Ranking the 10 Best Teams for 2021-22 College Basketball

By Dan Vasta in Sports
| August 23, 2021 5:59 am PDT

The college basketball season always picks up momentum once the college football season is over in January.

The games become even more relevant to the national audience after the Super Bowl is complete. That is when you get a grasp on who the top teams are.

Ranking teams in the preseason becomes even tougher of a challenge. I love projecting ahead by focusing on who is most worthy of being highly regarded with the success they are bringing back from the previous season.

With an eye on the 2021-22 season, here are my top 10 college basketball team rankings.

10. Baylor Bears

The defending champions deserve a spot on the list. Scott Drew is one of the best coaches in America and made it official last season.

While they lost playmakers at guard, they have enough in the arsenal to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The Big 12 will be loaded again, but the Bears should continue being a relevant ranked squad even if their play suffers slightly in the 2021-22 season.

9. Purdue Boilermakers

Matt Painter is entering his 17th season as the head coach in West Lafayette, and he has had some close calls in the NCAA Tournament. Purdue is so close to reaching its first Final Four since 1980!

Purdue lost to Virginia in overtime during their epic 2019 Elite 8 battle.

They allowed a buzzer-beater to force overtime and eventually came up short. Purdue has lost to great teams in the tournament over the years.

Painter has his entire team back from last season, which had a disappointing round of 64 loss to North Texas. If the likes of Trevion Williams and Jaden Ivey can take that next step, they realistically will challenge for the Big Ten title and a Final Four berth.

8. Duke Blue Devils

Mike Krzyzewski enters the final season of his illustrious coaching career in Durham. Duke is trying to become the fourth program with six-plus national titles.

They have had some disappointment over the years after hauling in top recruiting classes for nearly the past decade.

Duke specifically brings in Paulo Banchero, who is, um, good.

They have a non-conference that features Gonzaga, Ohio State, and Kentucky. All three could be Top 10 squads this season.

The gauntlet of a schedule should help propel them towards a deep NCAA run after missing out on the dance last season.

7. Arkansas Razorbacks

The Razorbacks are thrilled to have Eric Musselman as their head coach. He nearly took them to their first Final Four since 1995!

Their ability to score with their quick guards was impressive last season.

Arkansas added former Miami guard Chris Lykes. Lykes went basket for basket with UNC guard Coby White three years ago. Lykes is a walking bucket and will not need to dominate as he did in the ACC.

JD Notae and Davonte Davis are two solid, experienced scorers that return from last season. The Razorbacks should be one of the most exciting squads in America.

They also hauled in Au’diese Toney, a former Pitt Panther. The number of weapons this team will throw at you is what makes them so potent.

6. Michigan Wolverines

Michigan is trying to carry the flag for the struggles that the Big Ten has had. The conference is still in search of its first national title since 2000.

Will Michigan finally put an end to the Big Ten national title drought?

  • 2000 – Last Big Ten national title
  • 1989 – Michigan’s last championship

Juwan Howard and the Wolverines could be the top squad to put an end to the nightmare.

Hauling in a few five-star prospects will help, but the return of Eli Brooks and Hunter Dickinson was huge.

Brooks is a tremendous perimeter defender that connects on outside shots. The athletic guard can play the point and distribute it to all his teammates.

Dickinson had issues with foul trouble last year, which often cost Michigan in their premier games. Another year in college will help with the growth, and the 7-footer could carry his squad to the Final Four.

5. Villanova Wildcats

Jay Wright is one fine coach, but he has needed some star talents to take him deep into the tournament. There are plenty of shooters returning for the Wildcats this season.

Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore are lethal from the outside.

The bench will be full of solid shooters as well, but the return of Jermaine Samuels could turn this team into Final Four contention.

Their role players have always come up big for them.

Look for more of the same with Bryan Antoine, Caleb Daniels, Chris Arcidiacono, and Brandon Slater. This quartet will be the next group to have their chance to shine. The Big East is a bit of a mess after Nova, so Jay Wright will once again feast on the competition and likely impress heading into Selection Sunday.

4. Texas Longhorns

Shaka Smart had his best Longhorn team last season. They received a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament but had a forgettable performance in their round of 64 loss to Abilene Christian.

Smart is gone, and now Chris Beard is in town. Beard is one of the better tournament coaches due to his stifling in-your-face defense. The bevy of guards they will have in Austin will make their football program jealous.

Texas could have their most talented backcourt in decades. Landing Marcus Carr from Minnesota is why they are ranked so high in the top 10.

Had they not landed the future NBA player, they would be a fringe Top 20 squad like they often are. This team could bring the most hype and results to the program since the Rick Barnes era.

3. Kansas Jayhawks

The Big 12 continued their winning ways with another national title thanks to Baylor.

Kansas has come up short the past decade-plus due to shooting woes in the NCAA Tournament. They have their most experienced team returning in years for Bill Self.

He’s helped the Jayhawks to some dominant showings. Look at how they’ve fared in terms of seeding since 2001.

  • #1 seed – 9 times
  • #2 seed – 4 times
  • #3 or #4 seed – 7 times

The amount of success Kansas has had in the regular season since 2001 is remarkable.

They are the model of consistency as a program before March. The Jayhawks have dominated the Big 12, and we will likely see them as a top-four seed for the 21st straight season.

2. UCLA Bruins

The Bruins nearly missed the tournament and almost lost in the play-in round against Michigan State. They were trailing for the majority of that game, but Johnny Juzang took over.

That was a foreshadowing moment for the program. Juzang went on to have an epic tournament that was full of virtuoso performances.

Juzang averaged 22.8 points per game in the tournament. UCLA needed every basket he gave them down the stretch since every matchup went down to the wire.

Nearly upsetting Gonzaga after they had already won three games over single-digit seeds was remarkable. I was unsure if they could have gotten past BYU but then knocked off Alabama and Michigan along the way.

The experience will be there for the Bruins this season. Mick Cronin has a chance to dominate the Pac-12 and turn the program into a consistent national threat if they put together a great regular season.

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Mark Few and the Bulldogs were close to becoming the first undefeated team since the Indiana Hoosiers in 1975-76. Gonzaga nearly pulled off a perfect season until they ran into the buzzsaw that was Baylor.

Three key players return from the 2020-21 squad. Andrew Nembhard was the starting point guard and averaged nearly double-digit points.

Anton Watson was a backup forward that provided additional scoring and rebounding when he played.

The key returnee is Drew Timme due to his scoring ability in the post. He can be a finesse nightmare matchup with the guard-like skills that he uses on the perimeter.

He can face up towards the basket and put the ball on the deck. Timme is an albatross to prepare for and could be the top choice to win AP Player of the Year.

Gonzaga is far from done as they also bring in the top-prized recruit, Chet Holmgren. Gonzaga has another elite team on paper entering the season, and this could finally be their year to win it all.

Other Top College Basketball Teams For 2021-22

  • Florida State
  • Alabama
  • North Carolina

The number of other options that I could have chosen for the top 10 college basketball teams in 2021-22 is truly endless.

Kentucky is a program that should be relevant after missing the dance last year. However, I prefer talking about the job Nate Oats has done with Alabama. They have enough talent at guard to be another premier contender in the SEC.

Florida State and North Carolina should be two of the better teams in the ACC with the amount of talent they have returning. The Tar Heels stockpiled a few productive grad transfers that should ease the transition from Roy Williams to Hubert Davis.

Leonard Hamilton has built a tremendous niche in Tallahassee, and it is only a matter of time before they get to the program’s first Final Four since 1972.

These all look like great choices entering the season, but there will be hundreds of changes throughout the season until March rolls along.

College basketball is always full of excitement and will keep us on our toes until the ball stops bouncing in April.

To get ready for the new year, check out our college basketball head coach rankings for 2021-22.

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