College Basketball Bracketology: Preseason Edition, Oct. 18

Jesse Kramer@Jesse_KramerCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2011

Normally, my bracketologies will be based only off of how teams have done up to that point in the season, and would not take the future part of the season into account.

However, as a preseason bracketology, this edition will take into consideration how I think the season will play out through February. All teams which I have projected to win their conference championship receive an automatic bid.

With the 68-team format, there will now 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 earned at-large bids.

The four play-in games are labeled "Play-In No. 1," "Play-In No. 2," "Play-In No. 3," and "Play-In No. 4." These four games will be listed at the bottom after all the seedings are given. The winners of each of these four play-in games will be seeded in the spots given.

Once the NCAA tournament becomes imminent, I will start making matchups and actually putting teams in brackets. However, for now, just the seedings will be listed.

I know it's early and none of these teams have actually proven that they are worthy of an NCAA tournament bid, but in a year when the Big Ten will have 12 teams and the Big 12 will have 10 teams, I don't see why anything needs to make a whole lot of sense.

No. 1 Seeds

UNC (ACC), Kentucky (SEC), Ohio State (Big Ten), Syracuse (Big East)

North Carolina enters the 2011-12 season as a favorite for the 2012 national title. Last year's Elite Eight team lost close to nothing, and is adding a pair of McDonald's All-Americans.

The Wildcats no longer have Brandon Knight, but Coach John Calipari went out and signed the best point guard of the 2011 recruiting class, Marquis Teague. Kentucky is returning three of their four leading scorers from last year, plus they have four McDonald's All-American freshmen joining the squad.

Ohio State's 2010-11 season ended disappointingly with a Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes are in good shape to become a No. 1 seed for the second straight year. This season they return their two leading scorers, Jared Sullinger and William Buford. 

Although Syracuse lost big man Rick Jackson, it kept all of the other main parts from last year's team. As a possible replacement for Jackson, Coach Jim Boeheim brought in McDonald's All-American  .

No. 2 Seeds

Duke, Connecticut, Vanderbilt, Memphis (C-USA)

You can always count on Mike Krzyzewski's team to go to the NCAA Tournament. Duke has not missed an NCAA tournament since 1995, and with a trio of the Plumlee's, Seth Curry and Austin Rivers, the Blue Devils will be back in 2012.

There is no guaranteeing that Connecticut will be as good as they were last year with the loss of Kemba Walker, but the Huskies should still have a very good season. Aside from Walker, the Huskies return all players who played more than 25 MPG last season. 

Vanderbilt returns everyone who averaged more than three points per game last season. The Commodores, who lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year, will be back in 2012.

Memphis returns all five starters from last year's team. Joe Jackson, probably the best guard in C-USA, along with the Bartons and Tarik Black can lead the Tigers to great heights this year.

 No. 3 Seeds

Pittsburgh, Arizona, Xavier (A-10), Florida

Pittsburgh returns Ashton Gibbs, Nasir Robinson and Travon Woodall as its three leaders this year. The Panthers will be one of the top teams in the Big East this year.

Arizona lost Derrick Williams and Lamont Jones, but they return the other key players from last year's Elite Eight team.

Xavier returns its three leading scorers from last season. The Musketeers lost only one game in A-10 play this year, and an undefeated year in conference play this year is not out of the question.

Florida will not have as strong of a frontcourt this year, but the Gators' backcourt will be one of the best in college basketball. They return the team's leading scorers in Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, while adding Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario to the mix.

No. 4 Seeds

Wisconsin, Gonzaga (WCC), Louisville, Kansas (Big 12)

Wisconsin lost leading scorer Jon Leuer, but the Badgers return Jordan Taylor who averaged 18.1 PPG last year. After going to the Sweet 16 last year, Wisconsin is set for another successful season.

Gonzaga lost Stephen Gray, but Robert Sacre and Elias Harris make for possibly the best frontcourt among mid-major schools. 

Louisville returns 65 percent of its scoring and 67 percent of its rebounding from last season. Led by Peyton Siva and Kyle Kuric, this year's Louisville team is on a good track.

Kansas lost its three leading scorers from last year. The Jayhawks will rely on Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson to send Kansas to its 23rd straight NCAA Tournament.

 No. 5 Seeds

UCLA, Alabama, Baylor, Temple

UCLA has a strong frontcourt with Josh Smith and Reeves Nelson. This 1-2 punch up front should lead the Bruins to a solid season.

Alabama returns its three leading scorers from last season. The Crimson Tide was snubbed from the NCAA tournament last season, but should get into the field this year.

Baylor has possibly the best frontcourt in basketball between Perry Jones, Anthony Jones and Quincy Acy. Although the Bears don't have any stars in the backcourt, those three men up front will carry the team.

Temple's only big loss is the loss of Lavoy Allen. Aside from Allen, the rest of the main players from last year's Temple team are back for the 2011-12 season.

 No. 6 Seeds

Wichita State (MVC), Cincinnati, Miami-Florida, New Mexico (MWC)

Wichita State lost leading scorer J.T. Durley, but the Shockers have a very strong backcourt with Toure' Murry and David Kyles. Plus, they will also have 7-footer Garrett Stutz to fill Durley's spot.

Cincinnati returns its four leading scorers from last year. The Bearcats, who went to the third round of the NCAA tournament last season, will be a dangerous team once again this year.

Miami returns all players who played more than 15 MPG last year except for one. With new head coach Jim Larranaga at the helm, Miami is set for a good season.

New Mexico lost Dairese Gary, but the Lobos return the other key players from last year's team. The Lobos' main competition in the MVC this year will be UNLV.

 No. 7 Seeds

Missouri, Michigan, Butler (Horizon), West Virginia

Missouri returns all the key parts to last year's team. However, the Tigers took a big hit losing Laurence Bowers, who will miss this season after tearing his ACL in early October.

Although Michigan lost leading scorer Darius Morris, the Wolverines return everyone else from last year's NCAA tournament team.

Butler will most likely not be as good as it was last year without Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. However, Brad Stevens still has a solid team led by Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall.

West Virginia returns guard Darryl Bryant and forward Kevin Jones as the leaders of this year's team. The Mountaineers also add point guard Jabarie Hinds to their crew of New Yorkers.

No. 8 Seeds

Missouri, UNLV, Clemson, California

Texas A&M returns Khris Middleton and David Loubeau, its two leading scorers from a season ago. The Aggies will almost definitely be dancing in March this year.

UNLV lost its leading scorer Tre'Von Willis, but the Rebels return a bunch of other key players, incuding Chace Stanback and Oscar Bellfield.

Clemson lost Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant, but the Tigers return all other players who played 20 MPG or more last season.

California returns its three leading scorers from last season. The Golden Bears missed the NCAA tournament last year, but they should be back in 2012.

No. 9 Seeds

BYU, Purdue, Virginia Tech, Marquette

BYU lost Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery, but Brandon Davies, Noah Hartstock and Charles Abouo will be back to lead the team. BYU will not be as good as it was last year, but the Cougars are still set up for a solid season.

Purdue lost JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, but the Boilermakers return Lewis Jackson and will have Robbie Hummel back in the lineup.

Virginia Tech missed the NCAA Tournament once again in 2011. Although the Hokies lost their two leading scorers, they return the other key parts to last year's team.

Marquette returns two of its three leading scorers from last season. The departure of Jimmy Butler will hurt the Golden Eagles, but they will survive without him.

No. 10 Seeds


Texas, Notre Dame, Washington, Florida State

Texas took a big hit with the departures of Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson, Gary Johnson and Cory Joseph. Out of five players that averaged in double digits last season for the Longhorns, only J'Covan Brown returns.

Notre Dame will need Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin to step up big this year. The Fighting Irish lost leading scorer Ben Hansbrough, but Abromaitis is talented enough to fill his shoes.

Washington's three leading scorers departed after last season. The Huskies will need Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross step into a leadership role in 2011-12.

Florida State returns Michael Snaer, Bernard James and David Dulkys from last year's team. The Seminoles will have their work cut out for them, but they still have a solid chance to make the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

No. 11 Seeds

Drexel (CAA), Kansas State, Michigan State, Illinois

Drexel seems to be the early season favorite in the CAA, despite Chris Fouch missing the start of the season due to a foot injury. The Dragons return most of last year's team which won 21 games.

Kansas State lost Jacob Pullen, but the Wildcats still bring back a solid team. In a weaker Big 12, they should be able to stay close enough to the top of their conference to get a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Michigan State will rely heavily on Draymond Green this year. The Spartans are coming off a disappointing year, and this season probably won't be much different.

Illinois may have lost its three leading scorers from last year, but Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson will be back in 2011-12.

No. 12 Seeds

Belmont (A-Sun), USC, Georgetown, Play-In No. 1

Belmont will be following up the school's first ever 30-win season. The Bruins lost a key player in Jordan Campbell, but the rest of last year's Bruins are back for 2011-12.

USC seemed like a team that would definitely be a NCAA tournament team until Jio Fontan tore his ACL this summer. Fontan, who was expected to be the star of the team this year, will be replaced by freshman Alexis Moore.

Georgetown looks to return to the NCAA tournament following a disappointing loss in the first weekend last year. However, the Hoyas have some holes to fill after losing more than half of their scoring from last year.

No. 13 Seeds

Iona (MAAC), Harvard (Ivy), Long Beach State (Big West), Play-In No. 2

Iona finished last year as the CIT runner-up. The Gaels will be the best team in the MAAC this year, with seniors Mike Glover and Scott Machado leading the way. In addition, Arizona transfer MoMo Jones may be eligible to play for the Gaels at the start of the year.

Harvard had a great season last year, but a buzzer-beater loss to Princeton sent the Crimson to the NIT. All of last year's team is returning for 2011-12, plus coach Tommy Amaker is bringing in a strong recruiting class led by big man Kenyatta Smith.

Long Beach State dominated the Big West last season with a trio of juniors leading the way. This year, the 49ers will be a similar team with that trio now being made up of seniors.

No. 14 Seeds

Montana (Big Sky), Kent State (MAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Nevada (WAC)

Montana lost leading scorer Brian Qvale, but the rest of the Grizzlies are returning for 2011-12. Will Cherry, one of the better guards on the mid-major level, will be the star of the team this year.

Kent State returns leading scorer Justin Greene, who averaged 15.4 PPG and 8.3 RPG in 2010-11. The Golden Flashes were the best team in the MAC last year and will most likely be improved in 2011-12.

Bucknell dominated the Patriot League last season and made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. In 2011-12, the Bison return Mike Muscala, the key to their success last season. Muscala's supporting cast will have to show up strong in 2011-12 for the Bison to build on their success from last year.

After lots of success in the mid-2000s, Nevada's win totals slowly dwindled down to the point where the Wolf Pack became irrelevant with a 13-19 record last year. However, the Wolf Pack could be back on its way to success, returning all but one of last year's players. 

No. 15 Seeds

Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt), South Dakota State (Summit), Long Island (NEC), Davidson (SoCon)

Florida Atlantic won the Sun Belt last year, but a conference tournament loss put the Owls in the NIT. The Owls lost Brett Royster, but return the rest of last year's team.

South Dakota State returns star point guard Nate Wolters and budding sophomore Jordan Dykstra. The Jackrabbits stood no chance against Oakland for the Summit League title last year, but their chances will be better this year with Oakland no longer being a mid-major power.

Long Island went to the NCAA tournament as a No. 15 seed last year. The Blackbirds return the two leading scorers from last year's team.

Davidson is a couple of years removed from being the best team in the SoCon, but the Wildcats could be back on top in 2011-12. 

No. 16 Seeds

Boston U (A-East), Morgan State (MEAC), Play-In No. 3, Play-In No. 4

Boston won the America East tournament to get to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002. The Terriers lost leading scorer John Holland but return the rest of their team.

Morgan State struggled last year en route to a 17-14 season. The Bears return their three leading scorers, all of whom averaged in double digits last year.

Play-In No. 1

UAB vs. Northwestern

UAB returns two of the main pieces from last year's team. In addition, the Blazers will also have incoming freshman K.C. Whitaker.

Northwestern is set for a strong year behind John Shurna and Drew Crawford. The Wildcats remain without a NCAA tournament appearance in school history entering this year.

Play-In No. 2

Virginia vs. Villanova

It has been a few years since Virginia has been relevant, but a solid sophomore class could bring the Cavaliers back to the national stage.

Villanova's season ended in the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament last year. Although the Wildcats lost four good players at the conclusion of last year, they still have a few very good returning players. 

Play-In No. 3

Austin Peay (OVC) vs. UNC-Asheville (Big South)

Austin Peay had a quietly good 2010-11 season in the OVC behind Murray State and Morehead State. Murray State and Morehead State lost some good players, so Austin Peay is the favorite in the OVC this year.

UNC-Asheville upset Coastal Carolina last year in the Big South to make it to the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs return all but two players.

Play-In No. 4

Northwestern State (Southland) vs. Mississippi Valley State (SWAC)

Northwestern State will have a good chance to go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. The Demons lost their two leading scorers, but they have enough talent to fill up those gaps.

Mississippi Valley State finished second in the SWAC last year. The Delta Devils most of the main parts of last year's team.

First Four Out

St. Mary's, Minnesota, Creighton, Santa Clara

Next Four Out

Washington State, St. John's, Maryland, Oklahoma State


**Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college basketball news and info.


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