A pandemic could never stop me from daftly attempting to once again rank every.
The time is now. It’s the longest offseason in college hoops history, so let’s put some order into the chaos. The 2020-21 regular season is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Nov. 25. We are up from 353 to 357 programs (find out who below). Taking into account the number of early NBA Draft entries (65), the amount of undergraduate transfers and the volume of graduate transfers (more than 700 players), college basketball again has to endure hefty roster turnover.
But no matter how many players leave, or who returns, there has to be a best team, there has to be a worst and there is always room for everybody in the middle. We’ve opted to run the 1-357 as a three-part series for 2020, and in today’s unveiling we’re covering ground from No. 201 down to No. 357. As always, every school gets a capsule, including Bethune-Cookman, which is the only program to this point to bow out of the upcoming season. It probably won’t be the last.
Let’s scan the lower half of the sport. Try and spot the gems — because a few popping into the top 150 is likely inevitable.
Preseason rankings: Nos. 201-357
202. Youngstown State: Sometimes I like to look at schools that have never made the NCAA Tournament and toss out an over/under on a year when they’ll first get there. Youngstown State is one of those schools. The Penguins have been in a D-I conference since 1982. You taking the under if I say 2033?
203. UAB: Andy Kennedy’s hire is going to make the Blazers consistently relevant (and entertaining) in Conference USA. This is Kennedy’s alma mater. Honestly, if UAB finished third I wouldn’t be stunned.
204. Fordham: Few schools have a true hot-seat situation heading into the season in the time of COVID, but how can Fordham not be one of them? Jeff Neubauer is 60-97 in five years and FU won nine games last season.
206. Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers were some angry birds last season, man. This team committed more fouls (727) than any other.
207. Saint Joseph’s: This is a low ranking for SJU fans, but those same fans know the Hawks only won six games last season, so being the 207th best team in the sport would be a nice step forward.
208. Mount St. Mary’s: The Mount could have the deepest backcourt in the NEC. Damian Chong Qui deserves mention for his all-around game. At 5-foot-8, he gets more out of every inch than just about any low-major guard.
209. Florida Atlantic: Dusty May has something of a moving target in 2020-21 due to departures and roles still to be defined within the offense, but the Owls will be respectable.
210. Purdue Fort Wayne: The Mastodons are upgrading to the Horizon League and the hope is the conference can become a top-15 league consistently. Jarred Goffrey is a dark horse for First Team All-Horizon League status.
211. Saint Francis (Pa.): Lost a couple of really nice players, but the Red Flash will be a reliable and enjoyable offense fighting for the top of the NEC.
213. Hawaii: One of the hardest teams to predict out of the whole 357 lot because UH’s schedule and its rhythms are going to be wonky. Roster-wise, it’s a good Big West lineup and so Eran Ganot should have reason for optimism.
214. Central Michigan: Tough combo: CMU ranked 11th in raw tempo last season, but allowed opponents to make 39% of their 3-pointers, which led to a 14-18 record.
218. Eastern Kentucky: A.W. Hamilton has such an inspiring story. He noticed an irregularity on his neck this offseason. It turned out to be cancer. He got ahead of it — and it’s subsequently changed his life and approach to coaching.
222. Drexel: If Camren Wynter can jump to near 40% from 3-point range, he could be the CAA Player of the Year — so long as James Butler doesn’t steal votes as the best double-double guy in the league.
223. Weber State: Randy Rahe has never had back-to-back bad seasons at Weber State, and we’re going back to 2006 with that data. SEVEN transfers are in with the Wildcats.
225. Sacramento State: The Hornets exceeded expectations last season, then lost four seniors, but I’m buying into Brian Katz’s approach and think this will again be a top-five team in the Big Sky.
226. Stony Brook: Hard to see how the Seawolves won’t slip from their No. 192 spot at KenPom; six players left the program and this is going to be a riddle of a season.
227. Elon: Mike Schrage’s got a bundle of first- and second-year players. The Phoenix are a year away.
228. Wyoming: Jeff Linder did well at Northern Colorado, so now he scoots north to coach in Laramie. Hard to be too down on a team that’s going to rely on not one but two players named Hunter: Thompson and Maldonado. Two Hunters in Wyoming. Perfect.
229. North Florida: Coach Matt Driscoll went meme-worthy years ago when his “Let’s GOOOOO!!!!” pre-game self-hype routine went viral. I must share how happy I am to realize he’s leaning into the bit to the point where he’s dropping this updated version — when he’s not taking frequent photos of his love of Dunkin’ Donuts donuts — on Twitter almost every other week.
230. Fairfield: I’d expect the second season under Jay Young to see Fairfield shift to being one of the top 20 low-majors on defense. Offense still a work-in-progress.
231. Northwestern State: Other than Stephen F. Austin, could be the best interior team in the Southland. These aren’t Blue Demons or Purple Demons or Demon Deacons or any kind of alternative demons. They’re simply: Northwestern State Demons. Hell yeah.
232. Sam Houston State: Five JUCO transfers have Southland coaches wondering just how dangerous Jason Hooten’s Bearkats team will be.
233. Manhattan: A subplot you’ll hear more about come January: the MAAC has Rick Pitino at Iona and one of his former players, Steve Masiello, still running the show at Manhattan. Jaspers are middle of the pack in the league.
234. Campbell: Look for Cedric Henderson (44% 3-point shooting on 71 attempts) to be given a green light and for that to unlock Campbell’s chances at getting back to .500 in the Big South.
235. American: Not many teams in college sports officially list more than two colors as their official shades. Not the case with American University, and I don’t even need to tell you which three are officially designated.
236. Jacksonville State: No OVC team lost more of its production from last season than the Gamecocks, but OVC coaches are still pretty complimentary of what Ray Harper has, so he gets the benefit of the doubt.
237. North Dakota: Did you know: The University of North Dakota is so far east in its state that it actually sits on the border of Minnesota? And with a latitude of 47.9253° N, narrowly edging out Seattle‘s 47.6062°, this is the northernmost D-I basketball school.
238. Southern: Clearly the SWAC favorites. The Jaguars bring back the nucleus to a team that went 14-5 vs. league foes in 2020.
240. Green Bay: Linc Darner was a surprising firing back in March. Will Ryan, son of Bo, is now the coach. The change in tempo will be stark.
241. Evansville: Todd Lickliter was hired after Walter McCarty’s tenure ended in a mess. We’re coming up on a year since the Aces shocked the sport with a win at No. 1 Kentucky. Now Evansville is projected to be the worst team in the MVC.
242. Seattle: The Redhawks picked a good year to shuffle things around, as the WAC is in a yearslong process of redefining its membership.
243. Brown: The Bears will compete for the top half of the Ivy League (provided the Ivy plays) thanks to depth in the frontcourt.
244. Quinnipiac: It’s unlikely to happen this year, but the resources and geographical advantages at QU are too good for Baker Dunleavy to not eventually get the Bobcats to the NCAA Tournament.
245. Stetson: Check back here in a year and keep me honest, because if Stetson (which has all starters back) returns everyone it should return for 2021, it’s going to be a top-two team in the ASUN. Creeping up the board.
247. South Alabama: The Jags won their final eight last season but it’s going to be bumpier in 2020-21 because only Georgia Southern lost more players in the Sun Belt than USA.
248. UC Riverside: The Highlanders lost David Patrick, who is now top assistant at Arkansas. But Patrick left the program in strong standing, as it’s coming off its second-best season in 18 years and is now coached by Mike Magpayo, the first Filipino head coach in men’s D-I history.
249. Southern Miss: Won just six games against D-I competition, yet ranked 279th at KenPom. More than 50% of the team’s production is back, so it’s sensible to scoot ’em up a bit.
250. Middle Tennessee: If there’s a mid-major owed a season without eligibility or injury hiccups, MTSU is it. Nick McDevitt might not be able to help himself from playing 10 guys consistently.
252. Florida Gulf Coast: Plenty of minutes up for grabs for an Eagles team that is going to try to upgrade its offense and jump into the top four of the ASUN.
253. Cal Baptist: The objective is obvious: be more aggressive on defense. Lancers turned teams over on just 14% of possessions last season, dead last in the sport.
254. North Alabama: Almost certainly an improved Lions squad from last season’s 13-win team, but keep in mind this school is not yet NCAA Tournament eligible due to its transitional years out of D-II.
256. Cleveland State: A non-hoops note to change it up: CSU’s Dennis Gates has been as active out front, and behind the scenes, as just about any coach in college basketball in regard to the movement for racial equality and getting his players engaged to vote and be civic-minded. Love to see that.
257. Kansas City: After seven seasons in the WAC the Roos are rightfully back in the Summit League and the arrow is pointing up with Billy Donlon strolling the sideline.
258. Norfolk State: There are a few truths in MEAC basketball, and opposing coaches will vow to you that one of them is always going to be: Norfolk State is a trial to face on defense.
259. Army: Went 10-5 down the stretch and finished 264th at KenPom. I’ve got this new-era Black Knights roster in the same neighborhood.
260. VMI: Statistically the second-unluckiest team in college hoops last season, per KenPom. VMI went 9-24; its win percentage will improve.
261. North Carolina Central: LeVelle Moton has coached 10 years at NCCU, averaged 20.7 wins and not yet been offered a much better gig. Why? Expect another Eagles team that gets hot in January and February.
262. UNC Asheville: Mike Morell took UNC Asheville from four wins to 15 wins in a year’s time, and now thanks to having two of the six or seven best Big South players (DeVon Baker and LJ Thorpe), he’s a year away from being the league favorite.
264. Niagara: Greg Paulus inherited a weird situation at the start of last season when he got the job as an interim after Patrick Beilein mysteriously stepped down. Paulus not only secured the job, he kept his five starters as well.
267. Merrimack: Few teams were a bigger shock last season than the Warriors, who moved up to D-I and promptly decided to kick the tail of the NEC, winning the regular-season title in the process. First school to ever win its league in its first year of D-I membership.
268. Rider: I have two boys under 5, so when it comes to writing the Rider capsule, I’m doomed. The “Paw Patrol” theme song is now in my head the rest of the day. Brutal. This is a bottom-third MAAC squad for 2020-21.
269. Fairleigh Dickinson: Beloved New York Jets homer Greg Herenda needn’t worry about his team being basement-quality this season. FDU will compete for the NEC title and has preseason POY favorite Jahlil Jenkins setting pace and tone.
270. Loyola Maryland: Encouraging — men’s D-I hoops now has two female assistants. Maine has employed Edniesha Curry the past two seasons, and at Loyola Maryland just last month, Tavaras Hardy brought aboard Carin Hardy.
271. James Madison: Mark Byington got it done recently with Georgia Southern, and now he’s getting the group to buy in immediately at JMU. Matt Lewis: top-three CAA player.
272. Cal State Bakersfield: You might not realize it, but college basketball sees conference realignment occur on an almost-annual basis. Bakersfield is one such example, as it moves from the WAC to the Big West.
273. Western Michigan: Clayton Bates is the sole new coach in the MAC, replacing Steve Hawkins, who was the longest-tenured man in the conference prior to being let go in March.
274. San Jose State: Seven years in the Mountain West converts to a 17-109 league record for the Spartans. If the ship can’t change course in the next two seasons, going back to a mid-major league might be best.
275. Tennessee State: If Matt McMahon, Matt Figger and/or Casey Alexander are good enough to get bigger jobs in the next two years, Penny Collins and the Nashville-based TSU program can be in position to rise to the top three in the OVC.
277. Gardner Webb: Too tough to read this team at this point. Almost 80% of the roster has been turned over from a 16-16 team. Another situation where COVID-19 could exacerbate the molding process.
278. Radford: Total rebuild. The Highlanders are 50 spots higher if Carlik Jones doesn’t go to Louisville, but that’s life as a low-major these days. Get a guy averaging 20/5/5 and he’s not staying with you 95% of the time in a one-bid conference.
279. Jacksonville: A 14-18 team last season, the Dolphins will enter in with five of the top six players from that campaign gone. Tyreese Davis is ready, and desperately needed, after a knee injury kept him out last year.
280. Oakland: Greg Kampe has the buy-in from all his guys, and though I’ve ranked the Grizzlies low here, they’re on a short list of teams most likely to outperform their ranking by 50-plus spots due to the coach and propensity for improved 3-point shooting.
281. Portland State: What a weird rebounding team this was in 2019-20: it was No. 6 in offensive-rebound rate, but 347th on the defensive boards. Hard habit to teach.
282. Hartford: At 27.2%, Hartford had the nation’s best 3-point percentage defense in 2019-20 — and the second-best 3-point D in all of D-I in the past 12 years. The offense is woeful, though.
283. Long Beach State: Bless Dan Monson, as he was one of the last coaches to even get his team to be able to meet together and fully hold a practice, which didn’t happen until late October.
284. Marist: Went 7-23 last season, but John Dunn should climb out of the 300s in the predictive metrics thanks to the Red Foxes returning much of the roster.
285. Jackson State: Deion Sanders’ hiring with the football program is going to bring this university a lot of attention, but in hoops keep in mind that the Tigers are good enough to win the SWAC.
286. Sacred Heart: The Pioneers would be ~100 spots higher had E.J. Anosike (Tennessee), Cameron Parker (Montana) and Koreem Ozier (Louisiana-Monroe) all stayed. Anthony Latina has built a program — and continually sees bigger schools poach all-league studs, which is highly unfortunate.
287. Northern Arizona: Shane Burcar did well last season, but the Lumberjacks (what a great moniker) likely lost too much in a solid Big Sky conference to maintain their standing.
288. Albany: Will Brown hasn’t coached the Great Danes to three straight sub-.500 seasons since 2005, but that streak is in jeopardy. UAlbany dropped its final six games to end 2019-20.
289. Lehigh: Brett Reed, now a grizzled Patriot League vet in his 14th season, has enough returning upperclassmen to keep the Mountain Hawks feisty in the Patriot League.
290. Central Arkansas: Anthony Boone was promoted to coach the Bears after operating as an interim for most of 2019-20. Program’s average KenPom ranking the past five seasons: 285th.
291. Utah Valley: Mark Madsen’s really going to learn what low-major coaching is all about, as the second-year head man of the Wolverines doesn’t return a starter from the Mark Pope era.
292. UT Martin: Just horrid defense (worst D rating in the sport: 122.9), but enough offense and returning players to make me think the Skyhawks will be skittish but entertaining.
293. Texas A&M Corpus Christi: The only team in all of college athletics — well over 1,000 colleges and universities — with the moniker of Islanders.
294. Bryant: Jared Grasso would be coaching at Iona right now if not for Rick Pitino wanting that job, and so Grasso instead will lean on his backcourt for the future: Michael Green III and Charles Pride.
295. Nicholls State: The least-experienced team in the Southland still has a deployment of guards slippery enough to make the Colonels a spoiler.
296. Bellarmine: The Knights arrive in Division I as members of the ASUN, keeping that league at nine after NJIT left for the America East. Bellarmine was a D-II power, so its transition could be smoother than suggested here.
297. Morehead State: The Eagles made 28% of their 3-pointers in OVC play (last in league) and were 11th in forcing turnovers, which is a combination destined to keep you well below .500.
298. Howard: How often can you actually say an HBCU got a program-changing player? Howard did this year when 2020 five-star center Makur Maker pledged for the Bison. If Nojel Eastern (Purdue) is cleared, Howard goes up another 20 spots. This is a team that only won four games last season!
299. Hampton: Big South fans realize there aren’t 10 teams this season who will be more disadvantaged from the loss of a star player the way Hampton will take many steps back due to the departure of Jermaine Marrow (2,680 career points).
300. Louisiana Monroe: A nine-win team last season and lost almost every important player. I actually might be a little too high on the Warhawks.
301. CSUN: Lamine Diane (25.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.0 bpg) was the kind of stat T-Rex that seldom comes along at the Big West level. But CSUN had him for two years, and now the two-time POY is off to chase a pro career, leaving Mark Gottfried’s team with a huge hole.
302. Cal State Fullerton: Fairly young team that’s going to try to be the best of the bottom half of the Big West. There’s a rawness here that needs refining.
303. Prairie View A&M: Fifty-seven wins in three seasons for the Panthers, best in the SWAC. Just one starter returns here, however.
304. UIC: New coach Luke Yaklich (via Texas) will, in a matter of two years, have UIC playing some of its best defense ever. For now it’s going to be a hodgepodge season.
305. Charleston Southern: The only school in college basketball whose coach (Barclay Radebaugh) and star player (Phlandrous Fleming Jr.) have names that also double as believable “Deadwood” characters.
309. McNeese State: No program had a worse offseason. Hurricane Laura ravaged Lake Charles, Louisiana, and left McNeese State with a badly damaged home arena and wrecked facilities. If there is one program to root for in 2020-21, it’s Heath Schroyer’s.
310. UMass Lowell: There’s optimism in Lowell, and I’d put the River Hawks at a small table with a few other teams that I might be too skeptical on. Could be a top-five team in the America East.
311. Troy: This team has more collective coaching experience at the assistant level than any team in the Sun Belt. Scott Cross wants vets to help make a push up the league standings.
312. Samford: Bucky McMillan sure sounds like the name of a top-flight Sun Belt offensive coordinator in football, but in fact he’s now the coach of the Bulldogs.
313. Kennesaw State: You want a wow? Kennesaw State has the No. 60-ranked recruiting class for 2020. That’s sui generis for an ASUN program. Amir Abdur-Rahim pulled this off despite Kennesaw State winning one game last season!
314. IUPUI: Coming off a five-win season vs. D-I opponents, the Jaguars’ big hope for overcoming a ranking like this is the fact it probably won’t have a freshman play significant minutes.
315. Cal Poly: Expect some modest gains for John Smith after his first season had seven wins. Four starters return and the Mustangs could see all of them average double figures.
316. Wagner: Figure a (positive) regression to the mean is coming for the Seahawks, who watched opponents make 38.9% of their 3-pointers last season — the fourth-worst rate in the sport.
317. Milwaukee: Vin Baker Jr. plays for Milwaukee. Meantime, Panthers coach Pat Baldwin has a son who is a top-three prospect in the class of 2021. I find this mildly interesting.
318. New Orleans: Things never remain static in college hoops; unexpected teams go up and down. UNO’s plunge from preseason favorite to 5-15 Southland team was a script-flip.
319. High Point: Tubby Smith has more than 600 wins; last season’s team was young and prone to mistakes, so there is a chance this placement winds up being 30 spots too low.
320. Tennessee Tech: Best player for the Golden Eagles is a young man named Jr. Clay, and I love it because the talented point guard sounds like he came right out of an Elmore Leonard novel.
321. Denver: Good school in a great city without a ton of geographic D-I competition. Why isn’t Denver a lot better more regularly?
322. Grambling: The Tigers are formatted in an old-school way, not reliant or opportunistic with the 3-point shot and built on discipline to not foul.
323. Columbia: Jim Engles did a fine job transitioning NJIT into D-I a decade ago, but in four seasons at Columbia he’s 35-77 and likely has the worst team in the Ivy again.
326. Tarleton State: The Texans, coached by none other than Billy Gillespie, are card-carrying members of the WAC in their first season of D-I.
327. Southeastern Louisiana: The freshman class has some potential. Check back in two years and if transfers aren’t an issue, this is perhaps a top-four team in the Southland.
328. Binghamton: No team was worse at failing to force teams into turnovers a season ago. The Bearcats will probably slip in the America East because their best player, Sam Sessoms, left for Penn State.
329. USC Upstate: Dave Dickerson’s hoping Khavon Moore, who barely registered at Clemson, can be the kind of down-transfer who can step into the Big South and be good enough to put the Spartans in the middle of the Big South pack.
330. Houston Baptist: A shoutout to Ron Cottrell, who we highlighted this offseason. He’s one of a handful of currently active coaches who are — by far — the greatest coaches in the history of their schools. Win No. 500 is coming this season.
331. UC San Diego: Another new team to Division I. The Tritons join the Big West and give the state of California a D-I record 26 basketball programs.
333. Dixie State: The Trailblazers are making their transition from Division II into the WAC, which will be a nine-team league this season.
334. Holy Cross: This is largely a guess based on a 4-29 season, as the Crusaders find their footing in a second season under Brett Nelson.
336. Idaho: Six D-I wins last season. In cases like this, it’s impossible to tell if an elongated offseason with COVID protocols will help a team like Idaho or keep them from making strides.
337. Western Illinois: Rob Jeter, who previously was a head coach at Milwaukee, starts his first season at the toughest job in the Summit League.
338. North Carolina A&T: The Aggies still have Kameron Langley (8.0 apg to lead NCAA Division I), who is one of the greatest point guards in the history of the MEAC. This program leaves the MEAC for the Big South in 2021.
339. St. Francis Brooklyn: A nod to Ron Ganulin, who is one of the very few current assistants who graduated college in the 1960s. He coached this program up until 2005. Prior to that was an assistant on the championship-winning 1990 UNLV team. The man has seen it all.
341. Morgan State: Kevin Broadus’ team needs to rein in its fouling issues (22.5 per game) and it will change the course of the season for the Bears.
343. SIU Edwardsville: Just too tough a job, too much turnover and not enough time to work together in a pandemic-affected offseason. Brian Barone needs two more years to put the pieces in place.
344. Southeast Missouri State: With Brad Korn as the new coach, I’m going to slot SEMO in the OVC basement. The disparity between the top and bottom of the league is stark.
345. South Carolina State: The mystery team of the MEAC thanks to 10 new players. Guard Themus Fulks might be the top freshman in the league.
346. The Citadel: The bad: this team didn’t win a game in the SoCon and finished 3-24 vs. D-I competition. The good (?): four starters return.
347. Alabama A&M: The SWAC’s bottom third is hard to forecast, so Alabama A&M’s range falls anywhere between 330 and 350.
348. Alcorn State: Montez Robinson was not renewed, making way for Landon Bussie to step in for his first head-coaching job.
349. Maine: Black Bears won nine games last season, undeniably an improvement, but key pieces have been lost and Maine’s scheduling realities will be tough in the COVID-19 era.
350. Arkansas Pine Bluff: Flamboyantly angry. That’s how I describe Pine Bluff’s lion logo which, if you look closely, actually has the school’s acronym in its mane.
351. Presbyterian: Big South basement-dweller, though Quinton Ferrell’s done a solid recruiting job and can get the Blue Hose into the top half in two years with no attrition issues.
352. UMES: A five-win team last season, terrible on offense, and the pandemic probably hasn’t helped matters for Maryland-Eastern Shore to move up in the MEAC.
353. Central Connecticut State: Should be near the bottom of the NEC again. CCSU hasn’t been above .500 in a decade. Needs more bigs to move up.
354. Delaware State: The speediest team (74.7 possessions per game) in the fastest conference (MEAC). Meep-meep!
355. Mississippi Valley State: The fastest team on offense averaged 78.9 possessions; the average team was at 68.3.
356. Chicago State: Chicago State was the worst in college hoops last year. Amid a pandemic, it’s proper to presume that won’t change, because the final team …
357. Bethune-Cookman: … is not playing this season. The Wildcats have never won a MEAC Tournament and never will. B-C is not playing a 2020-21 season and leaves for the SWAC next July.