On Tuesday, our FOX Sports partners over at Sports Illustrated gave college basketball fans a fantastic preseason treat: They ranked every Division I college basketball team, from No. 1 to 351. That’s right, everyone from (No. 1) Duke to (No. 351) Florida A&M made the list, giving college hoops fans plenty to distract them during those final few hours of the work day.
Because the rankings are based on computer projections, they vary quite a bit from the human polls that have been released this preseason.
So what are the biggest surprises in SI’s rankings, from overrated to underrated, and everything in between? Here are the 15 biggest surprises:
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY SportsAdam Hunger
No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Zags ranking isn’t drastically different from the human polls (No. 14 in the AP, No. 13 in the Coaches Poll), but more in line with where I believe Mark Few’s club should start the year.
Yes, Gonzaga lost first-round NBA Draft pick Domantas Sabonis, but with transfers Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington) and Jordan Mathews (Cal) they have of the best backcourts in college basketball, and by far the best in the WCC.
Gonzaga is still looking for the first Final Four appearance in program history, and this team might provide its best chance yet.
No. 11 Purdue Boilermakers
This is a “not good, not bad, just surprising” ranking, as the Boilermakers are ranked a bit higher here than in the human polls (they’re ranked No. 15 in both the AP and Coaches Polls). They are also the second highest-ranked Big Ten team, ahead of some surprising clubs like Indiana and Michigan State.
Still, this feels a tiny bit high for a club that lost second-round NBA Draft pick A.J. Hammons and still doesn’t have a ton of backcourt depth. We’ll find out just how good this team is early: It faces defending champion Villanova on Nov. 14.
No. 17 California Golden Bears
Cal, which isn’t ranked in either human poll, as the No. 17 team in the country? Yes, the Golden Bears return Ivan Rabb, but after losing Jaylen Brown to the NBA Draft (third overall pick) and Mathews to transfer, are they really a Top 20 team?
And what does it say about the Pac-12 that Cal is ranked 17th nationally according to SI, but is only the fourth-best team in its own conference, behind No. 4 Oregon, No. 10 Arizona and No. 16 UCLA?
But when you add Smith to fellow freshman Omer Yurtseven (who, as FOX Sports’ Evan Daniels reported will be suspended just nine games to start the year), this team has “deep NCAA Tournament run” potential written all over it.
Todd Burandt/adidasTodd Burandt
No. 28 Michigan State Spartans
I’ve also been ranting for months that the Spartans are slightly overrated. Yes, a star-studded freshman class (led by McDonald’s All-Americans Miles Bridges and Josh Langford) is spectacular, but Tom Izzo and “coaching a bunch of high-profile freshmen” could mix about as well as oil and water these next few weeks.
This team has the chance to be really good by March, but I suspect will take a while to get going during the early part of the season. Therefore, this ranking seems much more accurate than the human polls, which both have the Spartans ranked in the Top 12.
No. 32 Rhode Island Rams
The human polls both have the Rams ranked in the mid-20s, which feels like the right spot for a team that returns a bunch of key pieces. That includes Hassan Martin, former five-star recruit Kuran Iverson, and E.C. Matthews, who led this team in scoring two years ago before an injury last season.
The No. 32 ranking feels just a bit too low.
No. 36 Maryland Terrapins
Meanwhile, this ranking feels just right. Yes, the Terps are ranked in the Top 25 in both human polls, but like a lot of you, I just don’t see it. Other than Melo Trimble, this team lost virtually every key piece off last year’s club and replaced them with a slew of inexperienced and untested players.
Barring a super-human effort from Trimble this year, this team feels like a fringe NCAA Tournament contender -- not a Top 25 team.
No. 39 Iowa State Cyclones
Monte Morris might be the best point guard in the country, Matt Thomas is one of the game’s best shooters, Naz Mitrou-Long is healthy, and the Big 12 is down.
This feels like a Top 20 team? What am I missing?
No. 43 Seton Hall Pirates
Yes, I know the Hall lost Isaiah Whitehead to the NBA, but it return its next three leading scorers in Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez and Angel Delgado, who combined for over 35 points and 17 rebounds per game last season. How many schools in the country return three starters -- especially the caliber of those three -- from a team coming off a major conference championship?
Not only are the Pirates vastly underrated here, they might be the most underrated team in the entire country.
No. 44 Florida State Seminoles
I know the ACC is loaded -- like crazy, wildly, unspeakably loaded. But freshman Jonathan Isaac is going to be a lottery pick next spring, Dwayne Bacon averaged nearly 16 points per game last year and Xavier Rathan-Mayes is one of the best veteran leaders in the country.
Add in the fact that Leonard Hamilton -- even after all these years -- remains one of the most underrated coaches in the sport, and this ranking feels surprisingly low.
No. 49 Pitt Panthers
And this one feels surprisingly high.
Any time you replace a pretty good coach (Jamie Dixon) with Kevin Stallings, I’m not buying whatever you’re selling. Sorry, Pitt fans, but this has “train wreck” written all over it (and not the good kind with Amy Schumer and LeBron James).
No. 52 Texas Tech Red Raiders
What Tubby Smith did at Texas Tech was borderline incredible, but what’s even more amazing is that I believe new coach Chris Beard can take it to the next level.
The Red Raiders return a pair of the Big 12’s most underrated players (forward Aaron Ross and Zach Smith). This is Beard’s third different job in three years, after coaching at Arkansas Little-Rock last year and DII Angelo State the year before.
The crazy part? Both those teams had school-record win totals in those two seasons with Beard. While a three-peat isn’t likely, this team can do major damage in the Big 12.
No. 63 Washington Huskies
I don’t trust Lorenzo Romar, but I do trust freshman Markelle Fultz. The McDonald’s All-American could very well be the No. 1 pick in next spring’s NBA Draft, and there’s little chance he lets the Huskies miss the NCAA Tournament.
This ranking is simply too low.
NBAE via Getty ImagesCameron Browne
No. 90 TCU Horned Frogs
I trust Jamie Dixon to eventually get things turned around, but let’s not forget that this is a team that went just 12-21 last year and won only two games in Big 12 play.
The addition of Top 40 recruit Jaylen Fisher helps, but this team is still years away from competing. It’s hard to imagine that the Horned Frogs are better than over 250 teams in college basketball.