A lot of things can happen between now and March. But today, as we gaze into our crystal ball, this is our prediction for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament field.
Remember the field of 68 includes 31 automatic bids and 37 at-large selections.
Go ahead and save this, then grade us in March. This is just a prediction. No automatic qualifiers were injured in the preparation of this forecast.
FIELD OF 68 (By conference)
* = Automatic qualifier
America East (1)
*Stony Brook – Coach Steve Pikiell’s Seawolves, led by Tommy Brenton, finally kick down the door to the tournament.
Atlantic Coast (5)
*North Carolina State – C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown are elite talents and the recruiting class is loaded with McDonald’s All-Americans.
Duke – If someone steps up at point guard, Coach K’s team will cause trouble in the tournament.
North Carolina – James Michael McAdoo will have to make up for the loss of so much Tar Heel talent.
Florida State – The Seminoles will never stop playing great defense and Michael Snaer is one of the country’s top guards.
Miami – Coach Jim Larranaga has talent and depth. Coming off a 20-win season, the Hurricanes should make the field.
Atlantic Sun (1)
*South Carolina Upstate – Coach Eddie Payne has all five starters back, led by Torrey Craig and Ty Greene.
*Saint Joseph’s – With guard Carl Jones putting up points and forward C.J. Aiken blocking shots, coach Phil Martelli has a ticket to the dance.
Saint Louis – Too bad Rick Majerus can’t be around to enjoy this tournament-ready team he put together.
Temple – Senior guard Khalif Wyatt will lead the Owls in one final flight before Temple heads to the Big East.
VCU – Shaka Smart and the Rams have a new challenge in the A-10, but they’ve never minded being the underdog.
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Big East (7)
*Louisville – The combination of Peyton Siva at point guard and Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng inside gives the edge to Rick Pitino’s team.
Syracuse – Look for Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. Fair to bust out as stars for Jim Boeheim as Syracuse plays its final season in the Big East.
Notre Dame – Big Jack Cooley is the anchor of a team with size and depth. Mike Brey’s team is tough to match.
Pittsburgh – Coach Jamie Dixon needs a healthy Tray Woodall for the entire season. Keep an eye on center Steven Adams.
Georgetown – The Hoyas are loaded with talent and forward Otto Porter is ready to dominate in conference play.
Marquette – Buzz Williams just keeps reloading. Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan must elevate their games.
Cincinnati – Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright will keep the Bearcats among the Big East contenders.
Big Sky (1)
*Montana – The guard tandem of Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar will keep the Grizzlies on top.
Big South (1)
*Charleston Southern – The Buccaneers have a big-time backcourt duo of Saah Nimley and Arlon Harper.
|Cody Zeller is the face of Indiana's campaign as they start the season ranked No. 1.
Big Ten (6)
*Indiana – Tom Crean has rebuilt the program and now big man Cody Zeller can lead the Hoosiers to big things.
Michigan – Remember the names Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Glenn Robinson III. Good times ahead for the Wolverines.
Michigan State – Coach Tim Izzo is really excited about this team. That should have everyone concerned.
Ohio State – Don’t feel bad for the Buckeyes. Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas are back from a Final Four team.
Wisconsin – Jordan Taylor will be missed but the Badgers may have a more consistent scoring team this season.
Purdue – The Robbie Hummel era is over. Coach Matt Painter has plenty of talent but has lost much of his experience.
Big 12 (6)
*Kansas – Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and a cast of newcomers will keep coach Bill Self on top in the Big 12.
Baylor – Senior Pierre Jackson is the leader of a talented backcourt crew for Scott Drew and the Bears.
Iowa State – Fred Hoiberg has brought the magic back to Hilton Coliseum but the Cyclones need transfer Will Clyburn to come up big.
Kansas State – It seems coach Bruce Weber always walks into a new job and inherits a loaded roster. History repeats itself.
Texas – Coach Rick Barnes will rely heavily on his incoming freshmen as the Longhorns make a 15th consecutive NCAA appearance.
West Virginia – Bob Huggins is back in the Big 12 and this time he is bringing big Deniz Kilcli with him.
Big West (1)
*Long Beach State – Dan Monson must replace a group of reliable seniors but he has James Ennis and three key transfers.
Conference USA (1)
*Memphis – This conference has been ripped apart and Memphis will be a good Big East team – after Joe Jackson leads the Tigers to another C-USA title.
*Drexel – Delaware may challenge the Dragons, but coach Bruiser Flint’s team should dominate the conference.
*Valparaiso – Five senior starters returning? Bryce Drew’s team should run away with the Horizon title.
*Princeton – Ian Hummer leads Princeton as Harvard’s run ends with the loss of Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey.
Metro Atlantic (1)
*Loyola – The MAAC conference tournament is always entertaining but Dylon Cormier and Erik Etherly should keep the Greyhounds in business.
*Ohio – The Bobcats find a way to reverse their fortunes after the regular season. D.J. Cooper will lead the way at point guard.
*Savannah State – Coach Horace Broadnax has all 14 players back, led by Rashad Hassan.
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Missouri Valley (2)
*Creighton – Doug McDermott. Doug McDermott. Doug McDermot. A little Greg McDermott and nine of top 10 players back.
Wichita State – The Shockers are lucky to have coach Gregg Marshall. Many new faces in Wichita, but the program is solid.
Mountain West (4)
*UNLV – Mike Moser is a stud and Anthony Marshall isn’t bad. Dave Rice is putting together a talented program.
San Diego State – Coach Steve Fisher has four starters back. Jamaal Franklin leads a great backcourt.
New Mexico – Steve Alford has this program on the right track. Now it is time to win some NCAA games.
Colorado State – Larry Eustachy’s team needs to win on the road. With four starters back and decent size, that just might happen.
*LIU Brooklyn – Four starters return, including NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd. Jason Brickman was fifth in the nation in assists last year.
Ohio Valley (1)
*Murray State – The Racers must replace three starters, but they still have Isaiah Canaan and lots of experience.
*Arizona – Senior Solomon Hill is just the type of leader coach Sean Miller needs. The Wildcats are back.
UCLA – Ben Howland and the Bruins got good news when the NCAA cleared freshman forward Kyle Anderson to play. Shabazz Muhammad's case is still under review.
Stanford – Coach Johnny Dawkins has restored the excitement and now the Cardinal should return to the dance.
Cal – Mike Montgomery must replace Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kemp but Allen Crabbe will be a top scorer in the Pac-12.
*Lehigh – Remember the Mountain Hawks? The Duke Blue Devils do. Guard C.J. McCollum and forward Gabe Knutson are back.
*Kentucky – John Calipari takes his new faces and turns them into winners every season. Nothing will change.
Arkansas – The Hogs have a great combo in B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell. Mike Anderson will have an improved team.
|Phil Pressey and Missouri face a new challenge in the SEC this year.
Florida – The Gators need Patric Young to become a dominant big man. Guard Kenny Boynton is hard to stop.
Missouri – The Tigers have Phil Pressey, so Missouri should handle the switch to the SEC without as much difficulty as its football team.
Alabama - Coach Anthony Grant got the Tide back to the NCAA tournament last season. There's a lot of pressure on freshman Devonta Pollard this season.
Tennessee – Coach Cuonzo Martin is turning things around. It helps to have Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes up front.
*Davidson - It’s hard to imagine the NCAA tourney without Bob McKillop’s team. Look out for Jake Cohen and De’Mon Brooks on the inside.
*Oral Roberts – Winning in a new league is never easy, but Scott Sutton has a talented team led by Steven Roundtree and Warren Niles.
SW Athletic (1)
*Texas Southern – Coach Mike Davis has a veteran team that includes Omar Strong and Erick Baltran.
*South Dakota State – Nate Wolters seems the obvious choice for Summit Player of the Year. Remember his name.
Sun Belt (1)
*North Texas – Forward Tony Mitchell will be the star for new coach Tony Benford, a former Marquette assistant. Mitchell averaged a double-double as a freshman.
West Coast (3)
*Gonzaga – Coach Mark Few hasn’t missed the NCAA in 13 years. Kevin Pangos leads this group of Bulldogs.
BYU – The Cougars have adjusted to the WCC and now will rely on center Brandon Davies until the BYU guards grow up.
Saint Mary’s – Senior guard Matthew Dellavedova should be conference player of the year and three other starters return.
Western Athletic (1)
*Utah State – Never bet against coach Stew Morrill. The Aggies finished strong last season and have Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed back.