The first month of the 2021-22 college basketball season is nearly in the books, and impressions have begun to form about the best teams in both the men’s and women’s games.
But which schools are doing it best in both men’s and women’s college basketball? That’s the question we’ve attempted to answer in the latest installment of ESPN’s combined men’s and women’s rankings. Combined position in Monday’s most recent AP polls were the No. 1 criteria — a total of 11 universities appear in the most recent men’s and women’s rankings, paced by Baylor at No. 2 on the men’s side and No. 5 on the women’s. Beyond the rankings, schools were given consideration for their standing in the most recent versions of ESPN’s men’s and women’s Bracketology — bracket position was also used as a tiebreaker, where applicable, to break ties among schools with identical combined AP rankings.
Men: After winning the national championship in April, Baylor lost its top three players (MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler) to the pros, setting up a stepback season in 2021-22. But Scott Drew had other plans. The arrival of five-star freshman Kendall Brown and Arizona transfer James Akinjo, along with the growth of LJ Cryer and Matthew Mayer, has positioned the Bears to make another Final Four run. — Myron Medcalf
Women: The Bears’ only loss was to then-No. 3 Maryland, but they got a scare at home from Missouri recently. Senior forward NaLyssa Smith leads the way as a national player of the year candidate, and Baylor is looking more toward 3-point shooting under new coach Nicki Collen. — Mechelle Voepel
No. 9 Arizona holds on to beat Vanderbilt as Shaina Pellington drops in a tough layup as time expires.
Men’s: Under first-year head coach Tommy Lloyd, Arizona has been one of the biggest surprises during the first month of the season. The Wildcats rank near the nation’s leaders at both ends of the floor, with Christian Koloko and Azuolas Tubelis anchoring the interior and Kerr Kriisa and Bennedict Mathurin providing balance from the perimeter. They opened the nation’s eyes with a blowout win over then-No. 4 Michigan in Las Vegas, playing aggressive defense and dominating the Wolverines in transition. — Jeff Borzello
Women’s: The veteran returners and transfers that joined the Wildcats all seem to fit in immediately as Adia Barnes’ team has raced to a 7-0 record and a No. 1 seed in the latest Bracketology. Cate Reese (13.7 PPG) leads a balanced offensive attack in which eight players are averaging at least 5.0 points per game. — Charlie Creme
Men: In pursuit of his second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, Danny Hurley’s UConn squad is top-50 on KenPom in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. In Hurley’s first season with the Huskies (2016-17), the program finished outside the top-80 in both categories. In the immediate future, the team will have to endure and play through the absence of Adama Sanogo, the No. 2 scorer on the team at 15.6 PPG who could miss multiple weeks due to an abdominal injury. — Myron Medcalf
Women: The Huskies will be without star sophomore guard Paige Bueckers for at least six to eight weeks as she recovers from a tibial plateau fracture in her left knee. Freshman guard Azzi Fudd and junior forward Aubrey Griffin are also currently out with injuries. So UConn’s senior trio of Christyn Williams, Evina Westbrook and Olivia Nelson-Ododa need to stand tall. — Mechelle Voepel
Men: Under first-year head coach Chris Beard, the Longhorns have cruised past six overmatched opponents while falling to Gonzaga by 12 in Spokane. Utah transfer Timmy Allen has emerged as the leading scorer in a deep rotation that also features Courtney Ramey, Tre Mitchell (arrived in Austin by way of UMass), Andrew Jones, Christian Bishop (transferred from Creighton) and Marcus Carr (formerly a star at Minnesota). — John Gasaway
Women: Despite an overhauled roster and relying on plenty of youth, the Longhorns have exceeded expectations and are in position for a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament. Freshman point guard Rori Harmon emerged as a potential future star with a 21-point performance in the upset of Stanford. Mississippi State transfer Aliyah Matharu (16.6 PPG) is the team’s leading scorer, shooting 48.8% from 3-point range. — Charlie Creme
Men: Freshman guard Kennedy Chandler was expected to make a big impact in Knoxville, and he has, leading the Volunteers in scoring at 15.3 a game. Yet even with Chandler’s heroics it’s been the defense that has really stood out for Tennessee. Aside from an 18-point loss to Villanova on a neutral floor, Rick Barnes’ men have distinguished themselves by holding a series of early-season opponents under a point per possession. The Vols played well defensively in a rock-fight 57-52 overtime loss to Texas Tech on Tuesday. — John Gasaway
Women: Despite standout guard/forward Rae Burrell being out indefinitely after a knee injury in the season opener, the Lady Vols are 8-0 and back in the Associated Press top 10 for the first time since December 2018. A big test looms when defending champ Stanford visits Dec. 18. — Mechelle Voepel
Men: The Blue Devils took over the No. 1 spot in the AP rankings after beating Gonzaga in Las Vegas, but that was short-lived, as they fell to Ohio State less than one week later. Paolo Banchero has made his case to be the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft, while classmate Trevor Keels has shown lottery potential as well. But it’s been the strides made by wing Wendell Moore Jr. and center Mark Williams that have helped transform Duke into one of the title favorites. — Jeff Borzello
Women: It appeared Kara Lawson was still piecing together her rotations and figuring out just how good her team was — when the Blue Devils showed her in a convincing win over Iowa in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Freshman Shayeann Day-Wilson (13.3 PPG, 22 of 44 on 3-pointers) has star-quality potential and has formed an outstanding backcourt trio with Celeste Taylor and Lexi Gordon. — Charlie Creme
Men: Freshman TyTy Washington Jr., drives a Porsche, thanks to a sweet NIL deal with a local dealership, but he’s also driving a 7-1 Kentucky squad that’s balanced with young talent, veterans and transfers this season. With Washington on the floor, Kentucky is connecting on 39 percent of its 3-point attempts and 54 percent of its shots inside the arc, according to hooplens.com. With Oscar Tshiebwe (15.4 RPG), the nation’s top rebounder, Kentucky has collected nearly half of its second-chance opportunities. — Myron Medcalf
Women: It’s a key week for the Wildcats, as they face DePaul and in-state rival Louisville. Their lone loss was to Indiana, and national player of the year candidate Rhyne Howard is averaging 20.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 4.9 APG, while shooting 40% from 3-point range. — Mechelle Voepel
Iowa State’s Tyrese Hunter gets the steal and rises high for the one-handed jam.
Men: Perhaps no coach in the country has done a more impressive job through four weeks than new Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger. Otzelberger took over a team that won just two games all of last season — including zero in the Big 12 — and has them in the top 20 nationally. The Cyclones are led by their perimeter trio of freshman Tyrese Hunter and Big Ten transfers Izaiah Brockington (Penn State) and Gabe Kalscheur (Minnesota). — Jeff Borzello
Women: Ashley Joens is the star, but younger sister Aubrey Joens is also a major reason why the Cyclones are 9-1. The sophomore guard’s scoring average (13.3 PPG) has increased by over eight points per game, and she is making 47.1% of her 3-point attempts, good for third in the Big 12. — Charlie Creme
Men: Under Mark Pope this season the Cougars have already attained their highest ranking in the AP poll (No. 12 the week of November 29) since the days of Jimmer Fredette 11 years ago. Alex Barcello is hitting shots from both sides of the arc, and BYU’s recorded early-season wins over San Diego State, Oregon and Utah. The Cougars have also been lifted by one of the nation’s lowest marks for opponent 3-point accuracy. — John Gasaway
Women: The 8-0 Cougars have their highest AP poll ranking at No. 16 and are led by an excellent guard tandem of Shaylee Gonzales (19.3 PPG, 3.3 APG) and Paisley Harding (17.3 PPG, 2.3 APG). The West Coast Conference preseason favorite has four wins over Power 5 programs. — Mechelle Voepel
Men: E.J. Liddell‘s performance in Ohio State’s 71-66 win over Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge — 14 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks — punctuated the junior’s push for All-America honors. His 20.4 PPG are more than the No. 2 and No. 3 scorers (Zed Key, Kyle Young) combined. The key to this team’s offensive success has come at the 3-point line: four out of 10 shots for the Buckeyes are 3-point attempts, and they make 39 percent of those attempts. — Myron Medcalf
Women: The Buckeyes have overcome the loss of point guard Madison Greene to a season-ending knee injury to start 6-1. Junior forward Rebeka Mikulasikova has been a big reason why. After averaging just 4.0 points per game a season ago, Mikulasikova is up to 14.7 PPG so far this season. — Charlie Creme
Men: Will Wade has this reloading thing down to a science at this point. The Tigers lost first-round pick Cameron Thomas and two other starters off last year’s team, yet are off to an 8-0 start that includes seven wins by 14 points or more. Cincinnati transfer Tari Eason has been one of the SEC’s best newcomers, despite coming off the bench in all eight games. Wade has a young team with six freshmen and sophomores in his top eight, but they’re going to be a factor in the SEC. — Jeff Borzello
Women: The 6-1 Tigers lost to a hot-shooting Florida Gulf Coast team early, but learned from that and upset then-No. 14 Iowa State last week for new coach Kim Mulkey’s first win over a ranked team with LSU. At No. 24, LSU is ranked this week for the first time since December 2019. — Mechelle Voepel
Men: Big things are still expected from a group that made a surprise run as a No. 11 seed from the First Four to the 2021 Final Four. The Bruins lost by 20 to Gonzaga on a neutral floor last month, but they defeated Villanova in overtime and have won the rest of their games by double-digit margins. Leading scorer and preseason All-American Johnny Juzang has shown his versatility by becoming one of his team’s best defensive rebounders as a 6-foot-7 junior. — John Gasaway
Women: A disappointing 1-2 trip to the Gulf Coast Showcase over Thanksgiving weekend knocked the Bruins out of the Top 25 and raised several questions about their offensive efficiency, depth and interior defense. The opportunity to reverse that trend and get back into contention for a top-four NCAA tournament seed arrives quickly with games against UConn (1 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC), Ohio State and Arizona in the next three weeks. — Charlie Creme
Men: The Wolverines kicked off the season as the No. 6 squad in the Associated Press Top-25 preseason poll and the favorites to win the Big Ten. That status made sense for a squad that returned Hunter Dickinson and added five-star prospect Caleb Houstan. But a Michigan team that’s shooting 35.4% from the 3-point line — down from 38% a year ago — hasn’t found the magic yet after losing its three toughest games thus far (Seton Hall, North Carolina and Arizona). — Myron Medcalf
Women: The 8-1 Wolverines struggled in their biggest test so far, falling 70-48 at Louisville. They have another marquee nonconference matchup vs. Baylor on Dec. 19. Forwards Naz Hillmon (20.1 PPG) and Emily Kiser (10.2) and big guard Leigha Brown (12.3) are a tough trio to contain. — Mechelle Voepel
Iowa’s Caitlin Clark absorbs the contact and somehow is still able to get the ball to go off the glass.
Men: Iowa started the season 7-0 after beating Virginia on the road in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but the Hawkeyes have since lost two in a row, at Purdue and then at home to Illinois. Despite the defeats, Iowa is still in a better position than most expected following the departure of Wooden Award winner Luka Garza. Sophomore forward Keegan Murray has been one of the breakout players nationally, going from 7.2 points and 5.1 rebounds last season to 23.9 points and 8.0 rebounds this season. — Jeff Borzello
Women: A COVID-19-related pause and a surprisingly poor showing at Duke have been setbacks, but Caitlin Clark just recorded her second triple-double of the seasonc, and the Hawkeyes are still the seventh highest-scoring team in the country (84.2 PPG). — Charlie Creme
Men: Four decades after playing under Bob Knight at Indiana, Mike Woodson was hired in March as IU head coach. His mission is to restore the luster to a program that hasn’t appeared in an NCAA tournament since 2016. The Hoosiers are a double-OT loss at Syracuse away from an undefeated start, and preseason All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis has been sensational. — John Gasaway
Women: The Hoosiers reached a program-high No. 4 ranking before losses to Stanford and NC State. Their best nonconference win is over Kentucky, and they will hope to make a strong run through the Big Ten. Indiana is very reliant on a starting five who all average double-digit scoring, led by forward Mackenzie Holmes (16.5 PPG). — Mechelle Voepel
Men: After starting the season as the No. 1 team in the AP poll and wins over Texas and UCLA, Gonzaga was humbled in a loss to Duke in Las Vegas that preceded another loss to Alabama just over a week later. Mark Few has access to both Chet Holmgren, the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA draft per ESPN, and Drew Timme, a national player of the year candidate, in the post. Gonzaga is a better offensive team with the two stars on the court together, but the team’s defensive prowess dips in that scenario, too, which is a quandary Few will continue to address in the weeks ahead with this talented crew. — Myron Medcalf
Women: The Zags are once again powered by a set of twins. Jenn and LeeAnne Wirth have moved on, but juniors Kayleigh Truong and Kaylynne Truong are the leading scorers for a Gonzaga team that finds itself in the odd position of being an underdog in the WCC and trying to catch unbeaten BYU. — Charlie Creme
Michigan has no answer for Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith in the third quarter.
Men: It’s been an uneven start for the Cardinals this season, with a home loss to Furman in the second game of the season and a loss at Michigan State that was barely competitive for the final 15 minutes. But they also beat Mississippi State, Maryland and NC State — all away from home. They had the first six games of the season without head coach Chris Mack, but assistant Mike Pegues stepped in and led them to a 5-1 start. — Jeff Borzello
Women: The Cardinals lost their season opener in overtime to Arizona, but they’re 7-0 since heading into an in-state showdown Sunday vs. Kentucky. A week later they will face UConn, which looks much different with Paige Bueckers sidelined. Coach Jeff Walz is seeking his second career victory against the Huskies. — Mechelle Voepel
Men: One of the nation’s few remaining unbeaten teams, Arkansas has “good” victories over Cincinnati and Kansas State and has won all of its other games by at least 13. JD Notae has scored in double figures in every game, and 6-foot-10 sophomore Jaylin Williams anchors the defense. As was the case with head coach Eric Musselman’s best teams at Nevada, the Razorbacks excel on D by limiting opponents to one shot. — John Gasaway
Women: Veteran point guard and premier 3-point shooter Amber Ramirez has gotten off to a slow start, but the Razorbacks are still 7-2. They should be 11-2 by the beginning of SEC play with two important games out of the gate: at Ole Miss and home against Tennessee. — Charlie Creme
Men: Mike Young’s squad is struggling through a tough stretch — the Hokies have lost three of their last four games — that won’t get any easier with a matchup against St. Bonaventure ahead and battles against Duke and North Carolina in its first two ACC games this season toward the end of the month. The good news for Keve Aluma (14.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 1.0 BPG) and Co. is that the shots are falling (39 percent from the 3-point line). Now, the team just needs more stops to make it matter. — Myron Medcalf
Women: The Hokies started the season 7-1 but have struggled recently, losing 64-58 to Tennessee on Sunday and 59-40 at Liberty, shooting just 28 percent from the field, Tuesday. Senior guard Aisha Sheppard is a bright spot, leading the ACC in 3-pointers per game (3.6). — Mechelle Voepel
Men: We always assume Leonard Hamilton will figure things out by the end of the season, but it’s been a rocky start for the Seminoles. They were blown out by Florida in the second game of the season, lost by 28 at Purdue and were dropped by Syracuse in Tallahassee. They had to replace several key pieces off last year’s team, including top-five pick Scottie Barnes, and newcomers Caleb Mills and Matthew Cleveland have been the bright spots of the incoming class. — Jeff Borzello
Women: The Seminoles have bounced back after two losses at the St. Pete Showcase over Thanksgiving, but they have yet to beat a team in the top-150 of the NET. Senior guard Morgan Jones (14.8 PPG), who has nearly doubled her career scoring average and is the only Seminole averaging in double figures, has been a bright spot. A home game against Virginia Tech on Dec. 19 is one to watch in the ACC race. — Charlie Creme
Men: If there’s such a thing as a “breakout fifth-year senior season,” that’s what we’re seeing from Taz Sherman. Granted a fifth year of eligibility due to the coronavirus, the 6-foot-4 Sherman has emerged as one of the nation’s leading scorers at 21 a game. His production has helped the Mountaineers open the season with a 7-1 record that includes wins over major-conference foes Clemson and Pitt. — John Gasaway
Women: After consecutive losses against BYU and Kentucky, the Mountaineers bounced back with a 65-54 win over Charlotte on Tuesday. Junior guard KK Deans is leading the way, averaging 16.4 PPG. — Mechelle Voepel
Men: Last year, Tanner Groves and Jacob Groves became stars when the brothers combined to score 78 points for Eastern Washington in a 93-84 loss to Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Tanner Groves is now the leading scorer (14.9 PPG) for an Oklahoma squad that started 7-2, while Jacob Groves is a reserve who is playing 13 minutes per game. Despite a tough overtime loss to Butler on Tuesday, Porter Moser is aiming to build an NCAA tournament team on the shoulders of transfers in his first year with the program. — Myron Medcalf
Women: The 8-1 Sooners, whose only loss came to Oregon, are the top scoring team in the country at 88.7 PPG. New coach Jennie Baranczyk got her 200th career victory Tuesday with a 94-58 win over Eastern Michigan. A win over BYU on Friday should propel Oklahoma into the AP poll. — Mechelle Voepel
Armando Bacot drops 13 points in the first half against UNC Asheville.
Men: Hubert Davis has quickly tried to put his own imprint on the Tar Heels, looking to modernize the offense with skilled bigs and more ball-screens as opposed to playing two low-post players the majority of the time. It led to some early growing pains on the defensive end, but they seem to have figured things out: Carolina held each of their last three opponents — UNC Asheville, Michigan and Georgia Tech — to below 0.94 points per possession. — Jeff Borzello
Women: The Tar Heels lead the nation in margin of victory (plus-33.2 PPG) and are No. 2 in the first NET rankings that debuted earlier this week. They have yet to play a Top 25 team, but the schedule is ranked in the top 100. Most surprising has been a defense allowing just 48.6 points per game. — Charlie Creme
Men: At 9-0, the Rams are on the brink of being ranked in the AP top 25 for the first time in seven years. CSU has opened the season with some of the nation’s most accurate shooting, as point guard Isaiah Stevens has fed a steady stream of assists to leading scorer David Roddy. This is coach Niko Medved’s fourth season in Fort Collins, and Colorado State has improved markedly each year. — John Gasaway
Women: The Rams were picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West in the preseason, but behind a deliberate offensive approach, good defense and balanced scoring, they have won six of their first seven games. And even in its only loss, Colorado State played evenly with Louisville over the final three quarters. — Charlie Creme
Men: The Seahawks have played just four games this season due to positive coronavirus test results, but in that short span of basketball Bashir Mason’s team has turned some heads. Wagner posted a true road win at VCU and played shorthanded yet kept things respectable for the first 20 minutes on Seton Hall’s home floor. Reigning NEC player of the year Alex Morales has been excellent in the early going. — John Gasaway
Women: The Seahawks, picked to finish second behind Mount St. Mary’s in the Northeast Conference preseason poll, are off to a 6-1 start in Terrell Coburn’s first season as head coach. Wagner, which made the NEC tournament title game last season, is seeking the program’s first NCAA or WNIT appearance. — Mechelle Voepel