College basketball No. 1-358 rankings: Preseason countdown concludes with top 68

The 2021-22 college basketball season is going to provide us with unique freshman talent, a re-emergence of blueblood powerhouses, the best parade of big men the sport’s seen in a decade, a Gonzaga team that’s good enough to finish what last year’s group couldn’t, the send-off season of Mike Krzyzewski, the first FULL season of games in two years, a stream of surprises and another 200-or-so fun storylines that will emerge over the next six months.

But before we can get to that, we’ve got to wrap up the business at hand. It’s time to take the cover off the top of my rankings. Below you will find the 68 projected best teams in men’s college basketball in 2021-22.

Here you’ll find the Final Four big boys, the NCAA Tournament long shots, the inevitably disappointing No. 8 seeds, the mid-major party-crashers, the under-the-radar Sweet 16 chasers, the sleepers, favorites, well-kept secrets and don’t-over-look-them treasures … all just waiting to be watched in this glorious, cosmic-gumbo of a season ahead.

Whereas the first two installments went from ranking the better teams at the top and worked their way down, we’re going to flip this and do a true countdown here, starting with No. 68 and winding our way to No. 1. Without further ado!

Keytron Jordan / CBS Sports graphic


68. San Francisco: Let’s get this rolling with a small surprise. The Dons should be a bucketful of fun with the return of Jamaree Bouyea (likely All-WCC player) and Khalil Shabazz. It’s a backcourt duo that could realistically combine to average 40 points, 10 boards and eight assists, thus giving USF its best team this century. The Dons and their coach Todd Golden believe in 3-pointer after 3-pointer after 3-pointer; more than 50% of their shots last season came from beyond the arc. If Golden’s guys can tighten up their defense, they’ll have an outside shot at making their first NCAA Tournament since 1998.

67. UCF: Johnny Dawkins’ team deserves a tad more attention than it has received. The Knights have more than 80% of their production back from a squad that opened last season with prideful wins against Auburn, Florida State and Cincinnati. UCF also ended the season with a 5-1 record. The middle was murky, which is why UCF ended with an 11-12 mark. But C.J. Walker, Darius Perry and Brandon Mahan are the key three for a team that has the coaching capability and the nucleus to finish in the top four of the American Athletic Conference.

66. Saint Louis: Wings Javonte Perkins and Gibson Jimerson will play off the creativity of PG Yuri Collins to give the Atlantic 10 another NIT-at-worst team. The Billikens were a No. 1 seed in last season’s NIT, missing the NCAAs on account of a 14-7 record that kept them out due…

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