With the season less than a week away, one of the final pieces of our preseason package is among the prettiest — and most hotly debated. As we always do right around this time of year, it’s time to give you a map of college basketball’s landscape.
The 2022-23 version represents my forecast for which team will be the best in its state over the next five months. Some states (Wyoming, Vermont, Maine, Hawaii) lack for drama, as they have no competition and get the same logo every year. Others (California, Texas, New York) are loaded with Division I programs and a privy to a map makeover every autumn.
Since Alaska does not have a Division I team, the best team in 49 states and the District of Columbia gives us 50 teams highlighted in these United States of College Basketball. (You may have to squint for Delaware, Rhode Island and D.C.) Below, you’ll find a pithy summary on the state of each state and why the teams that won out were chosen.
Each of the teams correspond to where they land in my Top 100 And 1 rankings, which you can read here.
State of the state: For the first time in a long time, the Yellowhammer State has a claim to three of the 40 best teams in men’s college basketball. Auburn, the state’s best team a season ago, is ranked 15th in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, while UAB received a vote. (All three are ranked in my top 40; UAB is my pick to win Conference USA.) It should be the Tide who emerge as the strongest basketball team this year. Know the name Brandon Miller. The 6-foot-8 freshman could be the key for a team with plenty of juniors and seniors to take a leap and compete alongside Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas in the SEC.
State of the state: There’s only four D-I programs in the Grand Canyon State, and in most years U of A has a comfortable stranglehold on the top spot. That will be the case again in 2022-23, thanks to ASU projected to be middle-of-the-pack at best in the Pac-12. Arizona lost three first-round NBA Draft picks but brings back C Azuolas Tubelis, PG Kerr Kriisa, SG Pelle Larsson, in addition to Texas SG/longtime starter Courtney Ramey. Arizona will again trade jabs with UCLA for Pac-12 supremacy.
Arkansas: Arkansas Razorbacks
State of the state: Huge gap between the Hogs and Arkansas State, which ranks 273rd at KenPom.com. Eric Musselman’s got a young team and a bunch of guys who are still learning each other’s full names; 11 players joined the program in the offseason. Still, if the talent jells, Arkansas is going to be scary-good, thanks to its trio of freshman five-star additions: SG Nick Smith Jr., PG Anthony Black and SF/PF Jordan Walsh.
California: UCLA Bruins
State of the state: The Golden State has more Division I programs (26) than any other. The competition for which team will be best this season could be competitive. UCLA wins out, but narrowly, over another team I’ve rated higher in the preseason than any other mainstream outlet. I put San Diego State eighth in my Top 100 And 1, just two spots behind Mick Cronin’s Bruins, who rightfully get top billing thanks to returning two All American-level players (PG Tyger Campbell, SF Jaime Jaquez Jr.). UCLA enrolled two five-star freshmen (SG Amari Bailey, C Adem Bona) who will help keep the Bruins nationally relevant and in search of the program’s 20th Final Four.
State of the state: Because point guard Isaiah Stevens is dealing with a foot injury that will keep him out until at least January, this feels like a toss-up between the Rams and Colorado Buffaloes. Niko Medved’s CSU squad is not to be underestimated and should still make noise in the Mountain West (an at-large bid seems doable, even if the climb will be steep). Meantime, Colorado will be led by 6-10 junior Tristan da Silva, who was voted as one of the 10 best players in the Pac-12 in the preseason.
Connecticut: UConn Huskies
State of the state: The other six D-I programs in the state (soon to be five; Hartford is on its way to D-III) can only hope to be in megaphone-shouting distance of UConn in most seasons, and that’ll almost certainly be the case again this season. Yale or Sacred Heart will probably wind up being No. 2. UConn is one of four teams (Villanova, Creighton, Xavier) considered capable of winning the Big East. The Huskies will have injury issues early but may grow into a formidable and durable outfit with preseason Big East POY Adama Sanogo manning the middle and 6-6 Andre Jackson being handed de facto point guard duties.
Delaware: Delaware Blue Hens
State of the state: Martin Inglesby’s UD crew made a run to the NCAAs after finishing fourth in the CAA regular season last season. They’re ranked third in the preseason and sit the same in KenPom’s forecast (175th overall). The Diamond State’s only other D-I program is Delaware State, which enters the season 362 out of 363 teams at KenPom.
Florida: Miami Hurricanes
State of the state: The tightest three-team race on the map. I’ve got The U barely ahead of Florida and Florida State in my rankings — all of them in the top of the 30s. They’re similarly placed in the preseason AP Top 25, where none of the three cracked into the rankings. Jim Larrañaga, fresh off the second Elite Eight trip of his career, returns combo guard Isaiah Wong and brought aboard one of the best shooters on the transfer market, Nijel Pack. Florida will try to make an NCAA push under new coach Todd Golden. Florida State is in its third decade under Leonard Hamilton and got a recent/unnecessary setback with the news that Spanish big Baba Miller will have to sit the first 16 games of the season.
State of the state: Basketball in the Peach State has to get better ASAP. The team I’ve got atop the pile won six games last season, fired its coach and hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2002. So think about how bad that makes Georgia Tech look! The Yellow Jackets aren’t expected to be competitive for an NIT appearance, even. As for UGA, Mike White is now in charge and he could conceivably pull that program out of its canyon-sized rut in the next half-decade.
Hawaii: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
State of the state: The only D-I program in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For Hawaii (which could emerge as the Big West’s best team), it’s all about making sure you’ve got the right coach that not only can win there but doesn’t have designs on getting off the island as quickly as possible. Eran Ganot has guided this program since 2015, and in June, he signed a three-year extension through April 2026. He’s 114-77.
State of the state: As usual, a comfortable lead on Idaho and Idaho State for BSU. The Broncos made the NCAAs in March, their third trip under Leon Rice. This team should have one of the best small forwards in mid-major basketball, 6-7 Tyson Degenhart (9.9 ppg, 41.7 3-pt%), playing alongside veteran point guard Marcus Shaver.
State of the state: Once thought to merely be a worthy Big Ten contender heading into the season, Brad Underwood’s team has grown into a chic pick to win the league outright. Transfers Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech) and Matthew Mayer (Baylor) will have significant say in whether that becomes reality. Illinois comfortably rates ahead of all others in their state this season, with Loyola Chicago taking second and Northwestern third on the preseason podium. DePaul, Southern Illinois and Bradley could all be in for uplifting campaigns, too.
State of the state: Controversial choice outside of West Lafayette. Indiana is, at the very least, the more popular pick to finish ahead of Purdue in the Big Ten. I think the margins are thin. Between Purdue and IU, the Hoosiers have the better player (Trayce Jackson-Davis), but the less-proven coach. Ultimately, I’m trusting Matt Painter more in Year 19 than I am Mike Woodson in Year 2. Both teams have sights set on good NCAA Tournament seeds and second-weekend runs. (More can be found here at our Big Ten preview.) The team most likely to be No. 3 is Notre Dame, which has a lot of reliable producers returning and should be a factor in the ACC.
State of the state: I might be the biggest fader of ’22-23 Iowa out there, but even in spite of that I don’t think Drake or Iowa State are going to be good enough to lay claim to the state this season. Drake is the overwhelming favorite in the Missouri Valley, but Iowa has enough on the roster and has claimed an NCAA Tournament roster four years running. It should be the best team in this state. Have to trust Fran McCaffery will again have a team that ranks top 20 nationally in points per possession, which has been the case the last five years.
State of the state: The reigning national champions — and their Hall of Fame coach, who will not be on the sidelines for the first four games — reside here. The Jayhawks did lose more than 60% of their minutes from a season ago, but Kansas State will start anew under first-year coach Jerome Tang. Wichita State is going to try to keep its head above water in the top half of the American Athletic Conference. Kansas is ranked top 10 in the preseason and will look to fend off Baylor and Texas atop the Big 12.
Kentucky: Kentucky Wildcats
State of the state: John Calipari’s team is easily the best in the Bluegrass State this season, but all the more after Louisville lost by 10 in an exhibition against a D-II program that didn’t have its two best players. Could be a frightful season for Cardinals fans. Even prior to that, I had Western Kentucky comfortably ahead of U of L here. Kentucky is a universal preseason top-10 team in the minds of voters and algorithms of computers. The Cats are focused on winning the SEC, getting to the Final Four for the first time in eight years and attempting to win a national title for the first time in 11 years.
Louisiana: LSU Tigers
State of the state: Rare is the year when LSU isn’t the obvious pick around these parts, but there’s a healthy non-zero chance that this projection winds up being wrong. That’s because Tulane, which returns five starters, could have its best team in more than a decade. For now, I’ll latch my wagon to the only power-conference program in the Sugar State. Matt McMahon replaces Will Wade. LSU did well for itself in the portal, too. Its NCAA Tournament chances might not be as good as Tulane’s, but it should have the (slightly) better team if the new faces pan out.
State of the state: Maine has a new coach, Chris Markwood, who at the very least is familiar with the program and gives Maine a chance at some future success in the America East. Markwood played for Maine and spent five seasons as an assistant there. Because of its remote location and hockey-school reputation, it’s one of the toughest jobs in the sport.
State of the state: Seldom does the Old Line State have a competitive race for its top team. This season, Towson’s within arm’s reach. The Tigers are the big preseason favorites in the CAA. Maryland, meantime, starts a new regime under Kevin Willard and might be the toughest-to-peg team in the Big Ten. The Terps have to be regarded as the strongest team in this state heading into the season, but their regular-season win total feels like it could finish anywhere between 14 and 24 wins.
State of the state: A year ago, BC ranked below Harvard, UMass and Northeastern on the Mass map. But I’m on the record as bullish over Boston College’s prospects in Earl Grant’s second season in Chestnut Hill. The Eagles probably won’t make the NCAAs, but they’re poised to move north after a 13-win campaign last season. On the small-school end in the Old Colony State, Merrimack could be the best team in the NEC.
State of the state: No guarantee Michigan winds up being better than Michigan State, but because the Wolverines have Hunter Dickinson they get the nod heading into the season. Juwan Howard’s program is looking for more consistency after only having one three-game winning streak last season, which nonetheless saw UM get to the Sweet 16. Dickinson is a preseason All-America selection and will be one of the faces of the sport. Michigan State has the pieces and the coaching to emerge as a Big Ten contender, but Tom Izzo’s team will have a lot to prove and a brutal schedule to prove it against in the first six weeks.
State of the state: Readers of this space will recall that a year ago Minnesota finally became a two-school state for Division I basketball. St. Thomas is now in the ranks and a member of the Summit League. Ben Johnson’s Gophers are expected to be in the cellar of the Big Ten, though the team could be entertaining thanks to a pair of dynamic forwards: Dawson Garcia transferred to where he grew up, and senior Jamison Battle came back and should shine.
State of the state: Kermit Davis will have an outside shot at making the NCAA tourney for a second time with Mississippi so long as junior SG Matthew Murrell (12.1 ppg) turns into one of the best scorers in the SEC. The Rebels figure to have a little room ahead of Mississippi State this season, as the Bulldogs are projected to be a lower-tier SEC team in their first season under Chris Jans.
State of the state: For the second year in a row, SLU gets its logo plastered across the Show Me State. That prognostication came true last season, as the 23-12 Billikens finished ahead of 12-21 Missouri in every metric. Travis Ford’s Saint Louis squad gets all-important wing Javonte Perkins back after missing last season and will vie with Dayton to win the Atlantic 10, while Missouri begins anew with first-year coach Dennis Gates, who was hired from Cleveland State.
State of the state: We’ve got a changing of the guard in Big Sky country. The Grizzlies of Montana have been the better program for most of the past 10 years, but Montana State is the preseason pick to win the Big Sky conference this season after Danny Sprinkle’s team won the league and the auto bid in March. If Montana State can meet preseason expectations, it will mark the first time in school history the Bobcats make the NCAAs in back-to-back seasons.
Nebraska: Creighton Bluejays
State of the state: Creighton and Nebraska are veering in opposite directions. The Cornhuskers are mired in mediocrity under Fred Hoiberg and seek a way out and into the middle part of the Big Ten. Creighton meanwhile is the projected favorite in the Big East and has a chance to field its best team in school history. The Bluejays have size, experience, athleticism, defense, wanting passers and an experienced coach. A huge year seemingly awaits in Omaha.
Nevada : UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
State of the state: It’s always either UNLV or Nevada displayed on the map here, as those are the only two D-I programs in the Battle Born State. Last year, Nevada had bragging rights, but I’m expecting Vegas to narrowly nudge past its rivals in Reno by the time we finish up February. Because of Elijah Harkless and Jordan McCabe manning the backcourt, the Rebels narrowly broke through in my Top 100 And 1.
State of the state: We’ve been doing our annual map of the US of College Basketball since 2015 (making this our eighth cartographical endeavor) and this marks only the second time the Big Green have superseded their only Granite State competitor, the University of New Hampshire. That said, times aren’t a-boomin’ up in NH. Dartmouth was picked seventh in the Ivy League and UNH was the same in the America East.
State of the state: Saint Peter’s proved to be kings of the Garden State last season, making an unforgettable run to the Elite Eight as a No. 15 seed. As we turn to ’22-23, Steve Pikiell’s Rutgers team has to be considered the strongest. RU’s Cliff Omoruyi is one of the most underrated bigs in the country, and Caleb McConnell comfortably rates among the best defenders in the sport. With Shaheen Holloway going from Saint Peter’s to his alma mater, Seton Hall, the Pirates may need a year to recalibrate. Rutgers has NCAA Tournament expectations and is the only D-I school of the eight in New Jersey where that is objectively true this season.
State of the state: The drought is finally set to end. For the past eight years, New Mexico State has laid a claim to having a superior team and/or season than their hated rivals three hours north. Richard Pitino’s program is probably a year away from being in the NCAA Tournament conversation, but I think this is going to be a flip-it season. UNM went 13-19 last season; a 19-win push seems plausible. NMSU will again be a factor in the WAC, but under a new head coach it should take a step back.
State of the state: Johnnies fans, here is your moment. This is a first! In the past seven years of making the United States of College Basketball, only Syracuse or St. Bonaventure got their logos on display. But with Syracuse coming off the first sub-.500 season of Jim Boeheim’s life and with the Bonnies losing significant pieces, Mike Anderson’s Red Storm are looking like the Empire State’s best basketball outfit. Posh Alexander and Andre Curbelo will try to get the Johnnies into the NCAA Tournament, where the program hasn’t won a game since 2000. Team who could have the highest win total by March: Colgate. Matt Langel’s Raiders won 23 or more games in the three most recent seasons with a complete or mostly complete schedule.
State of the state: There are UNC fans who want me to put that ram logo on this state permanently, considering what UNC did to end Mike Krzyzewski’s career. It’s a compelling argument; Carolina fans will forever have those final two Ws over K to hold over Duke’s head in perpetuity. For this year at least, UNC is the easy pick. The Tar Heels are the preseason AP No. 1 for the 10th time, the most in history. Duke gets underway in the Jon Scheyer Era. We’re all curious to see what that’s going to look like. The state would be helped if a third team could get within shouting distance of these two, and maybe that happens by the mid-2020s, but for now NC State is third on the podium and doesn’t project as a top-70 team in advanced metrics.
State of the state: This remains Bison country. Dave Richman quietly has won 19 or more games in six of his eight seasons, and he’ll go seven-for-nine when NDSU wraps in March.
Ohio: Xavier Musketeers
State of the state: A fun four-team race among the four biggest programs. Xavier, Dayton, Ohio State and Cincinnati all have designs on making the NCAAs in 2023. I’m thinking at least one of those teams will come up short, but at least the hoops are good in the Buckeye State these days. Toledo and Kent State are 1-2 in the MAC (pick your order), and Akron’s No. 3. Ohio and Wright State remain respectable (at the very least) mid-major outfits. But I’ll say Xavier makes moves right away under Sean Miller and edges out Dayton (barely) as the top team. Ohio State has major questions and Cincinnati is a year away from the big bump.
State of the state: After a postseason ban handed down by the NCAA derailed OSU’s 2021-22 season, the Cowboys will be roaring out of the gate. Mike Boynton has no doubt used the ban as gasoline on a fire all offseason, and I expect the Cowboys to work their way into the 2023 Big Dance. Oklahoma shouldn’t be far behind, but Porter Moser in Year 2 and still figuring a few things out, it’s only fair to slot Oklahoma State slightly ahead. Optimism will abound in this state, as the other two programs have one of the best scorers in the sport (Oral Roberts’ Max Abmas) and a new coach (Eric Konkol takes over at Tulsa after averaging better than 20 wins per year at Louisiana Tech).
State of the state: The Ducks are clearly No. 1, but there’s no guarantee Oregon State will be second-best of the four teams in the Beaver State. The team won three games last season. Portland, meanwhile, won 19 and brings back more of its roster than any team in the country, according to BartTorvik.com (91.7% of its minutes). The Pilots are the mid-major sleeper nobody is talking about. Oregon’s ranked 21st in the preseason AP poll, a firm No. 3 in the Pac-12 pecking order behind UCLA and Arizona.
Pennsylvania: Villanova Wildcats
State of the state: Jay Wright’s retirement leaves a hole in college basketball, a gulf in the Big East and a void in Philadelphia basketball. Villanova is now coached by Kyle Neptune. It’s a banged up roster. And yet, nobody seems even close to VU in this state. Penn State is improving and Temple could be tricky. But Pitt is still a mess and Saint Joseph’s still hasn’t found its way under Billy Lange. Villanova’s had a grip on the Big East for almost a decade, and now that will be challenged with Wright no longer stalking the sidelines.
Rhode Island: Providence Friars
State of the state: There could be some battle lines redrawn in the years to come if Archie Miller can revive Rhode Island hoops, but this is still a Friars state. Ed Cooley has to figure out a lot due to heavy turnover, but his team won the Big East regular season (for the first time) and is forecast as a bubble candidate. Down at Bryant, the Bulldogs will try to be the troublemakers in their new conference, the America East.
South Carolina: Clemson Tigers
State of the state: My top three here are unchanged from a year ago: Clemson, then Furman, then South Carolina. That said, because Furman is the preseason favorite in the SoCon, the Paladins have the best shot at March happiness. Clemson will try to overcome modest preseason expectations and save Brad Brownell’s job in a critical year. South Carolina will have the must-see player in the state, former five-star prospect GG Jackson. In the Big South, Winthrop should be a force.
State of the state: The Jackrabbits were picked second in the Summit League, behind Oral Roberts, but also a spot ahead of the South Dakota Coyotes. Eric Henderson’s SDSU team has a lot of experience and will try to win back-to-back conference championships.
Tennessee : Tennessee Volunteers
State of the state: Calling the state of Tennessee for Memphis last season was a misfire. The Vols were definitively the best team in their state and probably will do it again. Rick Barnes’ team looked ready for primetime in their recent exhibition runaway against Gonzaga. That’s a program doing a lot right — it just needs to win more games in March. Memphis sets up as the No. 2 team in the American to Houston and will dance again if its defense can be A-level. Vanderbilt will probably edge Belmont as the third-best team in the state this season.
Texas: Houston Cougars
State of the state: The Lone Star State has a basketball pedigree that still doesn’t get its due. Houston, Baylor, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and North Texas will all earn NCAA Tournament bids this season if they play up to assumptions from the media and even the coaches in those leagues. The best of the bunch — narrowly — is Houston, which has elevated to a status of national title contender. Considering what the program was through the 1990s, 2000s and the first half of the 2010s, it’s a miraculous thing Kelvin Sampson’s pulled off. Baylor is my pick to win the Big 12, and I think Texas edges Kansas for second. TCU’s never been ranked so highly in the preseason, while Texas A&M was the best team to miss the NCAAs last season. Texas Tech is coming off a Sweet 16 appearance, and North Texas could take C-USA.
Utah: BYU Cougars
State of the state: It’s BYU as the face of the Beehive State for the fourth year in a row, but if Utah can find a groove under Craig Smith in Year 2, it will have a shot to reclaim this region in 2023. Mark Pope’s Cougars were picked third in the WCC and will probably be a bubble team. Elsewhere, Utah State seems like the clear-cut third-best team in the state and should finish in the top half of the Mountain West.
State of the state: No in-state competition for UVM, which yet again is the favorite in the America East. Vermont is understandably being given the benefit of the doubt after losing more than half of its roster to graduation or transfer.
State of the state: The Hokies of Virginia Tech were the better team last season in the Old Dominion, but the expectation within the ACC is Tony Bennett getting the Cavaliers back to their typical spot thanks to a bounty of returning juniors, seniors and redshirt seniors. Virginia Tech, VCU, Liberty, Longwood and Norfolk State all have hopes of dancing in March thanks to where they’re projected to end up in their respective leagues.
Washington: Gonzaga Bulldogs
State of the state: The last time a team not named Gonzaga was the best program here was 2011, and it was Washington. The Zags own the Pacific Northwest and may continue to do so until Mark Few retires. With Drew Timme back for his senior season, the Bulldogs have intentions on another 30-plus win season and a Final Four run. In the Pac-12, Washington State is a tempting NCAA Tournament candidate, and Washington could be the sleeper choice in the conference if that defense molds properly.
Washington, D.C.: Georgetown Hoyas
State of the District: Even if Georgetown isn’t regarded as a top-100 team by any mainstream metric, the Hoyas still are easily ahead of D.C.’s three other teams inside that territory: George Washington, American and Howard. Question is if Patrick Ewing can keep his job and get Georgetown to be a factor in the Big East this season a year after an abysmal six-win campaign.
State of the state: The Mountaineers made noise over the weekend, landing Manhattan transfer Jose Perez, who was the MAAC preseason Player of the Year. Then Manhattan fired its coach less than two weeks before the season, Perez transferred, and adding him could give WVU a nudge up in the Big 12 hierarchy. Over at Marshall, the Thundering Herd are part of a new-look Sun Belt that has 14 teams. Marshall looks to be among the three or four best in that one-bid league.
State of the state: Rare is the year when neither Wisconsin or Marquette make the NCAA Tournament, but that seems plausible in 2023. Marquette was picked ninth in the Big East preseason poll and will look for someone to step into a starring role. Wisconsin sets up as a better team, though labeling Bucky as anything better than, say, sixth in the Big Ten this season is a tough sell. That said, Greg Gard’s managed to exceed expectations in years past, and Shaka Smart got Marquette into the NCAAs in his first year. Underestimate at your own risk.
State of the state: Despite the sport bloating to 363 teams this year, Wyoming remains one of one in D-I in the Equality State. Jeff Linder took a team predicted to be eighth in the Mountain West last season and made the NCAA Tournament. The Cowboys could be top-two good in the league this year, led by Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike.
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