Men’s College Basketball Top 25 Rankings 2021-22

Contents

The NCAAB season is right around the corner again. The first games of the season are scheduled for November 9, and I’m uber excited for college ball to be back in full swing.

Given that we’re so close, it’s a good time to look at my pre-season top 25 teams, and maybe see if there are some teams that provide value in the odds market. Next to every team, I’ll include their odds to win the National Championship, provided by DraftKings.

Additionally, I’ll provide each team’s projected starting lineup for the upcoming season.

Without further ado, here are my top 25 teams for the upcoming college basketball season:

College Basketball Top 25 Rankings 2021-22

 

No. 1: Gonzaga ()

2020-21 Record: 31-1

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Andrew Nembhard
2 – Nolan Hickman
3 – Hunter Sallis
4 – Chet Holmgren
5 – Drew Timme

The Bulldogs return two starters from last season in Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard. In that, Gonzaga return one of the most dangerous pick-and-roll duos in college basketball. In terms of points per possession, Nembhard ranked in the 86th percentile as a pick-and-roll ballhandler (.949 PPP), while Timme ranked in the 90th percentile as a roll man (1.276 PPP).

Meanwhile, Head Coach Mark Few has turned Gonzaga into a recruiting powerhouse. The Bulldogs picked up the No. 1 incoming college prospect in Chet Holmgren, and the big man brings an inside-outside offensive versatility rarely seen from a seven-footer.

No. 2: UCLA ()

2020-21 Record: 22-10

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Tyger Campbell
2 – Johnny Juzang
3 – Jules Bernard
4 – Jaime Jaquez
5 – Myles Johnson

UCLA is perfectly positioned to be an absolute powerhouse out of the Pac-12. They return almost every major producer from last year, and Mick Cronin could see a big jump in team chemistry in his third year in Southern California.

You can pick anyone to represent UCLA, but you should look at Tyger Campbell and Johnny Juzang. Juzang is an elite scorer who Kentucky is sorely missing, while Campbell is perhaps the most experienced and savvy point guard in the country.

No. 3: Texas ()

2020-21 Record: 19-8

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Marcus Carr
2 – Courtney Ramey
3 – Andrew Jones
4 – Christian Bishop
5 – Tre Mitchell

Everything that Chris Beard touches turns to gold, and it’s mostly because of his defensive genius. Beard’s No-Middle defensive scheme is as successful as it was unique, and Baylor’s Scott Drew even adapted it in his Championship run last season.

Now, Beard gets to coach a team that finished 31st in KenPom defensive efficiency last season while returning Andrew Jones and adding five transfers who averaged double-figures last season – most notably Minnesota transfer Marcus Carr, who was the Big Ten’s third leading scorer last year.

No. 4: Villanova ()

2020-21 Record: 18-7

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Collin Gillespie
2 – Justin Moore
3 – Caleb Daniels
4 – Jermaine Samuels
5 – Eric Dixon

The the return of Collin Gillespie, who took his extra year of eligibility after suffering a season-ending injury last year, cannot be overstated.

While this team is stacked with stars – including four of the top five scorers from last season – Gillespie is the team’s unquestioned leader, and his veteran presence will do wonders for Jay Wright’s squad.

No. 5: Michigan ()

2020-21 Record: 23-5

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – DeVante Jones
2 – Eli Brooks
3 – Caleb Houstan
4 – Brandon Johns Jr.
5 – Hunter Dickinson

Michigan lost a lot of talent last season, but they return top scorer Hunter Dickinson and a top ball-handler in Eli Brooks. Plus, Head Coach Juwan Howard is proving to be as capable as any coach in the nation.

Howard is assisted by the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class – including five-star prospects Caleb Houston and Moussa Diabate – and he snagged Sun Belt Player of the Year DeVante Jones from Coastal Carolina to pair in the backcourt with Brooks.

No. 6: Kansas ()

2020-21 Record: 21-9

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Remy Martin
2 – Ochai Agbaji
3 – Christian Braun
4 – Jalen Wilson
5 – David McCormack

After finishing second in the Big 12 and beating Baylor in February, the Jayhawks return four of the team’s top five scorers from last season and added high-level transfer talent.

The big name from the portal is Drake’s Joseph Yesefu, who gave Cameron Krutwig a run for his money as Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year last season.

Plus, who’s going to beat Bill Self at Allen Fieldhouse?

No. 7: Memphis ()

2020-21 Record: 20-8

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Emoni Bates
2 – Lester Quinones
3 – Landers Nolley
4 – DeAndre Williams
5 – Jalen Duren

It was a crime that Memphis wasn’t included in the NCAA Tournament last year. Behind a defense that paced the nation in KenPom defensive efficiency, the Tigers cruised to the NIT Title.

This year, Head Coach Penny Hardaway returns a solid core and two future lottery picks in Emoni Bates and Jalen Duran.

Bates is the big name coming to Memphis. Ranked as the No. 4 overall prospect in the nation, Bates adds much needed shot making to an offense that ranked in the 24th percentile in points per possession last season (.833)

No. 8: Baylor ()

2020-21 Record: 28-2

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – James Akinjo
2 – Langston Love
3 – Kendall Brown
4 – Matthew Mayer
5 – Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua

It will be impossible to replace Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler, but the core of Adam Flagler, Matthew Mayer, and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua is one of the most versatile in the country.

And Scott Drew feeds off versatility. Add in a top 10 recruiting class and there’s no reason you won’t see Drew cutting down some nets in March.

No. 9: Purdue ()

2020-21 Record: 18-10

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Eric Hunter
2 – Jaden Ivey
3 – Sasha Stefanovic
4 – Mason Gillis
5 – Trevion Williams

Purdue had one of the most electric young cores in the nation last season, and Matt Painter built a team based off above-average offense and above-average defense.

This season, Painter returns the top eight scorers from last year’s squad. Most importantly, they return Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Trevion Williams, who’s perhaps the most dangerous two-way player in college ball.

No. 10: Arkansas ()

2020-21 Record: 25-7

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Chris Lykes
2 – JD Notae
3 – Davonte Davis
4 – Au’Diese Toney
5 – Jaylin Williams

Head Coach Eric Musselman is the reason why Arkansas is a top 10 team. He built a Sweet 16 team out of Nevada and an Elite Eight team out of Arkansas, and despite losing Moses Moody and others, he should be able to do the same with this squad.

JD Notae and Miami transfer Chris Lykes headline a team that won 15 of its final 18 games in 2020.

No. 11: Duke () 

2020-21 Record: 13-11

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Jeremy Roach
2 – Wendell Moore Jr.
3 – AJ Griffin
4 – Paolo Banchero
5 – Mark Williams

Following perhaps the worst season in Duke history, Coach K is adding three five-star prospects to his roster for his final season. Despite the losses of Matthew Hurt and DJ Steward, Duke has largely improved their roster.

Most rankings have Duke higher than this, but I’m not the biggest Blue Devil believer. Wendell Moore Jr. needs to take a big step as the dominant wing player if I’m going to believe.

No. 12: Alabama ()

2020-21 Record: 26-7

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – JD Davison
2 – Jaden Shackelford
3 – Jahvon Quinerly
4 – Juwan Gary
5 – Charles Bediako

You could swap Kentucky or Alabama in this spot, but following Alabama’s defensive success last season, I’m sticking with the Crimson Tide here.

Herb Jones Jr. is a massive loss, but the team added five-star point guard JD Davidson to take over ball handling duties.

Alabama will continue to run a three-point heavy, boom-or-bust offense. And the Crimson Tide can boom this season.

No. 13: Kentucky () 

2020-21 Record: 9-16

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – JD Davison
2 – Jaden Shackelford
3 – Jahvon Quinerly
4 – Juwan Gary
5 – Charles Bediako

Putting a team that posted a 9-16 record last season at No. 12 felt wrong, but the Wildcats are deserving of an upper-echelon spot.

Five-star prospect TyTy Washington and a smorgasbord of big-name transfers (Sahvir Wheeler, Kellan Grady, Oscar Tshibewe, CJ Frederick) will add to a solid returning core of Davion Mintz and Keion Brooks.

Plus, who’s going to doubt John Calipari?

No. 14: Houston ()

2020-21 Record: 28-4

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Marcus Sasser
2 – Kyler Edwards
3 – Tramon Mark
4 – Reggie Chaney
5 – Fabian White Jr.

As long as Kelvin Sampson is in Houston, the Cougars are going to be an elite defensive squad.

Houston held opponents to the second-lowest effective field goal percentage in the nation last season while rating in the 99th percentile in half-court defensive points per possession (.749).

They lost top scorer Quentin Grimes, but they also return three starters and added Texas Tech transfer Kyler Edwards.

No. 15: Illinois ()

2020-21 Record: 24-7

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Andre Curbelo
2 – Trent Frazier
3 – Jacob Grandison
4 – Da’Monte Williams
5 – Kofi Cockburn

There’s only one reason why Illinois is a top 15 team: Kofi Cockburn.

After a dramatic series of events, the big man is back in Champaign and ready to win another Big Ten tournament championship with Brad Underwood.

While the Illini lost Ayo Dosunmu, they return Andre Curbelo and Trent Frazier – two guards who went crazy down the stretch last season. 

No. 16: Oregon ()

2020-21 Record: 21-7

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Will Richardson
2 – De’Vion Harmon
3 – Eric Williams Jr.
4 – Quincy Guerrier
5 – Franck Kepnang

Dana Altman is a wizard. As Jon Rothstein says, “he aligns Rubik’s Cubes.”

The Ducks are reloaded and prepared for another Pac-12 run. The Transfer additions of De’Vion Harmon (Oklahoma), Quincy Guerrier (Syracuse), and Jacob Young (Rutgers) constitute a great offseason in the portal.

Add in the returning production, and Oregon is the biggest threat to UCLA in the Pac-12.

No. 17: Ohio State ()

2020-21 Record: 21-10

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Jamari Wheeler
2 – Cedric Russell
3 – Seth Towns
4 – EJ Liddell
5 – Kyle Young

While the Buckeyes lost Duane Washington, they retained EJ Liddell, who might be the better player anyways. Pair Liddell with the return of Kyle Young, and this is one of the best frontcourts in the country.

Meanwhile, Chris Holtmann has six of the team’s top eight scorers returning, and he added Louisiana transfer Cedric Russell to help replace Washington’s lost scoring. Russell averaged 17.2 points on 56.3% true shooting in the Sun Belt last season.

No. 18: UNC ()

2020-21 Record: 18-11

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Caleb Love
2 – Kerwin Walton
3 – Leaky Black
4 – Dawson Garcia
5 – Armando Bacot

Most rankings have the Tar Heels higher than Ohio State, Illinois, and Oregon. But I think the loss of Roy Williams is going to sting more than people think.

On the bright side, new Head Coach Hubert Davis is returning Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, and Leaky Black. Plus, the addition of Oklahoma’s Brady Manek will work wonders in the frontcourt.

No. 19: Florida State ()

2020-21 Record: 18-7

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Caleb Mills
2 – Anthony Polite
3 – Matthew Cleveland
4 – Malik Osborne
5 – Tanor Ngom

You can’t talk about the ACC without mentioning Leonard Hamilton, who’s won at least 20 games in 12 of his last 16 seasons with the Seminoles, and he’s recently earned a big contract extension because of it.

The Seminoles lost four of their top five scorers from last season. But they added a top five recruiting class and former Houston standout Caleb Mills, and Hamilton will continue to have one of the lengthiest lineups in college basketball.

No. 20: St. Bonaventure ()

2020-21 Record: 16-5

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Kyle Loften
2 – Jaren Holmes
3 – Dom Welch
4 – Jalen Adaway
5 – Osun Osunniyi

St. Bonaventure had one of the best defensive units in college basketball last season. The Bonnies finished 20th in KenPom defensive efficiency and in the 94th percentile of teams in points per possession allowed (.815).

This year, they return all five starters, and after pacing their conference in both KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency, they should cruise through the conference again this season.

No. 21: Tennessee ()

2020-21 Record: 18-9

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Kennedy Chandler
2 – Justin Powell
3 – Josiah-Jordan James
4 – Brandon Huntley-Hatfield
5 – John Fulkerson

The Vols are one of college basketball’s most intriguing teams. John Fulkerson’s squad finished fifth in KenPom defensive efficiency, but the team had some questionable defensive performances down the stretch and lost five of their final nine games.

However, the team returns five of their top eight scorers and added two new offensive weapons in the process: One of the best point guards in the incoming class in Kennedy Chandler, and Auburn transfer Justin Powell, who shot 44% from 3 last season.

No. 22: Connecticut ()

2020-21 Record: 15-8

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – RJ Cole
2 – Tyrese Martin
3 – Andre Jackson
4 – Akok Akok
5 – Adama Sanogo

The loss of James Bouknight hurts, but Dan Hurley has built the Huskies around defensive prowess. UConn paced the Big East in defensive efficiency last season, and the Huskies returned most of the team outside of its top scorer.

Connecticut just needs to step up its shooting, considering they shot just 41% from the field last season and finished in the 54th percentile in points per possession on jump shots.

If they do so, the Huskies can challenge Villanova for the Big East title.

No. 23: Maryland ()

2020-21 Record: 17-14

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Fatts Russell
2 – Eric Ayala
3 – Hakim Hart
4 – Donta Scott
5 – Qudus Wahab

The losses of Darryl Morsell and Aaron Wiggins hurts, but the addition of Fatts Russell is going to compensate for a huge portion of that backcourt production. Meanwhile, the team returns Eric Ayala and added considerable depth.

Maryland struggled early, but Mark Turgeon made some big mid-season adjustments, and the Terps finished 8-3 in their final 11 games.

No. 24: Virginia ()

2020-21 Record: 18-7

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – Kihei Clark
2 – Reece Beekman
3 – Armaan Franklin
4 – Jayden Gardner
5 – Kadin Shedrick

Virginia has lost its top three scorers from last year, but Tony Bennett is one of the savviest coaches in the country, and his team has a high ceiling.

Kihei Clark is an experienced point guard capable of running the offense, and East Carolina transfer Jayden Gardner will further boost the offense.

The question is if Virginia will return to his defensive glory. After years of relying on that end, Virginia finished just 36th in KenPom defensive efficiency last season.

No. 25: Michigan State ()

2020-21 Record: 15-13

2021-22 Projected Starting Lineup:

1 – AJ Hoggard
2 – Max Christie
3 – Gabe Brown
4 – Malik Hall
5 – Marcus Bingham Jr.

I’m not going to doubt Tom Izzo, who picked up wins against Illinois, Ohio State, and Michigan to close last season and snag his 23rd consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.

The departures of Aaron Henry, Rocket Watts, and Joshua Langford represent a total re-load of the team’s core. However, Izzo compensated by adding five-star guard Max Christie and Northeastern transfer Tyson Walker.

Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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