The Calm Before The Madness: Top 25 Collegiate Basketball Rankings

William Schechter, Contributing Writer


My Rankings: NCAA Rankings:
1) Kansas 1) Gonzaga
2) Gonzaga 2) Baylor
3) Dayton 3) Villanova
4) Florida State 4) Illinois
5) Baylor 5) Iowa
6) San Diego State 6) Wisconsin
7) Creighton 7) Virginia
8) Kentucky 8) Kansas
9) Michigan State 9) Kentucky
10) Villanova 10) Tennessee
11) Duke 11) Duke
12) Maryland 12) Michigan State
13) Oregon 13) Rutgers
14) Louisville 14) Arizona State
15) Seton Hall 15) Texas Tech
16) Virginia 16) Creighton
17) Wisconsin 17) Michigan
18) Brigham Young 18) Indiana
19) Ohio State 19) UCLA


20) Aubum 20) Texas
21) Illinois 21) Florida State
22) Houston 22) Houston
23) Butler 23) West Virginia
24) West Virginia 24) Stanford
25) Iowa 25) Richmond


As this year’s college basketball season quickly approaches, we need to take a look at where teams across the nation stand in the preseason Power 36 rankings. 

17 out of the top 25 teams from last year, remained in the top 36 for the start of this year. Listed above are the top 25 teams from last season, and how they overlap with the NCAA’s Power 36 ranking. Overall the Power 36 rankings are not too surprising. Many of the strong programs placed somewhere within the top 36 rankings. Some of the traditional top five powerhouses like Duke and North Carolina are somewhat lower than where they normally stand (11th and 26th respectively), but still remain some of the best teams in the nation. 

Overall, I agree with the rankings and think they are a good prediction for the season. Despite this, historical precedent also has to be considered. Pre-season rankings usually don’t come to fruition, and those ranked highly at the end of the season will probably be significantly different. I want to focus more in depth on four teams specifically; Gonzaga, Dayton, Maryland, and Iowa. Gonzaga feels obligatory to be touched upon, as they enter the season at the top of the Power 36 rankings. Dayton moved in the opposite direction, going from being ranked 3rd last year, to narrowly missing the ranking cut-off. Last year, Maryland was the largest loser out of the top 25 teams, ranking 12th last season, and now not even reaching consideration for the NCAA’s power 36 pre-season rankings. Finally we get to Iowa, moving up twenty spots from twenty-fifth, all the way to fifth in the Power 36. 

Gonzaga enters the 2020-2021 season ranked 1st in the power 36. The largest addition to the Conzagas’ roster is 5-star recruit Jalen Suggs; one of the best players at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Throughout his senior year, Suggs’ averaged 23.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 3.9 steals per game, over the course of 27 competitions. Additionally, Soggs was a finalist considered for the Naismith High School trophy, the award given to the top high school basketball player in the country. Suggs has also competed on the international stage for the United States, in both the U17 and U19 World Cups; he will surely be a strong addition to the Zags’ already strong lineup, helping the team secure a top seeded berth. With that being said, there is still some doubt as for how far this Gonzaga team can go. Gonzaga has never won a national championship, and they have only made it to one championship and final four game (2017). They have also only made four elite eights (1999, 2015, 2017, and 2019). Historically they have not done too well in the tournament, even when highly seeded; their average round of exit is the sweet 16 when a high seed (4 or higher). The Zags have very high hopes this year, and for good reason. Despite this ambition, they still have a long season ahead of them. On paper they seem like a clear favorite to make it to the Final Four and maybe even win it all, but the court is not on paper and anything can happen. We’ll just have to wait and see where this promising team ends up.

Dayton last season was outstanding, finishing the year with a 29-2 record. With this success, they were on their way to being a surefire number one seed. The Flyers ended the season on a twenty game winning streak and had high hopes for the tournament. Sadly for this exciting to watch team, the Coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing the NCAA to cancel March Madness. The 2019-2020 Flyers will be remembered as a team that could have achieved greatness, but now we will never be certain. With all this being stated, why did Dayton drop so far in the rankings? Starting as a top 3 team at the end of the last season, to a team that was ultimately not selected for the Power 36 rankings. One large reason for this drop was the departure of star forward Obi Toppin; Toppin was named the Naismith player of the year, being deemed the best college basketball player last season. Deciding to move past Dayton and skip his last two years of college eligibility, Toppin is now entering the NBA draft. This departure is a major loss for the Dayton Flyers as he was the team’s leading scorer, averaging 20.0 points a game. Toppin also averaged 7.5 rebounds per game and shot an impressive 63.3%. Toppin’s departure will surely lead to a drop in the team’s overall performance this season. Another significant loss the team faced, was former Senior guard, Trey Landers. During his Senior year, Landers was 3rd on the team in scoring, putting up 10.5 points per game. He also grabbed 6.9 boards a game, and shot 56.5% from the field. Landers will be hard to replace both on the court and in the locker room. Considering these two massive losses, this Flyers team has much to prove. They can still be a strong team this season, but it is hard to argue that they will return to the level of play that they held last season.

Maryland closed out last season at an impressive 24-7 record. Along with this success, they were also nearly flawless in their home-games, with a 16-1 record. The Terrapins were ranked 12th by the end of last year and were looking at a potential 3rd or 4th seed, depending on where they finished in the Big Ten tournament. Unfortunately the Coronavirus pandemic cut the Terrapin’s season short. Given the impressive finish for the Terps, it is strange to see all of the turnover they had in this offseason. Maryland must be examined at a closer level because they had the biggest dropoff of any team in the top 25 last season. This year, they were not even considered by the NCAA for the Power 36 rankings. This drop off may be for good reason, as over half of the roster is now made up of new additions. This is a higher proportion of newer players than what is considered to be normal. The two largest losses for the Terrapins are Anthony Cowan JR. and NBA first round prospect, Jalen Smith. Smith is a top prospect for good reason, averaging a double-double (15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds) per game. Smith also had a strong defensive presence, blocking 2.4 shots per game. As said above, another tough loss for the Terps is senior guard and leader Anthony Cowan JR. During his senior year, Cowan scored 16.3 points per game, while simultaneously assisting his teammates by averaging 4.7 assists per competition. Maryland also faced a significant loss, when three additional players decided to transfer to different schools. The amount of depth that the Terps lost over the course of this offseason is astounding, and can not be understated. The Terps hoped that their high ranking at the end of last season would help bring in highly rated recruits and possible transfer prospects, however this did not pan out. A total of eight new players have been added to the Terps official roster, some through recruiting and others through transfers and walk-ons. However, none of these additions seem to be game changers, and it looks as though there will be a large fall off in performance for the Terps this season. Maybe Maryland can go against the odds and rise up in the rankings once again, however at this time that seems very unlikely.

The Iowa Hawkeyes enter the 2020-2021 season with very high prospects, currently holding 5th place in the Power 36 rankings. Iowa is a very serious contender for the national championship this season, having very little turnover from last year. Most importantly, the Hawkeyes have returning superstar Luka Garza. Luke is expected to be one of the best players in the country, like he was last year. Garza is also the favorite to win the Naismith award. He nearly averaged a double-double last year, scoring 23.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game for the Hawkeyes. The center also shot well from deep, successfully making 39 of his 109 attempts. In other words, he successfully made 35.8% of his three point shots. The rest of the Hawkeyes’ starting lineup has returned for another run in the tournament this season as well. Shooting guard Jordan Bohannon returns from a hip injury, to help bolster the Hawkeyes’ lineup. Joe Wisekamp is also back for more, after a strong year last season, averaging 14.0 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. With these strong returning players, Iowa basketball is poised for a strong year. They also have potential to achieve a top seed tournament position, and national championship victory. The sky truly is the limit for the Hawkeyes’ team, and injuries seem to be the only thing that can drag this high-flying team down. 

This should be an interesting and unusual college basketball season, particularly because Covid-19 has impacted sports in so many different ways. A lot is up in the air as far as what will happen this season. Hopefully this year’s tournament can be hosted, to make up for the lack of one last season. We will need to wait and see where Gonzaga, Dayton, Maryland, Iowa, and the rest of the Power 36 end up!

Here is a link so you can see the entire Power 36 for yourself: