The United States of College Basketball: 2017-18
The road to the Final Four requires a map. As always, CBS Sports is providing college basketball fans with a nationwide look at every state (except Alaska, which does not have a Division I team; Washington, D.C. is represented, though) and which program has bragging rights for the season ahead.Credit: Mike Meredith / CBS Sports original
This is not a list of the 50 best teams this season. We're merely talking geographical dominance. Who owns the territory.
Many of the teams slotted within state lines will appear again come March in a much more coveted graphic: the NCAA Tournament field.
How does this year's atlas compare to last season's? Check it out. A good number of states have had their logos switched.
1. Alabama Crimson TideCredit: USATSI
The Crimson Tide have their highest expectations in a very long time thanks to an incoming outstanding freshman class, led by Collin Sexton, who has yet to be cleared to play due to eligibility concerns, Dazon Ingram (pictured) and John Petty. This is Avery Johnson's third season with Bama. The Tide are a firm top pick over Auburn, which is dealing with indefinite suspensions to two of its top four players.
4. Jacksonville St.
7. South Alabama
8. Alabama State.
9. Alabama A&M.
1. Arizona WildcatsCredit: USATSI
An easy call, even if there's uneasiness in Tucson right now. The FBI probe looms over this program, but Sean Miller's got so much talent on this team that the Wildcats are far and away the best team in the Grand Canyon State. Allonzo Trier (pictured), a junior shooting guard, will be in the thick of the Player of the Year race.
2. Arizona State
3. Grand Canyon
4. Northern Arizona
1. Arkansas RazorbacksCredit: USATSI
The Hogs are the best team in Arkansas essentially every season. Now, with the return of Jaylen Barford (pictured), Arkansas is attempting to get to its third Big Dance in four seasons. This was a 26-10 team a season ago. Arkansas State, out of the Sun Belt, is our No. 2 team in the Natural State.
2. Arkansas St.
3. Central Arkansas
4. Little Rock
5. Arkansas Pine Bluff
1. Southern California TrojansCredit: USATSI
No state has more Division I programs than California, which is home to 24 of them. In most years USC is not the best team in the Golden State, but this season looks to be different in a lot of ways. Andy Enfield's program -- also dealing with the fallout from the FBI probe -- looks to have the most talent of anyone in California. Chimezie Metu (pictured), Jordan McLaughlin, Bennie Boatwright, De'Anthony Melton, Elijah Stewart. If all are eligible, that's a tremendous quintet.
3. Saint Mary's
5. San Diego State
6. San Francisco
7. Fresno State
8. San Diego
9. UC Irvine
10. Santa Clara
12. UC Davis
14. Long Beach State
15. Cal State Bakersfield
16. Cal State Fullerton
17. San Jose State
19. Loyola Marymount
20. UC Riverside
22. Cal Poly
23. Sacramento State
24. Cal State Northridge
1. Colorado BuffaloesCredit: USATSI
The Buffs are an easy pick out of their state, even in a down year. Tad Boyle lost Derrick White, who turned into an NBA draft pick after starting his career in Division II. Colorado, led by George King (pictured), will battle to get an NIT bid, but it's far ahead of the No. 2 team in the state, Colorado State, which ranks 132nd on our 1-351 ranking of every team in the sport.
2. Colorado State
3. Northern Colorado
5. Air Force
1. UConn HuskiesCredit: USATSI
The Huskies weren't good last season -- just 16-17 amid a load of injuries -- yet still ranked as the best team in the Nutmeg State. That's what happens when you're far and a way the strongest program within state borders. In 2017-18, UConn should make a huge return and wind up being better than a pretty solid Yale squad (the only other CT-based team that cracks our top 100). Names to know: Jalen Adams (pictured), Terry Larrier, Alterique Gilbert.
4. Sacred Heart
6. Central Connecticut
1. Delaware Blue HensCredit: Getty Images
The first state in the country has just two teams, and like most seasons, UD has the better of the two. The Blue Hens are still in rebuild mode under second-year coach Martin Inglesby. Fortunately, most of the roster is back, including Ryan Daly (pictured). A realistic goal is to finish ninth in the CAA.
2. Delaware State
1. Georgetown HoyasCredit: USATSI
There are only four programs in the District, but the gap between Georgetown and George Washington could be slim this season due to Patrick Ewing's first season as a head coach at any level. Jessie Govan (pictured) should star for the Hoyas, who will fight to avoid the Big East basement.
2. George Washington
1. Florida GatorsCredit: USATSI
The Gators are a preseason top 10 team here at CBSSports.com, meaning KeVaughn Allen (pictured) and company are an appropriate call to be the best in the Sunshine State. But we should note that Florida only beats out Miami by one spot in our rankings. The Gators come out on top because of a really good backcourt and what should be a top-10 defense. This group came very close to making the Final Four last season.
4. Florida State
5. Florida Gulf Coast
6. South Florida
7. North Florida
13. Florida A&M
1. Georgia BulldogsCredit: USATSI
Yante Maten (pictured) is the co-SEC preseason player of the year. The Bulldogs look to have the best overall team in the Peach State, narrowly edging out a talented Georgia Tech team. Georgia coach Mark Fox is a hot-seat candidate, but Georgia fans should expect this team to battle around the NCAA Tournament bubble. Maten's an anonymous player nationally but a terrific power forward.
2. Georgia Tech
3. Georgia Southern
5. Georgia State
6. Kennesaw State
7. Savannah State
1. Hawaii Rainbow WarriorsCredit: Getty Images
It can only be Hawaii! Jack Purchase (pictured) is back for a team that went 14-16 last season. Eron Ganot is building something really good here. This team is on pace to be the best in the Big West in two years.
1. Boise State BroncosCredit: USATSI
Chandler Hutchison (pictured) is the best player in the Mountain West, and because Boise State has him on the roster, the Broncos are the runaway choice as the best in the Gem State. BSU went 20-12 last season and should hit 20 wins again this season.
3. Idaho State
1. Northwestern WildcatsCredit: USATSI
There are 13 D-I teams in Illinois. How many times in program history -- well more than a century -- could Northwestern claim to have the best team in the state heading into a season? In all honesty, this could be the first. Bryant McIntosh (pictured) Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law. The Wildcats are universally accepted among local and national media as a top-25 team. There is no one even close within state borders to NU at this point. Loyola of Chicago is probably the closest, and it's not even the best team in the Missouri Valley.
5. Illinois State
7. Southern Illinois
8. Eastern Illinois
10. Northern Illinois
11. Western Illinois
12. Chicago State
1. Notre Dame Fighting IrishCredit: USATSI
As has been the case for a decade now, basically, Indiana's four big programs are all national relevant and plenty interesting. But behind preseason ACC POY pick Bonzie Colson (pictured), Notre Dame's the clearcut choice in the Hoosier State. Colson will go bingo-bango with senior point guard Matt Farrell. The Fighting Irish look to be a little bit better than Purdue, and then there's a solid drop-off before getting to Butler, Indiana and Ball State.
5. Ball State
7. Indiana State
9. Fort Wayne
1. Iowa HawkeyesCredit: USATSI
Easy pick for the Hawkeyes this season because Iowa State is in complete rebuild mode, and Northern Iowa's not near the team it was three, four years ago. For Iowa, Tyler Cook (pictured) and Jordan Bohannon will lead the charge and probably flirt with the NCAA Tournament. If Iowa keeps all its underclassmen, it will probably be a preseason top 25 team in 2018.
2. Iowa State
3. Northern Iowa
1. Kansas JayhawksCredit: USATSI
The Jayhawks are our pick, but we have to admit that it's a very tight race between KU and Wichita State. In fact, Wichita State ranks fifth (vs. Kansas' third) in our preseason rankings. Ultimately, it's Bill Self -- so how can you deny? Devonte' Graham (pictured) will be one of the most valuable players in the country. Kansas was very good last season, but failed to make the Final Four. It also lost national player of the year Frank Mason III.
2. Wichita State
3. Kansas State
1. Kentucky WildcatsCredit: USATSI
The Wildcats have to be the pick, but only Louisville could challenge UK for the title of Best in the Bluegrass this season. (Then again, that's been the case almost every season in the history of college basketball in Kentucky.) Be sure to check out this piece as to why Kentucky has promise -- but could also collapse under the weight of its youngest team ever. Wenyen Gabriel (pictured) is the only UK player returning who played a major role last season.
3. Northern Kentucky
4. Western Kentucky
5. Murray State
6. Eastern Kentucky
7. Morehead State
1. Louisiana Tech BulldogsCredit: USATSI
Nope, not LSU. The Tigers are in year No. 1 under Will Wade. The Bulldogs at La. Tech are coming off a 23-10 season and have most of their roster back. This should definitively be the best team in the Pelican State in 2017-18. Jacobi Boykins (pictured) is the name to know. Eric Konkol's team could help Conference USA get two NCAA Tournament bids this season.
5. Southeastern Louisiana
6. Northwestern State
7. New Orleans
9. Nicholls State
10. Louisiana Monroe
11. McNeese State
12. Grambling State
1. Maine Black BearsCredit: USATSI
The only D-I program in the Pine Tree State. Andrew Fleming (pictured) returns, but this team isn't expected to finish in the top half of the America East.
1. Maryland TerrapinsCredit: USATSI
Maryland's got more Division I programs than you think (nine), but this is another state where there's one program that's going to be the best 95 percent of the time. No one can come close to the Terps here, as Maryland ranks 30th on our overall 1-351 list. A pretty solid Towson team, probably No. 2 in the CAA this season, is the second-best squad in the state but is all the way down at 111. Justin Jackson (pictured), Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan will be a tremendous trio of sophomores for the Terps.
4. Mount St. Mary's
6. Loyola (MD)
7. Morgan State
8. Maryland Eastern Shore
9. Coppin State
1. Harvard CrimsonCredit: USATSI
Harvard and Tommy Amaker (pictured) will get a push from a solid Boston College team (with a very good backcourt) for the honor of best in the state, but we're pretty comfortable slotting the Crimson as tops her. Seth Towns and Bryce Aiken should have this team pushing Yale for the auto bid out of the Ivy -- and then Harvard almost certainly will again best the best team in the Bay State come 2018.
2. Boston College
3. Boston University
7. Holy Cross
1. Michigan State SpartansCredit: USATSI
The Spartans are firmly again the best team in their state, as many believe popular preseason POY pick Miles Bridges (pictured) can push Tom Izzo to a second national championship. Bridges returns alongside the best sophomore group in the country, plus a handful of vets are back as well. The Spartans, a proud program with plenty of Final Four banners, have seldom started seasons with this much expected of them.
4. Western Michigan
5. Eastern Michigan
7. Central Michigan
1. Minnesota Golden GophersCredit: USATSI
Always amazing to realize that a state the size of Minnesota, with such a major metropolis, only has one Division I school. The Gophers win by default, though it must be noted that this team is top-20 good this season and could have a sleeper Second or Third Team All-American in Amir Coffey (pictured).
1. Mississippi State BulldogsCredit: USATSI
Quinndary Weatherspoon (pictured) is among the nation's few truly underrated outstanding talents. The Bulldogs, at their best, should prove to be the best team in the Magnolia State. Ole Miss is right there, though. Andy Kennedy's got a lot returning, and plenty of size. A very tough call, but MSU is due to have that long-awaited breakout season under Ben Howland.
2. Ole Miss
3. Southern Miss
4. Alcorn State
5. Jackson State
6. Mississippi Valley State
1. Missouri TigersCredit: USATSI
Missouri State could threaten the Tigers here, but there's no way to go against Mizzou at this point. Michael Porter Jr., Terrence Phillips (pictured), Jeremiah Tilmon, Jontay Porter -- the Tigers feel like a lock to double their win total (at least) from last year's 8-24 ending.
2. Missouri State
3. Saint Louis
4. Southeast Missouri State
1. Montana GrizzliesCredit: USATSI
The Grizzlies, led by Ahmaad Rorie (pictured) have been steady since Travis DeCuire took over for Wayne Tinkle. We've got Montana 48 spots (162 vs. 210) ahead of Montana State in our 1-351 rankings. Both pay their rent in the Big Sky.
2. Montana State
1. Creighton BluejaysCredit: USATSI
Marcus Foster (pictured) and Khryi Thomas have Creighton in firm control of the title of Nebraska's best. The Bluejays are set up to compete for another NCAA Tournament bid. Foster might be a top-five scorer in college hoops this season.
3. Nebraska Omaha
1. Nevada WolfpackCredit: USATSI
UNLV is on its way back, but Nevada is here. It's the best team in the Mountain West, and it could have a future pro in Jordan Caroline (pictured). Eric Musselman could easily parlay this season, and another NCAA Tournament showing, into a bigger job come 2018.
1. New Hampshire WildcatsCredit: USATSI
Tanner Leissner (pictured) is the star player on a UNH team that's a bit better than its only in-state competitor, Dartmouth out of the Lvy League. UNH is a top-half squad in the America East.
1. Seton Hall PiratesCredit: USATSI
A Jersey-sized gap between the Pirates and the next-closest team, No. 127. Rutgers. The Pirates have a dynamic backcourt duo in Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington. Then there's Angel Delgado (pictured) in the frontcourt. No reason to believe he can't be the POY candidate that Caleb Swanigan was last season.
5. Fairleigh Dickinson
7. Saint Peter's
1. New Mexico State AggiesCredit: USATSI
The Aggies will again be the better of the two D-I teams in the Land of Enchantment. Jemerrio Jones (pictured) will star for NMSU, which has a new coach (Chris Jans). New Mexico hired Paul Weir away from NMSU, but he might need two full years to catch up and pass his former team.
2. New Mexico
1. St. Bonaventure BonniesCredit: USATSI
For the first time since the Bob Lanier days, the Bonnies have the best team of the 22 that call New York state home. That's due in large part to the outstanding backcourt of Matt Mobley and Jaylen Adams (pictured). Bona's looking to improve from a 20-win season in 2016-17, and it's probably going to be the No. 2 team in the A-10.
2. St. John's
12. Stony Brook
19. LIU Brooklyn
22. St. Francis (NY)
1. Duke Blue DevilsCredit: USATSI
Our preseason No. 1 team is 10 spots ahead of UNC, at No. 11. Duke's got an incredible amount of raw basketball talent on its roster. Combine that with the return of Grayson Allen (pictured), Mike Krzyzewski's coaching and Duke's pedigree, and you have a team with a claim to have the highest ceiling of any in the sport. UNC is the only squad in Duke's zip code this season, as our third-best North Carolina-based team is Davidson, which ranks 60th.
2. North Carolina
4. North Carolina State
5. Wake Forest
6. UNC Asheville
8. UNC Wilmington
9. UNC Greensboro
12. East Carolina
13. High Point
14. North Carolina Central
15. Gardner Webb
16. Appalachian State
17. Western Carolina
18. North Carolina A&T
1. North Dakota State BisonCredit: USATSI
The Bison have Paul Miller and A.J. Jacobson (pictured) back, and this is probably a top-three team in the Summit League this season. Dave Richman's already coached this program to one NCAA Tournament appearance (2015) and figures to keep NDSU in the thick of the Summit in the years ahead. North Dakota will be middle-of-the-pack in the Big Sky.
2. North Dakota
1. Cincinnati BearcatsCredit: USATSI
Xavier fans aren't going to like it, but this Cincinnati team is legit. Jacob Evans (pictured) is the Bearcats' leading returning scorer, but UC has five players who, all together, make up the strongest offensive club Mick Cronin's ever had. Xavier's got the best player (Trevon Bluiett), but Cincinnati's a better all-around team. The Cincy-area rivalry is greatly overshadowing Ohio State and Dayton, which are in down seasons and have new coaches.
3. Ohio State
7. Wright State
8. Kent State
9. Bowling Green
11. Youngstown State
12. Miami (Ohio)
13. Cleveland State
1. Oklahoma SoonersCredit: USATSI
The Sooners took a big step back last season, after making the Final Four with Buddy Hield in 2016. But now Oklahoma should firmly be the best team in the Sooner State thanks to incoming ball-out frosh Trae Young. Senior Khadeem Lattin (pictured) also is set up to finally have the type of all-around offensive season Lon Kruger's been waiting on the past two years.
2. Oklahoma State
4. Oral Roberts
1. Oregon DucksCredit: USATSI
Plenty of leg room between the Ducks and our No. 2 team in the Beaver State, Oregon State. We've got four Ducks on our list of the top 100 (and one) players in college basketball. In light of that, it's right to wonder if ranking this team 34th was 10 spots too low. Payton Pritchard (pictured) is the breakout candidate in Eugene.
2. Oregon State
4. Portland State
1. Villanova WildcatsCredit: USATSI
Villanova is the no-brainer pick here. Junior point guard Jalen Brunson (pictured) will be in the mix for Big East, and national, Player of the Year awards. Jay Wright's program is the preseason favorite to win the Big East for the fifth straight season. Nova's four consecutive regular season conference titles are a Big East record.
2. Saint Joseph's
4. Penn State
6. La Salle
9. St. Francis
13. Robert Morris
1. Rhode Island RamsCredit: USATSI
Like a few other states on our list, the margin is razor thing between the team that won out and the one that came in second. Rhody's No. 25 on our list of rankings -- Providence is No. 26. Hard to split the difference between the two. URI, led by E.C. Matthews (pictured), will attempt to make consecutive NCAA Tournament after going almost two decades without a bid.
1. Charleston CougarsCredit: USATSI
Earl Grant's in line to have his best team yet. Charleston's starting five will, led by Joe Chealey (pictured) probably be better than South Carolina's this season. That's why we've got the Cougars firmly ahead of the Gamecocks. The state of South Carolina's got three top-100 teams this season; Furman, out of the SoCon, could get its first NCAA bid in almost four decades.
2. South Carolina
7. The Citadel
8. USC Upstate
9. Coastal Carolina
10. Charleston Southern
11. South Carolina State
1. South Dakota CoyotesCredit: USATSI
Close battle between the two D-I programs in the Mount Rushmore State. South Dakota just barely gets the edge -- Matt Mooney (pictured) is a solid player to know -- but Mike Daum and South Dakota State are going to battle the Coyotes in the Summit League. One of the toughest toss-ups of any two teams on our list.
2. South Dakota State
1. Vanderbilt CommodoresCredit: USATSI
The Commodores played an extraordinarily tough schedule last season -- but made the NCAA Tournament. Matthew Fisher-Davis (pictured), Jeff Roberson and Riley LaChance all return. Bryce Drew's team beats out Middle Tennessee as the top squad in the Volunteer State.
2. Middle Tennessee
7. East Tennessee State
8. Tennessee State
9. Tennessee Tech
12. Austin Peay
1. Baylor BearsCredit: USATSI
Twenty-three D-I teams come from the Longhorn State. We think six are top-50 quality this season, but Baylor sets up as the best for now. The Bears return all-important floor general Manu Lecomte (pictured). Scott Drew's zone defense, combined with BU's personnel, should amount to a top-15 D in college basketball. Contenders on Baylor's heels include Texas A&M, Texas and TCU.
2. Texas A&M
7. Texas Tech
8. UT Arlington
10. Sam Houston State
11. Stephen F. Austin
12. Texas Southern
14. Abilene Christian
16. Texas State
17. Corpus Christi
18. UT Rio Grande Valley
19. Houston Baptist
21. Incarnate Word
22. North Texas
23. Prairie View A&M
1. BYU CougarsCredit: USATSI
The return of Nick Emery (pictured) is just enough to put the Cougars ahead of a Utah team that's going to miss Kyle Kuzma (currently a Los Angles Laker). For BYU, the question is: Can this team get near the level of Saint Mary's and Gonzaga? If so, it will be a bubble team. If not, it will be in WCC purgatory, doomed to be an NIT lock but nothing more.
3. Utah Valley
4. Utah State
5. Weber State
6. Southern Utah
1. Vermont CatamountsCredit: USATSI
Only D-I team in the Green Mountain State. And Vermont's going to be pretty good again. Anthony Lamb (pictured), Trae Bell-Haynes, Ernie Duncan, Payton Henson. Was a No. 13 seed last season. Probably going to be a No. 13 again.
1. Virginia Tech HokiesCredit: USATSI
With Chris Clarke (pictured), Justin Robinson and Ahmed Hill back, Virginia Tech's likely to improve on a 22-win season from a year ago. And you read right: VPI is going to be better than Virginia, which hasn't been the case since Tony Bennett got to Charlottesville. Buzz Williams' best season yet in Blacksburg is set to start. Sleeper Sweet 16 team.
5. George Mason
7. Old Dominion
8. Norfolk State
9. William & Mary
12. James Madison
1. Gonzaga BulldogsCredit: USATSI
It's got to drive Washington fans crazy that Gonzaga's owned the title of best program in the state for most of the past 10 years. Mark Few's coming off his first Final Four, and now he's got enough incoming talent and returning starters to easily distance his team from UW, which starts anew with new coach Mike Hopkins. For Gonzaga, Josh Perkins and Johnathan Williams III (pictured) will star.
3. Washington State
5. Eastern Washington
1. West Virginia MountaineersCredit: USATSI
As always, West Virginia outpaces Marshall as the best team in the Mountain State. Jevon Carter (pictured) is a true, fair pick as a complete sleeper to be in the National Player of the Year race. WVU could be the No. 2 team in the Big 12.
1. Wisconsin BadgersCredit: USATSI
The Badgers have a lot of question marks, but with the return of top-10 player Ethan Happ (pictured) that mans we still like UW to be better than in-state rival Marquette. For Wisconsin, will Happ's expanded offensive game and a new-look backcourt be enough to land a single-digit seed? An interesting coaching challenge lies ahead for Greg Gard.
3. Green Bay
1. Wyoming CowboysCredit: USATSI
Could be a surprising team in the Mountain West, in good part to the critical return of Justin James (pictured). Overall, the Cowboys have so much coming back that they're going to be a tough out almost every night in league play.