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North Carolina, Kentucky top preseason bracket projection

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Mike Miller

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Mike Miller

March is five months away. Thousands of college basketball games will be played before Selection Sunday. Yet two things seem pretty clear in early November. North Carolina and Kentucky are loaded, and the Tar Heels and Wildcats are heavy favorites to reach the Final Four in New Orleans. So it’s no surprise that UNC and UK are the top two teams in our preseason bracket projection.

From there, it gets interesting. Debates rage across the internet and college hoops magazines about the next group of teams. Defending champion Connecticut returns a host of talent, as does 2011 top seed Ohio State. Other teams in the early running for No. 1 seeds: Syracuse and Duke. Florida and Vanderbilt both have the talent to challenge Kentucky in the SEC. Louisville and Pittsburgh are potential threats to the Orange and Huskies in the Big East. Memphis has the horses to dominate an improved Conference USA.

There are also plenty of good mid-major programs to watch. Belmont could be an at-large candidate if it navigates an opportunistic non-conference schedule. Detroit will test Butler in the Horizon League. As many as three or four teams could push for bids from the Colonial and Atlantic 10. Both the Missouri Valley and Mid-American have multiple bid options. Our preseason projection has two teams each from the Colonial, MVC, and Horizon. Hopefully, we’ll see that - or more - play out next spring.

Further down the bracket, it’s educated guesswork ...

Last 5 teams IN: Virginia, Minnesota, Wichita State, Drexel, St. Louis. First 5 teams OUT: Notre Dame, BYU, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s. The next group includes Kent State, VCU, Indiana, Old Dominion, and Central Florida. None of these would be huge surprises. That’s the beauty of college hoops. We play the games and what happens on the court matters more than public opinion.

Here’s to a great season. Let’s enjoy the ride to Selection Sunday.

2012 PRESEASON BRACKET PROJECTION

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc).

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS - Dayton (First Round)

Minnesota vs. Drexel | Wichita State vs. St. Louis | STONY BROOK vs. LONG ISLAND | TX-SAN ANTONIO vs. ALABAMA ST.

BRACKET PROJECTION ...

EAST - BostonSOUTH - Atlanta
PittsburghGreensboro
1) CONNECTICUT1) NORTH CAROLINA
16) HAMPTON16) STONY BROOK / LONG ISLAND
8) Texas8) Mississippi State
9) Purdue9) Temple
PortlandOmaha
5) UCLA5) Cincinnati
12) Minnesota / Drexel12) Oklahoma State
4) XAVIER4) Wisconsin
13) IONA13) Wichita State / St. Louis
OmahaNashville
6) Texas A-M6) Florida State
11) BUTLER11) Detroit
3) Vanderbilt3) Louisville
14) WEBER STATE14) DAVIDSON
GreensboroLouisville
7) Michigan7) Washington
10) West Virginia10) Illinois
2) Duke2) Florida
15) BUCKNELL15) FLORIDA ATLANTIC
MIDWEST - St. Louis WEST - Phoenix
LouisvillePittsburgh
1) KENTUCKY1) OHIO STATE
16) TX-SAN ANTONIO / ALABAMA ST16) UNC-ASHEVILLE
8) Miami-FL8) NEW MEXICO
9) Villanova9) CREIGHTON
PortlandAlbuquerque
5) Michigan State5) Marquette
12) Oregon12) Virginia
4) Kansas4) ARIZONA
13) UTAH STATE13) AKRON
ColumbusAlbuquerque
6) Alabama6) California
11) BELMONT11) Marshall
3) Pittsburgh3) BAYLOR
14) HARVARD14) LONG BEACH STATE
NashvilleColumbus
7) Missouri7) GONZAGA
10) UNLV10) GEORGE MASON
2) MEMPHIS2) Syracuse
15) ORAL ROBERTS15) TENNESSEE STATE

NOTES on the BRACKET: North Carolina is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Kentucky, Connecticut and Ohio State.

Last Five teams in (at large): Virginia, Minnesota, Wichita State, Drexel, St. Louis

First Five teams out (at large): Notre Dame, BYU, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s

Next Five out (at large): VCU, Kent State, Indiana, Old Dominion, Central Florida

Bracket adjustments: None in this update.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference ...

Big East (8): Connecticut, Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Marquette, Villanova, West Virginia

Big Ten (7): Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota

Big 12 (6): Baylor, Kansas, Texas A-M, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma State

ACC (5): North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Miami-FL, Virginia

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Mississippi State,

Pac 12 (5): Arizona, UCLA, California, Washington, Oregon

Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, Temple, St. Louis

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, UNLV

Colonial (2): George Mason, Drexel

Horizon (2): Butler, Detroit

Conference USA (2): Memphis, Marshall

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

Conference leaders/champions ... Utah State (WAC), Tennessee State (OVC), Iona(MAAC), Akron (MAC), Weber State (Big Sky), Davidson (Southern), Oral Roberts (Summit), Long Beach State (Big West), Long Island (NEC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt), Harvard (Ivy), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Hampton (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Stony Brook (America East), UT-San Antonio (Southland), Alabama State (SWAC)