Maryland, Louisville lead combined men's and women's college hoops ranks

ByESPN college basketball staff ESPN logo
Friday, November 8, 2019

A premier group of college basketball-playing schools will have their names called when the Division I NCAA tournament brackets are revealed in mid-March.

A select few of those schools will be fortunate enough to have their names called twice.

With the 2019-20 season in its infancy, we dug into the rankings and projected NCAA brackets to identify the schools that do it best across both men's and women's basketball, using polls and ESPN's own projected NCAA brackets to devise a list of the top 25 schools in our combined rankings.

Which schools serve as the biggest dual threat on the hardwood?

1 -- Maryland

Rankings: AP No. 7 (men), AP No. 4 (women)

Men: With Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan Jr. leading the way, Mark Turgeon possesses one of his best rosters, a team with a chance to compete with Michigan State in the Big Ten race. The Terps beat a mid-major Holy Cross squad, 95-71, in their debut, while displaying the balance that could lead to a run in March. Six players recorded nine or more points in the win. -- Myron Medcalf

Women: The Terps return all five starters, led by senior and preseason All-American Kaila Charles, and are expected to be the titans of the Big Ten again. They have a strong freshman class, too, and coach Brenda Frese expects them to contribute right away. Maryland should be really hungry after a disappointing end to last season. The Terps lost in the Big Ten tournament final, and then they fell at home in the second round of the NCAA tournament. -- Mechelle Voepel

2 -- Louisville

Rankings: AP No. 5 (men), AP No. 9 (women)

Men: The Cardinals didn't get as much preseason hype as Duke in the post-Zion Williamson era or as North Carolina with Cole Anthony, but they just might be the ACC favorites. Chris Mack returns several key pieces from last season's team, while also bringing in Saint Joseph's grad transfer Lamarr Kimble and a top-10 recruiting class. Louisville opened its season with a blowout win at Miami. -- Jeff Borzello

Women: How transfers Elizabeth Balogun and Elizabeth Dixon fare in the face of a brighter spotlight and higher expectations at Louisville might determine whether the Cardinals make good on their status as preseason ACC favorite. Veterans Jazmine Jones, Dana Evans and Kylee Shook will have to take on bigger roles as coach Jeff Walz tries to replace Asia Durr, the program's second all-time leading scorer. -- Charlie Creme

3 -- Kentucky

Rankings: AP No. 2 (men), AP No. 13 (women)

Men: John Calipari's men came within an overtime period of making the Final Four last season, and the Wildcats are poised to be better in 2019-20. Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley are back to anchor the backcourt, and this season they're joined by freshman sensation Tyrese Maxey. Bucknell transfer Nate Sestina adds perimeter range (and rebounding ability at 6-foot-9) and, in UK's season-opening win over top-ranked Michigan State, Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery looked like they're ready to anchor an elite defense. -- John Gasaway

Women: At 6-foot-2, sophomore Rhyne Howard is one of the best big guards in the country and can score from anywhere. The question is how well the rest of Wildcats will help her, especially early in the season. Kentucky has plenty of talent, but a few players will need to step forward offensively. The Wildcats have always depended on defense under coach Matthew Mitchell, and that should continue to be a strength. -- Mechelle Voepel

4 -- Oregon

Rankings: AP No. 15 (men), AP No. 1 (women)

Men: When Dana Altman led the Ducks to the Final Four in 2017 and came within a rebound of advancing past North Carolina, he had a collection of bouncy, long athletes that manufactured an efficient offensive attack while also protecting the rim. This season's team, featuring players such as Francis Okoro and Shakur Juiston, has the same makeup and athleticism that might overwhelm the Pac-12, especially with Payton Pritchard leading the way. -- Myron Medcalf

Women: Reigning national player of the year Sabrina Ionescu passed up a chance to enter the WNBA draft after Oregon's run to the Final Four a season ago, so the Ducks enter this season as the team to beat. With Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally also back, Oregon might have three of the 10 best players in the country as it pursues the first national title in program history. -- Graham Hays

5 -- Michigan State

Rankings: AP No. 1 (men), AP No. 17 (women)

Men: Tom Izzo's Spartans dropped their season-opener to Kentucky, but, this is still a team that can win in all in 2020. In Cassius Winston, MSU has arguably the nation's best two-way point guard, and even in losing to the Wildcats this defense displayed its trademark ability to force misses in the paint. If Joshua Langford returns from injury and/or Marquette transfer Joey Hauser is approved to play this season, Michigan State could again be the favorite to win it all. -- John Gasaway

Women: The Spartans might not quite be ready to challenge Maryland for the Big Ten title, but they're ranked in the preseason for the first time in four years. The backcourt of Shay Colley (team-high 14.1 PPG in 2018-19), Taryn McCutcheon, and Nia Clouden, form the nucleus. Coach Suzy Merchant also brought in a top-10 recruiting class, headlined by Saginaw native Moira Joiner, and should have plenty of depth. -- Charlie Creme

6 -- Baylor

Rankings: AP No. 16 (men), AP No. 2 (women)

Men: After overachieving last season en route to 20 wins, Scott Drew regains the services of a healthy Tristan Clark, one of the best players in the Big 12, and adds transfer guards Davion Mitchell (Auburn) and MaCio Teague (UNC Asheville). The Bears are quietly a Big 12 title contender this season as Kansas struggled in its opener and Texas Tech is rebuilding. Returning guard Jared Butler dropped 30 points in Baylor's season-opener. -- Jeff Borzello

Women: The defending national champions have to replace point guard Chloe Jackson and center Kalani Brown, who were both drafted into the WNBA. But senior forward Lauren Cox is the Big 12's best player and a contender for national player of the year, and fellow returning starters DiDi Richards and Juicy Landrum are also back to lead the way. Graduate transfer Te'a Cooper should fit in nicely as point guard, and look out for a big sophomore season from forward NaLyssa Smith. Baylor should continue its Big 12 dominance as it builds toward a run to repeat. -- Mechelle Voepel

7 -- Duke

Bracketology seeds: No. 1 (men), No. 8 (women)

Men: By forcing 27 turnovers while shooting just 38% inside the arc in its 68-66 win over Kansas in the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Duke highlighted its strengths and weaknesses. This is clearly a group that will lack the offensive power the team boasted with Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett a season ago. But the Blue Devils are a tough group that will play aggressive defense all season. -- Myron Medcalf

Women: The Blue Devils return all five starters but are also coming off a 15-15 campaign, and their six ACC wins were the fewest in 12 seasons under coach Joanne P. McCallie. Seniors Haley Gorecki and Leaonna Odom will have to be even better to help an offense that averaged just 63.6 points per game (12th in the ACC). If guards Kyra Lambert and Mikayla Boykin can each return from their second ACL tears, Duke's NCAA tournament hopes get a big boost. -- Charlie Creme

8 -- Florida State

Bracketology seeds: No. 7 (men), No. 3 (women)

Men: Leonard Hamilton's group is underrated seemingly every season, and much is the same this season after the Seminoles lost six players from a year go. However, M.J. Walker and Trent Forrest form an experienced backcourt, and freshman Patrick Williams has a chance to be a one-and-done first-round pick. Things got off to a rocky start on Wednesday, though, as Florida State lost by two at Pittsburgh. -- Jeff Borzello

Women: The Seminoles return everyone from a year ago and are the most experienced team in the ACC. Coach Sue Semrau will build around her senior trio -- forward Kiah Gillespie, point guard Nicki Ekhomu and guard Nausia Woolfolk -- but if freshmen River Baldwin, a 6-foot-5 center, and Sammie Puisis can contribute right away off the bench, Florida State will have plenty of options. -- Charlie Creme

9 -- Gonzaga

Bracketology seeds: No. 3 (men), No. 9 (women)

Men: After losing a pair of lottery picks to the NBA draft (Brandon Clarke, Rui Hachimura) and other key contributors, this Gonzaga crew resembles the efficient teams Mark Few constructed long before he lured five-stars to Spokane, Washington. They'll rely on Corey Kispert and Admon Gilderwhile preseason Pac-12 first-teamer Killian Tillie works his way back from knee surgery. -- Myron Medcalf

Women: The women's team remains a heavy favorite in the WCC, a league the Bulldogs won outright in 10 of the past 11 seasons. Replacing Zykera Rice, the team's only double-digit scorer a season ago, and point guard Laura Stockton will be a challenge. But Gonzaga usually has good size and athleticism for a mid-major, and this season is no exception. -- Graham Hays

10 -- NC State

Bracketology seeds: No. 8 (men), No. 4 (women)

Men: The Wolfpack missed the NCAA tournament last season by the slimmest of margins, and Kevin Keatts' team lost its first game of the season at home in overtime to Georgia Tech. Still, all is not lost in Raleigh. CJ Bryce has been scoring efficiently for Keatts now for three-plus seasons (having started his college career at UNC Wilmington with Keatts), and the Wolfpack ranked No. 1 in ACC play last season in offensive rebound percentage. -- John Gasaway

Women: The Wolfpack will be hard-pressed to duplicate last season's 21-0 start, but the pieces are in place for a run at the ACC title and a top-four NCAA tournament seed. Elissa Cunane is one of the post players in the conference and could be a rising star nationally. Health might be the key for NC State. Fifth-year guards Grace Hunter and Kaila Ealey are still working back from knee injuries. -- Charlie Creme

11 -- Texas

Bracketology seeds: No. 9 (men), No. 4 (women)

Men: Texas produced college basketball's greatest highlight on Tuesday when Andrew Jones, who has missed the bulk of the past two seasons after being diagnosed with leukemia, scored 20 points in a win over Northern Colorado. A healthy Jones can help Shaka Smart emerge with victories in tight games, a challenge a season ago for a Longhorns squad that lost six games by three or fewer points. -- Myron Medcalf

Women: The Longhorns have been a good team the past several years -- just not good enough to get back to the Final Four. Their last trip was in 2003; in the 16 years since, their Big 12 rival, Baylor, has won three national championships. Senior forward Joyner Holmes is dealing with an ankle injury, but she could have her best season. The Longhorns would like to see forward/center Charli Collier, another blue-chip recruit, have a much bigger impact as a sophomore. Their guard play should be solid, especially if redshirt senior LaShann Higgs comes back strong from an ACL injury. --Mechelle Voepel

t12 -- Arizona

Bracketology seeds:: No. 6 (men), No. 8 (women)

Men: It's been a tumultuous couple of years in Tucson, Arizona, but Sean Miller once again has a team that can compete for a Pac-12 title. He brings in top-10 freshman guards Nico Mannion and Josh Green, although early returns on fellow freshman Zeke Nnaji have also been positive, and they also added Kentucky transfer Jemarl Baker Jr. The Wildcats got off to a strong start by blowing out Northern Arizona behind 20 points from Nnaji. -- Jeff Borzello

Women: Long an afterthought in women's basketball, Arizona saw one of the biggest attendance increases in the country a season ago en route to a WNIT title. That's indicative of the progress made under coach Adia Barnes -- and how fun it is to watch junior guard Aari McDonald, the nation's leading returning scorer. -- Graham Hays

t12 -- Michigan

Bracketology seeds: No. 8 (men), No. 6 (women)

Men: It's Juwan Howard's first season at the helm in Ann Arbor, and he has big shoes to fill after John Beilein left for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske are veteran holdovers, while Isaiah Livers could be poised for a breakout season as a junior. The Wolverines are unlikely to compete for a Big Ten title this season, but Howard already has them making inroads for elite players on the recruiting trail. -- Jeff Borzello

Women: The Wolverines might contend for a regular-season title if they can avoid another slow start to conference play. They turned a 3-6 start into an 11-7 finish and a second-round NCAA tournament appearance. Facing Maryland and Michigan State in two of its first three Big Ten games, Michigan has the opportunity to take hold of the race. Naz Hillmon didn't start as a freshman but still led Michigan in scoring and rebounding. If she continues to improve, the Wolverines might have a star. -- Charlie Creme

14 -- Auburn

Bracketology seeds: No. 7 (men), No. 7 (women)

Men: Bruce Pearl lost a lot of talent from last season's Final Four team, up to and including Jared Harper, Chuma Okeke, Bryce Brown, Malik Dunbar and Horace Spencer. But Pearl is still on the sideline, and with J'Von McCormick, Samir Doughty, Danjel Purifoy and Anfernee McLemore in uniform this season, he may yet have enough on hand to run his perimeter-oriented system. -- John Gasaway

Women: Terri Williams-Flournoy enters her eighth season as the Tigers' coach still looking for that breakthrough season. Last season moved Auburn closer: A tie for sixth (9-7) was Williams-Flournoy's top finish in SEC play, and her 22-10 record was her best at Auburn. The Tigers bring back three starters, including guard Daisa Alexander and forward Unique Thompson, who both averaged just over 12 points per game. Defense generally gets the job done for Auburn, but can the Tigers' offense reach a level that allows them to get closer to the top of the SEC? -- Mechelle Voepel

15 -- LSU

Bracketology seeds: No. 6 (men), No. 9 (women)

Men: There's plenty of speculation surrounding Will Wade and his program stemming from the FBI's investigation of college basketball, but on the floor, the Tigers return a fair amount of experience from a rotation that won the SEC regular-season title. Skylar Mays, Javonte Smart and highly touted freshman Trendon Watford are capable of making noise again in 2020. -- John Gasaway

Women: The Tigers had a decent shot at the NCAA tournament last season had they won two of their last four games, but they lost them all, ending at 16-13 and turning down a WNIT bid. Led by senior forward Ayana Mitchell, LSU should be back in the mix for a spot in the Big Dance in 2020. But can the Tigers make a postseason run? The past five years, LSU has lost three times in the NCAA first round and didn't make the tournament the other two. Coach Nikki Fargas is 148-106 in eight seasons, and she had back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in 2013 and '14. But this is a program that went to five consecutive Final Fours from 2004-2008. -- Mechelle Voepel

16 -- Notre Dame

Bracketology seeds: No. 11 (men), No. 5 (women)

Men: The Fighting Irish are coming off their worst season in recent memory, but there's hope for the very near future. Mike Brey is bringing back the heart of last season's rotation in John Mooney, Prentiss Hubb, TJ Gibbs and Rex Pflueger, and Brey's system (low on turnovers and high on good looks at the basket) has produced points more often than not. It may turn out that last season was the exception to the rule in South Bend. -- John Gasaway

Women: Not only are the Irish replacing all five starters, but sophomore guard Abby Prohaska is out indefinitely with blood clots in her lungs, leaving no one on the roster who has played significant minutes in a Notre Dame uniform. Grad transfers Destinee Walker (North Carolina) and Marta Sniezek (Stanford) might have to assume leadership early with the Irish facing Tennessee, Michigan and Michigan State in November, but freshmen Sam Brunelle and Anaya Peoples might be Notre Dame's most talented players. -- Charlie Creme

17 -- VCU

Bracketology seeds: No. 5 (men), No. 13 (women)

Men: Mike Rhoades' rotation is loaded with seniors, including Marcus Evans, Issac Vann, De'Riante Jenkins and Mike'L Simms, all of whom return from last season's NCAA tournament team. The Rams are experienced, tough and especially accomplished on D. -- John Gasaway

Women: All nine rotation players return from a season ago, so continuity won't be a problem for a team that shared the A-10 regular-season title and narrowly missed the NCAA tournament. Those returning players helped VCU rank third in field goal defense and fifth in scoring defense last season. -- Graham Hays

18 -- Tennessee

Bracketology seeds: No. 9 (men), No. 9 (women)

Men: Gone are Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone, who were the catalysts for Tennessee's 57 wins over the past two seasons. But Rick Barnes is hoping to keep things rolling in Knoxville. Guards Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden are both back, and he brings in five-star guard Josiah-Jordan James. The key for the Volunteers will be whether the frontcourt holdovers can step up on the inside. -- Jeff Borzello

Women: Kellie Harper, who won three NCAA titles as a point guard at Tennessee in the 1990s, returns to her alma mater as the second coach to follow Pat Summitt. It was a difficult task for Summitt's former assistant, Holly Warlick, who was fired in March after seven seasons despite three Elite Eight appearances, most recently in 2016. Harper will get at least some grace period, with the program coming off an NCAA tournament first-round exit and the loss of three starters. That includes point guard Evina Westbrook, who transferred to UConn. Junior forward Rennia Davis is Tennessee's most proven commodity, and guard Zaay Green should build on her solid freshman season. Tennessee's six newcomers -- four of them freshmen -- will need to contribute, led by guard Jordan Horston. -- Mechelle Voepel

19 -- Missouri State

Bracketology seeds: No. 14 (men), No. 11 (women)

Men: Despite a season-opening loss to Little Rock, Missouri State enters the season as the Missouri Valley favorite. Dana Ford will rely on a number of transfers, including Lamont West (West Virginia), Tyrik Dixon (Middle Tennessee) and Josh Hall (Nevada). He also brings back Tulio Da Silva, one of the best players in the league. The Bears haven't reached the NCAA tournament since 1999, when Steve Alford was at the helm -- but that could change this season. -- Jeff Borzello

Women: Just 1-7 at one point last season, the Lady Bears went on a tear that saw them win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament and reach the Sweet 16 with wins against DePaul and Iowa State. The sequel will feature a new coach, Amaka Agugua-Hamilton replacing Tennessee-bound Kellie Harper, but enough of a core returns on the court to suggest Missouri State can contend again. -- Graham Hays

20 -- New Mexico State

Bracketology seeds: No. 12 (men), No. 15 (women)

Men: There's a chance this is the best 12 or 13 seed come NCAA tournament time. The Aggies won 30 games last season and then took Auburn to the wire before falling by one -- and Chris Jans brings back several pieces from a deep rotation. New Mexico State is certainly challenging itself this season, with non-conference games against Arizona, New Mexico and an appearance in the Cayman Islands Classic. -- Jeff Borzello

Women: The Aggies have won five consecutive Western Athletic Conference regular-season titles, reaching the NCAA tournament in four of those seasons, so there's reason to think they can keep things going even without Brooke Salas, last season's leading scorer and the two-time WAC Player of the Year. To that end, senior guard Gia Pack is the current preseason WAC Player of the Year. -- Graham Hays

21 -- Belmont

Bracketology seeds: No. 13 (men), No. 14 (women)

Men: The Bruins did the unthinkable and made the 2019 NCAA tournament as an at-large out of the Ohio Valley Conference. This season, new coach Casey Alexander, taking over for the retired Rick Byrd, is looking to make more waves with returnees Nick Muszynski and Grayson Murphy. -- John Gasaway

Women: With a 50-2 record in the Ohio Valley Conference the past three seasons, Belmont is a mid-major juggernaut. So even as the Bruins must replace one of the program's all-time best in Darby Maggard, plenty of talent remains. That starts with OVC Preseason Player of the Year Ellie Harmeyer. -- Graham Hays

22 -- UC Irvine

Bracketology seeds: No. 13 (men), No. 15 (women)

Men: Russell Turner's team pulled off one of the best upsets of the 2019 NCAA tournament, taking down Kansas State in a 4-seed vs. 13-seed game before falling to Oregon. The Anteaters are again among the teams to beat in the Big West, with guard Evan Leonard (11.3 points per game) the top returning scorer. Irvine started things off by rallying for a 76-73 win over San Diego on opening night. -- ESPN staff

Women: The Anteaters aren't a sure thing after a .500 record in the Big West a season ago. But only six returning Division I women's players averaged 20 points per game a season ago. UC Irvine has one in junior Jordan Sanders, which is a pretty good place to start. -- Graham Hays

23 -- Ohio State

Bracketology seeds: No. 3 (men), First four out (women)

Men: Chris Holtmann has now been to the NCAA tournament in five straight seasons at Butler and Ohio State, but this might be his best team yet. The Buckeyes return three starters from last season, while also bringing in a trio of talented recruits and Florida State transfer CJ Walker. They beat likely NCAA tournament team Cincinnati in the season-opener, with a breakout performance from junior Kyle Young (14 points, 13 rebounds). -- Jeff Borzello

Women: The rebuild following the Kelsey Mitchell years (2014-18) continues. An inexperienced Buckeyes team went just 14-15 a season ago, and they are even younger this season. Only three players on the roster are upperclassmen. Coach Kevin McGuff is hoping freshmen guards Jacy Sheldon, Rikki Harris and Kierstan Bell are program-changing additions to go with sophomore Dorka Juhasz, last season's leading scorer. -- Charlie Creme

24 -- Mississippi State

Bracketology seeds: Next four out (men), No. 3 (women)

Men: Ben Howland has veterans from a team that reached the NCAA tournament last season, when it lost to Liberty in the first round. Nick Weatherspoon, Reggie Perry and Tyson Carter should form a nucleus of an SEC team that could squeeze into the NCAA tournament. Another season with a strong showing from the 3-point line (37.7 percent in 2018-19) would help. -- Myron Medcalf

Women: The Bulldogs lost three starters, including dominant center Teaira McCowan, who was drafted No. 3 overall in the WNBA draft. But this program has elevated to another level under coach Vic Schaefer, and it always has more talent waiting to take over. There's a lot of experience with the guards, led by Jordan Danberry, Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Bre'Amber Scott. Mississippi State also is happy to have back forward Chloe Bibby, whose season ended at 18 games in 2018-19 due to an ACL injury. She is a strong perimeter shooter and can post up as well. Look for 6-foot-5 sophomore forward/center Jessika Carter to blossom more with McCowan gone. -- Mechelle Voepel

25 -- Indiana

Bracketology seeds: First four out (men), No. 6 (women)

Men: Archie Miller hopes to silence the critics with a solid season, a season after missing the NCAA tournament with five-star prospect Romeo Langford on the roster. He'll turn to another star freshmen, Trayce Jackson-Davis, to energize his program in 2019-2020. The biggest concern is a 31.1 percent clip from the 3-point line that will sink the program if it can't improve this season. -- Myron Medcalf

Women: In a state Notre Dame has long dominated on the women's side, there is an opening for the Hoosiers. Four starters return from an NCAA tournament team. Guard Ali Patberg, who transferred from Notre Dame, overcame injuries to emerge as one of the Big Ten's best players. -- Graham Hays