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2011 Pre-season Bracket Projection: Midnight Madness edition

Time for a little pre-season fun, Midnight Madness style.

After a rather interesting off-season - my Top 5 story lines here - let’s take an updated look the new 68-team bracket. Quick note of caution ... selecting and seeding teams for a bracket projection in March is easier than estimating what might happen over the next five months. So consider this effort what it is: a mix of what we know, what we expect, and a lot of guesswork.

Midnight Madness Bracket Projection (2010-2011)

NEW - Power 24 | Midnight Madness edition.

If there is common ground, it’s that defending champ Duke should open the season as the No. 1 team. No exception here as the Blue Devils remain the overall top seed. From there, we start tweaking. Joining Duke on the top line are: Purdue, Michigan State and Pittsburgh. The Panthers made the biggest leap from August, but coach Jamie Dixon is bullish on his team and we’ll buy it. The uncertainty surrounding star recruits at Kentucky (Enes Kanter) and Kansas (Josh Selby) are also considerations. Both the Wildcats and Jayhawks lead a group of solid No. 2 seeds along with Ohio State and Kansas State. Syracuse, Villanova, Florida and Memphis fall into the three-line. Talk about powerhouse names.

First Four: The new format begins with four games in Dayton. Projected matchups ... New Mexico vs. Dayton | Louisville vs. USC | Lehigh vs. Vermont | Jackson State vs. S.F. Austin. In this scenario, New Mexico, Dayton, Louisville and USC are the last four at-large teams in the field. Lehigh, Vermont, Jackson State and S.F. Austin are projected as the lowest four ranked teams on the S-curve.

Last 5 IN: Northwestern, New Mexico, USC, Louisville, Dayton. First 5 OUT: Maryland, Connecticut, Northern Iowa, St. Louis, Notre Dame.

Several others teams under consideration are listed with the bracket projection under Bracketology. We all know there will be a surprise or two along the way - especially in conference tournaments. One could easily argue that Illinois and Virginia Tech missed last year’s tournament because New Mexico State (WAC) and Houston (C-USA) won their league tournaments. It happens almost every year and teams on the bubble this March will face the same fate - even with the expanded field. Someone will always be the first team out.

If you want to know how we did last season, check out 2010 Projection Results.

Take a look. Send a rebound. Differences of opinion are part of the fun.