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NCAA Men’s Basketball: Top-60 teams preseason rankings, No. 31-60

USC v Gonzaga Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

After a disappointing season, Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans will resume their quest for a national championship in just a few months. With summer practices and recruiting ongoing, and with many moving parts still in the air due to transfers, the genesis of the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) NCAA world, and the burgeoning non-NBA professional options for young professional basketball aspirants things will always remain in flux to some degree (The Heraclitus principle of college basketball).

All of that being said above, July 7 was the deadline for early-entrant withdrawal from the NBA Draft, so things are becoming a bit clearer now that some big names have elected to pull out of the draft and return to college. Regardless, please consider this to be an impressionist vision of a rankings that will come into clearer definition as the season approaches and as roster become truly finalized.

Without further ado...

Here are the current depth charts and rankings of the top-60 NCAA men’s basketball teams for the 2021-22 season:

(Disclaimer: I have no ability to predict the future regarding roster developments and may have completely forgotten, omitted, or mis-depth-charted various players due to signings, transfers, or NBA decisions I have not accounted for. Please DO let me know about factual or obvious omissions and errors both with regard to individual players and teams.)

I view this as a fun collective exercise: please offer your thoughts and critiques and don’t be surprised if I change my rankings and depth charts based on your excellent input!

We will start with the bottom half of the top-60 rankings, and tackle the top-30 teams in an upcoming separate post. Following each team, I provide my thoughts, questions and comments on that particular school.

Part One: No. 31-60

31. St. Bonaventure

1 - Kyle Lofton, Joryam Saizonou
2 - Jaren Holmes, Linton Brown
3 - Dominick Welch, Quadry Adams, Justin Ndjock-Tadjore
4 - Jalen Adaway, Abdoul Karim Coulibaly, Anouar Mellouk
5 - Osun Osunniyi, Oluwasecun Durosinmi

This deep, veteran Bonnies group will have a great shot to win the Atlantic 10 and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. While the Bonnies return all five starters, all of whom will be seniors, their bench is somewhat unproven and will rely on some JUCO guys and freshmen to sort out their depth; if they do sort out the back of their rotation, then watch-out.

32. USC

1 - Boogie Ellis, Ethan Anderson, Malik Thomas
2 - Isaiah White, Reese Dixon-Waters
3 - Drew Peterson, Max Agbonkpolo
4 - Isaiah Mobley, Harrison Hornery, Joshua Morgan
5 - Chevez Goodwin, Boubacar Coulibaly

While USC does lose prospective top-four pick Evan Mobley, his older brother, Isaiah, returns along with Anderson, White, Peterson, Goodwin, Coulibaly and Agbonkpolo — that seven-man unit gets bolstered by Memphis transfer Boogie Ellis. This is a group that should secure a NCAA Tournament bid, and, based on the Trojans’ length and team-wide shooting ability, may find a way to win a game in a second consecutive tournament.

33. LSU

1 - Xavier Pinson, Eric Gaines
2 - Adam Miller, Brandon Murray
3 - Mwani Wilkinson, Alex Fudge
4 - Darius Days, Shareef O’Neal, Tari Eason
5 - Efton Reid, Jerrell Colbert, Bradley Ezewiro

Louisiana State should be better than this ranking, but head coach Will Wade tends to find a way to under-cook the teams he pays for constructs. I will be more than happy to bump LSU as soon as I see some early returns that confirm that Wade has started coaching these guys and that they will all work together.

The talent is exciting: Reid is a monster and a future NBA guy, Days, O’Neal, and Wilkinson provide length and skill, and Miller and Pinson have a ton of talent as a transfer-duo back-court. There is not a lot of bona fide returning efficiency, but the athletes and instincts are here. If Wade gets enough out of this team, then the Tigers may find a way to compete at the top of the SEC.

34. Colorado State

1 - Isaiah Stevens, Kendle Moore
2 - Chandler Jacobs, Baylor Hebb, Jalen Lake, Jalen Scott
3 - Adam Thistlewood, Isaiah Rivera
4 - David Roddy, John Tonje
5 - James Moors, Dischon Thomas, Jacob Jennissen

CSU returns seven of its top eight players, adds in a really exciting talent in Baylor Hebb —somewhat of a forgotten man, who left Loyla Chicago part-way through his breakout freshman season —and, especially, Chandler Jacobs a Division II All-American, terrific scorer and one of the best D-II prospects to ever jump to Division I (he had committed to Texas Tech before flipping over to Colorado State). In short, head coach Niko Medved will have a TON of talent and experience at his disposal. Mountain West favorite.

35. Stanford

1 - Michael O’Connell, Issa Silva
2 - Noah Taitz, Jarvis Moss
3 - Harrison Ingram, Brandon Angel
4 - Jaiden Delaire, Spencer Jones, Max Murrell
5 - Lukas Kisunas, James Keefe, Keenan Fitzmorris, Maxime Raynaud

Teams outside of the top-25 are really teams that are in contention for a second-round game in the NCAA Tournament. Could some of these teams fare better, or worse? Sure. Stanford may win at least one game in the tournament, in my view, and finish in the top-six of the Pac-12.

O’Connell and the freshman Silva should hold down the point guard spot. Wills is off to pursue his pro career, so Taitz will likely get the first crack at the shooting guard position. Ingram will have a far better season than Ziaire Williams did last year (in large part because Ingram is further along in his physical maturation), and DeLaire, Kisunas, and Jones should form a solid front-court trio with the veteran skill and size to keep Stanford among the elite on the defensive side of the ball.

36. Syracuse

1 - Joe Girard, Symir Torrence
2 - Buddy Boeheim, Chaz Owens
3 - Jimmy Boeheim, Cole Swider
4 - Benny Williams, Jesse Edwards, Frank Anselem
5 - Bourama Sidibe, John Bol Ajak

The Boeheim show rolls on for another year, this time with even more Boeheim! With Jimmy transferring in from Cornell, brother Buddy back to rain more threes, and a new four-star freshman in Benny Williams for Jim Boeheim to use in bizarre fashions and to ice from his son-centric offense, Syracuse will, probably, be more of the same. Bourama Sidibe and Jesse Edwards figure to be very solid plug-ins along the back line of the 2-3 zone, and Cole Swider will continue to take a lot of three-pointers off the bench — for Syracuse now as opposed to Villanova.

37. Xavier

1 - Paul Scruggs
2 - Dwon Odom, Adam Kunkel, KyKy Tandy
3 - Nate Johnson, Jerome Hunter, Elijah Tucker, Ben Stanley
4 - Colby Jones, Dieonte Miles, Cesare Edwards
5 - Zach Freemantle, Jack Nunge

Xavier really flopped down the stretch of last season, but it brings back four starters in Scruggs, Freemantle, Johnson and Jones, and two other key back-court bench contributors in Kunkel and Tandy. To this fine stew, head coach Travis Steele adds Big Ten transfers Hunter (Indiana) and Nunge (Iowa).

If Nunge can stay healthy and be in a good place mentally following two consecutive season-ending knee injuries and the sudden passing of his father, then he may end up as one of the best bigs in the Big East. At times, he tortured Big Ten teams (including Michigan State), and his skill level and bench scoring in the front-court may end up giving Xavier the scoring punch it needs to make some noise in March.

38. Louisville

1 - Jarrod West, El Ellis
2 - Noah Locke, Dre Davis
3 - Samuell Williamson, JJ Traynor
4 - Jae’lyn Withers, Matt Cross
5 - Malik Williams, Sydney Curry, Roosevelt Wheeler, Gabe Wiznitzer

Louisville still has tantalizing players — particularly Withers and Williams who will both have a chance to play their way into the NBA. Williamson and the transfers — West, Ellis, Locke and Cross — must raise their levels for Louisville to get into the Big Dance and finish in the top half of the league.

Note: Michigan State hosts Louisville at the Breslin Center on Dec. 1.

39. Colorado

1 - Keeshawn Barthelemy, Julian Hammond III, KJ Simpson
2 - Eli Parquet, Mason Faulkner, Nique Clifford
3 - Tristan da Silva, Javon Ruffin
4 - Jabari Walker, Quincy Allen, Luke O’Brien
5 - Evan Battey, Lawson Lovering

I feel a bit silly having Colorado here and not higher — Battey is a terrific pit bull of a center, Lovering will be the perfect complement with his length and skill, and Walker is due for a huge breakout season after hitting better than 50 percent from three-point range as a freshman. Daniels, Parquet, Barthelemy, and da Silva all return to their roles as well now with greater responsibility and more minutes and opportunities.

The losses of McKinley Wright — just an incredible career for him and he should be a solid NBA player, when he gets his chance — D’Shawn Shwartz, and Jeriah Horne, three senior starters who provided a ton of scoring and three-point, are the concerning part for me. I am confident in the returners, but Colorado lost a TON in those three guys, and the Pac-12 conference is better this season than it was last. This should be a tournament team.

40. Arizona

1 - Kerr Kriisa, Pelle Larsson
2 - Dalen Terry, Shane Nowell, Justin Kier
3 - Bennedict Mathurin, Adama Bal
4 - Ažuolas Tubelis, Tautvilas Tubelis
5 - Christian Koloko, Oumar Ballo

Arizona should be worse than this, but I think there is a strong possibility that Tommy Lloyd can not only recruit like crazy, but can also coach. Sean Miller, despite his recruiting prowess, never did much with the talent he got. And there is talent here. Terry, Mathurin, Kriisa, Larsson, the Tubelis brothers, Koloko and Ballow all have high ceilings. Mathurin and Terry should end the season on NBA draft boards, and the Tubelis brothers may as well. This roster has the talent of a tournament team.

41. Arizona State

1 - Marreon Jackson, DJ Horne
2 - Luther Muhammad, Jay Heath, Justin Rochelin
3 - Marcus Bagley, Alonzo Gaffney, Demari Williams
4 - Kimani Lawrence, William Felton
5 - Jalen Graham, Enoch Boakye

Arizona State had a disastrous season in 2020-2021. Josh Christopher, Remy Martin, Alonzo Verge, and Marcus Bagley could not gel, Bobby Hurley did not coach them, and their season fell apart. I think this season will be better.

Marreon Jackson, Luther Muhammad, DJ Horne, and Jay Heath are far less talented than their back-court predecessors, but they should play better together and far less selfish basketball. Bagley is back to bolster his NBA status, and newcomers Enoch Boakye (former MSU commit) and Alonzo Gaffney have a ton of talent that just needs direction and molding. Fortunately, Kimani Lawrence and Jalen Graham have been in Tempe for...forever and should help lead a squad that should find its way into the tournament. If Hurley cannot accomplish that goal then he may be on the hot seat.

42. Saint Louis

1 - Yuri Collins, DeAndre Jones
2 - Fred Thatch, Jordan Nesbitt, Rashad Williams
3 - Gibson Jimerson, Terrence Hargrove, Markhi Strickland
4 - Javonte Perkins, Marten Linssen, Andre Lorentsson
5 - Francis Okoro, Jimmy Bell

Collins, Thatch, Jimerson, Perkins, Bell, Linssen and Hargrove all return — that is a solid seven-man group. But throw in Oregon transfer Okoro, Memphis transfer Nesbitt, and a couple of mid-major transfers in Jones and Williams and you are looking at an experienced squad with major three-point shooting upside.

The A-10 could get three teams into the tournament, and the Billikens’ chances may hinge on whether or not Jimerson has worked on his physique and defense enough to play major minutes; he is an incredible shooter, but can’t allow himself to be played off the floor because he gets hunted on defense. Jones and Williams should not be viewed as after-thoughts — both can really shoot the three-ball, as can Linssen, Perkins and Hargrove. This team could have six great three-point shooters.

43. Loyola Chicago

1 - Braden Norris, Ty Johnson
2 - Keith Clemons, Marquise Kennedy, Ben Schwieger
3 - Lucas Williamson, Ryan Schwieger, Saint Thomas
4 - Aher Uguak, Tate Hall, Damezi Anderson
5 - Chris Knight, Tom Welch

Losing Cameron Krutwig is painful for first-year head coach Drew Valentine (brother of Denzel), but bringing back outstanding players in Norris, Clemons, Williamson and Uguak is a heck of a starting point. Kennedy, Welch and Hall also return giving Loyola Chicago seven returners for a team that made it to the Sweet-16. Expect the Ramblers to run much of the same actions and motion on offense, and expect the torture-chamber defense to continue in earnest. The two Ivy-League transfers (Knight, a steady and competent big man, and Schwieger, a sniper) should fit right in and make teams groan. Anderson and the the freshmen contributing anything would really put this team into “scary” territory. Missouri-Valley favorite.

44. San Diego State

1 - Terrell Gomez, Keith Dinwiddie, Lamont Butler Jr.
2 - Trey Pulliam, Matt Bradley
3 - Adam Seiko, Aguek Arop, Chad Baker-Mazara, Che Evans
4 - Jaedon LeDee, Keshad Johnson, Tahirou Diabate
5 - Nathan Mensah, Joshua Tomaić, Demarshay Johnson

San Diego State lost some important players, but returns a lot in Gomez, Pulliam, Seiko, Mensah, Tomaić, Johnson and Arop. LeDee, Bradley and Baker-Mazara are exciting transfer additions, and if Dinwiddie or Butler can step to the fore as the backup point guard, then this ten or even eleven-man deep rotation should give Colorado State a real run for its money for the Mountain West title. Are they better, on paper than last year’s team? No, but this team can get into the tournament as an at-large bid, and they have the quality to win a game or two.

45. North Carolina State

1 - Cam Hayes, Thomas Allen, Breon Pass
2 - Devon Daniels, Terquavion Smith
3 - Dereon Seabron, Casey Morsell
4 - Jericole Hellems, Greg Gantt
5 - Manny Bates, Earnest Ross, Ebenezer Dowuona

I would not be surprised to see this NC State team really climb my rankings pretty soon. The Wolfpack brings back a LOT of guys from last season, but this time around, hopefully, they should stay healthy. Daniels and Allen were injured for much of the season, and Hayes, Hellems and Bates return as three more veteran starters. Expect Hayes, who is really talented to take off this season as a sophomore with a full arsenal of complimentary guys at his disposal. That six-man unit can really make noise in the ACC if Ross (freshman), Gantt (Providence transfer ), Morsell (Virginia transfer) and Smith (freshman and North Carolina high school Player of the Year) can boost the bench.

46. Rutgers

1 - Geo Baker, Jalen Miller
2 - Paul Mulcahy, Aundre Hyatt
3 - Caleb McConnell, Jaden Jones
4 - Ron Harper Jr., Oksar Palquist, Mawot Mag
5 - Cliff Omoruyi, Dean Reiber, Ralph Agee, Luke Nathan

Losing Montez Mathis (St. John’s), Myles Johnson (UCLA) and Jacob Young (Oregon) to the transfer portal — all of whom still had eligibility with the Scarlet Knights — was a gut-punch. But Baker will be healthy this year, and Harper Jr. is an all-league guy with an NBA future. McConnell, Mulcahy and Hyatt should form a great trio on the wings, and Omoruyi, now healthy as well, should be much improved at the center spot. Rutgers is thin, but tough, full of veterans, and will continue to really impress on defense.

47. Belmont

1 - Jacobi Wood, Grayson Murphy
2 - Luke Smith, EJ Bellinger, Will Richard
3 - Ben Sheppard, Isaiah Walker
4 - Caleb Hollander, Tate Pierson, Frank Jakubicek, Michael Shanks
5 - Nick Muszynski, Evan Brauns, Derek Sabin

Belmont returns its entire rotation from last year, including all five starters. All of Belmont’s top-nine guys will be juniors or seniors. The Bruins have seven guys that can shoot well from three-point range, they play a fast, open style, and they are out to avenge their gut-wrenching Ohio Valley Conference Tournament loss to Morehead State that saw them miss out on the NCAA Tournament. This will be an upset nightmare for some bigger-name team come the Big Dance, especially if they can get a bit better at defending inside the arc. Wood, Smith and Muszynski are their danger men, with each guy specializing in attacking a different scoring zone. Ohio Valley favorite.

48. Butler

1 - Aaron Thompson, Myles Tate
2 - Chuck Harris, Christian David, Jayden Taylor
3 - Jair Bolden, Bo Hodges, Pierce Thomas
4 - Bryce Nze, Ty Groce, Dionte Hughes
5 - Bryce Golden, John-Michael Mulloy, Miles Wilmoth

This team brings back a lot from a disaster season, but this group is more talented than it showed last year. Butler will have Aaron Thompson healthy this season and Jair Bolden was solid on the wing last year. Ty Groce, the Eastern Michigan transfer, should provide some useful three-point shooting off the bench. There’s more here than meets the eye.

49. Virginia

1 - Kihei Clark
2 - Reece Beekman, Taine Murray, Carson McCorkle
3 - Armaan Franklin, Kody Stattman
4 - Jayden Gardner, Igor Miličić
5 - Francisco Caffaro, Kadin Shedrick

My instincts say, “Trust that Tony Bennett will have this team defending and running disciplined offense, and they will be just fine.” But my brain says, “There is no one on this roster who can really score the ball...will the Cavaliers win every game 45-40?” Jayden Gardner (Eastern Carolina transfer) has to be an instant offensive hit, despite stepping up a level in competition, Reece Beekman has to become a star, and Armaan Franklin, Kihei Clark, Taine Murray, Igot Miličić and Kadin Shedrick have to provide consistent scoring as a group. I am highly skeptical that this season will go well, and, frankly, expect Virginia to fall off.

50. Nebraska

1 - Trey McGowens, Kobe Webster
2 - Alonzo Verge Jr., CJ Wilcher, Keisei Tominaga
3 - Bryce McGowens, Keon Edwards
4 - Lat Mayen, Derrick Walker, Trevor Lakes
5 - Wilhelm Breidenbach, Eduardo Andre, Blaise Keita, Oleg Kojenets

This ranking may surprise people, but I am all-in on Nebraska this season and think the Cornhuskers may be able to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. Nebraska was a top-40 defense last season, and Fred Hoiberg just dramatically improved the talent level on the team in the summer. Bryce McGowens is a legit five-star guy who can shoot it and is a terrific athlete. Trey McGowens and Kobe Webster will return to run the point, but will need to improve their distribution skills. CJ Wilcher and Keon Edwards both transferred from Big East schools that under-utilized their talent, and Wilcher has a younger brother in the 2023 class who is a five-star guard (Simeon Wilcher). Keisei Tominaga is a Japanese three-point sniper, and JUCO transfer, and is competing in the three-on-three Olympic event for Japan this summer.

Even more significantly, Arizona State transfer Alonzo Verge Jr., a human flamethrower of a scorer whose vagabond college experience will see him end his career playing for a guy who can actually help get him to the NBA in Hoiberg, should solidify the shooting guard position. Wilhelm Briedenbach, a top-75 big man, with a post-game and shooting touch should provide Hoiberg with a skilled big for the first time in his tenure in Lincoln. This will be one of the more fun teams to track for me all season because the program building is incredible to watch, the talent is there, and Hoiberg, who understands offense at a fundamental level, finally has the talent level to really make things happen.

51. Oregon State

1 - Gianni Hunt, Xzavier Malone-Key
2 - Jarod Lucas, Tre Williams, Dexter Akanno
3 - Deshawn Davis, Isaiah Johnson, Glenn Taylor
4 - Warith Alatishe, Maurice Calloo, Ahmad Rand
5 - Roman Silva, Rodrigue Andela, Chol Marial

Silva, Alatishe, Lucas, Andela, Calloo and Hunt are back, which means that this Beavers team returns the entire front-court that helped spur their surprising run to the Elite Eight. They have to find some guards and wings to supplement the returners; Davis (JUCO) and Williams (Minnesota) are two transfers who will try to do the job. Can this team recapture the magic from their tournament run, or will they turn back into pumpkins? I’m guessing Oregon State at least make it to the tournament.

52. Iowa

1 - Joe Toussaint, Ahron Ulis
2 - Jordan Bohannon, Austin Ash
3 - Connor McCaffery, Tony Perkins
4 - Patrick McCaffery, Kris Murray, Payton Sandfort
5 - Keegan Murray, Josh Ogundele, Filip Rebrača, Riley Mulvey

Oh Fran (McCaffery)...gone are Luka Garza (NBA), Jack Nunge (transfer), Joe Wieskamp (NBA), and CJ Fredrick (transfer). The best team in decades for the Hawkeyes just fell flat because they could not defend — allowing a good, but incomplete Oregon team to score 95 points in a second-round loss. This team will likely continue to not-defend, but I do not think the offensive production will fall off too hard, surprisingly.

Toussaint and Connor McCaffery should do a lot of facilitating, and Murray and Bohannon should dominate as high-usage offensive focal points. If Fran can get more consistency and production from Patrick McCaffery, Perkins, and Ulis, then this team could make enough noise in the Big Ten to get into the NCAA Tournament.

53. West Virginia

1 - Malik Curry, Seth Wilson
2 - Sean McNeil, Kedrian Johnson, Kobe Johnson
3 - Taz Sherman, Taj Thweatt, Jamel King
4 - Jalen Bridges, Pauly Paulicap, Seny Ndiaye
5 - Gabe Osabuohien, Isaiah Cottrell, Dimon Carrigan

For the first time in a few years, the Mountaineers’ front-court is an area lacking surety. Osabouhien returns as an awesome glue-guy and undersized big, but Cottrell and the other reserve bigs will have to really raise their levels. If they cannot then, West Virginia will get demolished on the interior. The perimeter returners in McNeil, Sherman and Bridges (as a small-ball four), will be crucial for Bob Huggins’ spacing and offensive execution — those three can shoot and score a bit, but I’m not sure I see a tournament team here in a tough conference.

54. Florida

1 - Tyree Appleby, Brandon McKissic
2 - Myreon Jones, Niels Lane
3 - Phlandrous Fleming, Kowacie Reeves
4 - CJ Felder, Anthony Duruji
5 - Colin Castleton, Jason Jitoboh

I am operating under the assumption that Keyontae Johnson will not be playing next season— his collapse was caused by a previously undiagnosed heart-condition according to doctors — but if he gets medically cleared, he will have a major impact on the ceiling of this team. As is, this roster should be competitive this season, but likely will not have the juice to get into the tournament.

The key condition for overturning that expectation is, interestingly, the three bench players in the back-court. McKissic was a big-time scorer and defender at the point of attack in the Big South (Fleming is also a grad transfer from the Big South and should provide offensive punch right away), if he can bring that level of impact in his reserve role behind Appleby (who was great last season), and if Lane (injured for much of last season) and Reeves — a potential star freshman wing with terrific shooting ability — can have big-time impacts right away, then Florida could push its way off the bubble. Jones also transfers in from Penn State and should make an immediate impact.

55. St. John’s

1 - Posh Alexander, Stef Smith
2 - Montez Mathis, Tareq Coburn, Dylan Addae-Wusu
3 - Julian Champagnie, Rafael Pinzón, Drissa Traore
4 - Aaron Wheeler, O’mar Stanley
5 - Joel Soriano, Esahia Nyiwe

Getting Champagnie back was a coup — as some NBA team would have taken a flier on his scoring and shooting ability even with his athleticism concerns. As such, Champagnie, Mathis (Rutgers transfer) and Wheeler (Purdue transfer), should form a fascinating trio of longish, guys who can score a bit, and shoot pretty well too — the key is Alexander taking a big leap. He was great as a freshman, but will need to be even better for this team to find its way into the tournament.

56. Georgetown

1 - Dante Harris, Jalen Harris, Tyler Beard
2 - Donald Carey, Kaden Rice, Jordan Riley
3 - Aminu Mohammed, Kobe Clark, Collin Holloway
4 - Tre King, Jalin Billingsley
5 - Ryan Mutumbo, Timothy Ighoefe, Malcolm Wilson

Georgetown will have a chance to out-play this ranking. Mohammed is a bona fide five-star wing — athletic as all get-out, aggressive, and with a solid shooting stroke to go along with his finishing, passing and defensive ability — and Ryan Mutumbo, son of the Georgetown Legend, Dikembe, should be able to step in and at least imitate, if not replicate, the production of the departed Qudus Wahab (Maryland). Ryan Mutumbo still needs a year or two before he really takes off, but he is long, tough-minded, and a good shot-blocker. Mutumbo’s offensive game is far more modern than his father’s, as he can pass and has a perimeter jump shot in addition to some ability in the post. King, a transfer from Eastern Kentucky, and returners Harris and Carey (who really stretches the floor) should pace the offense when the freshmen hit their stumbling blocks. The Hoyas will have a chance to make another run into the NCAA Tournament if everyone gels quickly.

57. Saint Mary’s

1 - Tommy Kuhse, Chris Howell, Augustus Marčiulionas
2 - Logan Johnson, Quinn Clinton, Jabe Mullins
3 - Alex Ducas, Judah Brown, Leemet Böckler
4 - Dan Fotu, Kyle Bowen
5 - Matthias Tass, Matthew van Komen, Mitchell Saxen

Even when Saint Mary’s does not win the West Coast Conference yet again this year (darn Gonzaga and BYU), I expect the Gaels to have a great shot to make the tournament this season. They still play the same dirt-slow pace, with a ton of three-point shots, but they have added a bit more athleticism and offensive competence this season in the form of Howell, a somewhat underrated bigger point guard, who connects, facilitates, and wins. The continuity will be there, yet again, as Saint Mary’s will start four seniors in Kuhse (a true fifth-year senior), Johnson, Fotu and Tass, and if the Gaels can get more three-point acumen from their back-court, then this team may find its way off the bubble and into at least the “First-Four” round.

58. Mississippi State

1 - Rocket Watts, Shakeel Moore
2 - Iverson Molinar, Camryn Carter
3 - DJ Jeffries, Alden Applewhite, Andersson García
4 - Garrison Brooks, Derek Fountain
5 - Javian Davis, Keshawn Murphy

Rocket Watts (Michigan State) and Shakeel Moore (NC State), two transfer point guards who were inefficient at their first stops, will battle it out to see who gets to start, while Molinar, Davis and Fountain are the only returners from an underwhelming previous season. All three, stepping into starting roles, will have to improve their production, but the biggest onus will be on the other two big-time transfers: DJ Jeffries —a do it all glue-guy and defender who left Memphis — and Garrison Brooks —an all-league terrific all-around forward who left North Carolina to get closer to home for his final collegiate season.

This team should defend pretty well — though that was a major stumbling block for Watts at Michigan State — and the offense should produce points through a lot of ugly isolations and Brooks post-ups. Do the Bulldogs have enough shooting to get into the tournament? I doubt it. They will likely struggle to generate good looks and struggle to knock them down, when they do.

59. Notre Dame

1 - Prentiss Hubb,
2 - Cormac Ryan, Robby Carmody
3 - Dane Goodwin, Trey Wertz, Blake Wesley
4 - Nate Laszewski, Tony Sanders Jr., Doug Konieczny
5 - Paul Atkinson, Matt Zona, Elijah Taylor

Everyone but Juwan Durham and Nikola Djogo returns from a Fighting Irish squad that dramatically underperformed last season. Still, this team has serious offensive talent —Hubb should be in the all-ACC conversation, Ryan and Goodwin can shoot, and Laszewski is a pure scorer. Atkinson, the Yale transfer, was one of the best players in the Ivy League two seasons ago, and his post-scoring and veteran savvy should make up for the loss of Durham whose production never quite got consistent enough to demonstrate the extent of his innate talent.

I just am not sure I see where the necessary defensive improvements will come from: Notre Dame finished outside the top-200 in terms of defensive efficiency (per Kenpom), and the Irish changed nothing about their roster except removing their best defender and replacing him with a guy who is not as good of a shot-blocker, but hopefully a better defensive organizer. There is a glimmer of hope if the defense gets to somewhere near the top-100 level, but I’m not sure Notre Dame gets there with this group.

60. Wisconsin

1 - Brad Davison, Lorne Bowman, Chucky Hepburn
2 - Jonathan Davis, Jordan Davis, Jahcobi Neath
3 - Tyler Wahl, Markus Ilver
4 - Ben Carlson, Matthew Mors
5 - Chris Vogt, Steven Crowl, Chris Hodges

Wisconsin lost a lot last season including the soul of the team — as revealed in the shocking reporting on the team’s coaching staff dysfunction — but this season will be a new one, to some degree. Davison, Bowman, the Davis twins and Wahl all return. Vogt, Crowl and Carlson will get a chance to show their quality, and they should find a bounce-back effort from the coaching staff. Expect Wisconsin to be a pain, per usual, and possibly to find the inspiration required to get off the bubble and into the tournament.

Bonus: No. 61, Nevada

1 - Grant Sherfield
2 - Desmond Cambridge, Kenan Blackshear, Adam Huseinovic, Jalen Weaver
3 - Daniel Foster, AJ Brahmah, DeAndre Henry
4 - Tre Coleman, Will Baker, Nick Davidson
5 - Warren Washington, KJ Hymes

I’m still skeptical of this Nevada team. Bringing back Sherfield, Cambridge, Foster, Coleman, Washington and Hymes is lovely, and adding in the talented but underwhelming Baker as a three-point shooting big is intriguing, but this team was not a good team last season losing almost every road contest it played. Will the returners improve enough? Will head coach Steve Alford roll the dice? Can Baker play at the power forward spot, going with a twin-towers look that brings a stretch big onto the court? Alford still is not a great coach, so I am not confident that he elevates this group enough to get into the tournament.

On the cusp:

Iowa State, SMU, Seton Hall, Providence, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Wichita State, VCU, Marquette, Boise State, Miami, Grand Canyon, Milwaukee, Detroit Mercy.

Stay tuned for Part Two (No. 1-30), which will be published soon...

Go Green!!!