The college basketball season has returned. Practice is underway, and the anticipation for the start of games is nearly unbearable.
But even though we are still a few weeks away from the first official games of the season, it is never too early to take a look at how the field of 68 will be shaping up by the time March rolls around.
A conference in parentheses next to a team indicates a team that I have picked to win its conference's automatic bid.
With the 68-team format, there will be four play-in games. There will be two play-in games for the bottom four at-large teams and two play-in games for the bottom four conference tournament winners who earn automatic bids.
In the bracket, the winner of the Midwest Region plays the winner of the West Region, and the winner of the East Region plays the winner of the South Region.
The Midwest Region and the West Region hold the overall No. 1 and No. 4 seeds, respectively. The East Region and South Region hold the overall No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, respectively.
Frank Haith's Missouri Tigers were upset by Norfolk State in the second round of the NCAA tournament last season.
No. 1 Indiana (Big Ten) vs. No. 16 Southern (SWAC)/Savannah State (MEAC)
Indiana was a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament last season, and the Hoosiers return their top five scorers while adding a trio of top 100 recruits.
Southern was the second-best team in the SWAC last year, and it returns three of its top four scorers.
Savannah State won the MEAC in the regular season and wound up playing in the NIT. The Tigers return everyone from last year, including seniors Rashad Hassan and Deric Rudolph.
No. 8 Drexel (CAA) vs. No. 9 Florida State
Drexel was arguably snubbed from the 2012 NCAA tournament, but the Dragons' chances of making their first appearance at the Big Dance for the first time in Bruiser Flint's tenure are very good this year. The Dragons return four starters are expected to win the CAA.
Florida State graduated a bunch of role players, but the only big time player the Seminoles lost is Bernard James. They return Michael Snaer and Ian Miller in the backcourt and Terrance Shannon and Okaro White in the front court to make one of the better starting lineups in the ACC.
No. 5 Missouri vs. No. 12 Marshall/Northern Iowa
Missouri graduated its top three scorers but returns two of the top guards in the SEC in Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon. The Tigers have also reloaded with transfers such as Alex Oriakhi, Keion Bell and Earnest Ross while adding Laurence Bowers, who missed last season with an injury.
Marshall missed out on the NCAA tournament last season, but it returns two of the top players in Conference USA in DeAndre Kane and Dennis Tinnon.
Northern Iowa earned a bid to the NIT last year and now returns its top four scorers. Sophomore Seth Tuttle is one of the better up-and-coming mid-major big men in the nation.
No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 13 Lehigh (Patriot)
San Diego State returns four starters from last year's NCAA tournament team. Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley are two of the best players in the Mountain West, and Xavier Thames was one of the better west coast point guards with 4.1 assists per game last year.
Expect Lehigh to go dancing once again after upsetting Duke in the 2012 NCAA tournament. The Mountain Hawks return four starters, including superstar C.J. McCollum, but they will have to fight off a very good Bucknell team to win the Patriot League.
Florida has advanced to the Elite Eight in each of the last two NCAA tournaments.
No. 6 Gonzaga (WCC) vs. No. 11 South Florida
Gonzaga lost center Robert Sacre, but it has a great backcourt in Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr.
Senior Elias Harris also returns to head the Zags' frontcourt.
South Florida lost a trio of big men in Augustus Gilchrist, Ron Anderson and Hugh Robertson, but the Bulls still have some size in Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, Victor Rudd and Florida Atlantic transfer Kore White.
No. 3 UCLA (Pac-12) vs. No. 14 LIU Brooklyn (NEC)
UCLA brought in two of the top recruits in the country in Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, and some say the Bruins are finally ready to return to the Final Four.
LIU Brooklyn is expected to go to the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive year. They return NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd in addition to Jamal Olasewere, Jason Brickman and C.J. Garner.
No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Butler
Texas will rely mainly on underclassmen this season, but the Longhorns have one of the best point guards in the nation in Myck Kabongo.
Butler is expected to go back to the NCAA tournament this year. The Bulldogs have one of the best frontcourts in the Atlantic 10 with Andrew Smith, Khyle Marshall and Roosevelt Jones.
No. 2 Florida vs. No. 15 Detroit (Horizon)
Florida lost Bradley Beal and their starting point guard Erving Walker, but they return three starters and a top-100 recruit in point guard Braxton Ogbueze.
Detroit lost a pair of important starters in Eli Holman and Chase Simon, but the sheer talent of point guard Ray McCallum could be enough to get the Titans their second consecutive Horizon League title.
Mark Gottfried got NC State back to the NCAA tournament in 2012, when the Wolf Pack upset San Diego State and Georgetown to advance to the Sweet 16.
No. 1 NC State (ACC) vs. No. 16 Long Beach State (Big West)
NC State surprised last year with a pair of upsets to get to the Sweet 16. This year, the pressure is on the Wolf Pack to win the ACC.
Long Beach State went to the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed last year, and although the 49ers are expected to win their conference again, they will probably end up as a lower seed after graduating their three best players.
No. 8 Tennessee vs. No. 9 Pittsburgh
Tennessee advanced to the NIT last season. The Volunteers have a great point guard in Trae Golden and one of the best frontcourts in the SEC with Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes.
With its disappointing season in the past, Pittsburgh is a potential top-25 team this year. The Panthers return point guard Tray Woodall and add freshman center Steven Adams.
No. 5 Memphis (C-USA) vs. No. 12 Temple
Although Memphis lost Will Barton, it brings back three starters and adds top-100 recruit Shaq Goodwin.
Temple will struggle to replace Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez, but the Owls are still good enough to return to the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive season.
No. 4 Arizona vs. No. 13 Murray State (OVC)
Arizona returns two talented players in Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson, but the newcomers will make the Wildcats a top-20 team. Xavier transfer Mark Lyons and freshmen Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley and Gabe York will get Arizona back to the Big Dance.
Murray State returns only two starters from last year's historic team: Isaiah Canaan and Edward Daniel.
Creighton went to the NCAA tournament last year but was blown out by UNC in the third round.
No. 6 Creighton (MVC) vs. No. 11 Nevada
Creighton is the sure favorite to win the MVC this year as it returns four starters.
In its first year in the Mountain West, Nevada will be plenty competitive. The Wolf Pack, which went to the NIT last year, returns three starters.
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Davidson (SoCon)
Syracuse returns only two starters from last year's team, but the Orange have a bunch of role players that will be ready to step up and replace Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine. Expect breakout seasons from Rakeem Christmas, Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland.
Davidson gave Louisville a good fight in the NCAA tournament last year, and now the Wildcats return four starters, including potential NBA draft pick De'Mon Brooks.
No. 7 Virgina Commonwealth University vs. No. 10 New Mexico
VCU has the potential to win the Atlantic 10 in its first season in the league. The Rams return four starters, although they did lose leading scorer Bradford Burgess.
Although New Mexico graduated leading scorer Drew Gordon, who averaged a double-double last season, the Lobos return a lot from last year's NCAA tournament team.
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Princeton (Ivy)
Ohio State lost Jared Sullinger and William Buford, but it returns three starters, including Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas.
Princeton became the Ivy League favorite once Harvard lost its co-captains in the wake of a cheating scandal. The Tigers have the probable Ivy League Player of the Year in Ian Hummer.
Nate Wolters led South Dakota State to its first-ever NCAA tournament last year, and the Jackrabbits are expected to win the Summit League again in 2012-13.
No. 1 Louisville (Big East) vs. No. 16 Oral Roberts (Southland)/Stony Brook (A-East)
Louisville advanced to the Final Four last year, and it returns four starters. The Cardinals have one of the better point guards in Peyton Siva and one of the top bigs in Gorgui Dieng.
Oral Roberts lost leading-scorer Dominique Morrison, but it returns all but two players from the team that won the Summit League regular season title last season.
Stony Brook fell short of its first-ever NCAA tournament last year. The Seawolves remain a top dog in the America East by returning two starters and all their key reserves.
No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Minnesota
In its first year under Bruce Weber, Kansas State should return to the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats return four starters from last year's team that advanced to the third round.
Minnesota returns four starters from last year's NIT runner-up and welcomes Trevor Mbakwe back to the team.
No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 12 St. Joseph's University/Maryland
Michigan State tied for the Big Ten championship last year, and although the Spartans lost a few starters including Draymond Green, you can expect Tom Izzo to get his team back to the NCAA tournament as a relatively high seed.
St. Joe's returns all five starters from last year's NIT team. The Hawks have their most talented team since 2004.
Maryland should pull a few surprises in the ACC this year. Expect breakout seasons from Nick Faust and Alex Len.
No. 4 Duke vs. No. 13 South Dakota State (Summit)
Duke is, as always, one of the top teams in the ACC. Although the Blue Devils lost Austin Rivers, they return Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee.
South Dakota State went to the NCAA tournament as a No. 14 seed last year and nearly upset Baylor. This year, the Jackrabbits return four starters and are the favorites in the Summit League.
After what many deemed a disappointing regular season, Baylor advanced to the 2012 Elite Eight, where it fell to eventual national champion Kentucky.
No. 6 Marquette vs. No. 11 Stanford
The losses of Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder will undoubtedly hurt, but Buzz Williams has won more than 20 games and earned a NCAA tournament bid in all of his four seasons with Marquette.
Stanford won the NIT last year and returns its top-two scorers.
No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 Montana (Big Sky)
Baylor returns only two starters, but Scott Drew has once again added a top-of-the-line recruiting class with Isaiah Austin, Ricardo Gathers and L.J. Rose.
Montana has one of the better mid-major backcourts with senior Will Cherry and junior Kareem Jamar.
No. 7 Saint Louis (A-10) vs. No. 10 Georgetown
Saint Louis has the talent to win the Atlantic 10 this year, but the big question is if it can execute without Rick Majerus on the sidelines.
Georgetown lost its top three scorers, but the Hoyas do return sophomore star Otto Porter. And remember, never underestimate John Thompson III.
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Mercer (A-Sun)
Michigan might struggle early while replacing the losses of Zack Novak, Evan Smotrycz and Stu Douglass, but Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. will make sure the Wolverines end up among the top teams in the country by March.
With Belmont gone to the Ohio Valley, Mercer becomes the favorite in the Atlantic Sun.
John Calipari won his first national title last season.
No. 1 Kentucky (SEC) vs. No. 16 UNC Asheville (Big South)
After winning the national title last year, Kentucky will contend once more.
UNC Asheville has won the Big South each of the past two years but has not advanced past the second round.
No. 8 Miami FL vs. No. 9 Ohio (MAC)
Miami returns four starters, and Reggie Johnson is healthy for the first time since his sophomore season.
Ohio advanced to the Sweet 16 last year and returns all five starters.
No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Colorado State
The big question for Wisconsin is if it can replace point guard Jordan Taylor. The Badgers have a great frontcourt with Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz, but they need a point guard.
Colorado State went to the NCAA tournament last year for the first time since 2003 but lost to Murray State.
No. 4 North Carolina vs. No. 13 North Texas (Sun Belt)
North Carolina has a lot of ground to make up after losing four starters, but Roy Williams will get his team back to March.
Sophomore Tony Mitchell was the best player in the Sun Belt last season, and he will carry North Texas to the Big Dance.
UNLV was a popular sleeper pick in the 2012 NCAA tournament, but it was upset by Colorado in the second round of the tourney.
No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 11 Oklahoma State
Notre Dame returns all five starters from last year and could finish as high as No. 2 in the Big East.
Oklahoma State returns sophomore star Le'Bryan Nash and adds Marcus Smart, one of the best recruits in the Class of 2012.
No. 3 UNLV (MWC) vs. No. 14 Loyola MD (MAAC)
UNLV is getting close to being the powerhouse it was in the 1980s and 1990s. The Rebels have a potential first team All-American in Mike Moser.
Last year, Loyola went to the tournament for the first time since 1994. The Greyhounds return four starters, but sixth man Justin Drummond transferred, and point guard R.J. Williams is suspended until mid-January.
No. 7 Cincinnati vs. No. 10 St. Mary's
Cincinnati returns three starters from last year's NCAA tournament team. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright make up one of the best backcourts in the Big East.
St. Mary's returns three starters as it tries to go to the NCAA tournament for the third time in the past four years.
No. 2 Kansas (Big 12) vs. No. 15 Utah State (WAC)
Never doubt Bill Self's ability to win the Big 12 title. The Jayhawks return one of the biggest defensive forces in Division I with Jeff Withey, who set a NCAA tournament record for blocks last year with 31 over six games.
Utah State has one of the best unknown players in the nation in Preston Medlin.
Ole Miss could be a surprise team in the SEC this year with Murphy Holloway, Jarvis Summers and Nick Williams leading the way.
West Virginia lost its two best players from last year, but it still has Deniz Kilicli and up-and-coming point guard Jabarie Hinds.
Massachusetts went to the NIT Final Four last season. Point guard Chaz Williams is one of the best unknown players out there.
Arkansas finished 6-10 in the SEC in 2011-12, but this year will be much better. Sophomore BJ Young is back, as is forward Marshawn Powell and sharpshooter Mardracus Wade.