teams (currently 358) and sort through expectations.
That’s why we’re here. This year’s 1–358 ranking was put together by SI college basketball writer Kevin Sweeney, who set out on the task of weighing the placement of every program in the country. Some of the rankings of all 358 teams out there are analytical or built with an algorithm. This one isn’t that, but several factors were considered: returning production (and projected growth for those players), transfer additions, recruiting gains, program and coach reputation, conference strength and more. The hope was to capture a snapshot of preseason expectations, from the Power 5 down to the low mid-majors.
Below are the results, plus insights and information from Sweeney and editor Molly Geary on the SI preseason top 25 and dozens of other notable teams, all the way down to No. 358. And for conference ratings based on the national ranking, click here.
1. Gonzaga (1st in WCC): Dominant post scorer Drew Timme and uber-skilled 7' 1" freshman Chet Holmgren will be the nation’s best frontcourt tandem. Add senior point guard Andrew Nembhard, and Mark Few’s Bulldogs should spend much of the year atop the polls—as they did last season.
2. Texas (1st in Big 12): New coach Chris Beard revamped the roster through the transfer portal, bringing in guards Marcus Carr (Minnesota) and Devin Askew (Kentucky); and forwards Timmy Allen (Utah), Dylan Disu (Vanderbilt), Christian Bishop (Creighton) and Tre Mitchell (UMass). Now comes the hard part: making everything fit.
3. Kansas (2nd in Big 12): Four starters return, including 6’ 5” Ochai Agbaji and 6’ 8” Jalen Wilson, who are NBA prospects. Bill Self also addressed the Jayhawks’ glaring need for a dynamic ballhandler, landing 6-foot Arizona State transfer Remy Martin.
4. UCLA (1st in Pac-12): Last year the Bruins became just the second team to advance from the First Four to the Final Four, but this time around their tournament footing should be more solid, thanks to the arrival of 6’ 10” Myles Johnson (Rutgers) and five-star small forward Peyton Watson.
5. Michigan (1st in Big Ten): The return of All-American center Hunter Dickinson should be enough to keep the Wolverines among the elite. But they also have SI’s No. 1 recruiting class and 6’ 1” point guard DeVante’ Jones, a transfer from Coastal Carolina.
6. Memphis (1st in AAC): College basketball’s most interesting coaching staff (Penny Hardaway and assistants Rasheed Wallace and Larry Brown) will oversee a wildly talented roster led by 6’ 9” freshman playmaker (and former SI cover star) Emoni Bates.
7. Baylor (3rd in Big 12): The defending champions lost four starters but still have the pieces to make a strong March run, including wing Matthew Mayer (39.5% from three) and 6’ 1” guard James Akinjo, who led Arizona in scoring last year (15.6 ppg).
8. Purdue (2nd in Big Ten): The Boilermakers have two of the nation’s best bigs (6’ 10” Trevion Williams and 7’ 4” Zach Edey) and an exciting guard in 6’ 4” Jaden Ivey—a makeup similar to the Purdue team that made the Elite Eight in 2019.
9. Kentucky (1st in SEC): After the Wildcats’ worst season (9–16) since 1926–27, John Calipari picks up experience and shooting from the transfer portal and, as usual, a trio of high-end high school talents.
10. Villanova (1st in Big East): No top team benefited more from the NCAA’s ruling to give players an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19. The Wildcats get back star point guard Collin Gillespie and versatile 6’ 7” forward Jermaine Samuels.
11. Duke (1st in ACC): The Blue Devils have enough talent to give the soon-to-be-retired Mike Krzyzewski a memorable sendoff. Potential No. 1 NBA pick Paolo Banchero, a 6’ 10”, 250-pound forward, is more polished than any newcomer in the nation. And 7-footer Mark Williams, who shot 66.4% last year, is poised to break out as a sophomore.
12. Oregon (2nd in Pac-12): Few teams have the Ducks’ combination of depth, experience and talent in the backcourt. Syracuse transfer Quincy Guerrier will thrive as a playmaking big in their spread offense.
13. Houston (2nd in AAC): Kelvin Sampson has built a program with staying power, so the Cougars will remain relevant despite losing three starters from a Final Four team. Guards Kyler Edwards and Marcus Sasser will score, and any Sampson-led team will defend and rebound well.
14. North Carolina (2nd in ACC): The Tar Heels certainly seem well-positioned to win big in Hubert Davis’s first year at the helm. Transfers Dawson Garcia (Marquette) and Brady Manek (Oklahoma) form a versatile big-man trio with 6’ 10” junior Armando Bacot.
15. Alabama (2nd in SEC): It was a breakthrough second season for Nate Oats, whose upbeat attack took off thanks to a deep stable of guards—to which he will add five-star recruit and electric leaper JD Davison.