While it may seem ridiculous to predict what the NCAA Tournament bracket will look like seven months in advance, neither Joe Lunardi or myself think so. Lunardi posted his preseason bracketology prediction on Monday, which you can find here.
For purposes of this article, I will simply breakdown each region per slide, as well as discuss teams on the bubble, and the breakdown on number of teams per conference in the field. So basically, I'm going through Lunardi's bracket and giving my way-too-early opinion on it.
Although Lunardi's bracket will likely change again before the season starts, as well as numerous times throughout the season, I thought this was a fun way to look ahead to March even if it does seem so far away.
While my predictions could be way off come March, the matchups presented here by Lunardi, as well as the hoopla surrounding each team, has helped contribute to my breakdown of the brackets. Here we go!
1) Louisville vs. 16) Cal State Fullerton/Savannah State
8) Kansas St. vs. 9) Miami (FL)
5) Gonzaga vs. 12) Harvard
4) Ohio St. vs. 13) Davidson
Louisville should have no problem keeping No. 1 seeds unbeaten all-time, while Bruce Weber's team at Kansas State has plenty of returning talent. Gonzaga never loses in the first round, while Ohio State is way too talented to get upset early.
Louisville, who made the Final Four in 2012, has Gorgui Dieng as an outstanding shot blocker that can neutralize the K State frontcourt. Peyton Siva is also an underrated player, who does all the little things for the Cardinals.
The Buckeyes defeated the Bulldogs in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament and based on this bracket, I'm predicting the same outcome. Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas will make up one of the nation's top duos.
Louisville, who also has Wayne Blackshear and Chase Behanen, would be simply too deep for the young Buckeyes to handle.
6) Missouri vs. 11) Illinois St.
3) North Carolina St. vs. 14) South Dakota St.
7) Iowa St. vs. 10) Virginia Commonwealth
2) Michigan vs. 15) Vermont
Missouri-Illinois St. presents a great matchup of efficient offenses with strong guards. I'll put my money on Tyler Brown and Jackie Carmichael to get the upset here. North Carolina State would win easily, while Virginia Commonwealth advances past the first round yet again. Finally, Michigan defeats Vermont.
CJ Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and Richard Howell boast a strong lineup for NC State and are too much for the Redbirds in round two. VCU, who lost to Indiana in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, loses to another Big Ten foe in this year's tournament in Michigan.
North Carolina State gets revenge after losing to Michigan in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and advances to the Elite Eight, then going on to defeat Louisville and win the Midwest region.
1) Kentucky vs. 16) Charleston Southern/Texas Southern
8) Georgetown vs. 9) Florida St.
5) UNLV vs. 12) Massachusetts
4) Memphis vs. 13) Murray St.
Despite losing nearly everyone from last year's NCAA Champion squad, Kentucky will advance past the first round. Florida State then defeats Georgetown in a low scoring, drag it out kind of game. UNLV then blows by UMass, while an Isaiah Cannon led Murray St. team upsets Memphis.
Kentucky then advances to a fourth straight Sweet 16, before UNLV ends Murray St.'s season in the second round for a second straight year.
While UNLV has the firepower and fast-paced tempo to stay with Kentucky, the combination of returning players like Kyle Wiltjer, and freshmen like Nerlens Noel, will be enough to stave off the feisty Runnin' Rebels.
6) Cincinnati vs. 11) Ohio
3) Wisconsin vs. 14) Detroit
7) St. Louis vs. 10) Tennessee
2) Kansas vs. 15) Middle Tennessee
Despite losing coach John Groce to Illinois, Ohio plays Cinderella again behind DJ Cooper and defeats the Bearcats. Bo Ryan's Badgers then advance past Detroit, while Tennessee's athleticism is too much for SLU to handle. Finally, Kansas defeats Middle Tennessee.
Wisconsin advances to their third straight Sweet 16 behind Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Josh Gasser, while Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson provide a good enough inside-out duo to defeat the Volunteers.
Wisconsin then loses to Kansas as they don't have enough athleticism to keep up. Kansas then gets revenge on Kentucky from last year's National Title and advances to yet another Final Four under Bill Self.
1) Indiana vs. 16) Stephen F. Austin
8) Notre Dame vs. 9) Drexel
5) Creighton vs. 12) California/BYU
4) Duke vs. 13) New Mexico St.
Indiana gets past Stephen F. Austin in the first round, while Notre Dame falls to a Drexel team happy to not be snubbed from the tournament in consecutive seasons. Creighton then defeats BYU behind stud Doug McDermott, while Duke sneaks by New Mexico St.
Indiana is too talented for Drexel to handle, with the likes of Cody Zeller, Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo. McDermott is the best player on the court in the next game, but doesn't have the supporting cast that Duke has with Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry.
In a battle between hated teams, the Hoosiers advance in a high-scoring/poor-defense game. A win here would ensure that the Hoosiers advance further than they did in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
6) Arizona vs. 11) New Mexico
3) Florida vs. 14) Mercer
7) Minnesota vs. 10) St. Joseph's
2) Syracuse vs. 15) Robert Morris
Arizona advances past New Mexico, while the Gators get by Mercer in the first round. Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins then lead Minnesota by St. Joseph's, while the Orange beat Robert Morris.
Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Patric Young then lead Florida by Arizona and Syracuse sneaks by a talented Minnesota team, but gets a big lift from Brandon Triche and CJ Fair.
Florida then ends Syracuse's season, but then falls to the Hoosiers in the Elite Eight in yet another high-scoring and down-to-the-wire battle.
1) UCLA vs. 16) Montana
8) San Diego St. vs. 9) St. Mary's
5) Marquette vs. 12) Purdue
4) Baylor vs. 13) Northern Iowa/Oregon
The freshmen led UCLA Bruins defeat Montana in the first round, while Matthew Dellavedova leads St. Mary's to the second round after losing to Purdue in the first round in 2012. Marquette then gets by a pesky Purdue team, while Baylor is way too talented for Northern Iowa to handle.
Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and Shabazz Muhammad then show why they were the top recruiting class in 2012, while Baylor's Pierre Jackson is too quick for Junior Cadougan to handle, despite the Golden Eagles deep roster featuring Trent Lockett, Davante Gardner, Vander Blue, Jamil Wilson and Chris Otule.
Baylor, who also boasts one of the top recruiting classes in 2012, then upsets UCLA based on having better returning players, which include Jackson, Brady Heslip, Deuce Bello, Gary Franklin and Cory Jefferson.
6) Pittsburgh vs. 11) Alabama
3) North Carolina vs. 14) Iona
7) Texas vs. 10) Temple
2) Michigan St. vs. 15) Bucknell
Despite recent troubles with the NCAA, Alabama's tough playing style helps them advance past Pitt. North Carolina then takes care of Iona, while Temple defeats Myck Kabongo and Texas. Tom Izzo's team also gets past Bucknell.
PJ Hairston, James Michael McAdoo, Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald are too much for the Crimson Tide to stick with, while Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Keith Appling provide the punch needed to beat Temple.
In a battle of traditional powerhouses, North Carolina then defeats Michigan State in yet another intriguing matchup. In the Elite Eight, Baylor gets past a young North Carolina team that still needs another year before getting back to the Final Four.
3) North Carolina St. vs. 2) Kansas
1) Indiana vs. 4) Baylor
Just like a Sweet 16 should look, my Final Four bracket contains a No. 1-4 seed. In the first contest, Kansas' Final Four experience comes into play as they once again battle back from a deficit and defeat the Wolfpack.
The Hoosiers then go on to beat Baylor in the second game, disallowing the chance of an all Big 12 National Championship matchup.
While I'm sure my national champion prediction will change many times between now and when the actual NCAA Tournament bracket is released in March, my initial pick will be that the Kansas Jayhawks win the 2013 National Championship.
Despite losing Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, Bill Self's squad still returns Johnson, Withey, Travis Releford, Kevin Young, Justin Wesley, as well as a solid recruiting class. Indiana may match up in talent with Kansas, but I don't see a team with as little NCAA Tournament experience as the Hoosiers winning it all.
Last Four In: Brigham Young, Oregon, California, Northern Iowa
First Four Out: Colorado St., Ole Miss, Nevada, Virginia
Next Four Out: Washington, Belmont, La Salle, Marshall
Brigham Young and Cal were both part of the last four in a year ago, while neither Oregon or Northern Iowa were part of the field.
Colorado State, Virginia and Belmont all made the 2012 NCAA Tournament, although none of them advanced past the first round.
Watch out for teams like Butler and Xavier to sneak into the field, while Big Ten teams like Iowa and Northwestern have talented young rosters as well.
Big Ten, Big East: 7
SEC, Big 12, Atlantic 10, ACC: 5
Mountain West, West Coast, Missouri Valley: 3
The Big Ten proves yet again why they are the best conference in the nation by getting seven of 12 teams into the tournament, while the Big East having 16 teams in the league almost guarantees seven spots from teams in it.
The SEC's addition of Missouri helps, while the Big 12 could yet again be top heavy. The Atlantic 10 proves again to be the best mid-major conference, while the ACC is back on the upswing.
The Pac-12 improves in 2012-13, but still finishes with the least amount of tournament teams from a power conference. Other mid-majors such as the Mountain West, West Coast and Missouri Valley all get three teams into the tournament, although some may be bubble teams come Selection Sunday.