Time to chart the course for the 2019-20 season. Where we're going, we most definitely do need roads. The track to the 2020 Final Four in Atlanta will twist, pivot and turn down many a boulevard, turnpike, avenue, highway and side street. 

Here, I present the first plot and plat for the 2019-20 campaign and our beautiful nation, the United States of College Basketball.

Below, a ranking of the best team in all 49 states with a Division I basketball team, and the District of Columbia, with a subset list of all others who fell short in their respective regions. 

We do have some flippage from how things looked a year ago, while those schools fortunate enough to be the only Division I program in their state continue to be prominently displayed. 

There are were some close battles, no question about that, but ultimately we don't divide the borders. There can only be one representative from each. Here's how the map is shaped for the latest season in college hoops.

Graphic by Mike Meredith


I think the difference between Auburn and Alabama won't be much. In fact, Alabama could wind up rating as one of the most surprising major-conference teams by mid-March if John Petty and Kira Lewis blast through their ceilings. For Auburn, Bruce Pearl has a solid noncon slate and then gets two against Kentucky, two against Tennessee, two against Georgia and plays Florida on the road. I rank the Tigers 29th overall. KenPom's got 'em 22nd, while Torvik is all the way down at 74. Mysterious team, but probably best in the state. South Alabama at No. 3 below is no joke -- the Jaguars are the Sun Belt favorite. 
The rest
2. Alabama
3. South Alabama
4. Samford
5. UAB
6. Jacksonville State
7. North Alabama
8. Troy
9. Alabama A&M
10. Alabama State


The Hogs always should and always will be the top team in the state, but can Eric Musselman get this program back to national relevancy? In what's becoming a gorilla stat (i.e., the anecdote or fact that's no longer a monkey on the back, it's grown so big to the point of being unavoidable), Arkansas has not made the Sweet 16 since 1996. It's not earned a No. 4 seed or better since 1999. Musselman has the resources in place to get the Razorbacks back to prominence, but something tells me this turnover won't be as quick as his makeover at Nevada.
The rest
2. Arkansas State
3. Little Rock
4. Central Arkansas
5. Arkansas Pine Bluff


Maybe we come to find that 2018-19 was a thank-you-ma'am in the road for Arizona. It sure looks like the Wildcats will have an aggressive regression to the mean -- in a good way. Nico Mannion and Josh Green enter as would-be freshman saviors, but they won't have to shoulder all of it. Chase Jeter and Dylan Smith are seniors, each of whom should round out into solid five-year college players. Max Hazzard was a boss at UC Irvine, now he'll play out a season for Sean Miller. And look for another freshman, Zeke Nnaji, to earn plenty of burn at the 4. Arizona State seems more unpredictable but will still get good moments out of Remy Martin, Romello White and Kimani Lawrence. 
The rest
2. Arizona State
3. Grand Canyon
4. Northern Arizona


Well, how about it? The deepest state of D-I college basketball programs has tiny Saint Mary's, up in Moraga, beating out big-league schools like UCLA and USC. The Gaels have been coached by Randy Bennett since '01 and have made back-to-back NCAA tourneys only once (2012 and 2013). It should happen again this season. I've heaped praised elsewhere on. com about SMC point Jordan Ford and I'll do it once more. He's probably the closest thing to an And 1 Mixtape point guard college hoops has right now. Stay up late and watch him this season. Below the Gaels, I expect USC to make the NCAA Tournament and UCLA to firmly bust through to the NIT. Trojans definitely have the talent to be one of the 36 best at-large teams. UCLA needs one season to align itself with Mick Cronin's philosophy and then should be in the NCAAs basically every season he's coaching there.
The rest
2. USC
4. San Diego State
5. San Francisco
6. UC Irvine
7. Stanford
8. Santa Clara
9. Fresno State
10. Pepperdine
11. California
12. Cal Santa Barbara
13. San Diego
14. Cal State Bakersfield
15. Cal Baptist
16. Loyola Marymount
17. Cal State Fullerton
18. Cal State Northridge
19. Pacific
20. UC Davis
21. UC Riverside
22. Long Beach State
23. Sacramento State
24. San Jose State
25. Cal Poly  


While I don't have an exact count, my rough guess would be that 15 schools will, this season, have their best season in 20 years. Colorado is fortunate to be one of those schools. It's gone to the NCAAs four times under Tad Boyle since 2010-11 but has never been better than a No. 8. This year's group should hover around that No. 5 or 6 line, led by McKinley Wright IV, who I expect to be the most reliable and valuable point guard in the Pac-12. He won't be the only star: teammate/fellow junior Tyler Bey, who is a joy to watch work the angles and create off the carom will put up 16 or 17 points per game.
The rest
2. Colorado State
3. Air Force
4. Northern Colorado
5. Denver  


Dan Hurley's not nearly as irascible as he once was, though he's still a fun watch -- and his Huskies should make a noticeable jump in his second season in Storrs. I don't think UConn will be NCAA Tournament-good, but I think it'll nudge close to 20 wins and hit the off ramp with some velocity in this its final season in the American. Big key will be the health of Alterique Gilbert, who is owed a full season without pain. Elsewhere in the Nutmeg State, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart have realistic chances of competing to win their league tournaments.
The rest
2. Yale
3. Sacred Heart
4. Quinnipiac
5. Hartford
6. Fairfield
7. Central Connecticut State

District of Columbia

Exciting season for the Hoyas ahead. You heard it here first: Georgetown will be a No. 1 seed ... in the NIT! That's an improvement on last season's No. 3. The nonconference schedule is better but will still present some challenges. I promise you the 1-2 attack of Mac McClung and James Akinjo will be irresistible, but Patrick Ewing's team has more than just those two guys. Unlike the stall at St. John's under Chris Mullin, I think G'town is going to grow into a good outfit under Ewing. The big year is a year away.
The rest
2. American
3. George Washington
4. Howard


The first state to endorse the United States Constitution has just two teams within its border. UD is almost always the better one. It should be improved in an improved Colonial Athletic Association. Martin Ingelsby is in his fourth season with the Blue Hens and should see his win total increase for a fourth straight season, from 13 to 14 to 17 to ... I'll say 18. 
The rest
2. Delaware State


The Gators are chockablock with championship-type pieces. Clearly the best team in the Sunshine State, Mike White's big coup was convincing Virginia Tech grad transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. to head to Gainesville and team up with potential NBA point guard Andrew Nembhard and two bluechip recruits: Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis. Florida State's still got a good team, and it's been the best Florida's had to offer in recent seasons, but the Gators get back to No. 1 this season and should have a top-five defense in the country. Another team rising is USF, which should have its best squad in more than 10 years and could break through in the American and wind up as a double-digit seed in the NCAAs.
The rest
2. Florida State
3. Miami
4. USF
5. UCF
6. North Florida
7. Florida Atlantic
8. FIU
9. Florida Gulf Coast
10. Jacksonville
11. Bethune-Cookman
12. Florida A&M
13. Stetson


Tom Crean has a good, talented roster that's led by a freshman named Anthony Edwards, who's somehow managed to cruise under the hype radar despite being arguably the best player in the Class of 2019. Maybe committing to a non-hoops school like Georgia will do that, but Edwards could become a stat monster and potentially lift UGA out of its college basketball purgatory. It's going to be compelling campaign for what's clearly the best team in the Peach State.
The rest
2. Georgia Tech
3. Georgia Southern
4. Georgia State
5. Mercer
6. Kennesaw State


In case you're curious, there are two nonconference road games for the Warriors this season, which is double what they usually schedule. They'll fly to the mainland for a game at Illinois on Nov. 18, then head back for a Dec. 7 matchup against Oregon. The Illinois game is the furthest east UH has traveled for a game since ... the last time it played Illinois, in 2008.


Leon Rice's Broncos are coming off their second-worst season since he became coach in 2010. But Boise State should be improved this season, so much so that they're a dandy dark horse candidate in the Mountain West. Justinian Jessup and Derrick Alston will be a magnificent 1-2 combination.
The rest
2. Idaho
3. Idaho State  


    Brad Underwood had a .802 win percentage in his first four seasons as a head coach. Then he took the Illinois job. The first two seasons there: .400. Now comes the most hyped Illini season in a decade-plus. This can -- should? -- be an NCAA Tournament group. No one in-state should even be within shouting distance. Three names to know, three guys who can bring Illinois back to true relevancy: Ayo Dosunmu, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Trent Frazier. Throw in freshman Kofi Cockburn while we're at it.
    The rest
    2. DePaul
    3. Northwestern
    4. Loyola Chicago
    5. UIC
    6. Bradley
    7. Northern Illinois
    8. Illinois State
    9. Southern Illinois
    10. Eastern Illinois
    11. Western Illinois
    12. SIU Edwardsville
    13. Chicago State


    Firmly have Purdue above Notre Dame here, but could envision a scenario in which Notre Dame winds up as the best team in the state by March. Can't see that happening with IU or Butler this season, however. Purdue has found a groove under Matt Painter, and I like that it's got three top-100 players back in Matt Haarms, Nojel Eastern and Trevion Williams, the last of whom is on the very short list of breakout players. Painter's adaptability can't be underestimated. We now expect the Boilers to be a top-30 team in college basketball. Notre Dame has the luxury of returning five starters. Mike Brey almost never has bad teams two years in a row.
    The rest
    2. Notre Dame
    3. Indiana
    4. Butler
    5. Ball State
    6. Indiana State
    7. Evansville
    8. Valparaiso
    9. Purdue Fort Wayne
    10. IUPUI  


    Steve Prohm has taken Iowa State to the NCAAs in three of his previous four seasons in Ames, earning a No. 4, 5 and 6 seed. I'm a bit higher on the Clones this season than most, but don't expect them to get into the Big Dance with such a good seed. There are a lot of talented point guards across college basketball, but few will have as much responsibility or direct causation for their team's success like Tyrese Haliburton, whose sophomore-season breakout we should all see coming from 20 miles away.
    The rest
    2. Iowa
    3. Northern Iowa
    4. Drake 


    Still a bit mad to me that Kansas only has three Division I programs. Kansas is coming off its worst season in 15 years, when Bill Self was in his first season in Lawrence. Now the Jayhawks get the benefit of having two of probably the best 15 players in the sport: Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson. There probably isn't a better mix-and-match combo, given Doke is a traditional big man and Dotson's a speedster who should be twice as good in 2019-20 as he was as a freshman. I wonder how deep Self will go into his bench, and if the team's depth, or lack thereof, winds up mattering. Below KU we have one ranking spot separating K-State and Wichita State in the 1-353 and in the Sunflower State.
    The rest
    2. Kansas State
    3. Wichita State  


    You could make a case for Louisville, but I like Kentucky slightly more because of the amount of minutes returning and how dependable -- and entertaining -- I expect the three-man backcourt of Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley to become. Kind of think Maxey can have a huge night at Champions Classic and jump-start the UK buzz from there. John Calipari should have a top-shelf defensive team that's also capable of running its offense through three players. The bigs are good, not great, but should be enough to keep Kentucky competitive in every game. For Louisville, Jordan Nwora has lofty expectations, and so as he goes, so do the Cardinals.
    The rest
    2. Louisville
    3. Western Kentucky
    4. Murray State
    5. Northern Kentucky
    6. Morehead State
    7. Eastern Kentucky  


    Bayou Bengals are a hard read heading into November, but there is no doubt this is yet again the best team in Louisiana. For Will Wade -- who, yes, is back as coach -- the question will be at point guard. Tremont Waters did a lot for LSU on both ends of the floor last season, so with him gone, will Javonte Smart take on some combo-guard role, or will freshman James Bishop be able to get enough playing time to keep this team in the top five of the SEC?
    The rest
    2. Louisiana Tech
    3. New Orleans
    4. Tulane
    5. Louisiana-Monroe
    6. Louisiana
    7. Grambling State
    8. McNeese State
    9. Southern
    10. Southeastern Louisiana
    11. Nicholls State
    12. Northwestern State
    1. Harvard


    Few states with at least six D-I schools have a school so far ahead of the pack, there is zero excuse for any program but one to always rank first. Maryland and the Terrapins are one such example. In most seasons, the other eight schools in the Old Line State aren't even close to top-100 quality. Now this season? It's a huge one for Mark Turgeon. The Terps are preseason top-10 stuff according to many a so-called expert (present company included). Anything short of 25 wins and a second-weekend NCAA tourney showing will probably put a three-year clock on Turgeon's time in Maryland. The fans need a big season or will have a case if they get the itches. This is Turgeon's ninth season.
    The rest
    2. UMBC
    3. Navy
    4. Towson
    5. Loyola-Maryland
    6. Mount St. Mary's
    7. Coppin State
    8. Morgan State
    9. UMES  


    Maine last finished above .500 in 2009-10 which, somewhat surprisingly, is still more recent than Maine men's hockey's last NCAA Frozen Four appearance (2007). Richard Barron is in year two with the Black Bears, who are trying to climb out of offensive hell and build something sustainable on that side of the ball. 


    Even if Boston College was set to have a good season it would still be Harvard getting the nod here. Bryce Aiken and Seth Towns coming back could give Harvard its best team ever, though I'll remind readers that the 2011-12 and 2013-14 teams both only lost five games and each was a 12 seed. Big year ahead for Tommy Amaker, who last took Harvard to the tournament in 2015.
    The rest
    2. Boston College
    3. Boston University
    4. Northeastern
    5. UMass Lowell
    6. UMass
    7. Merrimack
    8. Holy Cross


    Even though Sparty won't have senior shooting guard Josh Langford back until January at the earliest, Michigan State is still the safe pick as the best team in college basketball heading into October -- and the lock of locks as the best team in Michigan. The Wolverines are the closest, but with new coach Juwan Howard and three significant pieces gone from 2018-19, Wolverine fans know they need to be more invested in making the NCAA Tournament than competing for the top of the Big Ten.
    The rest
    2. Michigan
    3. Central Michigan
    4. Detroit
    5. Western Michigan
    6. Eastern Michigan
    7. Oakland  


    The state that gave us Prince, Bob Dylan, the Coen brothers, Charles Schultz, Jessica Biel, Vince Vaughn and the Replacements will maybe only have one Division I school for another couple years. St. Thomas, a Division II institution as of now, awaits NCAA approval to bump up a level. Until then, the Golden Gophers stand alone. Minnesota's basketball team this season looks thinner than last, not helped the least bit by preseason injuries. 


    We should probably get used to Kermit Davis having the best team in the state for the foreseeable future. Mississippi State is the only real competitor nine years out of 10, and the Rebels have a coach who's long since proven to succeed more with less than his counterpart, Ben Howland, in Starkville. I think Mississippi will fall back a bit in the SEC pack, but don't think this team is a walkover, no way. Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler should keep Ole Miss watchable for us and missable for opponents. 
    The rest
    2. Mississippi State
    3. Jackson State
    4. Southern Miss
    5. Alcorn State
    6. Mississippi Valley State


    Dana Ford's Bears are the class of the Valley this season. Get in on the ground floor as opposed to catching up that Sunday morning when the Valley's conference title game airs on CBS. Names to know: senior SG Keandre Cook; senior PF Tulio Da Salva; senior forward Lamont West; wing Josh Hall. Nine players are transfers, including West (West Virginia) and Hall (Nevada). Rare is the year when the Missouri Tigers aren't the best team in this state. The 2019-20 spell looks like an exception.
    The rest
    2. Missouri
    3. Saint Louis
    4. UMKC
    5. Southeast Missouri State  


    I'm much kinder to Montana State's chances of creeping up on Montana than KenPom, which has the teams separated by 82 spots. The Grizz shoot smart, distribute well and have one of the three best players in the Big Sky in Sayeed Pridgett, who shot 61.6% from 2 and 46.3% from 3-point range last season. 
    The rest
    2. Montana State


    The distance between Creighton and Nebraska might not be this wide again for 10-plus years. While the Bluejays aren't a top-three team in the Big East, they should still field a team that's going to come close to making the NCAA Tournament ... while Nebraska only has one player back from last season's group and undergoes as drastic a makeover as any major-conference program I can recall in the past decade. Fred Hoiberg steps in. I think he'll need three seasons to get it rolling; Nebraska fans are banking on just two. For Creighton, which would have made the NCAAs last season if the field was 76 teams, it's not a question of defense but rather if the offense can get back to top-20 status.
    The rest
    2. Nebraska
    3. Omaha  

    New Hampshire

    Dartmouth is hoping to shock folks by breaking into the top four of the Ivy League and having a chance then, as the top four teams in that conference play a two-round playoff to get the auto bid. Dartmouth last made the NCAA Tournament in 1959. I have to believe it will get back from 2059, but doubt it will be before 2029. Last time the school finished above .500 was 1998-99.
    The rest
    2. New Hampshire

    New Jersey

    The battle for best team in New Jersey almost always comes down to Seton Hall vs. Rutgers vs. Princeton. The Tigers are in a slump and the Scarlet Knights are still making the climb. The Pirates, by far, are the pride of the Garden State. Unless you're a Hall fan, you might not realize that Kevin Willard's coached his teams to four consecutive Big Dances. Seton Hall has never gone to five straight NCAA tourneys, but that will change this season when the Pirates blow past 20 wins and Myles Powell is a First Team All-American. 
    The rest
    2. Rutgers
    3. Princeton
    4. NJIT
    5. Rider
    6. Fairleigh Dickinson
    7. Monmouth
    8. Saint Peter's

    New Mexico

    The New Mexico-New Mexico State rivalry is not appreciated by college basketball fans on a national level, but hey, Aggies and Lobos honks, know that I know you. I see you. This is real. And UNM backers are sick at the thought of NMSU rating as the better team in that state five years running. But it's true. And this will be the sixth consecutive season. The Aggies are older, stronger and deeper. In a year, gap should sizably shrink.
    The rest
    2. New Mexico  

    New York

    St. Bonaventure fans loved it -- and I was proven right -- two years ago when I put Bona above Syracuse in the preseason rankings. Even though the Orange should struggle to make the NCAA Tournament, I still think it's plainly obvious Jim Boeheim has the best team in the Empire State. The Bonnies behind them, then hello Colgate, which should have its best team in school history. The Orange will be tested immediately and can alter perceptions: SU hosts Virginia on Nov. 6 as part of the ACC Network rollout. I want to see how Jalen Carey progresses as a sophomore and maybe steps into the No. 2 role behind Elijah Hughes.
    The rest
    2. St. Bonaventure
    3. Colgate
    4. St.John's
    5. Buffalo
    6. Albany
    7. Hofstra
    8. LIU
    9. Iona
    10. Fordham
    11. Manhattan
    12. Stony Brook
    13. Columbia
    14. Siena
    15. Army
    16. Cornell
    17. St. Francis Brooklyn
    18. Niagara
    19. Wagner
    20. Canisius
    21. Binghamton
    22. Marist  


    The Wolf Pack still have an edge on UNLV, which is more common across the past 25 years than you might think. Both schools have new coaches. Nevada plucked Steve Alford after his UCLA hiring fizzled quickly. UNLV canned Marvin Menzies and opted to hire T.J. Otzelberger, who did great things at South Dakota State. Nevada lost its five most important players, but Jazz Johnson (just rolls off the tongue) will still play point. Lindsey Drew returns from injury as well. Top-four team in the Mountain West, certainly.
    The rest
    2. UNLV  

    North Carolina

    About 95% of the time it's one of two schools, separated by less than 10 miles and a few shades of blue, that is on top of the mountain in this state. My colleague, Gary Parrish, has Duke as the better team. I'm not seeing that, not yet. UNC replaces so much from last season, but I am pushing my chips in on Cole Anthony being one of the best freshmen in the history of Tar Heels hoops. Duke, meantime, has an intriguing group of freshmen with a lot to prove, not to mention Tre Jones and the new role he'll have as a sophomore. I'll take Carolina as the better team, with NC State winning at least once this season in the X-amount of times it plays the Blue Devils and Tar Heels. Down in Davidson, a huge season of expectations. Best team since Stephen Curry was on campus?
    The rest
    2. Duke
    3. Davidson
    4. NC State
    5. Wake Forest
    6. UNC Greensboro
    7. East Carolina
    8. Gardner-Webb
    9. Western Carolina
    10. UNC Asheville
    11. Campbell
    12. North Carolina A&T
    13. Charlotte
    14. Appalachian State
    15. North Carolina Central
    16. UNC Wilmington
    17. High Point
    18. Elon

    North Dakota  

    North Dakota State is almost exactly 100 spots ahead of North Dakota in KenPom (165-264) and seems like the best team in the Summit League this season. The Bison have a proud tradition in D-I despite only having played at this level since 2005-06. Four NCAA Tournament appearances and six seasons with at least 20 wins. The upcoming campaign could wind up providing a top-three season in school history.
    The rest
    2. North Dakota


    Four very good teams this season, though Xavier and Ohio State fans are flummoxed over how I could pick Cincinnati, which brings in a new coach, to be the best in the Buckeye State. I've written it elsewhere here at CBSSports.com in the preseason, but I'll repeat: new coach John Brannen's offensive style could be a near-perfect match for senior shooting guard Jarron Cumberland, who's capable of dropping 25-plus on just about anyone. Xavier just got thumped by Purdue (oops!) Akron in a scrimmage, so take that for what it's worth. And Ohio State will earn its keep on defense much more than offense. I like Cincinnati's ceiling most. Dayton's not lagging so far behind, either. The Flyers should have their best season in five years.
    The rest
    2. Ohio State
    3. Xavier
    4. Dayton
    5. Toledo
    6. Wright State
    7. Bowling Green
    8. Kent State
    9. Akron
    10. Miami Ohio
    11. Ohio
    12. Youngstown State
    13. Cleveland State  


    Close call between the Cowboys and their Sooner rivals. Oklahoma State is the only Big 12 team returning all five starters, which makes me believe they'll be just a smidge better than an OU team that will be tougher to match up with on offense in 2019-20 than it was in 2018-19 -- when it was a No. 9 seed. Mike Boynton's Cowboys club won just 12 games last season, though. This was one of my closer calls among all teams vying for best-in-state bragging rights. I'll be curious to see if Lindy Waters III and Cameron McGriff wind up averaging more than 17 points apiece.
    The rest
    2. Oklahoma
    3. Tulsa
    4. Oral Roberts  


    The Ducks have been the best team in their state almost every year of their existence. Dana Altman's guys are projected to win the Pac-12, thanks to having maybe the best point guard in the conference (Payton Pritchard) and an array of interesting pieces around him. Shakur Juiston is a to-watch guy, an important grad transfer, but Chris Duarte is a JUCO guy to key in on early, too. For me, the Ducks could be as good as a No. 3 seed or as low as a No. 8. We'll see. Oregon State brings back Tres Tinkle, who was the only player in the country last season to average at least 20.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists.  
    The rest
    2. Oregon State
    3. Portland State
    4. Portland


    For what feels like the 10th season in a row, Villanova is by far the best team in the state of Pennsylvania. A lot of VU's success this season will be tied to Collin Gillespie and his anticipated leap from solid to very good college basketball player. But I like how Nova has these guys, like Jermaine Samuels and Cole Swider, who should grow into key roles by Big East season. The Wildcats finished last season 30th in KenPom, their lowest ranking since 2013. They open up at No. 8. The one team I'm vulnerable to being wrong on is Penn State, which Big Ten coaches largely expect to be anywhere from No. 6 to No. 9 in the league. 
    The rest
    2. Pitt
    3. Penn State
    4. Penn
    5. Temple
    6. Duquesne
    7. Bucknell
    8. Lehigh
    9. Robert Morris
    10. La Salle
    11. Drexel
    12. Saint Joseph's
    13. Lafayette
    14. St. Francis - Pa

    Rhode Island

    Smallest state but strong schools therein. It has been officially documented that by ranking the Friars 15th in the preseason, I am higher on Ed Cooley's team than any media member in the known universe. Give the rest of the kiddos until about Christmas to catch up; they'll see. Friars are going to be fun, fast and much less mistake-prone this season. Then there's URI, which seems like the fourth-best A-10 this season. Might it be good enough to squeak into the NCAAs? Oh, by the by: Brown is coming off its first 20-win season in school history.
    The rest
    2. Rhode Island
    3. Brown
    4. Bryant  

    South Carolina

    More teams in this state than you might think (12). On the whole, not looking like a strong season for South Carolina-based programs. A reasonable goal for NCAA Tournament teams to come out of this state is two. Clemson is the best of the bunch, but I don't think more than a small gap of air separates the Tigers and Gamecocks this season. Clemson in the ACC and South Carolina in the SEC are punching up with at least seven teams apiece that are more set up to The squad to watch might be Furman, which has 90 wins the past four seasons and is on the precipice of breaking through to its first NCAA Tournament in 40 years.
    The rest
    2. South Carolina
    3. Furman
    4. Charleston
    5. Wofford
    6. Charleston Southern
    7. Coastal Carolina
    8. Winthrop
    9. The Citadel
    10. South Carolina State
    11. USC Upstate
    12. Presbyterian  

    South Dakota

    South Dakota's been a D-I program for just 10 years; South Dakota State four years longer than that. It's great to have college ball in the Mount Rushmore State. While the Jackrabbits are better than the Coyotes in most years, that shouldn't be the case in 2019-10. Todd Lee, in his second season overseeing USD, has a veteran-laden squad that should be able to flip its 13-17 record from a season ago.
    The rest
    2. South Dakota State  


    Tigers fans gotta love this. It's been nearly seven seasons (2012-13) since Memphis had the best team in the state. With the highest-ranked recruiting class in 2019, Penny Hardaway has built up something that's unprecedented. Never before has a second-year head coach brought in the top-ranked high school class. He does enter the season with an interesting subplot, though: top-ranked recruit, center James Wiseman, has not been available to play in exhibitions. Memphis' Final Four hopes lie with the season-long viability of Wiseman. Beyond the Tigers, the Tennessee Volunteers still look to have the talent to make the NCAA Tournament, while ETSU sets up as a top-three mid-major for 2019-20.
    The rest
    2. Tennessee
    3. ETSU
    4. Belmont
    5. Vanderbilt
    6. Lipscomb
    7. Chattanooga
    8. Austin Peay
    9. UT Martin
    10. Middle Tennessee
    11. Tennessee State
    12. Tennessee Tech  


    Chris Beard has ascended in just four seasons as a D-I coach to such a level, so quickly, he has almost no parallel. Despite having significant roster turnover for the second straight season, it seems clear and obvious right now that the Red Raiders will be the best of the 23 teams based in the Lone Star State. They'll get a good push in-league from Baylor, but expect TTU's defense to remain close to elite. Meantime, the Coogs down in Houston rated outside my top 30 when the 1-353 published, but since then we learned that former KU guard Quentin Grimes had his waiver approved by the NCAA, making Houston a viable top-30 club and giving Texas more top-30 teams than any other state.
    The rest
    2. Baylor
    3. Texas
    4. Houston
    5. Texas A&M
    6. SMU
    7. UTSA
    8. TCU
    9. UT Arlington
    10. North Texas
    11. Sam Houston State
    12. UTEP
    13. Texas State
    14. Stephen F Austin
    15. Lamar
    16. Texas Rio Grande Valley
    17. Prairie View A&M
    18. Texas A&M Corpus Christi
    19. Abilene Christian
    20. Houston Baptist
    21. Texas Southern
    22. Rice
    23. Incarnate Word  


    Not the Utes, not the Cougars. Hello, Aggies. Rare is the year when Utah State is better than any other team in Utah, but it was true last season and will be true again this season. Sam Merrill is back for USU. He's the best player in the state, the best player in the Mountain West and, by the end of the season, could prove to be one of 15 best players in the sport. Weber State's a little further down, but the Wildcats have Jerrick Harding, who could find himself on an NBA roster a 365 days from now.
    The rest
    2. BYU
    3. Utah
    4. Weber State
    5. Southern Utah
    6. Utah Valley  


    Living in Connecticut, I hope to make a drive up to Burlington, Vermont, this season to watch the Catamounts in person. This could be one of the three best teams in program history, led by senior guard Anthony Lamb, who is no secret to those who follow college basketball ... but might he be on the verge of a season that is so good he earns consideration for All-American status? UVM would need to be nearly flawless in order for that to come to fruition. 


    The reigning national champions still have the pieces to compete for an ACC title. Among my most interesting storylines to track this season is how Virginia changes its look offensively while attempting to maintain a top-five national defense. One player not receiving nearly enough recognition in the preseason but who doubles as a real potential all-league player is UVA's Braxton Key, who might become Malcom Brogdon-esque in his role for the Hoos. Below UVA, we've got a VCU team that's top-25 quality and a Liberty program capable of getting a No. 12 seed for the second consecutive season.
    The rest
    2. VCU
    3. Liberty
    4. Virginia Tech
    5. Old Dominion
    6. Radford
    7. George Mason
    8. Richmond
    9. Hampton
    10. Longwood
    11. James Madison
    12. VMI
    13. William & Mary
    14. Norfolk State  


    Collectively, college basketball in Washington state hasn't been this solid in a long time. Eastern Washington and Seattle are dark-horse contenders in their respective conferences, Washington should make the NCAAs for a second straight season and Washington State made a great hire in March with Kyle Smith. But it's still Gonzaga that's streets ahead of the rest of the pack. The Bulldogs have quite a bit of turnover from last season's 33-4 team (which was No. 2 at KenPom), but it would be a shock if this isn't one of the 20 best teams in college basketball by March.
    The rest
    2. Washington
    3. Seattle
    4. Eastern Washington
    5. Washington State

    West Virginia

    As usual, West Virginia is the default team atop the Mountaineer State. But after a bad 15-21 season, what to expect from Bob Huggins' group in 2019-20? I expect an NCAA Tournament run, in fact. Huggins has a strong, long, deep and gritty group that will be bolstered by important JUCO additions to round out the roster. Derek Culver is the star, but watch how much better his fellow sophomore, Jordan McCabe, gets at running point.
    The rest
    2. Marshall


    Last season, Marquette had the edge. But in 2019-20, the Badgers are my pick to be the best team in America's Dairyland. It's a critical season for Greg Gard -- or is it? Gard's been to three NCAA Tournaments in four seasons and averaged 21.8 wins in his tenure. Wisconsin's not sustaining at levels it was at under Bo Ryan, but it's still a solid Big Ten program, a program I think will prove to be the best in its state over the next five months.
    The rest
    2. Marquette
    3. Green Bay
    4. Milwaukee


    The Cowboy State forever more will only have one D-I school. So what to make of the University of Wyoming for 2019-20? The biggest factor for this team will be offensive rebounds. The Cowboys ranked dead last nationally in offensive-rebound fate last season, only snagging 15.9% of their missed shots.