NCAA Basketball Bracketology: Absurdly Early Picks For The New Season

WASHINGTON - MAY 27: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) is presented with a plaque of a bracket by coach Mike Krzyzewski (L) of the Duke Blue Devils during a Rose Garden event May 27, 2010 at the White House in Washington, DC. Obama hosted the NCAA men basketball champions to honor their 2009-2010 season. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

SB Nation's resident bracketologist gives us a taste of his early season picks. File and save them now for laughter and ridicule come March.

The NCAA basketball season begins Monday night with a light schedule featuring four games from one of the premier early season tournaments. With that in mind, it's preseason bracketology time, where we take a look at a laughably early field of 68 for the season's ultimate bracket.

That's right, there are three more teams in this season's NCAA field, and thanks to expansion, the format has been tweaked slightly, as I explain in my 2011 Tourney Primer.

As for the early field, here's a look at the 68 teams I have in my Preseason Bracket, with a focus on the top seeds. Click the link for each region to read my full rundown for each team, as featured at Blogging the Bracket.

East Region

1. Duke

The Blue Devils are my top overall seed for the new season. Sure, the defending National Champions lost Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, and Brian Zoubek to graduation, but the Blue Devils still have more than enough talent left over (led by Miles and Mason Plumlee, Kyle Singler, and Nolan Smith) and coming aboard (Liberty transfer Seth Curry, freshman PG Kyrie Irving) to repeat. Their biggest challengers in the ACC will be North Carolina (if they've grown up), N.C. State--a team looking for a breakthrough, and Virginia Tech, who just missed the field in 2010.

The Rest of the East
2. Villanova
3. Kentucky
4. Temple
5. Memphis
6. Baylor
7. Wisconsin
8. West Virginia
9. Arizona
10. Murray State
11. Xavier
12. Texas A&M
13. Old Dominion
14. UC Santa Barbara
15. Morgan State
16. Quinnipiac or Stony Brook (First Round)

West Region

1. Pittsburgh

The Panthers are fourth overall, so the West will be opposite the East in this bracket. While Jermaine Dixon graduated, Jamie Dixon's other star performers return. The Panthers' two biggest stars, PG Ashton Gibbs and backcourt mate Brad Wannamaker are complemented by a group that may be ready to make the next step, including Gilbert Brown, Dante Taylor, and Travon Woodall, and several talented newcomers--Lamar Patterson (injury hardship), Talib Zanna (redshirt), and J.J. Moore. Expect Pitt's biggest Big East challengers to be Villanova and defending regular season champion Syracuse.

The Rest of the West
2. Kansas State
3. Illinois
4. Washington
5. Gonzaga
6. San Diego State
7. Mississippi State
8. Virginia Tech
9. Richmond
10. Florida State
11. Connecticut
12. Colorado or Northwestern (First Round)
13. Ohio
14. Oakland
15. Weber State
16. Princeton

Southeast Region

1. Michigan State

The Spartans are the second-highest top seed in my preseason bracket. As the NCAA is skipping the Midwest regional this year, Tom Izzo's team anchors the Southeast. Point guard Kalin Lucas, who missed most of the Spartans' Tournament run with a ruptured Achilles tendon is back, along with most of his teammates from last year, like Draymond Green, Korie Lucious, Delvon Roe, and Durrell Summers. The returning talent should be more than enough to keep Michigan State at the top of the Big Ten, but Ohio State and Illinois will be serious challengers. 

The Rest of the Southeast
2. North Carolina
3. Florida
4. Missouri
5. Butler
6. BYU
7. Texas
8. Dayton
9. Notre Dame
10. Marquette
11. Minnesota
12. Utah State
13. Georgia or Missouri State (First Round)
14. North Texas
15. Coastal Carolina
16. East Tennessee State

Southwest Region

1. Kansas

The Southwest region is centered on San Antonio, where the Jayhawks won the 2008 National Championship. To get back to those heights, the Jayhawks will have to adjust to life without Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. Josh Selby, the top-rated recruit in the country, is Collins' heir apparent at the point; however, his eligibility is still up in the air. As for the returnees, Bill Self will be looking for the Morris twins and Tyshawn Taylor to live up to their potential; Travis Releford and Mario Little to have a good campaigns after redshirting; and his massive cast of role players (Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, Thomas Robinson) to come through in key moments. However, if Selby is declared ineligible, KU may slide a bit because of the gaping hole at the point. The Jayhawks biggest challengers in the Big 12 look to be archrivals Kansas State and Missouri, along with Baylor, a team that reached the Elite Eight in 2010.

The Rest of the Southwest
2. Ohio State
3. Syracuse
4. Tennessee
5. Georgetown
6. NC State
7. Wichita State
8. Purdue
9. Maryland
10. Vanderbilt
11. UCLA
12. UNLV
13. Wofford
14. Fairfield
15. Stephen F. Austin
16. Jackson State or Lafayette (First Round)

My next bracket, the first based on actual games (a very important thing), will run on Friday, December 3, after the Thanksgiving tournaments and ACC/Big Ten Challenge are in the books.

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