March is five months away. Thousands of college basketball games will be played before Selection Sunday. Yet two things seem pretty clear in early November. North Carolina and Kentucky are loaded, and the Tar Heels and Wildcats are heavy favorites to reach the Final Four in New Orleans. So it’s no surprise that UNC and UK are the top two teams in our preseason bracket projection.
From there, it gets interesting. Debates rage across the internet and college hoops magazines about the next group of teams. Defending champion Connecticut returns a host of talent, as does 2011 top seed Ohio State. Other teams in the early running for No. 1 seeds: Syracuse and Duke. Florida and Vanderbilt both have the talent to challenge Kentucky in the SEC. Louisville and Pittsburgh are potential threats to the Orange and Huskies in the Big East. Memphis has the horses to dominate an improved Conference USA.
There are also plenty of good mid-major programs to watch. Belmont could be an at-large candidate if it navigates an opportunistic non-conference schedule. Detroit will test Butler in the Horizon League. As many as three or four teams could push for bids from the Colonial and Atlantic 10. Both the Missouri Valley and Mid-American have multiple bid options. Our preseason projection has two teams each from the Colonial, MVC, and Horizon. Hopefully, we’ll see that – or more – play out next spring.
Further down the bracket, it’s educated guesswork …
Last 5 teams IN: Virginia, Minnesota, Wichita State, Drexel, St. Louis. First 5 teams OUT: Notre Dame, BYU, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s. The next group includes Kent State, VCU, Indiana, Old Dominion, and Central Florida. None of these would be huge surprises. That’s the beauty of college hoops. We play the games and what happens on the court matters more than public opinion.
Here’s to a great season. Let’s enjoy the ride to Selection Sunday.
2012 PRESEASON BRACKET PROJECTION
Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc).
FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)
Minnesota vs. Drexel | Wichita State vs. St. Louis | STONY BROOK vs. LONG ISLAND | TX-SAN ANTONIO vs. ALABAMA ST.
BRACKET PROJECTION …
|EAST – Boston||SOUTH – Atlanta|
|1) CONNECTICUT||1) NORTH CAROLINA|
|16) HAMPTON||16) STONY BROOK / LONG ISLAND|
|8) Texas||8) Mississippi State|
|9) Purdue||9) Temple|
|5) UCLA||5) Cincinnati|
|12) Minnesota / Drexel||12) Oklahoma State|
|4) XAVIER||4) Wisconsin|
|13) IONA||13) Wichita State / St. Louis|
|6) Texas A-M||6) Florida State|
|11) BUTLER||11) Detroit|
|3) Vanderbilt||3) Louisville|
|14) WEBER STATE||14) DAVIDSON|
|7) Michigan||7) Washington|
|10) West Virginia||10) Illinois|
|2) Duke||2) Florida|
|15) BUCKNELL||15) FLORIDA ATLANTIC|
|MIDWEST – St. Louis||WEST – Phoenix|
|1) KENTUCKY||1) OHIO STATE|
|16) TX-SAN ANTONIO / ALABAMA ST||16) UNC-ASHEVILLE|
|8) Miami-FL||8) NEW MEXICO|
|9) Villanova||9) CREIGHTON|
|5) Michigan State||5) Marquette|
|12) Oregon||12) Virginia|
|4) Kansas||4) ARIZONA|
|13) UTAH STATE||13) AKRON|
|6) Alabama||6) California|
|11) BELMONT||11) Marshall|
|3) Pittsburgh||3) BAYLOR|
|14) HARVARD||14) LONG BEACH STATE|
|7) Missouri||7) GONZAGA|
|10) UNLV||10) GEORGE MASON|
|2) MEMPHIS||2) Syracuse|
|15) ORAL ROBERTS||15) TENNESSEE STATE|
NOTES on the BRACKET: North Carolina is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Kentucky, Connecticut and Ohio State.
Last Five teams in (at large): Virginia, Minnesota, Wichita State, Drexel, St. Louis
First Five teams out (at large): Notre Dame, BYU, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s
Next Five out (at large): VCU, Kent State, Indiana, Old Dominion, Central Florida
Bracket adjustments: None in this update.
Here is the team breakdown by Conference …
Big East (8): Connecticut, Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Marquette, Villanova, West Virginia
Big Ten (7): Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota
Big 12 (6): Baylor, Kansas, Texas A-M, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma State
ACC (5): North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Miami-FL, Virginia
SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Mississippi State,
Pac 12 (5): Arizona, UCLA, California, Washington, Oregon
Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, Temple, St. Louis
Mountain West (2): New Mexico, UNLV
Colonial (2): George Mason, Drexel
Horizon (2): Butler, Detroit
Conference USA (2): Memphis, Marshall
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State
West Coast (1): Gonzaga
Conference leaders/champions … Utah State (WAC), Tennessee State (OVC), Iona(MAAC), Akron (MAC), Weber State (Big Sky), Davidson (Southern), Oral Roberts (Summit), Long Beach State (Big West), Long Island (NEC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt), Harvard (Ivy), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Hampton (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Stony Brook (America East), UT-San Antonio (Southland), Alabama State (SWAC)