Preseason Projection of the 2018 NCAA Tournament Bracket

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystNovember 7, 2017

Preseason Projection of the 2018 NCAA Tournament Bracket

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    Mike Krzyzewski
    Mike KrzyzewskiGerry Broome/Associated Press

    Duke opens the 2017-18 men's college basketball season as the projected No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament, joined on that top line by Michigan State, Villanova and Arizona.

    In-season bracket projections will be slathered with dialogue about RPI, SOS and various other mathematical formulas represented by acronyms. Huge wins and awful losses spur the conversation about the biggest movers.

    For preseason projections, though, it's all about research and gut feelings. In each region, we'll discuss one team in the field that didn't dance last year, one team projected for a much better seed than last year and one team that isn't looking quite as strong as it was in 2016-17.

    Before that, we'll start with the bubble, like we always do. And after the region-by-region breakdown, I'll explain why the No. 1 seeds are ranked in the order that they are. At the end is a list of overall seeds by conference as a handy reference guide.

    By the way, every team on the No. 1 seed line of last year's preseason bracketDuke, Kansas, Kentucky and Villanovaended up with either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed here. However, not one of those teams made it to the Final Four. Do with that information what you will, but I found it interesting.

Last 5 In

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    Marcus LoVett
    Marcus LoVettMel Evans/Associated Press

    Last Team In: St. John's Red Storm

    The final at-large spot in a preseason bracket is always something of a blindfolded throw at a dartboard, but St. John's has serious potential in Chris Mullin's third season at the helm.

    Returning leaders Shamorie Ponds, Marcus LoVett and Bashir Ahmed should blend nicely with incoming transfers Justin Simon (Arizona) and Marvin Clark III (Michigan State). If Kassoum Yakwe and Tariq Owens continue to protect the rim as well as they did last year, the Johnnies should be in business.

                       

    Second-to-Last: Arkansas Razorbacks

    The Hogs lost three key graduates in Dusty Hannahs, Moses Kingsley and Manuale Watkins, but there's still a lot of veteran experience for one more NCAA tournament push. Along with Anton Beard and Trey Thompson, four former transfers (Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford, Dustin Thomas and Arlando Cook) will now be the senior leaders for Arkansas.

    But their hopes might hinge on top-50 freshman Daniel Gafford. The Razorbacks have great perimeter play, but their interior prowess left along with Kingsley. If Gafford (6'9") can deliver immediately, Arkansas should finish in the top half of the SEC.

                         

    Third-to-Last: Virginia Tech Hokies

    Fun fact: Virginia Tech only has four returning players who appeared in a game last season. Fortunately, they were four of the six leading scorers, but the Hokies have a lot of holes to fill in their rotation. One huge (both literally and figuratively) plus is the return of Kerry Blackshear Jr.

    After a solid freshman year, Blackshear missed all of last season due to a leg injury. But considering the only other player on the roster taller than 6'6" is Nick Fullarda D-II transfer who didn't do much at Belmont AbbeyBlackshear (6'10") will be one of the most indispensable players in the nation.

                     

    Fourth-to-Last: Butler Bulldogs

    A lot of people sold their stock in Butler when head coach Chris Holtmann left in June for the Ohio State opening, but there's still a lot of potential here. Seniors Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman are back, as is last year's freshman breakout sensation, Kamar Baldwin. The Bulldogs also get Paul Jorgensen as a transfer from George Washington.

    And don't sleep on Joey Brunk becoming a star big man. He barely played as a freshman due to a family medical issue, but he was a highly touted recruit who could have a major impact.

                       

    Fifth-to-Last: Connecticut Huskies

    Connecticut was never going to win the national championship last season, but injuries to Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier derailed the Huskies early. With that duo, Jalen Adams and Christian Vital back, Connecticut should have one of the best backcourt groups in the country.

    The frontcourt, however, is a different story. Cornell transfer David Onuorah is the only big man with any legitimate D-I experience, so UConn will need to rely on redshirt freshman Mamadou Diarra and JUCO transfer Eric Cobb.

10 Others Strongly Considered

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    Marcquise Reed
    Marcquise ReedJohn Raoux/Associated Press

    Auburn Tigers

    Prior to the announcement that Auburn will be sitting out both Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy indefinitely, the Tigers were probably going to be the sixth-best team in the SEC. This year, that would be plenty good enough for a spot in the NCAA tournament. But now? Might want to get ready for a ninth consecutive sub-.500 conference record.

                     

    Georgia Bulldogs and Vanderbilt Commodores

    Could one of these teams (or both) benefit from Auburn's demise? Georgia still has star big man Yante Maten and only lost one player of note from last season (J.J. Frazier). If Tyree Crump or Willliam Jackson II can step up in a big way in his absence, the Bulldogs will be solid.

    Similarly, Vanderbilt is well intact from last year, save for one major piece (Luke Kornet). Replacing a 7'0" phenom who made 53 three-pointers and blocked 71 shots last year won't be possible, but the Commodores can compete by going small. Xavier transfer Larry Austin Jr. will help with that transition.

                     

    Clemson Tigers

    The ACC has a bunch of title contenders, but we only have seven teams from that league projected for the tournament. Eight or nine is the more likely final tally, and Clemson is one with a good chance to sneak in, provided it can avoid losing every noteworthy game by a painfully slim margin this year.

    Basically the entire team is comprised of transplants at this point. Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell, David Skara, Mark Donnal and Elijah Thomas all started their careers elsewhere, and they figure to be five-sevenths of the primary rotation. Regardless of where they began, they might finally get the Tigers back to the NCAA tournament.

                      

    Saint Joseph's Hawks and St. Bonaventure Bonnies

    The Atlantic 10 is only projected for one bid, even though it has sent at least three teams dancing in each of the past 10 years. While they aren't currently in the field, both the Hawks and Bonnies were right in the mix for the final few spots.

    Jaylen Adams could be a National Second-Team All-American for St. Bonaventure, and Shavar Newkirk won't be far behind for Saint Joseph's. The concern, though, is that the league as a whole isn't good enough for multiple bids, so those guys will need to be on fire right away in nonconference play to carve out space for their teams.

                      

    Iowa Hawkeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions and Indiana Hoosiers

    The Big Ten is going to be wide open this year. Michigan State is great; Rutgers, Nebraska and Illinois aren't. But it feels like 50 percent of the league will open the season right on the tournament bubble. In our projection, Wisconsin, Maryland and Michigan get in while these three teams are left out.

    Of those initially excluded, Iowa seems most likely to dance. The Hawkeyes lost Peter Jok, but just about everyone else on last year's roster was a freshman or sophomore. Tyler Cook is going to become a household name.

                    

    Stanford Cardinal

    The line of demarcation in the Pac-12 is more pronounced than in any other major conference. Arizona, USC, UCLA and Oregon are all obvious candidates for the NCAA tournament. Just about everyone else in the league is not. The one bubbly exception is Stanford. The Cardinal return five of last year's six leading scorers and have a strong recruiting class led by Kezie Okpala and Daejon Davis. If this team can just stay relatively healthy for a change, it could be a fifth bid for the Pac-12.

East Region (Boston)

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    Rashard Odomes
    Rashard OdomesSue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 North Carolina Central / Texas Southern

    No. 8 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 Wisconsin

                

    Boise, Idaho

    No. 4 Northwestern vs. No. 13 Yale

    No. 5 Louisville vs. No. 12 College of Charleston

                     

    Nashville, Tennessee

    No. 3 North Carolina vs. No. 14 UNC-Asheville

    No. 6 Seton Hall vs. No. 11 Connecticut

                     

    Charlotte, North Carolina

    No. 2 Florida vs. No. 15 Furman

    No. 7 Maryland vs. No. 10 Rhode Island

                       

    Welcome to the Field: Oklahoma Sooners (No. 8 seed)

    Replacing Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler in one offseason was just too much for Oklahoma to handle. The Sooners bottomed out in a hurry, going from 29 wins in 2015-16 all the way down to just 11 last year. It was the largest fall from grace in the country.

    But don't view it as a lost season. They were competitive in most of those losses, and it gave young guys like Rashard Odomes, Kameron McGusty and Kristian Doolittle the opportunity to learn on the fly and grow up in a hurry. Now, with the addition of stud freshman PG Trae Young, the Sooners are ready for a bounce-back year. They probably won't rebound all the way to 29 wins, but a return to the NCAA tournament seems likely.

                     

    Moving Up: Northwestern Wildcats (Were No. 8 seed; Projected No. 4 seed)

    I'm a little skeptical about Northwestern. The Wildcats made some great additions to their 2018 class, but they didn't add anyone of note this year. And losing both Sanjay Lumpkin and Nathan Taphorn as graduates is a bigger deal than anyone seems willing to discuss.

    However, they were a near-unanimous preseason AP Top 25 team that gets back all five of last year's leading scorers, as well as Aaron Falzon, who missed almost all of last season due to injury. Thus, I'll defer to the masses by putting them in the teens on the preseason overall seed list.

    The big X-factor is Isiah Brown. He only shot 33.2 percent from the field last year as a freshman, but he led Northwestern in field-goal attempts per 40 minutes. He also committed more than his fair share of fouls and turnovers. In 14.3 minutes per game, that didn't hurt the Wildcats. Now that he's (potentially) going to be a starter, though, that degree of inefficiency could be a major problem. But if Brown has a sophomore surge and becomes a more reliable asset, I'll feel a lot better about this projection.

                     

    Moving Down: Louisville Cardinals (Were No. 2 seed; Projected No. 5 seed)

    The F.B.I. situation gives everyone a ready-made excuse to throw up their hands and say "Who knows?" when asked for an outlook on Louisville's season. But even if we could somehow eliminate that distraction and just focus on the roster as is, I still wouldn't know what to make of the Cardinals.

    Is 2016-17 breakout big man Anas Mahmoud ready to be THE guy in the paint now that Mangok Mathiang and Jaylen Johnson are both gone? Are we sure Deng Adel is going to become this year's Donovan Mitchell? And is former 5-star recruit V.J. King ready to finally make a legitimate impact as a junior? There are just so many things up in the air without factoring in the unexpected early October coaching change.

    Let's put it this way: Louisville has been a No. 4 seed or better in six of the past seven NCAA tournaments, but, if anything, a No. 5 seed feels too generous for what might be the sixth-best team in the ACC.

Midwest Region (Omaha)

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    Kevin Puryear
    Kevin PuryearJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Detroit, Michigan

    No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 16 Stephen F. Austin

    No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 9 UCF

                  

    Wichita, Kansas

    No. 4 Notre Dame vs. No. 13 Texas-Arlington

    No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 12 Vermont

                  

    Detroit, Michigan

    No. 3 Cincinnati vs. No. 14 Belmont

    No. 6 Virginia vs. No. 11 Arkansas / St. John's

                     

    Wichita, Kansas

    No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 South Dakota State

    No. 7 Providence vs. No. 10 Missouri

                    

    Welcome to the Field: Missouri Tigers (No. 10 seed)

    One of the hottest questions for the 2017-18 season is: Can Michael Porter Jr. do what Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz could not? Neither of those No. 1 draft picks was able to lead his team to the NCAA tournament, and Porter's commitment to a team that went 8-24 last season reeks of a similar situation.

    But the Tigers added more than just Porter and new head coach Cuonzo Martin. They also picked up Porter's younger brother, Jontay. Jeremiah Tilmon is another key piece of this highly touted freshman class. And Canisius graduate transfer Kassius Robertson should be a major add-on for a team that could not buy a three-point bucket last season. The Tigers also bring back four of last year's five leading scorers, which ought to make for a respectable eight-man rotation.

    While we wouldn't recommend betting the farm on Missouri going dancing, it certainly isn't difficult to envision a scenario where this team completely flips the script from 8-24 to 24-8.

                    

    Moving Up: Providence Friars (Were No. 11 seed; Projected No. 7 seed)

    (The actual moving-up team from this region is Michigan State jumping from a No. 9 seed to a No. 1 seed, but we'll discuss the Spartans later.)

    It's a crying shame that Ed Cooley doesn't get more recognition for the job he has done with this program. Providence went to a grand total of four NCAA tournaments from 1991-2013, but the Friars have been to four straight and appear destined for a fifth under Cooley's leadership.

    Per Kevin McNamara of Providence Journal, Emmitt Holt may miss the entire season following surgery to repair a stomach condition. He was a huge addition to this team last year, and his absence could be an early problem for the Friars. But aside from that, this roster is almost entirely the same as last year, save for the additions of potential immediate-impact freshmen Makai Ashton-Langford and Nate Watson.

    Cooley has done more with less than this, and it wouldn't be all that shocking if Providence is the first runner-up to Villanova in the Big East this year.

                   

    Moving Down: Oregon Ducks (Were No. 3 seed; Projected No. 8 seed)

    Oregon is one of the most interesting teams in the country, due to all its roster turnover. The Ducks lost seven of last year's eight leading scorers, but they reloaded with quality transfers (Elijah Brown, MiKyle McIntosh and Paul White) and freshmen (Troy Brown, Victor Bailey and Kenny Wooten). Thus, it's a team with talent, but aside from Payton Pritchard, it's almost entirely a group that has never played under Dana Altman before.

    For Duke and Kentucky, that type of offseason overhaul has become par for the course. Oregon, on the other hand, ascended to the top of the Pac-12 over the past two seasons in large part because of its amount of returning talent. (Three years each of Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell and two years of Tyler Dorsey made one hell of a coup by Altman.) The Ducks should still be a top-four team in the Pac-12, but it's too early to say whether that means a No. 5 seed or a spot on the bubble.

South Region (Atlanta)

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    Jamie Dixon and Desmond Bane
    Jamie Dixon and Desmond BaneRon Jenkins/Associated Press

    Charlotte, North Carolina

    No. 1 Duke vs. No. 16 UC Davis / St. Francis (PA)

    No. 8 Alabama vs. No. 9 Texas

                  

    Boise, Idaho

    No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 Middle Tennessee

    No. 5 Minnesota vs. No. 12 Oakland

          

    San Diego, California

    No. 3 USC vs. No. 14 Grand Canyon

    No. 6 Xavier vs. No. 11 Nevada

          

    Nashville, Tennessee

    No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Ball State

    No. 7 TCU vs. No. 10 Creighton

            

    Welcome to the Field: TCU Horned Frogs (No. 7 seed)

    After more than a decade of ineptitude, TCU was finally relevant in its first year under head coach Jamie Dixon. The Horned Frogs hadn't won more than 18 games in a season since 2004-05, but they went 24-15 last year, winning the postseason NIT and even competing in Big 12 play for the first time to date.

    That was just the first stepping stone, though. Now the Horned Frogs make the leap to their first NCAA tournament since 1998. They get back all six of last year's leading scorers and also picked up VCU graduate transfer Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed to bolster their frontcourt. JUCO transfer Shawn Olden and freshmen Kevin Samuel and RJ Nembhard will also be key reserves on a team that will legitimately run 10 deep.

    Don't expect TCU to end Kansas' streak of Big 12 championships, but this should be a top-four team in the league, taking Iowa State's usual spot in that group.

                    

    Moving Up: USC Trojans (Were No. 11 seed; Projected No. 3 seed)

    Unless things go horribly wrong, this should be USC's best team in more than four decades. Granted, that isn't saying much, because this program has only won at least 73 percent of its games once in those four decades, and even that season was 25 years ago. But regardless of their history, the Trojans are on the short list of legitimate candidates to win the 2018 national championship.

    All eight of last year's leading scorers are back for a team that added a whole heck of a lot more talent than it lost. Derryck Thornton, Charles O'Bannon Jr. and Jordan Usher are all quality pickups who may struggle to carve out minutes in an already loaded backcourt. Lack of frontcourt depth is the only thing keeping USC from being projected even higher than this.

                    

    Moving Down: Gonzaga Bulldogs (Were No. 1 seed; Projected No. 4 seed)

    Gonzaga will still be good, but it is far from one of the favorites to reach the Final Four—a big step down from last year's title-caliber team.

    When the offseason began, there was reasonable hope that Gonzaga would be projected for another No. 1 seed. However, the Bulldogs lost Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins as early entrants to the NBA draft. Add in Jordan Mathews and Przemek Karnowski graduating and Mark Few has to replace four of last year's five leading scorers.

    There are some solid additions, though. Corey Kispert is a borderline top-100 recruit. Zach Norvell Jr. and Jacob Larsen should be key reserves as redshirt freshmen. 2015 4-star recruit Jesse Wade is finally joining the mix after his two-year LDS mission. And everyone in NBA draft circles seems to be buying Rui Hachimura as one of the breakout sensations of the season. If even two of those five guys pan out, Gonzaga will reach its 20th consecutive NCAA tournament with room to spare. 

West Region (Los Angeles)

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    Robert Williams
    Robert WilliamsJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    San Diego, California

    No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 16 Montana

    No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 9 Saint Mary's

                   

    Dallas, Texas

    No. 4 Miami vs. No. 13 Missouri State

    No. 5 Texas A&M vs. No. 12 Bucknell

                     

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast

    No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Butler / Virginia Tech

                     

    Dallas, Texas

    No. 2 Wichita State vs. No. 15 Iona

    No. 7 UCLA vs. No. 10 SMU

                    

    Welcome to the Field: Texas A&M Aggies (No. 5 seed)

    As a No. 5 seed, Texas A&M is our highest projection among teams that failed to reach the 2017 NCAA tournament. There are some suspension-related concerns to open the season. As ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported, star big man Robert Williams is out for the first two games, and starting PG candidate JJ Caldwell will miss the first four. As a result, the Aggies will likely lose the season opener against West Virginia, however, that was already a strong possibility.

    If and when it gets to full strength, though, A&M is a serious candidate to win the SEC. There are four returning players who averaged at least 11.9 points per game last year, and the team added a pair of point guards to address the lack of one that plagued the Aggies in 2016-17. This could be the best version of the A&M since the 2006-07 team that featured Acie Law IV contending for National Player of the Year.

                      

    Moving Up: Wichita State Shockers (Were No. 10 seed; Projected No. 2 seed)

    After three straight years of being egregiously underseeded by the NCAA tournament selection committee, Wichita State finally decided to take matters into its own hands by joining a legitimate conference. Now, instead of resume-destroying blowouts of Drake, Bradley and Missouri State, the Shockers are in the American Athletic for 14 conference games against KenPom Top 100 teams.

    They already had a roster plenty good enough to contend for a No. 1 seedprovided leading scorers Landry Shamet and Markis McDuffie quickly make full recoveries from offseason foot injuries. Now that the Shockers will have a strength of schedule befitting their talent, get ready to see them set up shop as a single-digit seed for a long time.

                    

    Moving Down: SMU Mustangs (Were No. 6 seed; Projected No. 10 seed)

    The addition of Wichita State to the AAC is a double-edged sword for the rest of the league. More teams should get in as the overall strength of the league has improved, but it's probably going to be several additional teams just barely on the right side of the bubble, as losses become tougher to avoid. And after losing Semi Ojeleye, Sterling Brown and Ben Moore, 2017 AAC champion SMU figures to now be one of those fringe teams.

    South Florida transfer Jahmal McMurray should be a critical addition, and Arkansas transfer Jimmy Whitt gives the Mustangs a fourth legitimate perimeter weapon, along with Shake Milton and Jarrey Foster. But SMU is going to struggle in the paint, which will keep it a sizable step behind Wichita State and Cincinnati, battling with UCF and UConn for third place in the AAC.

                     

    Bonus Note: Saint Mary's Gaels (No. 9 seed)

    As Mountain West Wire's Eli Boettger pointed out on Twitter last week, Saint Mary's put together a reprehensibly awful nonconference schedule. Participation in the Wooden Legacy may save the Gaels, as a potential path of Harvard, Saint Joseph's and Georgia might end up meaning three RPI Top 100 victories. However, they don't have a single nonconference game firmly scheduled against a preseason KenPom Top 100 team.

    Based on the roster, Saint Mary's belongs in the preseason AP Top 25. But based on the schedule, the Gaels are a projected No. 9 seed, and even that was generous. Even if they enter the WCC tournament with a 29-2 record, if they don't win at least one of their regular-season games against Gonzaga, it very well might be auto-bid or bust.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

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    Jalen Brunson
    Jalen BrunsonBill Wippert/Associated Press

    No. 4: Arizona Wildcats

    For all the talk about Marvin Bagley III and Michael Porter Jr., Arizona's DeAndre Ayton might be the most exciting freshman in the country. His versatility on offense and his size on defense are going to make him remarkably impactful on both ends of the floor.

    And he isn't even the star of this team.

    That honor would belong to Allonzo Trier, who came back better than ever during the second half of last season, averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while more than doubling his assist rate from his freshman year. Once Rawle Alkins is back from offseason surgery, the Wildcats are going to have one heck of a three-headed monster.

    The elephant in the room, though, is the FBI's investigation and what the fallout will be for Arizona. No current players have specifically been implicated and maybe nothing more will come of it, but it may hover over this team all year. Then again, that's what we thought about North Carolina's academic scandal, yet the Tar Heels earned back-to-back No. 1 seeds and nearly won both the 2016 and 2017 NCAA tournaments.

              

    No. 3: Villanova Wildcats

    Did you know Villanova has lost five or fewer games in each of the past four seasons? The Big East has several quality teams every year, but Jay Wright's bunch has been running through that league like a hot knife through butter. And there's no good reason to assume that will stop now.

    Losing Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds could hurt, but the Wildcats reloaded with redshirt freshman Omari Spellman and incoming freshmen Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. They also get Phil Booth backthe star from the 2016 Final Four who missed all but the first three games of last season due to injury.

    Most importantly, they still have Jalen Brunson, who was voted a preseason first-team All-American by the Associated Press. He was overshadowed by Hart and Jenkins over the past two years, but there's no one in the country who can take over a game and/or make ridiculous shots around the bucket quite like Brunson. It's not reckless to mention him in the same sentence with Kemba Walker.

    Oh, and Mikal Bridges is my pick for national breakout player of the year, even though he's only the second-most noteworthy Mi. Bridges in college basketball.

         

    No. 2: Michigan State Spartans

    Michigan State's Miles Bridges is No. 1 on that list and the preseason favorite for the Wooden Award. His decision to return for one more year makes the Spartans one of the top candidates to win the national championshipdespite needing to bounce back from a disappointing 20-15 season.

    The biggest difference from last yearaside from the influx of talent in the form of Jaren Jackson Jr.is the overall depth and experience on this roster. Last year's freshman class was the best of Tom Izzo's career, but each member of that quartet was all but forced to play 20-plus minutes per game because options were limited. In a perfect world, they would have been brought along gradually behind a veteran rotation of Lourawls Nairn, Eron Harris, Alvin Ellis, Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling. However, injuries and ineffectiveness forced the newbies into immediate heavy lifting and early struggles.

    That hurt the team last year, but it better prepared the Spartans for this season. With Carter and Schilling returning from medical redshirt seasons, the Spartans have an embarrassment of riches in the frontcourt. And were it not for Marvin Bagley III's decision to sign with Duke, that would've been enough to make Michigan State the clear favorite for preseason No. 1 overall seed.

          

    No. 1: Duke Blue Devils

    Assuming a first five of Trevon Duval, Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Bagley, there's a chance that Duke's entire starting lineup goes in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft.

    Per usual, that's also the case with Kentucky, but the reason Duke is No. 1 overall and UK just missed the projected top line is because the Blue Devils at least have one experienced asset in Allen. Feel free to question his fortitude after everything that transpired last season, but he remains one of the top players in the game today. If his head is screwed on straight and he becomes the savvy, veteran leader of this roster, every other team is just fighting for second place.

    One major red flag for Duke is overall depth. Marques Bolden should be a great frontcourt reserve, but this season could go to hell in a handbasket if Duval suffers an injury or simply isn't anywhere near as good as advertised.

    But Mike Krzyzewski never goes that deep into his bench if he can avoid it, and the top seven guys on this team are better than the top seven on any other. That's good enough to be a preseason favorite to win it all.

Seeding by Conference

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    Devonte' Graham
    Devonte' GrahamOrlin Wagner/Associated Press

    In case seeded regions aren't for you and you want to know where the "top" 68 teams stand in relation to one another, here is a list of each team's overall seed, broken down by conference.

    American: 7. Wichita State; 12. Cincinnati; 35. UCF; 40. SMU; 41. Connecticut

    ACC: 1. Duke; 10. North Carolina; 13. Notre Dame; 14. Miami; 17. Louisville; 22. Virginia; 43. Virginia Tech

    Big 12: 6. Kansas; 11. West Virginia; 18. Baylor; 27. TCU; 31. Oklahoma; 33. Texas

    Big East: 3. Villanova; 21. Xavier; 23. Seton Hall; 25. Providence; 37. Creighton; 42. Butler; 45. St. John's

    Big Ten: 2. Michigan State; 15. Northwestern; 20. Minnesota; 24. Purdue; 28. Maryland; 32. Michigan; 36. Wisconsin

    Pac-12: 4. Arizona; 9. USC; 26. UCLA; 30. Oregon

    SEC: 5. Kentucky; 8. Florida; 19. Texas A&M; 29. Alabama; 38. Missouri; 44. Arkansas

    West Coast: 16. Gonzaga; 34. Saint Mary's

    Other: 39. Rhode Island; 46. Nevada; 47. College of Charleston; 48. Oakland; 49. Bucknell; 50. Vermont; 51. Middle Tennessee; 52. Missouri State; 53. Yale; 54. Texas-Arlington; 55. UNC-Asheville; 56. Belmont; 57. Grand Canyon; 58. Florida Gulf Coast; 59. Furman; 60. Iona; 61. Ball State; 62. South Dakota State; 63. Montana; 64. Stephen F. Austin; 65. St. Francis (PA); 66. UC Davis; 67. Texas Southern; 68. North Carolina Central

                                      

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.