Every March, men’s college basketball fans argue about conference superiority. Which conference sends the most teams to the Big Dance? Which conference has the most teams remaining after the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight? From which conference does the national champion hail?
Those questions can make for spirited debate and passionate arguments.
But what if we re-frame those questions, focusing on individual states, rather than conferences?
I analyzed states with multiple Division I men’s basketball teams and created hypothetical all-star rosters based on the current players available among schools that are located in each state. The goal was to assemble realistic, 10-player rosters — starting lineups with four point guards or four centers might run into some issues — as well as a bench unit for each state. I also required at least three different schools to be represented for each state’s all-star roster.
Starters for the hypothetical all-star teams are listed in bold.
Which state’s all-star team do you think would win if all of the states played in a tournament?
Here are some of the top contenders, listed in no particular order.
- Guard: Kendric Davis, SMU
- Guard: Marcus Sasser, Houston
- Guard: Andrew Jones, Texas
- Forward: Kevin Obanor, Texas Tech
- Forward: Tre Mitchell, Texas
- Guard: James Akinjo, Baylor
- Guard: Marcus Carr, Texas
- Guard: Terrence Shannon Jr., Texas Tech
- Guard: Adam Flagler, Baylor
- Forward: Timmy Allen, Texas
While uber-talented, the state of Texas’ hypothetical men’s basketball all-star team requires a lot of projection as many of the players involved are stepping into bigger roles or joining a new team. Reigning national champion Baylor lost Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague and Mark Vital, leaving behind valuable complementary players, including Adam Flagler, who had the 12th-highest offensive rating in the country last season, per kenpom.com. It remains to be seen how he will fulfill the role of becoming one of the Bears’ primary scoring options, while Arizona transfer James Akinjo will run point for the Bears.
Texas is also adding a bevy of transfers, including guard Marcus Carr (Minnesota) and forwards Tre Mitchell (UMass) and Timmy Allen (Utah), while Texas Tech adds Oral Roberts forward Kevin Obanor, who helped the Golden Eagles become just the second No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16.
All-star picks Andrew Jones (Second Team All-Big 12) and Terrence Shannon Jr. (Third Team) were honored by the Big 12 last season, while SMU’s Kendric Davis was an all-conference first team pick last season after averaging 19 points, 7.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 37.3 percent from three and leading the country in assist rate (he assisted on 46.4 percent of SMU’s made baskets when he was on the floor).
There’s so much talent in the state of Texas for the 2021-22 season that it was difficult to leave off Baylor’s Matthew Mayer and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, Texas’ Courtney Ramey and Houston’s Kyler Edwards, among others.
PUTTING UP POINTS: The top 9 returning scorers in men’s college basketball
- Guard: Tyger Campbell, UCLA
- Guard: Johnny Juzang, UCLA
- Guard/Forward: Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA
- Forward: Isaiah Mobley, USC
- Center: Myles Johnson, UCLA
- Guard/Forward: Peyton Watson, UCLA
- Guard: Jamaree Bouyea, San Francisco
- Forward: Collin Welp, UC Irvine
- Forward: Cody Riley, UCLA
- Forward: Kessler Edwards, Pepperdine
Yes, this all-star lineup is heavy on Bruins but there’s a reason they’re projected to be a top-five team entering the season, as elite freshman Peyton Watson and Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson join UCLA’s returning core of players who engineered a Final Four run last season. Johnny Juzang (16.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg) will enter the 2021-22 season with First Team All-American potential after leading all players in scoring in the 2021 NCAA tournament with 137 points through six games.
USC forward Isaiah Mobley, who played alongside his brother Evan, who swept the Pac-12’s Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards, can now step into a starring role after averaging 9.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, while shooting 41.6 percent from three, for a Trojans team that made the Elite Eight.
San Francisco’s Jamaree Bouyea (17.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.7 apg; 37-percent 3-point shooting last season) and Pepperdine’s Kessler Edwards (17.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg; 55.3-percent 2-point shooting, 37.8-percent 3-point shooting) were both First Team All-WCC selections last season, while UC Irvine’s Collin Welp (15.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.2 spg; 51-percent career 2-point shooting, 38-percent career 3-point shooting) was a first-team All-Big West selection as a junior.
- Guard: Caleb Love, North Carolina
- Guard: Trevor Keels, Duke
- Forward: AJ Griffin, Duke
- Forward: Paolo Banchero, Duke
- Forward: Armando Bacot, North Carolina
- Guard: Daivien Williamson, Wake Forest
- Forward: Brady Manek, North Carolina
- Forward: Dawson Garcia, North Carolina
- Forward: Jericole Hellems, NC State
- Forward: Manny Bates, NC State
This hypothetical all-star roster is admittedly stacked with forwards, but the starting lineup offers high-end talent with Duke freshmen Paolo Banchero, AJ Grffin and Trevor Keels, with a returning point guard in North Carolina’s Caleb Love, who would get to play with teammate Armando Bacot, who was a Third Team All-ACC selection last season. Love was a member of the ACC’s All-Freshman Team.
Bacot’s offensive rating of 122.7 ranked 64th nationally last season, per kenpom.com, while he also ranked among the most prolific offensive rebounders in the country (a 14.5-percent offensive rebounding rate, which ranked 25th). He might be the most proven individual player on this squad. Reserve forwards and new North Carolina teammates Brady Manek (37.5-percent 3-point shooting last season at Oklahoma) and Dawson Garcia (35.6-percent 3-point shooting last season at Marquette) can both stretch the floor, as can NC State’s Jericole Hellems (37.8 percent), so this lineup can provide shooting, even if there aren’t many guards in the rotation. Hellems was an honorable mention all-conference pick in 2021.
NC State’s Manny Bates was a member of the ACC All-Defensive Team and he received the second-most votes of any player in the conference, so he, his 6-11 frame and 10.7-percent block rate can provide rim protection for this group.
CHOOSING A CHAMPION: 7 programs that could be the next men’s basketball first-time champ
- Guard: Andrew Nembhard, Gonzaga
- Guard: Hunter Sallis, Gonzaga
- Guard: Noah Williams, Washington State
- Forward: Drew Timme, Gonzaga
- Center: Chet Holmgren, Gonzaga
- Guard: Daejon Davis, Washington
- Guard: Jamal Bey, Washington
- Guard: Michael Flowers, Washington State
- Forward: Efe Abogidi, Washington State
- Forward: Anton Watson, Gonzaga
Gonzaga is the reigning national runner-up, coming off a 31-1 season, so it should be no surprise that half of the roster for this hypothetical all-star team is made up of Bulldogs. Junior forward Drew Timme (19.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.3 apg) was a consensus Second Team All-American last season and he could be named a preseason First Team All-American by numerous outlets this fall. He’ll be joined in Gonzaga’s frontcourt next season by freshman Chet Holmgren, who many analysts believe is the best incoming freshman in the country.
Andrew Nembhard (9.2 ppg, 4.4 apg; 60.2-percent 2-point shooting) provides size (6-5) and experience (he’ll be a senior), while Hunter Sallis is another talented freshman in Spokane.
We’ll also take one returning player and one incoming transfer at both Washington and Washington State. The Huskies add Stanford transfer Daejon Davis, who shot 37 percent from three in three of his four seasons with the Cardinal, while Jamal Bey (10.3 ppg, 50.7 percent from three) was Washington’s third-leading scorer last season.
At Washington State, forward Efe Abodigi is an efficient rebounder (23-percent defensive rebounding rate, 10.6-percent offensive rebounding rate, per kenpom.com) and a high-percentage interior scorer (59.6 percent from two) who can also make his free throws (81.1 percent). South Alabama transfer Michael Flowers averaged 21 points per game last season, while shooting better than 49 percent from two and 38 percent from three.
- Guard: Antoine Davis, Detroit Mercy
- Guard: Eli Brooks, Michigan
- Guard: Max Christie, Michigan State
- Forward: Caleb Houstan, Michigan
- Center: Hunter Dickinson, Michigan
- Guard: Tyson Walker, Michigan State
- Guard: Devante’ Jones, Michigan
- Forward: Moussa Diabate, Michigan
- Forward: Joey Hauser, Michigan State
- Forward: Gabe Brown, Michigan State
Michigan’s 7-1 center Hunter Dickinson (14.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg; 59.8-percent shooting) was a consensus Second Team All-American last season, which means he’ll enter the 2021-22 season as a prime contender to be a First Team All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year. Dickinson will be the foundation for this hypothetical all-star roster. In 2021, he helped Michigan earn its first No. 1 seed since 1993 and the Wolverines went 14-3 in Big Ten play last season.
Eli Brooks (9.5ppg, 3.1 apg, 3.1 rpg; 39.6-percent 3-point shooting) will be the team’s second-leading returning scorer.
Michigan also enrolled a talented freshman class that’s headlined by power forward Caleb Houstan, who could be one of the 10 best freshmen in the country, while benefiting from playing alongside Dickinson. Fellow freshman forward Moussa Diabate is another high-profile addition to the Wolverines’ roster in Ann Arbor. Coastal Carolina transfer DeVante’ Jones (19.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.8 spg), the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year, projects to be an immediate-impact player for Michigan, too.
Michigan’s rival, Michigan State, also adds an elite freshman in 6-6 shooting guard Max Christie, while Northeastern transfer Tyson Walker projects to run the point in East Lansing after posting a 33.7-percent assist rate last season, per kenpom.com. The Spartans return forwards Joey Hauser (9.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Gabe Brown (7.2 ppg; 42-percent 3-point shooting), who would be strong, complementary players on this roster.
Then there’s Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis, who enters the 2021-22 season as one of the country’s leading returning scorers.
PRESEASON PICKS: 21 players who could be All-American candidates in 2021-22
- Guard: Prentiss Hubb, Notre Dame
- Guard: Jaden Ivey, Purdue
- Guard: Sasha Stefanovic, Purdue
- Forward: Trevion Williams, Purdue
- Forward: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana
- Guard: Xavier Johnson, Indiana
- Guard: Tamar Bates, Indiana
- Guard: Eric Hunter, Purdue
- Forward: Nate Laszewski, Notre Dame
- Center: Zach Edey, Purdue
Purdue forward Trevion Williams (15.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg) was named a First Team All-Big Ten selection last season and he could be an All-American candidate in the 2021-22 season, and pairing him with Second Team All-Big Ten forward Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana would create a lethal starting frontcourt for this roster.
Two of Jackson-Davis’ new teammates — Pitt transfer Xavier Johnson (14.2 ppg, 5.7 apg) and talented freshman Tamar Bates — also make this hypothetical all-star team.
Purdue had two of the five members of the Big Ten’s All-Freshman Team — guard Jaden Ivey (11.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and center Zach Edey (8.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg). Ivey could be a popular pick for a breakout star in the Big Ten and Edey’s per-40-minute numbers last season (23.6 points, 12.1 rebounds) were impressive, given that he played just 14.7 minutes per game.
Notre Dame’s Prentiss Hubb was a Third Team All-ACC selection last season after averaging a team-high 14.6 points, 5.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. His teammate, forward Nate Laszewski, was an honorable mention All-ACC selection after averaging 13.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
- Guard: Andre Curbelo, Illinois
- Guard: Trent Frazier, Illinois
- Guard: Lucas Williamson, Loyola Chicago
- Guard: Da’Monte Williams, Illinois
- Forward: Kofi Cockburn, Illinois
- Guard: Chase Audige, Northwestern
- Guard: Javon Freeman-Liberty, DePaul
- Guard: Keith Clemons, Loyola Chicago
- Forward: Aher Uguak, Loyolla Chicago
- Forward: Pete Nance, Northwestern
Kofi Cockburn, who was a consensus Second Team All-American and a First Team All-Big Ten selection, elected to return to Illinois for his junior season after considering the NBA. He’s the foundation for this hypothetical all-star team after averaging 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 65 percent from the field.
We’ll surround him with his Illinois teammates Trent Frazier (10.2 ppg, 2.7 apg, 2.7 rpg), Andre Curbelo (9.1 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Da’Monte Williams (5.5 ppg; national-best 54.7-percent 3-point shooting).
Loyola Chicago, which upset No. 1 seed Illinois as a No. 8 seed in the 2021 NCAA tournament, has a returning Second Team All-Missouri Valley selection in Lucas Williamson, who was also the conference’s defensive MVP, and a returning Third Team All-Missouri Valley pick in Aher Uguak.
- Guard: Kennedy Chandler, Tennessee
- Guard: Scotty Pippen Jr., Vanderbilt
- Guard: Landers Nolley II, Memphis
- Forward: Emoni Bates, Memphis
- Center: Jalen Duren, Memphis
- Guard: Ledarrius Brewer, East Tennessee State
- Guard: Malachi Smith, Chattanooga
- Guard: Victor Bailey Jr., Tennessee
- Forward: Deandre Williams, Memphis
- Forward: John Fulkerson, Tennessee
Scotty Pippen Jr. was a First Team All-SEC selection last season and he’s one of the leading returning scorers in men’s basketball after averaging 20.8 points per game, while Landers Nolley II was a First Team All-AAC pick after leading the Tigers in scoring (13.1 ppg) and shooting 38.7 percent from three.
Nolley will be joined by fellow Tigers Deandre Williams, who averaged 11.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game, as a 6-9 forward, and recently committed freshmen Jalen Duren, a center, and forward Emoni Bates who are expected to be two of the most talented first-year players in the country this season.
Tennessee point guard Kennedy Chandler is one of the highest-regarded freshmen in the country, so he’ll run point in the starting lineup, while four other Vols will come off the bench. Chattanooga’s Malachi Smith was a first-team All-Southern Conference pick last season after averaging 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game in his first season playing for the Mocs after transferring from Wright State. Another first-team All-SoCon pick, East Tennessee State’s Ledarrius Brewer, makes the state’s All-Star team after averaging 16.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, while shooting 55 percent from two and 38 percent from three.
- Guard: Tyson Etienne, Wichita State
- Guard: Remy Martin, Kansas
- Guard: Ochai Agbaji, Kansas
- Forward: Jalen Wilson, Kansas
- Forward: David McCormack, Kansas
- Guard: Joseph Yesefu, Kansas
- Guard: Christian Braun, Kansas
- Guard: Dexter Dennis, Wichita State
- Guard: Mike McGuirl, Kansas State
- Forward: Morris Udeze, Wichita State
Last season, David McCormack (13.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) was a Second Team All-Big 12 selection, while Ochai Agbaji (14.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg; 37.7-percent 3-point shooting) and Christian Braun (9.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg) were honorable mention choices. Meanwhile, Jalen Wilson (11.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg) was an all-newcomer team selection in the Big 12. Kansas will have veteran additions to its 2021-22 roster as Arizona State transfer Remy Martin (19.1 ppg, 3.7 apg) was a First Team All-Pac-12 selection, while Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu (12.8 ppg) was the Missouri Valley Sixth Man Award recipient.
Wichita State guard Tyson Etienne was named the AAC’s co-player of the year, along with Houston’s Quentin Grimes, after averaging 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, while shooting 39 percent from three.
Kansas State’s Mike McGuirl was an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection last season.
- Guard: TyTy Washington, Kentucky
- Guard: Sahvir Wheeler, Kentucky
- Guard: Kellan Grady, Kentucky
- Forward: Daimion Collins, Kentucky
- Forward: Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky
- Guard: Davion Mintz, Kentucky
- Guard: Samuell Williamson, Louisville
- Guard: Noah Locke, Louisville
- Forward: KJ Williams, Murray State
- Forward: Jae’Lyn Withers, Louisville
The Kentucky Wildcats will have a new-look roster after going 9-16 last season. They’ve added to their roster transfers, including Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia), Kellan Grady (Davidson) and Sahvir Wheeler (Georgia), while enrolling talented freshmen, such as point guard TyTy Washington and power forward Daimion Collins.
Louisville forward Jae’Lyn Withers (10.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg) is the team’s leading returning scorer, followed by Samuell Williamson (9.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg). The Cardinals added Florida transfer Noah Locke, who averaged 10 points per game for the Gators.
Murray State’s KJ Williams was a First Team All-OVC selection after averaging 15.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.
- Guard: Jahvon Quinerly, Alabama
- Guard: Jaden Shackelford, Alabama
- Guard: JD Davison, Alabama
- Forward: Jabari Smith, Auburn
- Forward: Walker Kessler, Auburn
- Guard: Allen Flanigan, Auburn
- Guard: Tavin Lovan, UAB
- Forward: Noah Gurley, Alabama
- Forward: Jaylin Williams, Auburn
- Center: Charles Bediako, Alabama
Alabama’s Jaden Shackelford was a Second Team All-SEC selection after leading the Crimson Tide in scoring last season with 14 points per game, plus 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. His teammate Jahvon Quinerly was Alabama’s second-leading scorer, even though he started just seven times in 30 games.
While the Crimson Tide lost four players who started at least 19 games last season, Alabama enrolled elite point guard JD Davison and a talented 7-footer, Charles Bediako. It also added transfers Noah Gurley (15.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game at Furman) and Nimari Burnett (5.3 points per game at Texas Tech).
UAB’s Tavin Lovan (12.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.4 apg) was a Second Team All-Conference-USA pick last season.