After the cancellation of 2020’s March Madness due to the coronavirus pandemic, most sports fans were looking forward to filling their brackets out and indulging in hours of college basketball this time around. While the Baylor Bears took the title, teams like Houston, Loyola-Chicago and Oral Roberts made some major runs upsetting top seeds.
Looking ahead to the 2021-22 season may be far-fetched with the NBA Draft months from now and the transfer portal filling up. Not to mention, the NCAA is allowing players an extra year of eligibility. So, here's my best take on the upcoming men's college basketball season.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
After a nearly undefeated season, the Bulldogs fell short 16 points to the Baylor Bears in the national championship game a few weeks ago. The Bulldogs will lose two of their big three with Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert declaring for the NBA Draft. The big man, Drew Timme may return, but if not, the trio would still leave behind some key players.
Outside of one returning starter (Andrew Nembhard who averaged about nine points) the bench played a dominant role for the Bulldogs throughout the season. Reserves Anton Watson, Julian Strawther and Dominick Harris will have to step up to fill those big shoes. Hopefully, their post-season experience will help the five-star incoming freshman Hunter Sallis, get acclimated to the spotlight that the Bulldogs end up in year after year.
2. UCLA Bruins
The Bruins will use their March Madness momentum to catapult them past several top 25 teams early next season. However, it’s hard to think about how successful they could be without one of their leading scorers in Johnny Juzang, who scored 14 points or more throughout the NCAA tournament. However, even when the Bruins lost their second-leading scorer, Chris Smith just eight games into last season, they bounced back. With the possibility that Smith returns next season, he’d join rising juniors Jamie Jáquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell who had great performance in the NCAA tournament.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes were a top-10 seed for the majority of the season, but scoring inconsistencies ended up plaguing them throughout the post-season. Those woes came to end when their season was cut short by the No. 15 Oral Roberts in the first round of the NCAA tournament. However, their leading scorer in Duane Washington Jr., averaging 16.4 points is set to return. Despite the rising junior and starter E.J. Liddell entering his name in the draft, he could still return for another year.
OSU is set to receive Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler. The 6’7” guard will join the long and lanky forward Zed Key standing at 6’8”.
4. Michigan Wolverines
Head Coach Juwan Howard has got a tough road ahead of him as five of his top 7 players are seniors. With the draft coming up and an extra year of eligibility, it is tough to determine what this Michigan team will look like. The former captain, Eli Brooks is taking advantage of the extra year of eligibilty and will return to the squad.
The Wolverines will most likely lose Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner to the NBA but have already clinched the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. Incoming freshmen Caleb Houstan, Moussa Diabate, Frankie Collins and Kobe Bufkin will have some pressure on their shoulders after the Wolverines elite eight appearance and 23-5 record last season.
5. Baylor Bears
The Bears are another team that will most likely lose most of their backcourt. This isn’t just any ol’ backcourt either, because without Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell and MaCio Teague, the Bears might not had won the NCAA national championship. Combined Butler, Mitchell and Teague averaged 46.6 points per game, which is more than half of the team’s 82.9 points scored per game.
Head Coach Scott Drew will be preparing for a new look to their lineup, but thankfully have the bench power to do so with the rising junior Adam Flagler on the perimeter, alongside Matthew Mayer and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. Five-star recruits Kendall Brown and Langston Love should also be geared up to make an immediate impact for the reigning champs.
6. Duke Blue Devils
The Blue Devils are coming off of one their worst seasons record-wise in a long time. They ended their season 13-11 and didn’t play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995, but are expected to turn things around for the 2021-2022 season. Rising junior Matthew Hurt recently announced his plans of entering the NBA draft, leaving some young guys and an impressive transfer.
The Blue Devils are welcoming a Marquette graduate transfer in Theo John who is a skilled post player and defensive threat with great length. Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski will also welcome a powerhouse recruiting class in five-stars Paola Banchero and AJ Griffin, son of former NBA player Adrian Griffin.
7. Maryland Terrapins
Head coach Mark Turgeon’s 2021-2022 season looks promising after securing Georgetown post player Qudus Wahab and Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell. With the Big Ten Defensive player of the Year Darryl Morsell possibility leaving for the draft, three starters will remain. Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Donta Scott have all contributed to the team’s success this past season where they have each led the team in scoring. That’s what I like most about the Terps, on any given night a different player could have a breakout game and lead their team to a W.
8. Purdue Boilermakers
Two big overtime losses were unfortunately the Boilermakers fate this past season. During the Big Ten tournament, they fell to the Buckeyes in a 87-78 overtime loss and then were upset by North Texas in the first round of the NCAA tournament in a 78-69 overtime loss.
The Boilermakers had no seniors on their roster last season which leaves their star post player in Trevion Williams, who averaged about 16 points. Their rising sophomore Jaden Ivey is also expected to grow his game further after averaging 11 points as a freshman. Those two alone should be hungry for some wins next season after their season was cut shorter than they intended.
9. Alabama Crimson Tide
SEC coach of the year Nates Oats transformed his Roll Tide squad into a Sweet 16 team in just two seasons. With plans of returning both leading scorers in Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly, Oats’ team should see similar success next season, especially with the addition of top-10 incoming freshman JD Davison.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
After securing a lifetime contract with Kansas this season, Bill Self will look to prepare his team for another tournament appearance. There’s a possibility that Self may lose Ochai Agbaji to the NBA along with senior Marcus Garrett, but two double digit scorers are expected to return in David McCormack and Jalen Wilson. Consistency is the name of the game for the Jayhawks. Towards the end of last season, we saw them at their peak after winning eight of their last 10 regular season games, as well as clinching the Big 12 Championship title. That momentum will be needed to compete with other top 10 teams and with hopes of making a Final Four appearance.