Unlike Joe Lunardi, we didn't make predictions before the season even started, and, let's be honest, these early bracket predictions are getting outrageous. Now, with the conference season under way, we can start to make some legitimate predictions about who will be in the field in March. The Big Ten and the Big East appear to be the strongest conferences in the country this year and they will probably field approximately 1/4 of the field. Without further ado, here are our first projections of the year.
1 Syracuse 19-0- As usual, the non-conference schedule wasn't too demanding, but at least this year they left the state once before January (at NC St.). The schedule gets tougher in the coming weeks but the Orange look poised to grab a one seed in the tourney.
16 Coastal Carolina 13-4/ Wagner 14-3
8 Stanford 15-3- Stanford is the best team in a horrendous Pac-12. An 8 seed is somewhat generous for a team that completely lacks quality wins.
9 Harvard 15-2- More than 2 in-conference losses could seriously damage their seed given the weakness of the rest of the conference.
4 Indiana 15-3- There are several quality wins already in the bank for Indiana (Kentucky, Ohio St., Michigan), but they should lose a few upcoming road games to drop them to the 4 or 5 line.
13 Oral Roberts 16-4
5 West Virginia 13-5- They've played the 11th most difficult schedule in the country and they have several tough games remaining. The committee in recent years loves to reward teams that play tough schedules.
12 Iona 14-4
3 Duke 15-2- Duke always seems to snag a one seed with a late charge, but this team doesn't impress me. With a down ACC, they might have trouble securing enough quality wins to get on the 2 line.
14 Nevada 14-3
6 St. Mary's 17-2- They still have Gonzaga and BYU on the road and the quality wins aren't there. Those games will prove critical if they want a 4 or 5 seed. I see them more in the 6-8 range because of the weak schedule.
11 St. Louis 14-4- The A-10 is strong enough that St. Louis can afford a few losses and still get into the field. This is a 4-bid conference this year.
7 Seton Hall 15-3
10 Purdue 13-5- All I want is to see Robbie Hummel back in the NCAA tourney. He deserves it after two ACL tears.
2 Missouri 16-1- Win or lose, this is a fun team to watch, and their pressure system makes them a difficult out come tournament time.
15 Long Beach St. 12-6
1 North Carolina 15-3- Remember that this is a prediction for where they will be in March, not where they are right now. Despite the befuddling blowout loss at Florida St. this weekend, UNC will turn things around. I believe they will beat Duke twice and those wins will separate themselves from other #1 seed contenders.
16 Albany 12-8/ Norfolk St. 14-5
8 New Mexico 15-2
9 Texas 12-5- They have a critical stretch upcoming with Kan St., Kansas, Iowa St., Baylor and Missouri in their next 5, which will go a long way towards determining their seeding. Right now, they lack quality wins especially on the road.
4 Vanderbilt 14-4- The committee will have to consider the Festus Ezeli injury early when determining Vandy's seed. They've only lost one game with him in the line-up.
13 Northwestern 12-5/ Memphis 12-5- The last two win, which more likely means out due to the freaky nature of conference tournaments. These two have work left to do.
5 Creighton 16-2- I could see the committee lowering them based on a lack of quality wins... beating Northwestern, Wichita St., and San Diego St. impresses me enough though.
12 Xavier 12-5- They probably shouldn't have brawled with Cincinnati. Their seed would be much higher right now without losing 5 of 6 after that debacle.
3 Georgetown 14-3- No one thought the Hoyas would be in a situation to grab a high seed this year given the players they lost last year. Maybe the players that left just weren't that good. This squad looks way more athletic and talented.
14 MTSU 17-2
6 Illinois 15-3
11 Florida St. 11-6- The easy win over UNC certainly improved their at-large chances. One game doesn't make a season, but a win of that quality over an elite team is tough to overlook.
7 Virginia 14-2- In other years when the ACC was stronger, UVA would be in consideration for a 3 seed. There just aren't enough opportunities for quality wins barring an upset over UNC.
10 Cal 15-4
2 Baylor 17-0- If the season ended today, Baylor would undoubtedly get a #1 seed, but I anticipate some losses before the season ends. The schedule was somewhat easy before January, as they have played the 229th ranked schedule in terms of offensive efficiency. In the next few weeks, they play Missouri twice (2nd ranked offense), Kansas twice (13th), and Texas (38th). They will be ecstatic if they play the next 8 games 5-3, but I think 4-4 is more likely.
15 Weber St. 14-3
1 Ohio St. 16-3- They have the chance still to rack up some big wins in a strong Big Ten conference. Keep in mind, one of their three losses was without Jared Sullinger at Kansas. The conference RPI will help them land a 1 seed.
16 Lehigh 14-5
8 Alabama 13-4- They always play a tough schedule and this year is no different. The committee will reward their tough non-conference slate.
9 Gonzaga 14-3
4 San Diego St. 15-2
13 Belmont 13-6- Belmont will once again be a tough out in the tournament if they can navigate their way through the Atlantic Sun conference tourney. I don't envision them getting an at-large berth should they lose.
5 Kansas St. 12-4- They're off to a poor start in conference play but they should turn things around and get enough quality wins to get a 5 or 6 seed.
12 Davidson 12-4- That road win at Kansas is one of the more impressive wins of the year for any team.
3 Florida 14-4- Florida has two quality tight losses to Ohio St. and Syracuse, but they need some more quality wins to warrant this seed. I think they perform well in conference and sneak out a 3 seed.
14 UCF 13-4
6 Marquette 15-4- The win at Wisconsin and the tight losses at Gtown and Syracuse are impressive. The remaining schedule isn't too daunting and they should be able to rack up wins and settle in at a 5 or 6 seed.
11 Temple 11-5
7 Wichita St. 15-3
10 Minnesota 14-5- They have had a brutal conference schedule so far, but they will get several quality teams at home before the season ends and I anticipate them posting some key wins.
2 Kansas 14-3- KenPom ranks Kansas as the 2nd best team in the country right now behind Ohio St. They're a questionable home loss to Davidson away from being a 1 seed.
15 Kent St. 12-4
1 Kentucky 17-1- Kentucky appears right now to be the strongest team in the country. They have a top 10 offense and defense according to KenPom, and they have impressive wins over Kansas, UNC, and Louisville. I expect them to be the #1 overall seed after dominating an average SEC in conference play.
16 Southern 8-10
8 Wisconsin 14-5- How often does Wisky have 3 home losses already by mid-January? Never. This team isn't that good and they will continue to slide.
9 Louisville 14-5- No team in the country is plummeting faster in the seeding than Louisville.
4 Michigan 14-4- The Iowa loss hurts with a tough stretch of games upcoming (Mich St., Ark, Pur, Ohio St., Ind, Mich St.) that will define the Wolverine's season.
13 Cleveland St. 15-4
5 UNLV 16-3
12 Iowa St. 12-5/Cincinnati 14-4- Just like the other play-in game, these teams have work left to do with conference tourneys adding undeserving teams to the field.
3 Michigan St. 15-3- Michigan St. has lost 1 game in their last 16 following early season losses to quality UNC and Duke squads.
14 VCU 13-5- I just had to put them in the field, but the Colonial is wide open this year and it's probably a one-bid conference.
6 Mississippi St. 15-3- Their early season "quality wins" over Arizona and Tex A&M don't look nearly as impressive now. That hurts their seeding immensely, since outside of beating West Viriginia, they have zero non-conference wins over potential tourney teams.
11 BYU 15-4
7 Murray St. 18-0- The Racers are the most highly debated team in the field because of their undefeated record against questionable competition. Any loss will hurt their seeding immensely and that type of pressure is tough to play through.
10 Dayton 13-5
2 UConn 14-3- They could use some road wins to impress the committee and they will get their chance with upcoming road tilts against Tenn, GTown, L-Ville, and Cuse.
15 UTex-Arlington 11-5