Like we do every year, we set out to project the top 25 teams in the nation entering the 2019–20 season. Then we expanded the projections out—way, way out—to include the other 328 teams in Division I. Without the benefit of a comprehensive projections model, we looked at each team’s returning production, multi-season trajectory and notable newcomers to assemble a full-field ranking of every team that might play a role, however small, in determining the 2020 national champion. Below are the results, with insights and information on the preseason Top 25 and dozens of notable teams on the outside looking in.
1. Michigan State (1st in Big Ten): Senior 6’ 1″ point guard Cassius Winston—the preseason player of the year favorite—and junior 6’ 8″ forward Xavier Tillman are back, along with most of last year’s Final Four team. Four-star, 6’ 2″ guard Mark (Rocket) Watts adds depth.
2. Kentucky (1st in SEC): The Wildcats bring in lottery-ready freshmen in 6’ 3″ guard Tyrese Maxey and 6’ 6″ forward Khalil Whitney, but 6’ 9″ grad transfer Nate Sestina (Bucknell) might be the secret sauce.
3. Louisville (1st in ACC): Chris Mack has five players back from a 20–14 team; adding St. Joe’s transfer Lamarr Kimble, a trigger-happy 6-footer, and 6’ 6″ five-star wing Samuell Williamson will lift the Cardinals to the Final Four.
4. Duke (2nd in ACC): The Blue Devils are loaded, as usual, with five-star freshmen; this year the prize recruits are 6’ 10″ Vernon Carey and 6’ 9″ Matthew Hurt. With (relatively) experienced sophomore Tre Jones running the offense, the new big men should thrive.
5. Kansas (1st in Big 12): Behemoth center Udoka Azubuike returns after a right-hand injury, jitterbug guard Devon Dotson passed on the NBA, smooth-shooting wing Isaiah Moss transferred from Iowa and 6’ 9″ Silvio de Sousa of Angola is eligible (for now). The Jayhawks’ toughest opponent in a quest for another Big 12 title is the NCAA, which continues to investigate recruiting violations.
6. North Carolina (3rd in ACC): Freshman Cole Anthony, the fourth-best recruit in the nation and son of 11-year NBA vet Greg, will be an instant star at point guard.
7. Maryland (2nd in Big Ten): Five stellar sophomores form the foundation, and 6-foot senior Anthony Cowan (15.6 ppg, 4.4 apg ) wants to leave the Terps with a title.
8. Florida (2nd in SEC): The five best Gators not named Kerry Blackshear Jr. are 6’ 5″ or shorter, which will cause matchup headaches for coach Mike White.
9. Villanova (1st in Big East): The backcourt has suffered injuries to junior Collin Gillespie (broken nose) and 6’ 5″ freshman Bryan Antoine (shoulder surgery), but the arrival of five-star Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a 6’ 9″ forward, eases the pain.
10. Ohio State (3rd in Big Ten): Not only do the Buckeyes have two-thirds of their scoring back, including 6′ 9″ post Kaleb Wesson (14.6 ppg), but they also have three four-star recruits when Wesson (3.2 fouls per game) has to go to the bench.
11. Virginia (4th in ACC): The defending champs lost their three best players, but their ruthless, Pack-Line D remains intact. Point guard Kihei Clark, a 5’ 9″ sophomore, is the most likely breakout candidate.
12. Gonzaga (1st in WCC): The Zags’ latest impact transfer is 6’ 4″ point guard Admon Gilder (Texas A&M), who will feed forward Killian Tillie—if the 6’ 10″ senior can stay healthy. He missed 22 games last season with foot and ankle injuries.
13. Texas Tech (2nd in Big 12): Chris Beard’s fearsome D will feature eight new players, including versatile 6’ 6″ forward Chris Clarke, a grad transfer from Virginia Tech.
14. Saint Mary’s (2nd in WCC): Nearly every rotation player is back, including senior guard Jordan Ford (21.1 ppg) and 6’ 8″ junior forward Malik Fitts (15.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
15. Seton Hall (2nd in Big East): When 6’ 2″ senior Myles Powell decided to return, the Pirates’ title hopes got a big boost. How far they go depends on 7’2″ Florida State transfer Ike Obiagu.
16. Memphis (1st in AAC): The beauty of landing five top 60 recruits in the nation’s No. 1–ranked class is that they don’t all have to thrive right away. Even if, say, 6’ 9″ wing Precious Achiuwa (No. 15) and 6’ 3″ guard Boogie Ellis (No. 38) struggle, 7’ 1″ James Wiseman (No. 1), 6’ 7″ forward D.J. Jeffries (No. 52) and 6’ 5″ guard Lester Quinones (No. 58) can pick up the slack.
17. Oregon (1st in Pac-12): Senior Payton Pritchard’s steady hand still guides the offense, and he’s joined by a new supporting cast, including two five-stars (big men N’Faly Dante and CJ Walker) and 6’ 7″ Rutgers transfer Eugene Omoruyi, another reliable frontcourt presence.
18. Baylor (3rd in Big 12): Tristan Clark, a 6’ 10″ forward who led the Bears in scoring before injuring his left knee last January, is back, but can UNC-Asheville transfer MaCio Teague or ex-Auburn guard Davion Mitchell run the point?
19. NC State (5th in ACC): Senior playmaker Markell Johnson (12.6 ppg) and versatile wing C.J. Bryce (11.6) lead an experienced crew under Kevin Keatts, 47, who impressed in his first ACC season after arriving from UNC-Wilmington.
20. LSU (3rd in SEC): While the NCAA reportedly continues to investigate the Tigers for recruiting violations, a pair of 6’4″ Baton Rouge natives—senior guard Skylar Mays and sophomore forward Javonte Smart—helps them challenge for the SEC title.
21. Utah State (1st in Mountain West): The Aggies can count on 20 points per game from electric, 6’ 5″ senior guard Sam Merill, the reigning Mountain West Player of the Year, and could see significant improvement from 7-foot Portuguese sophomore center Neemias Queta (11.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.4 blocks).
22. VCU (1st in A-10): Guard Marcus Evans, a 6’2″ redshirt senior, was basically the Rams’ entire offense last year; another threat (possibly 6’ 6″ sophomore Vince Williams) needs to emerge. With more than 80% of the team’s minutes returning, the pressure D should be ferocious, as usual.
23. Xavier (3rd in Big East): The Musketeers’ top four scorers are all back, led by 6’ 9″ senior Tyrique Jones (11.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg). The rest of the team is almost entirely new, including three transfers and five freshmen, the most talented of whom is 6’ 1″ combo guard KyKy Tandy.
24. Purdue (4th in Big Ten): An elite backcourt departs, but the Boilermakers still have inveterate hair-fixer 7’ 3″ Matt Haarms at center and junior forward Nojel Eastern, a defensive stopper. Offensively, they’ll need a large and immediate contribution from guard Jahaad Proctor, a 6’3″ High Point transfer (19.5 ppg).
25. Colorado (2nd in Pac-12): With 6-foot junior point guard McKinley Wright IV (a contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year) and 6’ 7″ junior forward Tyler Bey (who led the team with 13.6 ppg and 9.9 rpg), the Buffaloes are sure to improve on last year’s fourth-place finish in the conference. They also get 7-foot center Dallas Walton back after his right-ACL injury.
26. Texas (4th in Big 12)
27. Creighton (4th in Big East)
28. Marquette (5th in Big East)
29. Wisconsin (5th in Big Ten)
30. Auburn (4th in SEC)
Shaka Smart is on the hot seat at Texas (No. 26) even after last year’s NIT title. He’s got numerous pieces in the backcourt, including Andrew Jones, who makes his return after recovering from leukemia last year. The Longhorns bring in two four-star centers after losing Jaxson Hayes and Dylan Osetkowski up front. Creighton (No. 27) needs junior guard Ty-Shon Alexander to establish himself as one of the best players in the Big East if they’re to improve on last season. Defensive development could drive Greg McDermott’s team back to the tournament.
Marquette (No. 28) lost both Sam and Joey Hauser, but 5’11” walking bucket Markus Howard is still around. The Golden Eagles collapsed at the end of last season, with Howard having some rough games. He could use some help. And some rest. Their in-state rivals, Wisconsin (No. 29), bring back the two key members of their backcourt in D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison. The Badgers looked lost offensively without Ethan Happ last year, and now he’s graduated. Their defensive prowess, featuring Davison’s elite charge-taking, should keep them from falling too far. Auburn (No. 30) lost its three best players, but with four-star forward Isaac Okoro as one of seven freshmen reinforcements in town, and Bruce Pearl still behind the bench, don’t expect the Tigers to collapse completely.
31. Houston (2nd in AAC)
32. Washington (3rd in Pac-12)
33. Michigan (6th in Big Ten)
34. Providence (6th in Big East)
35. Ole Miss (5th in SEC)
36. Arizona (4th in Pac-12)
37. Tennessee (6th in SEC)
38. Florida State (6th in ACC)
39. Cincinnati (3rd in AAC)
40. Notre Dame (7th in ACC)
41. Illinois (7th in Big Ten)
42. Georgetown (7th in Big East)
43. Iowa (8th in Big Ten)
44. Arkansas (7th in SEC)
45. Indiana (9th in Big Ten)
46. Butler (8th in Big East)
47. West Virginia (5th in Big 12)
48. Davidson (2nd in A-10)
49. New Mexico State (1st in WAC)
50. Penn State (10th in Big Ten)
Houston (No. 31) got a preseason boost when the NCAA granted the waiver for Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes to play immediately, and the Cougars’ backcourt of Grimes, DeJon Jarreau and Nate Hinton will be their strength. Alpha Diallo returns to anchor Providence (No. 34), but the X-factor that could swing the Friars’ season may be UMass point guard transfer Luwane Pipkins. Washington (No. 32) and Arizona (No. 36) are a pair of Pac-12 schools that brought in big-time recruits, but while the Huskies will be looking to maintain last season’s momentum, the Wildcats are needing to bounce back. Despite coming off its worst season in years, don’t be surprised if Notre Dame (No. 40) rebounds nicely after bringing back the bulk of its roster and getting Rex Pflueger back from an ACL tear.
Is this the year that Illinois (No. 41) and Georgetown (No. 42) get back to the NCAA tournament? A young, talented roster on both teams brings promise. Look out for Arkansas (No. 44) as a potential SEC sleeper; new coach Eric Musselman has an under-the-radar budding star in Isaiah Joe and added SMU grad transfer Jimmy Whitt Jr., among others. West Virginia (No. 47) is hoping a frontcourt led by Derek Culver and freshman Oscar Tshiebwe helps make last season an anomaly, while New Mexico State (No. 49), who we last saw ending in March heartbreak vs. Auburn, remains the class of the WAC and a legitimate mid-major threat.
51. Alabama (8th in SEC)
52. Oklahoma State (6th in Big 12)
53. Arizona State (5th in Pac-12)
54. Iowa State (7th in Big 12)
55. Dayton (3rd in A-10)
56. Mississippi State (9th in SEC)
57. USC (6th in Pac-12)
58. Temple (4th in AAC)
59. East Tennessee State (1st in Southern)
60. South Florida (5th in AAC)
61. Wichita State (6th in AAC)
62. Vermont (1st in America East)
63. Georgia (10th in SEC)
64. Oklahoma (8th in Big 12)
65. Texas A&M (11th in SEC)
66. Syracuse (8th in ACC)
67. UCLA (7th in Pac-12)
68. Kansas State (9th in Big 12)
69. Missouri (12th in SEC)
70. Rutgers (11th in Big Ten)
71. Harvard (1st in Ivy)
72. Miami (FL) (9th in ACC)
73. Belmont (1st in OVC)
74. Oregon State (8th in Pac-12)
75. BYU (3rd in WCC)
It was a rough 2018-19 for Alabama (No. 51), but transfers James Bolden (from West Virginia) and Jahvon Quinerly (from Villanova, only if he wins an eligibility appeal with the NCAA) should give the Tide a boost. Kira Lewis Jr. impressed as a freshman and could take another step with ex-Buffalo coach Nate Oats now running the show. Oklahoma State (No. 52) probably thought the Crimson Tide had it easy given all the chaos Mike Boynton dealt with in Stillwater, but the Cowboys now return most of the team that finished the season strong. Look out for sweet-shooting guard Lindy Waters, who almost brought down Texas Tech in Lubbock single-handedly. Dayton (No. 55) has gone with an alternate team-building plan. The Flyers have four transfers who could play significant roles this season joining current studs Obi Toppin (14.4 ppg) and Jalen Crutcher (5.7 assists).
USC (No. 57) is the only team down here bringing in two five-star recruits. If 6’9” Isaiah Mobley and 6’8” Onyeka Okongwu can make more of an immediate impact than Kevin Porter did last year, Andy Enfield’s team should be much better. And don’t forget, 6’11” star center Nick Rakocevic is still here. The Trojans aren’t the only ones counting on a boost up the rankings from a top freshman, as Georgia (No. 63) brings in guard Anthony Edwards, the nation’s No. 2 overall recruit, to a team that won only 11 games in Tom Crean’s first year in Athens. With both Nic Claxton and Derek Ogbeide gone, the Dawgs will have questions in the frontcourt that even Edwards can’t answer, no matter how many points he pours in.
No matter how low Syracuse (No. 66) falls, they’ll still pull an upset or two as Jim Boeheim keeps that 2-3 zone intact. The Orange will need either junior Elijah Hughes to take another step offensively or four-star freshman Brycen Goodine to prove himself in his first year. And there’s no clear answer in the middle of that zone with 7’2” Pascal Chukwu gone and no new 7-footers on the roster. Out west, UCLA (No. 67) is adapting to a brand-new philosophy under coach Mick Cronin. The Bruins were a mess last season, but Cronin’s strict defense and slow pace, along with addition of Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, in his return from heart surgery, could make them a pain for Pac-12 teams. And congrats to Rutgers (No. 70) for crawling out of the Big Ten basement. The team that once defined ineptitude still can’t score outside of guard Geo Baker, but its frustrating defense and potential progress from sophomores Montez Mathis and Ron Harper Jr. give Steve Pikiell’s team its most positive outlook since conference realignment.
76. TCU (10th in Big 12)
77. Georgia Tech (10th in ACC)
78. Pitt (11th in ACC)
79. South Carolina (13th in SEC)
80. UConn (7th in AAC)
81. Boise State (2nd in Mountain West)
82. Rhode Island (4th in A-10)
83. Western Kentucky (1st in C-USA)
84. UNC Greensboro (2nd in Southern)
85. SMU (8th in AAC)
86. Richmond (5th in A-10)
87. Furman (3rd in Southern)
88. San Diego State (3rd in Mountain West)
89. Minnesota (12th in Big Ten)
90. Louisiana Tech (2nd in C-USA)
91. Bowling Green (1st in MAC)
92. Clemson (12th in ACC)
93. Boston College (13th in ACC)
94. Nevada (4th in Mountain West)
95. DePaul (9th in Big East)
96. Wake Forest (14th in ACC)
97. Missouri State (1st in MVC)
98. Liberty (1st in Atlantic Sun)
99. Charleston (1st in CAA)
100. Wright State (1st in Horizon)
Pitt (No. 78) is probably still a year away from seriously making noise under Jeff Capel, but four starters are back and the Panthers’ young Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens-led backcourt is capable of spearheading some upsets. Speaking of coaches in Year 2, Dan Hurley’s UConn (No. 80) is also likely a year away, but the Huskies are hoping the arrival of top-70 guard James Bouknight (who will likely see a suspension after a recent arrest) and return of Alterique Gilbert and Christian Vital make for a dangerous backcourt. Another year with former five-star big man Charles Bassey makes Western Kentucky (No. 83) the heavy favorite to win the C-USA, but the Hilltoppers need improved offense across the board to take the next step.
After a season that included a brief stay in the AP Top 25, Furman (No. 87) said goodbye to immensely valuable big man Matt Rafferty, but four starters, led by 5’11” guard Jordan Lyons, return to keep the Paladins in the mix in the SoCon. Minnesota (No. 89) lost a significant amount of production but has young talent in sharpshooter Gabe Kalscheur and big man Daniel Oturu and a pair of needed backcourt transfers on board. After Eric Musselman left for Arkansas, Nevada (No. 94) brought in Steve Alford, who needs to replace seven of the Wolf Pack’s top eight scorers. Getting back a healthy Lindsey Drew and adding LA Tech transfer Jalen Harris will help.
Our top 100 closes with four teams we see winning their conferences: Missouri State (No. 97), which once again turns to transfers, including West Virginia’s Lamont West; Liberty (No. 98), which brought four starters back from a team that won an NCAA tournament game; Charleston (No. 99), which has one of the most underrated players in college hoops in guard Grant Riller; and Wright State (No. 100), which is hoping shot-dominant and offensive-rebounding standout Loudon Love can lead it to a second straight regular-season title.
101. New Mexico (5th in Mountain West)
102. Tulsa (9th in AAC)
103. Pepperdine (4th in WCC)
104. Murray State (2nd in OVC)
105. Ball State (2nd in MAC)
106. Northern Iowa (2nd in MVC)
107. Penn (2nd in Ivy)
108. St. John’s (10th in Big East)
109. UC Irvine (1st in Big West)
110. Grand Canyon (2nd in WAC)
111. Buffalo (3rd in MAC)
112. Vanderbilt (14th in SEC)
113. UTEP (3rd in C-USA)
114. Fresno State (6th in Mountain West)
115. Santa Clara (5th in WCC)
116. UTSA (4th in C-USA)
117. San Francisco (6th in WCC)
118. Utah (9th in Pac-12)
119. Nebraska (13th in Big Ten)
120. Northwestern (14th in Big Ten)
121. Old Dominion (5th in C-USA)
122. Duquesne (6th in A-10)
123. Iona (1st in MAAC)
124. Drake (3rd in MVC)
125. Georgia Southern (1st in Sun Belt)
Insanely clutch, foul-drawing menace guard Colbey Ross leads Pepperdine (No. 103), and should benefit from playing a full season with redshirt senior forward Kameron Edwards, who was limited to only 18 games by injuries last season but averaged 15.1 points in those games. Murray State (No. 104) obviously lost Ja Morant, but Tevin Brown and Darnell Cowart should keep the Racers competitive in the OVC. Matt McMahon’s program is now well-known for turning undersized, low-recruited guards into NBA players. They’ve got four freshmen listed at 6’2” or smaller, so buy a lottery ticket on DaQuan Smith, Noah Kamba, Chico Carter Jr. or Rod Thomas now.
Outside of Boston, A.J. Brodeur is the best returning Ivy League player this season and should keep Penn (No. 107) in the Ivy League title race. The Quakers took down Miami, Villanova and Temple last year and became the first non-‘Nova team to win the Big 5 crown since 2013. St. John’s (No. 108) is a mess of a program and should bring up the rear in the Big East in Mike Anderson’s first year, but LJ Figueroa and Mustapha Heron should keep the Red Storm from going winless in conference play.
One of the most interesting mid-majors, Grand Canyon (No. 110) is still looking for its first tournament appearance in its short program history. They’ve got a couple interesting new faces in TCU transfer guard Jaylen Fisher (pending a waiver) and score-first ex-Northwestern point guard Isiah Brown. The Lopes also return leading scorers Carlos Johnson (14.3 ppg) and Alessandro Lever (12.5). Buffalo (No. 111) lost its head coach and three best players, but the Bulls have three potential impact transfers in David Nickelberry (juco Trinity Valley), Antwain Johnson (from Middle Tennessee State) and Laquill Hardnett (from Cincinnati). UTSA (No. 116) has one of the nation’s most electric guards in Jhivvan Jackson, who averaged 22.9 points per game while taking the highest percentage of his team’s shots in the country. Jackson also has a more efficient, lower volume backcourt partner in Keaton Wallace.
As for Isiah Brown’s former team, Northwestern (No. 120) will rely on freshman Boo Buie at point guard and a cavalcade of other youngsters after almost every program veteran either graduated or transferred following last year’s last-place season. The Wildcats have only two players who will be playing their third year under Chris Collins: juniors Anthony Gaines and walk-on Tino Malnati. Duquesne (No. 124) spent nearly a decade bumbling around the bottom half of the A-10, but Keith Dambrot has the Dukes on a path to conference contention. Sincere Carry and Michael Hughes are the leading returnees after stud wing Eric Williams Jr. transferred to Oregon.
126. Virginia Tech (15th in ACC)
127. Air Force (7th in Mountain West)
128. Loyola-Chicago (4th in MVC)
129. Toledo (4th in MAC)
130. Wofford (4th in Southern)
131. Northern Kentucky (2nd in Horizon)
132. UCF (10th in AAC)
133. UIC (3rd in Horizon)
134. North Dakota State (1st in Summit)
135. Kent State (5th in MAC)
136. Bucknell (1st in Patriot)
137. UC Santa Barbara (2nd in Big West)
138. Stanford (10th in Pac-12)
139. St. Bonaventure (7th in A-10)
140. Colgate (2nd in Patriot)
141. Princeton (3rd in Ivy)
142. Green Bay (4th in Horizon)
143. Saint Louis (8th in A-10)
144. Hofstra (2nd in CAA)
145. North Texas (6th in C-USA)
146. Miami (OH) (6th in MAC)
147. Seattle (3rd in WAC)
148. Texas State (2nd in Sun Belt)
149. Bradley (5th in MVC)
150. Akron (7th in MAC)
After losing its coach and bringing back a paltry 17.4% of its returning possession minutes, it’s hard to know what to expect out of Virginia Tech (No. 126) beyond a rebuilding year under new coach Mike Young. Former four-star recruit Landers Nolley and incoming four-star Jalen Cone bring promise and will have plenty of opportunity in the backcourt. Young’s old team, Wofford (No. 130), lost its top two scorers (including prolific three-point shooter Fletcher Magee), but Nathan Hoover and Storm Murphy will keep the Terriers relevant in the Southern. Northern Kentucky (No. 131) is another mid-major adjusting to a new coach (Darrin Horn), and despite losing Horizon League Player of the Year Drew McDonald, there’s enough back that should keep the Norse in contention.
There could be a significant dropoff for UCF (No. 132) after losing its three best players, including, of course, 7’6” behemoth Tacko Fall. Alabama transfer Dazon Ingram arrives to play point for a team that could pick up the pace. After back-to-back Summit League titles by South Dakota State, it’s North Dakota State (No. 134) we believe will take the crown this year after bringing back the bulk of a team that got hot late and went dancing. A year after the Big West was dominated by UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara (No. 137) could push the Anteaters behind big Amadou Sow, especially if Max Heidegger can return to his sophomore year form.
Hofstra (No. 144) lost star guard Justin Wright-Foreman, but the returns of Eli Pemberton and Desure Buie will help keep the Pride backcourt going. Defense-first Texas State (No. 148) could be an intriguing contender in the Sun Belt, especially if it can find some shooting to go along with its defensive prowess.
151. George Mason (9th in A-10)
152. Samford (5th in Southern)
153. Air Force (8th in Mountain West)
154. Montana (1st in Big Sky)
155. Northern Illinois (8th in MAC)
156. Northeastern (3rd in CAA)
157. Radford (1st in Big South)
158. North Florida (2nd in Atlantic Sun)
159. Central Michigan (9th in MAC)
160. Loyola Marymount (7th in WCC)
161. Illinois State (6th in MVC)
162. NJIT (3rd in Atlantic Sun)
163. UAB (7th in C-USA)
164. Colorado State (9th in Mountain West)
165. La Salle (10th in A-10)
166. Weber State (2nd in Big Sky)
167. Indiana State (7th in MVC)
168. Gardner-Webb (2nd in Big South)
169. Cal State Northridge (3rd in Big West)
170. George Washington (11th in A-10)
171. FIU (8th in C-USA)
172. South Dakota (2nd in Summit)
173. Hawaii (4th in Big West)
174. Washington State (11th in Pac-12)
175. Georgia State (3rd in Sun Belt)
Montana (No. 154) should cruise to the Big Sky title again since Travis DeCuire’s Grizzlies return First-Team All-Big Sky guard Sayeed Pridgett (15.1 ppg). The Grizzlies often went small last year, with Pridgett nominally at the ‘four’ but could break out some bigger looks with two senior guards departing. Northern Illinois (No. 155) may not pass much or play a ton of defense, but 6-foot, 185-pound guard Eugene German is worth watching. The 2019 Second-Team All-MAC guard has averaged at least 20 points per game for two straight years. He’s vicious attacking the rim and can also splash threes (41.4% last year). Radford (No. 157) is the conference favorite in the Big South, especially with junior guard Carlik Jones (15.7 ppg, 5.8 assists) still around. The Highlanders notched impressive non-conference wins over Notre Dame and Texas last year, so Northwestern and Mississippi State would be wise not to sleep this year.
One of the most stylistically old-school teams last year, Loyola Marymount (No. 160) played at once of the slowest paces in the nation while taking only 28.2% of its shots from deep, fourth-fewest in the country. Opponents also shot 76.1% on free throws, giving the Lions the fourth-worst free throw defense in D-I. That largely random number should drop. Quick shoutout to Brian Kennedy for the great job he’s done at NJIT (No. 162). The pride of Newark, the Highlanders won six games in their first three D-I seasons from 2007-09, but Kennedy has dragged them into the Atlantic Sun title conversation in his fourth year.
As a freshman, forward Lamine Diane was one of the most ball-dominant players in the nation at Cal St. Northridge (No. 169), taking the fourth-highest percentage of his team’s shots in the country. Coach Mark Gottfried(!) clearly believes in Diane, but he’ll have to be a more efficient scorer for the Matadors to win more than 13 games this year. It’s been a quick rise for new coach Jamion Christian to George Washington (No. 170). This program’s been a mess, and it might be a rough first year, but don’t rule out the Colonels pulling off a few upsets. Christian’s Siena team played at the second-slowest pace in the country last season. On the opposite end of the tempo scale sits FIU (No. 172), which was fastest in the country in Jeremy Ballard’s first season. The blistering Panthers forced steals at the fourth-best rate and should once again be a pain to play against and a blast to watch even after leading-scorer Brian Beard Jr. graduated. And yes, that’s Washington State (No. 174) down here. Good news: they’re not the worst team in the Pac-12!
176. Cal State Bakersfield (4th in WAC)
177. Yale (4th in Ivy)
178. Florida Atlantic (9th in C-USA)
179. Winthrop (3rd in Big South)
180. Columbia (5th in Ivy)
181. Rider (2nd in MAAC)
182. Western Michigan (10th in MAC)
183. Stony Brook (2nd in America East)
184. Cal Baptist (5th in WAC)
185. Oral Roberts (3rd in Summit)
186. Middle Tennessee (10th in C-USA)
187. UT Arlington (4th in Sun Belt)
188. American (3rd in Patriot)
189. Youngstown State (5th in Horizon)
190. Evansville (8th in MVC)
191. Charleston Southern (4th in Big South)
192. California (12th in Pac-12)
193. Brown (6th in Ivy)
194. UMass (12th in A-10)
195. San Diego (8th in WCC)
196. Southern Illinois (9th in MVC)
197. Lehigh (4th in Patriot)
198. Wyoming (10th in Mountain West)
199. Dartmouth (7th in Ivy)
200. South Alabama (5th in Sun Belt)
Ivy League Player of the Year Miye Oni was one of four starters to depart from Yale (No. 177), making it considerably more challenging for the Bulldogs to get back to the NCAA tournament. Winthrop’s (No. 179) run-and-gun style (16th-fastest tempo, No. 5 three-point rate) last season was limited by turnovers and ranking dead last in the country at generating steals, but senior Josh Ferguson (41.7% from three) leads the returners. Rider’s (No. 181) dreams of an NCAA tournament bid last season were dashed by a 16–15 campaign, but the Broncs have enough pieces back, including senior point guard Stevie Jordan, to hope their ultra-fast style spearheads a bounce-back.
UT Arlington (No. 187) overachieved big time last season as Chris Ogden took home Sun Belt Coach of the Year honors in his first season, and it did it despite being one of the worst shooting teams in the country, especially from three (30.5%). With four of its top five scorers back, including Brian Warren, it’s hoping it can find more consistency on that end. Kansas transfer Sam Cunliffe is now eligible at Evansville (No. 190), and the former four-star recruit will look to turn around an offense that finished ninth in efficiency in Missouri Valley play. Unsurprisingly, Cal (No. 192) checks in as the lowest team of all the Power 5 or Big East, and Mark Fox has his work cut out for him in Year 1 (though senior point guard Paris Austin returns). After leading the nation in three-point percentage last season, Lehigh (No. 197) brings back just one of its four 40%-plus shooters, senior Jordan Cohen.
201. Louisiana (6th in Sun Belt)
202. Northern Colorado (3rd in Big Sky)
203. Cal State Fullerton (5th in Big West)
204. Lipscomb (4th in Atlantic Sun)
205. Oakland (6th in Horizon)
206. Eastern Washington (4th in Big Sky)
207. Albany (3rd in America East)
208. Nebraska Omaha (4th in Summit)
209. UMBC (4th in America East)
210. Towson (4th in CAA)
211. Fordham (13th in A-10)
212. New Orleans (1st in Southland)
213. South Dakota State (5th in Summit)
214. Western Carolina (6th in Southern)
215. Mercer (7th in Southern)
216. James Madison (5th in CAA)
217. Louisiana Monroe (7th in Sun Belt)
218. Southern Utah (5th in Big Sky)
219. LIU (1st in NEC)
220. Longwood (5th in Big South)
221. Purdue Fort Wayne (6th in Summit)
222. Marshall (11th in C-USA)
223. Siena (3rd in MAAC)
224. Quinnipiac (4th in MAAC)
225. Coastal Carolina (8th in Sun Belt)
Fresh off its NIT Final Four appearance, Lipscomb (No. 204) is in for a rough year without any of last year’s four key players, including stud Garrison Mathews. Its new goal, competing in the A-Sun, will run through sophomore center Ahsan Asadullah, who averaged 7.4 points per game off the bench last year. Eastern Washington (No. 206) returns its two leading scorers from last year, all-conference forward Mason Peatling (15.5 ppg) and junior guard Jacob Davison (15.2), who missed the end of the season due to injury.
The class of the Southland, New Orleans (No. 212) could stand to take a few more threes. Only 29.2% of its field goal attempts came from downtown, 347th in the nation. The Privateers’ best consistent shooter, senior guard Bryson Robinson, is their leading returning scorer and took almost six per game last year. South Dakota State (No. 213) is another program dealing with the departure of its two best players (Mike Daum and David Jenkins) while also losing its coach, T.J. Otzelberger, to UNLV. New head man Eric Henderson could be in for a tough year. Some good news for Western Carolina (No. 214) is that its top five scorers all return. The bad news is all five of those players also averaged more than two turnovers per game, helping to give the Catamounts the worst turnover rate in the country last year. Mark Prosser’s team gave up the ball on more than a quarter of its possessions, which goes a long way to explaining how it won only seven games.
In Griff Aldrich’s first year, Longwood (No. 220) looked like a brand-new program. The Lancers took over half their shots from long range, made 35.5% of them and scraped together 16 wins, more than their previous two years combined. Senior guard Shabooty Phillips is back after averaging 14 points per game last year. Marshall (No. 222) is set to take a step back after the departure of Jon Elmore, who led the team in scoring for three straight years. But have no fear, Dan D’Antoni is still here, so the Thunder Herd should play fast, take a lot of threes and be tremendous fun once again. Expect a similar three-point barrage from Quinnipiac (No. 224), which will certainly be in the news for its numerous political polls but could also make waves in the MAAC. With the departure of Cameron Young, expect junior guard Rich Kelly to take and make a lot of shots (45.7% from deep last year on 5.3 attempts per game).
226. Drexel (6th in CAA)
227. Saint Joseph’s (14th in A-10)
228. Detroit-Mercy (7th in Horizon)
229. Saint Francis PA (2nd in NEC)
230. Lafayette (5th in Patriot)
231. Delaware (7th in CAA)
232. Jacksonville State (3rd in OVC)
233. Rice (12th in C-USA)
234. Valparaiso (10th in MVC)
235. Sam Houston State (2nd in Southland)
236. Little Rock (9th in Sun Belt)
237. North Dakota (7th in Summit)
238. Chattanooga (8th in Southern)
239. Morehead State (4th in OVC)
240. Appalachian State (10th in Sun Belt)
241. Fairleigh Dickinson (3rd in NEC)
242. Ohio (11th in MAC)
243. Manhattan (5th in MAAC)
244. Robert Morris (4th in NEC)
245. Sacred Heart (5th in NEC)
246. Austin Peay (5th in OVC)
247. UNC Wilmington (8th in CAA)
248. Charlotte (13th in C-USA)
249. Tennessee Martin (6th in OVC)
250. Milwaukee (8th in Horizon)
It’s been a long fall for Saint Joseph’s (No. 227) since its NCAA tournament berth in 2016, and after firing longtime coach Phil Martelli, new coach Billy Lange has to deal with the loss of the team’s top four scorers. Detroit-Mercy (No. 228) is ineligible for the 2020 postseason, but the Titans are worth checking out just for Antoine Davis, a 6’1” point guard with the greenest of lights as he chases his NBA dreams. Over in the NEC, conference player of the year Keith Braxton returns to make St. Francis PA (No. 229) a contender, but the Red Flashes will need to improve defensively. Getting Xavier transfer Elias Harden immediately eligible was big news for Jacksonville State (No. 232), which will hope to crash the Belmont–Murray State party in the OVC.
After an NIT appearance, Sam Houston State (No. 235) will turn to senior Kai Mitchell and transfers like JUCO guard Demarkus Lampley to keep the momentum going. Fairleigh Dickinson (No. 241) had to dial the tempo back from its usual pace last season, but the Knights lost two of their top three scorers from their NCAA tournament team (junior guard Jahlil Jenkins, though, is back). Austin Peay (No. 246) is another team that has potential to make noise in the OVC this year, especially if Terry Taylor (20.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg) can have another big season. After winning only eight games last season, Charlotte (No. 248) is hoping a plethora of new faces can help it avoid the C-USA basement.
251. Utah Valley (6th in WAC)
252. Lamar (3rd in Southland)
253. Monmouth (6th in MAAC)
254. Loyola-Md. (7th in Patriot)
255. Montana State (6th in Big Sky)
256. Eastern Illinois (7th in OVC)
257. Eastern Michigan (12th in MAC)
258. Arkansas State (11th in Sun Belt)
259. Hampton (6th in Big South)
260. William & Mary (9th in CAA)
261. Army (6th in Patriot)
262. IUPUI (9th in Horizon)
263. Western Illinois (8th in Summit)
264. Cornell (8th in Ivy)
265. Boston University (8th in Patriot)
266. Florida Gulf Coast (5th in Atlantic Sun)
267. UNC Asheville (7th in Big South)
268. Grambling State (1st in SWAC)
269. Canisius (7th in MAAC)
270. Sacramento State (7th in Big Sky)
271. Stephen F. Austin (4th in Southland)
272. East Carolina (11th in AAC)
273. UMass Lowell (5th in America East)
274. Kansas City (7th in WAC)
275. Eastern Kentucky (8th in OVC)
The most random program to land a coveted freshman, Loyola Maryland (No. 254) somehow snagged 6’10” freshman Santiago Aldama from Spain, the No. 65 recruit in the class of 2019. Aldama should make for a formidable interior presence in the Patriot League, alongside Andrew Kostecka, a 6’4” guard who averaged 21.3 points per game last season. In its first year in the Big South, Hampton (No. 259) held its own. Edward Joyner’s guys played a brand of basketball that would make a middle school coach cry tears of joy, as they rarely turned the ball over (8th-lowest rate in the country) and nailed 79.6% of their free throws, third best. Do-everything senior guard Jermaine Marrow is back, too, so don’t sleep on the Pirates.
Not every high-volume high-efficiency scorer has to be a guard. William & Mary (No. 260) relies an unhealthy amount on 6’10” senior center Nathan Knight, but Knight has been nothing but buckets for two years, and that should continue under new coach Dane Fischer. Boston University (No. 265) employs a similar strategy with its own senior center, Max Mahoney. Among super-high usage players, Mahoney was slightly ahead of Knight in offensive rating, per kenpom. UNC-Asheville (No. 267) could use that kind of efficiency out of shoot-first, shoot-second, shoot-always guard Devon Baker. The 6’2” one-man firing squad but up 33.6% of the Bulldogs’ shots as a freshman as they went 4-27. Now, all seven(!) freshmen who played rotation minutes last year are sophomores, so Mike Morrell should look to double that win total in his second year.
Grambling State (No. 268) may not win many non-conference games, but it’s the favorite to take the SWAC crown. Last year, the Tigers ranked fourth in the country in three-point percentage (40.2%), but 336th in three-point attempt rate. Take more threes! Right behind them in three-point attempt rate was East Carolina (No. 272), but at least the Pirates knew they couldn’t shoot, as their 28.4% mark ranked 349th in the nation. Last year, they notched one of the most-overlooked upsets of the season, taking down Cincinnati in January. They proceeded to lose 15 of their next 17 games. Eastern Kentucky (No. 275) didn’t win a ton of games last year either, but the Colonels at least had their own distinct style, running up wild scores with the second-fastest pace in the country under first-year coach A.W. Hamilton. Sophomore guard Jomaru Brown, second on the team with 14 points per game last year, is back to wreak more havoc.
276. Prairie View A&M (2nd in SWAC)
277. Saint Francis (NY) (6th in NEC)
278. UC Davis (6th in Big West)
279. Tulane (12th in AAC)
280. North Alabama (6th in Atlantic Sun)
281. High Point (8th in Big South)
282. Portland (9th in WCC)
283. Tennessee State (9th in OVC)
284. Southern Miss (14th in C-USA)
285. Northern Arizona (8th in Big Sky)
286. Bryant (7th in NEC)
287. Texas Southern (3rd in SWAC)
288. Navy (9th in Patriot)
289. Abilene Christian (5th in Southland)
290. Mount St. Mary’s (8th in NEC)
291. Pacific (10th in WCC)
292. Saint Peter’s (8th in MAAC)
293. UT Rio Grande Valley (8th in WAC)
294. Merrimack (9th in NEC)
295. Jacksonville (7th in Atlantic Sun)
296. Denver (9th in Summit)
297. Texas A&M Corpus Christi (6th in Southland)
298. Holy Cross (10th in Patriot)
299. The Citadel (9th in Southern)
300. Cleveland State (10th in Horizon)
The SWAC ran through Prairie View A&M (No. 276) last season, as it went 17–1 in conference play and won an NCAA tournament bid after starting the year 1–11. The Panthers lost three key seniors from a team that was 10th nationally in experience, but players like senior forward Devonte Patterson and senior guard Gerard Andrus could keep them contending atop the league. Tulane (No. 279) is still yearning for its first NCAA tournament since 1995 and quite unlikely to get there in 2020, but new coach Ron Hunter injects optimism into the program and already brought in pieces like Kansas transfer K.J. Lawson from the transfer market.
Texas Southern (No. 287) is playing its usual brutal non-conference road slate, but with a number of seniors gone, including SWAC POY Jeremy Combs, it may not be able to replicate last season’s success (when it beat the Oregon, Texas A&M and Baylor). Expect a step back from Abilene Christian (No. 289), which went to its first NCAA tournament but lost three starters and returns just 35.8% possession minutes, though that does include senior guard Payten Ricks. Despite not having any senior starters last year, a Cleveland State (No. 300) team that won just 10 games and fired Dennis Felton brings back only one starter, senior Jaalam Hill, thanks to a transfer exodus. It will be tough sledding for former FSU assistant Dennis Gates in Year 1.
301. SIU Edwardsville (10th in OVC)
302. Portland State (8th in Big Sky)
303. VMI (10th in Southern)
304. UC Riverside (7th in Big West)
305. Southeastern Louisiana (7th in Southland)
306. Troy (12th in Sun Belt)
307. Southeastern Missouri State (11th in OVC)
308. Long Beach State (8th in Big West)
309. Elon (10th in CAA)
310. Niagara (9th in MAAC)
311. Cal Poly (9th in Big West)
312. Central Arkansas (8th in Southland)
313. Nicholls State (9th in Southland)
314. Campbell (10th in Big South)
315. Marist (10th in MAAC)
316. Fairfield (11th in MAAC)
317. Houston Baptist (10th in Southland)
318. Idaho State (9th in Big Sky)
319. Presbyterian (9th in Big South)
320. North Carolina Central (1st in MEAC)
321. McNeese State (11th in Southland)
322. Central Connecticut (10th in NEC)
323. North Carolina A&T (2nd in MEAC)
324. San Jose State (11th in Mountain West)
325. Wagner (11th in NEC)
One of the easiest ways to steal free points is to draw a lot of fouls, but don’t tell UC Riverside (No. 304), which had the fourth-lowest free throw rate in the country last year and played at one of the nation’s slowest paces. A team that could’ve used the slowdown is Southeastern Louisiana (No. 305), which turned the ball over at the third-highest rate in the nation under the chaotic leadership of now-graduated 5’9” point guard Marlain Veal. Despite that chaos, the Lions won 17 games and coach Jay Ladner got a job at Southern Mississippi. Maybe David Kiefer can calm things down in his first year.
Elon (No. 309) is also under new leadership in Mike Schrage, who takes over for the fired Matt Matheny. Matheny had the Phoenix launching threes on half their possessions, but it only translated to 11 wins. Yet another program in coaching flux, Niagara (No. 310) just saw John Beilein’s son Pat resign for “personal reasons” and promoted Duke legend (and former Syracuse quarterback) Greg Paulus.
Campbell (No. 314) will miss not only 5’9” firebombing guard Chris Clemons, but also second-leading scorer Andrew Eudy. It’s safe to say with Clemons gone, the Camels won’t have their elite offense, though their defense may improve. Another team that could use a defensive jolt: Houston Baptist (No. 317). Ron Cottrell has run the Huskies since 1991-92, back when they were an NAIA program, and has had them playing fast ever since. A top-tier free throw rate pulled their offense to respectable levels, but a defense that never blocked any shots and allowed opponents to shoot 39.0% on threes made for a rough year.
North Carolina Central (No. 320) is the traditional powerhouse and frontrunner in the MEAC. Interior force Raasean Davis graduated, but LeVelle Moton has proven for years that the Eagles are the safest bet in this up-and-down conference. Don’t sleep, however, on North Carolina A&T (No. 323) giving them a battle this season. The Spartans of San Jose State (No. 324) might be able to hold their own in the MEAC. Alas, they play in the Mountain West, where they’ve won two conference games in two years. Ex-Wake Forest bench-warming center Samuel Japhet-Mathias is now eligible and could help them double that total this year.
326. USC Upstate (11th in Big South)
327. Tennessee Tech (12th in OVC)
328. Bethune Cookman (3rd in MEAC)
329. Northwestern State (12th in Southland)
330. Idaho (10th in Big Sky)
331. Norfolk State (4th in MEAC)
332. Jackson State (4th in SWAC)
333. Stetson (8th in Atlantic Sun)
334. Florida A&M (5th in MEAC)
335. Hartford (6th in America East)
336. Alabama State (5th in SWAC)
337. Howard (6th in MEAC)
338. Kennesaw State (9th in Atlantic Sun)
339. South Carolina State (7th in MEAC)
340. Binghamton (7th in America East)
341. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (6th in SWAC)
342. New Hampshire (8th in America East)
343. Maine (9th in America East)
344. Southern (7th in SWAC)
345. Incarnate Word (13th in Southland)
346. Coppin State (8th in MEAC)
347. Morgan State (9th in MEAC)
348. Alcorn State (8th in SWAC)
349. Alabama A&M (9th in SWAC)
350. Mississippi Valley State (10th in SWAC)
351. Delaware State (10th in MEAC)
352. Chicago State (9th in WAC)
353. Maryland Eastern Shore (11th in MEAC)
Cletrell Pope is back for Bethune Cookman (No. 328) after averaging a double double (14.1 points, 12.2 rebounds) last season, and together with guard Malik Maitland could help the Wildcats make a push in the MEAC. Idaho (No. 330) had the country’s second-worst defensive efficiency last season—only Incarnate Word (No. 345) checked in lower—which is the main reason it won just five games despite shooting 37.6% as a team from three. At least senior guard and leading scorer Trevon Allen is back.
Hartford (No. 335) was the most experienced team in the country last season and started five seniors, who, naturally, are now all gone. Transfers will look to plug the gap for the Hawks, including a name you might know: Malik Ellison, former player for both Pitt and St. John’s and son of former NBA No. 1 pick Pervis Ellison. The country’s least-efficient offense last season belonged to New Hampshire (No. 342), which collectively shot under 40% inside the arc and got a higher percentage of its points from three than anyone. Still, the Wildcats have some intriguing young pieces that could pay off down the road, like sophomores Jayden Martinez and Nick Guadarrama.
Mississippi Valley State (No. 350), Kennesaw State (No. 338) and Delaware State (No. 351) earned the not-wanted distinction of finishing as the bottom three in the country, respectively, in effective field goal percentage, and only the Owls are likely in for even moderately better times ahead thanks to the return of senior Tyler Hooker (19 ppg).
Someone has to be last, right? UMES (No. 353) didn’t beat a Division I opponent until Jan. 19 last season, finishing with the third-least efficient offense in the country and one of the 15-worst defenses. New coach Jason Crafton will hope to start a turnaround, and inherits a decent number of returning pieces.