All votes are in, all precincts have reported.
I’ve seen enough.
It’s time to look at one more map of this country, but the most colorful, competitive and uplifting one. The 2020-21 edition of the United States of College Basketball is back. Each state (with the exception of Alaska, which does not have a Division I program) is represented by logo with the best projected team in each state. There were some extremely close races this year — and then there were the blowouts.
College basketball’s season starts Wednesday. This is the final look, one last canvass across the country before the games get going and results can overtake estimations, predictions and far-flung forecasts.
Top team in state: Alabama Crimson Tide
4. Jacksonville State
5. South Alabama
6. North Alabama
9. Alabama State
10. Alabama A&M
State of the state: The Crimson Tide clearly set up to be the best team in their state this season, as Nate Oats has a veteran squad, while Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers are ripe with inexperience and will struggle to finish in the top eight of the SEC — and this was before we took into account Auburn self-imposing a 2021 postseason ban. There isn’t a surefire NCAA Tournament team elsewhere in-state; only UAB cracked the top 210 of my 1-357 rankings.
Top team in state: Arizona State Sun Devils
3. Grand Canyon
4. Northern Arizona
State of the state: In the past 31 preseason Pac-12/10 polls, Arizona State has been picked last more times (four) as it’s been picked in the top three (three). But this is a special season for the Sun Devils, who have preseason Pac-12 Player of the Year Remy Martin and seem a near-lock to be better than Arizona, which is a once-every-20-years kind of situation. Sean Miller has his biggest challenge since taking over at U of A more than 10 years ago, while in Phoenix, Bryce Drew looks to keep Grand Canyon on the uptick.
Top team in state: Arkansas Razorbacks
2. Little Rock
3. Arkansas State
4. Central Arkansas
5. Arkansas Pine Bluff
State of the state: The Razorbacks have one of the least experienced teams in college basketball this season, but they’re still rightfully atop their state’s rankings. Eric Musselman has thrived with hodgepodge rosters before, but this is a different kind of challenge. Elsewhere, Little Rock is going to race against Georgia State to be the best team in the Sun Belt — and be a notch above conference foe Arkansas State.
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Top team in state: UCLA Bruins
3. San Diego State
5. Saint Mary’s
6. San Francisco
8. UC Irvine
10. UC Santa Barbara
11. Fresno State
13. San Diego
14. Santa Clara
15. Sacramento State
16. UC Riverside
17. Cal Baptist
18. UC Davis
19. Loyola Marymount
20. Cal State Bakersfield
21. San Jose State
22. Long Beach State
34. Cal State Fullerton
25. Cal Poly
26. UC San Diego
State of the state: No state has more D-I programs than California’s 26, and the interesting part about that is there is a different team almost every year when we do this map. The best program in state history, and in the history of men’s college basketball west of the Mississippi, is on top here. Mick Cronin’s Bruins are outpacing a chic Stanford squad and a San Diego State club that was a two-loss team last season but just lost Malachi Flynn to the first round of the NBA Draft. The top seven teams below will all be worth watching; Pepperdine has one of the 80-or-so best players in college hoops in Colbey Ross.
Top team in state: Colorado Buffaloes
2. Colorado State
3. Northern Colorado
4. Air Force
State of the state: The Buffaloes are set up for their best season of Tad Boyle’s tenure, and that’s an accomplishment in itself considering Tyler Bey left Boyle to play in the NBA. McKinley Wright IV is back and will be one of the best point guards in America. Colorado State is a sneaky spoiler in the Mountain West, but no one else in the state figures to be all that competitive in their leagues this season.
Top team in state: UConn Huskies
6. Sacred Heart
7. Central Connecticut State
State of the state: We are ranking Yale — and all Ivy League teams — even though the Ivy League will not be playing sports this winter. The Bulldogs were rated 98th overall in m 1-357 — 55 spots behind resurgent UConn. I find it hard to believe Dan Hurley would be afraid of almost any opponent on his schedule this season, not with James Bouknight, R.J. Cole and a roster loaded up with wings and quality defenders. After a few bumpy seasons, UConn is once again far and clear the best team in the Nutmeg State.
Top team in state: Delaware Blue Hens
2. Delaware State
State of the state: The Hornets of Delaware State project as one of the five worst teams in college hoops, while UDel is probably a middle-of-the-pack CAA team in 2020-21. This is Martin Ingelsby’s fifth season with the Blue Hens, but after four years of consecutively rising win totals, a bump down is inevitable.
District of Columbia
Top team in district: Georgetown Hoyas
2. George Washington
State of the district: It’s going to be a lonely season in our nation’s capital, as Georgetown figures to be the worst team in the Big East. Patrick Ewing and his staff will need major wins in recruiting in the coming 4-8 months to reverse the Hoyas’ course. Though it’s ranked last, Howard is the must-see team on this list. The Bison will boast Makur Maker, a five-star prospect in the Class of 2020 who is the highest-ranked player to play at an HBCU in history.
Top team in state: Florida Gators
2. Florida State
7. Florida Atlantic
8. North Florida
10. Florida Gulf Coast
12. Florida A&M
State of the state: It would have been nice to see the Gators get a chance to make a statement this week against Virginia at Mohegan Sun, but unfortunately COVID-19 positives in the program will preclude that game from happening. Mike White’s under decent pressure to live up to this prediction of UF being the best team in the state and therefore one of the 25 best teams in college basketball. The margin is thin between UF and Florida State, which will again have pro talent and again be one of the four best teams in the ACC. The Hurricanes rate No. 3 in the Sunshine State and figure to be flirting with the bubble in a top-heavy ACC.
Top team in state: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
2. Georgia State
5. Georgia Southern
6. Kennesaw State
State of the state: It’s somewhat surprising to see that Georgia “only” has six Division I teams. Here’s what is inspiring: I think all six teams on the list will be markedly improved a season from now. For 2020-21, Georgia Tech is in position to rule the state thanks to a great backcourt attack. Georgia State is positioned to control the Sun Belt, while Georgia will look to jell and move on without Anthony Edwards and Rayshaun Hammonds.
Top team in state: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
State of the state: Hawaii coach Eran Ganot told me Sunday he was still trying to schedule nonconference games, but the reality is Hawaii will be reduced to league-only in the Big West. Conference play begins Dec. 27. It might be best for the Big West ultimately goes to a pod-like system for conference games by late January.
Top team in state: Boise State Broncos
2. Idaho State
State of the state: I had two Mountain West coaches tell me in the past two weeks that Boise State has the most talent of any team in that league, so keep an eye out for Leon Rice’s team as it chases its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015. The other two Idaho schools — Idaho and Idaho State were a combined 16-46 last season in their first seasons under Zac Claus and Ryan Looney.
Top team in state: Illinois Fighting Illini
2. Loyola Chicago
6. Illinois State
7. Southern Illinois
8. Northern Illinois
9. Eastern Illinois
11. Western Illinois
12. SIU Edwardsville
13. Chicago State
State of the state: In the past half-decade this state has seen Illinois State and Loyola Chicago plastered across the outline of state borders. But now not only have things returned to what they should be, Illinois is set up for its best season in a decade and a half. Loyola Chicago is the only other somewhat safe bet to be in the NCAA Tournament. The Illini will carry Illinois college hoops this season.
Top team in state: Indiana Hoosiers
4. Notre Dame
5. Indiana State
6. Ball State
8. Purdue Fort Wayne
State of the state: If you’re scrolling this list in alphabetical/presented order, then I’d say this is the most competitive state race yet between the top two teams. (California’s more interesting in the top four.) Indiana deserves the nod, but Purdue could prove to be not so far behind. Talent-wise, it’s indisputable that Indiana is the best in the state this season. Weirdly, there’s a pretty big gap between Butler and No. 3 and Notre Dame at No. 4.
Top team in state: Iowa Hawkeyes
2. Northern Iowa
3. Iowa State
State of the state: The Hawkeyes are so far clear of Iowa State, the teams’ annual game might wind up being light on suspense due to Iowa hosting the game. But though the Hawkeyes own this state for this season, Northern Iowa should be the top team in the Missouri Valley and might be good enough to command a single-digit seed if they can play spoiler in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic later this week in South Dakota.
Top team in state: Kansas Jayhawks
2. Kansas State
3. Wichita State
State of the state: Same ol’ story out in Kansas. The Jayhawks — who are not the favorite to win the Big 12 — are comfortably ahead this season. Kansas State projects as the worst team in the Big 12, while Wichita State is going to try and assemble a respectable season after the resignation of Gregg Marshall, which wound up being one of the biggest headlines of the longest offseason in more than 40 years.
Top team in state: Kentucky Wildcats
3. Western Kentucky
4. Murray State
5. Northern Kentucky
6. Eastern Kentucky
8. Morehead State
State of the state: Kentucky shapes up as the best team in the commonwealth for the ninth time in the past 12 years — though Louisville was certainly better than the Wildcats last season. It’s got a chance to be close again in 2020-21, but with U of L reshaping its starting five, it’s fair to give Kentucky’s star-studded recruiting class (plus Olivier Sarr being eligible) the nod. Western Kentucky and Murray State are streets behind the top two, though both are capable of winning their league titles.
Top team in state: LSU Tigers
2. Louisiana Tech
5. Northwestern State
7. Nicholls State
8. Louisiana Monroe
9. McNeese State
10. New Orleans
12. Southeastern Louisiana
State of the state: It’s nearly impossible for any Louisiana school to usurp the Tigers in these state rankings each year, but if the NCAA is going to come heavy with a punishment in the next year, then perhaps an opening will be there in 2021 or 2022. For now, the Tigers have a top-20 team and that’s nearly 100 spots ahead of second-place Louisiana Tech in my 1-357 rankings. Eric Konkol’s La. Tech team is going to be a factor in C-USA, and Southern is the top team in the SWAC.
Top team in state: Maine Black Bears
State of the state: Maine wins Maine every year; there’s no team to compete with. It’s still a low-rung America East team, but at least its coach is solid with a guitar. Richard Barron wrote a song about opening the Black Bears’ season this week against Virginia.
Top team in state: Maryland Terrapins
4. Mount St. Mary’s
7. Coppin State
8. Morgan State
State of the state: The 2019-20 season was to be Maryland’s time to reclaim its national relevance. That largely did happen, but thanks to COVID-19 cancelling the NCAA Tournament the Terps failed to get a chance to live up to their high standing (Maryland finished 11th in KenPom last season). Don’t sleep on Maryland this season — it could still wind up as a top-five team in the Big Ten. Second-place Towson is a title contender in the CAA and will get a shot at a good first impression this week at Mohegan Sun.
Top team in state: Boston College Eagles
5. Boston University
7. UMass Lowell
8. Holy Cross
State of the state: Not a proud thing for UMass that no team has set itself up to be a reasonable pick to make the field of 68. Boston College ranks tops in the Pilgrim State, though Jim Christian may need a huge year to retain his gig. Harvard is a slight favorite over UMass, but to UMass fans: just take No. 2. Your team is playing, Harvard’s is not. Northeastern will be a nuisance in the CAA but isn’t robust enough to be in the top 150 nationally.
Top team in state: Michigan State Spartans
3. Eastern Michigan
4. Central Michigan
6. Western Michigan
State of the state: I acknowledge that the gap between Michigan State and Michigan in the grand scheme of power-conference teams and the Big Ten could be smaller than my projection. But this is still Sparty’s State. Tom Izzo will rely on Joey Hauser, Aaron Henry, Rocket Watts, Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham Jr. Plus: Josh Langford will be back. That’s pretty stable. Michigan gets Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, Chaundee Brown, Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks. Bring it on.
Top team in state: Minnesota Golden Gophers
State of the state: Minnesota’s days of having no in-state competition are soon coming to an end because nearby St. Thomas recently given a waiver to transfer up from Division III to Division I. It will be joining in 2021. As for the Golden Gophers, Richard Pitino could be in a prove-it-or-else season. Marcus Carr will star — and potentially be good enough to make Big Ten First Team.
Top team in state: Ole Miss Rebels
2. Mississippi State
3. Southern Miss
4. Jackson State
5. Alcorn State
6. Mississippi Valley State
State of the state: Scanning the Magnolia State, it’s hard to feel confident any of these teams will be locks to make the NCAAs. The best bet might be Jackson State out of the SWAC. Ole Miss edges out Mississippi State based on the Rebels having a dash more talent on paper than MSU, which lost a couple of important players to the NBA.
Top team in state: Saint Louis Billikens
3. Missouri State
4. Kansas City
5. Southeast Missouri State
State of the state: Talking to coaches in both the SEC and the Atlantic 10, the feeling is just about universal that Saint Louis is going to be better than Mizzou this season. That is seldom true, but Travis Ford returns all his starters from a 23-8 team. Missouri is aiming higher this season under Cuonzo Martin, but the Tigers are likely one season away from competing for an NCAA Tournament bid again.
Top team in state: Montana Grizzlies
2. Montana State
State of the state: The Griz are better than the Bobcats most season, and that will again be the case this season. Travis DeCuire will try to win the Big Sky for the third time in four years.
Top team in state: Creighton Bluejays
State of the state: Creighton has never ranked higher in the preseason AP Top 25 than this season (No. 11). The chasm between the Bluejays and the Cornhuskers of Nebraska hasn’t been this wide … ever? The Huskers need two more years to build up program, while Creighton can make the Final Four. The Bluejays could have a First Team All-American in Marcus Zegarowski.
Top team in state: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
State of the state: This one could be close. UNLV is setting up to be a top-60 team a year from now, but with so many new faces, the reality is the Wolf Pack probably aren’t too far behind the Runnin’ Rebels.
Top team in state: New Hampshire Wildcats
State of the state: No Dartmouth, so New Hampshire wins by default — but would have been clearly ahead regardless. If New Hampshire and Maine can manage to keep their games scheduled, as planned, it will be the longest-running series in men’s D-I (according to Ken Pomeroy).
Top team in state: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
2. Seton Hall
6. Saint Peter’s
8. Fairleigh Dickinson
State of the state: Jersey is Rutgers red, folks. The Scarlet Knights were robbed of their first NCAA Tournament in three decades in March, so expect the drought to officially end in 2021. With Seton Hall losing Myles Powell and Romaro Gill, the Pirates probably will be a notch below the Scarlet Knights. Monmouth will have a chance at playing spoiler in the MAAC.
Top team in state: New Mexico State Aggies
2. New Mexico
State of the state: The Land of Enchantment has no place for college basketball at the moment. New Mexico State has uprooted to Phoenix to practice and New Mexico fled for the Texas border in order to set up shop. The reason is the New Mexico governor will not allow groups as large as a men’s basketball team (or any gatherings) to happen and isn’t making exceptions. How this impacts the quality of the teams remains to be seen, but it’s a guarantee that New Mexico State will again be better than the Lobos.
Top team in state: Syracuse Orange
2. St. John’s
3. St. Bonaventure
10. Stony Brook
15. LIU Brooklyn
22. St. Francis Brooklyn
State of the state: Jim Boeheim has almost seen it all in this near-50-year career in coaching, with this pandemic and his recent COVID-19 positive diagnosis being the latest curveball. The Orange should comfortably be the Empire State’s top team, though Siena is the best squad in the MAAC and seems NCAA Tournament-worthy. Colgate is also well-positioned in the Patriot League, which won’t begin play until Jan. 2.
Top team in state: Duke Blue Devils
2. North Carolina
3. NC State
5. UNC Greensboro
6. Wake Forest
8. East Carolina
9. Appalachian State
10. Western Carolina
13. North Carolina Central
14. UNC Asheville
15. Gardner Webb
16. High Point
17. UNC Wilmington
18. North Carolina A&T
State of the state: Duke is again the champion, but the margin between the Blue Devils and Tar Heels is going to close considerably after last season’s UNC implosion. Duke finds itself in the unusual position of sitting outside the top 10 in the polls heading into the season, while the Tar Heels are viewed as a plucky comeback story. There aren’t any teams realistically within shouting distance of those two, but NC State, Davidson and UNC Greensboro will also be interesting in their own rights. UNCG will trade blows with Furman in the SoCon, arguably the best mid-major race the sport will have this season.
Top team in state: North Dakota State Bison
2. North Dakota
State of the state: The Bison won this two-program state. North Dakota has been a D-I program since 2009-10 and is yet to rate higher at season’s end in KenPom than NDSU.
Top team in state: Ohio State Buckeyes
5. Wright State
8. Bowling Green
10. Kent State
11. Youngstown State
12. Miami (Ohio)
13. Cleveland State
State of the state: This was Dayton’s state a year ago. It’s not unthinkable that UD could hold in for 2020-21, but Ohio State objectively sets up to be a little bit better. For now, the Buckeyes reclaim the territory and have a leg up on the Flyers, Musketeers and Bearcats. Ohio has 13 Division I programs — seven of them rank in the top 150 of my 1-357 rankings.
Top team in state: Oklahoma State Cowboys
4. Oral Roberts
State of the state: Cowboys vs. Sooners, close as it ever was. Oklahoma State gets a narrow nod over OU due to Cade Cunningham. Oklahoma State’s freshman point guard is the favorite right now to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft. Both teams are expecting to be good enough to be in the NCAA Tournament conversation (OSU is awaiting an appeal decision on eligibility for the 2021 postseason).
Top team in state: Oregon Ducks
2. Oregon State
4. Portland State
State of the state: The Ducks have a new look for 2020-21 and lose one of their most important players of the past decade, Payton Pritchard. Still, this is quack-quack terrain. Dana Altman’s Ducks are far superior to Oregon State this season. It’s possible these two teams end up on opposite sides of the Pac-12 standings.
Top team in state: Villanova Wildcats
2. Penn State
7. La Salle
8. Robert Morris
9. Saint Joseph’s
10. St. Francis PA
State of the state: Pennsylvania has been Villanova’s turf for most of the past 20 years. This is the No. 1-ranked team in my 1-357 rankings. Jay Wright has placed VU into its golden era. Penn State is second, though it’s barely holding on vs. Pitt. The Nittany Lions split from Pat Chambers late in the offseason, while the Panthers look to be improving under Jeff Capel. Duquesne is a sneaky team in the A-10 this year as well.
Top team in state: Providence Friars
2. Rhode Island
State of the state: Providence and Rhode Island have competitively jockeyed for position atop the state’s rankings for nearly 10 years. Unfortunately, Providence bailed on the rivalry game this season. But there is hope: with so many game cancellations being inevitable, geography could force schools’ hands in order to get some 11th-hour tilts in. URI vs. PC seems destined to happened if both have a window and need a game.
Top team in state: Clemson Tigers
2. South Carolina
7. Coastal Carolina
8. Charleston Southern
9. USC Upstate
10. South Carolina State
11. The Citadel
State of the state:The Tigers are a little bit better than South Carolina … which is a toss-up with Furman. The Paladins are trying to make their first NCAA Tournament in 40 years. South Carolina lacks an elite team this season but has a good cluster of teams in the top 60-150 overall.
Top team in state: South Dakota State Jackrabbits
2. South Dakota
State of the state: Eric Henderson’s Jackrabbits got a fine opportunity handed to them when they were plugged in to replace Dayton in the South Dakota-based Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic, which begins Wednesday. A team easily capable of winning a game or two in that event. Keep an eye out.
Top team in state: Tennessee Volunteers
4. Austin Peay
6. East Tennessee State
9. Middle Tennessee
10. Tennessee State
11. UT Martin
12. Tennessee Tech
State of the state: Tennessee with a bullet this season, as Rick Barnes might have his best team yet. The rivalry between UT and Memphis hasn’t simmered since Barnes took over; Tennessee registering as a superior squad to Penny Hardaway’s Tigers will only fuel that fire. Unfortunately these two teams will not be playing this season; they pushed back their next game to Nashville for the 2021-22 season. Belmont will again be a threat to win the OVC — unless Austin Peay does it instead.
Top team in state: Baylor Bears
2. Texas Tech
7. Texas A&M
8. North Texas
9. Stephen F. Austin
10. Texas State
13. UT Arlington
14. Abilene Christian
16. Sam Houston State
18. Texas Southern
19. Texas A&M Corpus Christi
20. Prairie View A&M
22. Tarleton State
23. Houston Baptist
24. Incarnate Word
State of the state: It’s time for Texas to turn green and gold. Scott Drew has the best team in the Lonestar State, putting a little distance between the Bears and Texas Tech, Houston and Texas, all of whom qualify as top 20-good. Expect all four to play in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a pretty good year for hoops in Texas; most years are. Down the way, SMU, Stephen F. Austin and North Texas also will all be capable of earning automatic bids for the NCAAs.
Top team in state: Utah Utes
3. Utah State
4. Southern Utah
5. Weber State
6. Utah Valley
7. Dixie State
State of the state: The closest race between the top two teams of any this year is Utah and BYU. I’ve got the Utes No. 50 in my 1-357 and the Cougars No. 51. But this extends out even further, as No. 56 Utah State means the Beehive State has the closest three-way chase of any state this year. All are capable of making the NCAA Tournament and I think two of the three will find their way into the Big Dance next year.
Top team in state: Vermont Catamounts
State of the state: The Catamounts are on a break until Dec. 18, prompted by COVID-19 positives on the team — but the school decided to step away from athletic competition in order to allow players a mental break, to go home and see their families, and give them ample time to return to campus, practice back into shape and be ready to go a week before Christmas.
Top team in state: Virginia Cavaliers
3. Virginia Tech
6. George Mason
7. Old Dominion
8. William & Mary
9. Norfolk State
11. James Madison
State of the state: The Wahoos are again, by far, the best team in the Commonwealth of Virginia. If all goes well, we’ll be watching Tony Bennett’s team open the season at Mohegan Sun this week. Beyond that, some credit to Richmond is in order. Chris Mooney could have the best team in the Atlantic 10 — and the A-10 will be of high quality this season.
Top team in state: Gonzaga Bulldogs
3. Eastern Washington
4. Washington State
State of the state: When was the last time Washington had a better team than Gonzaga? The 2010-11 season. A full decade. It’ll be at least 11 years, because these Zags are the preseason No. 1 team in college basketball, while Washington is No. 73 at KenPom and Washington State checks in at No. 136 in those preseason ratings.
Top team in state: Wisconsin Badgers
3. Green Bay
State of the state: We’ve seen many years in the past 15 where Marquette and Wisconsin have been on even ground vs. each other. This year Wisconsin clearly sets up as the superior squad. The Badgers return most of their minutes from a team that tied for the Big Ten regular-season championship, while Marquette has to replace one of the five best players in school history, Markus Howard.
Top team in state: West Virginia Mountaineers
State of the state: The Mountaineers have one of their best frontcourts of the Bob Huggins era (Oscar Tshiebwe, Derek Culver) and potentially one of the three best Mountaineer teams of the past decade. Marshall will likely be an above-.500 C-USA team.
Top team in state: Wyoming Cowboys
State of the state: The Cowboys start a new era under Jeff Linder, who did good things at Northern Colorado. Wyoming ranks 228th in my 1-357 rankings. It was 246th at KenPom a season ago.