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Preseason bracketology: Kentucky leads the way yet again

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For the fourth year in a row, the Kentucky Wildcats occupy a place on the top line of Chris Dobbertean's preseason bracket projection. Of course, John Calipari's team has failed to live up to the preseason hype in each of the last two seasons, last April's appearance in the National Championship game as a No. 8 seed notwithstanding.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky, boasting a roster that's again loaded with McDonald's All-Americans, are joined as a No. 1 seed by the Arizona Wildcats, expected to dominate the Pac-12 even after Aaron Gordon's departure for the NBA; the Wisconsin Badgers, a team anchored by veterans eager to show the upstart freshmen that dominate the rest of the top line how it's done; and the Duke Blue Devils, another squad full of blue chip recruits, including Jahlil Okafor, the 6-11 center who might very well be the top pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Blue Devils' eternal rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels, and the Kansas Jayhawks, perennial Big 12 favorites, also earned serious consideration for the final place on the top line.

Like Kentucky, the Blue Devils are a repeat selection as a preseason No. 1 seed. And like the Wildcats, Mike Krzyzewski's team failed to reach those lofty heights, falling in the Round of 64 as a No. 3 seed to the Mercer Bears. My other two top seed misses from last season--Michigan State and Louisville--are also present in this bracket, just a bit further down.

Here is my full preseason projection, which is worth roughly the value of the paper you won't use to print it.

(1) MIDWEST
Cleveland (Thu/Sat)
(2) WEST
Los Angeles (Thu/Sat)
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Portland (Thu/Sat)
1 Kentucky (SEC) 1 Arizona (Pac-12)
16 Robert Morris/Texas Sthn. 16 Weber State (Big Sky)
8 George Washington 8 88 Memphis
9 Kansas State 9 Pittsburgh
Seattle (Fri/Sun) Portland (Thu/Sat)
5 Connecticut (AAC) 5 Iowa State
12 Louisiana Tech (C-USA) 122 UC Irvine (Big West)
4 San Diego State (MW) 4 Ohio State
13 Iona (MAAC) 13 New Mexico State (WAC)
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Seattle (Fri/Sun)
6 Oklahoma 666 Stanford
11 Iowa 11 Boise State
3 Louisville 3 Gonzaga (WCC)
14 Stephen F. Austin (Southland) 14 Denver (Summit)
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)
7 Utah 7 Georgetown
10 Providence 10 BYU
2 Wichita State (MVC) 2 Virginia
15 Holy Cross (Patriot) 15 Murray State (OVC)
(4) EAST
Syracuse (Fri/Sun)
(3) SOUTH
Houston (Fri/Sun)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun) Omaha (Fri/Sun)
1 Duke (ACC) 1 Wisconsin (Big Ten)
16 Florida Gulf Coast/Stony Brook 16 Coastal Carolina (Big South)
8 UCLA 8 Colorado
9 Dayton 9 LSU
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)
5 SMU 5 Michigan State
12 Maryland/Notre Dame 12 Harvard (Ivy)
4 VCU (A 10) 4 Texas
13 Green Bay (Horizon) 13 Toledo (MAC)
Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat) Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)
6 Michigan 6 Syracuse
11 Arkansas/Richmond 11 Xavier
3 Villanova (Big East) 3 Florida
14 William & Mary (CAA) 14 Georgia State (Sun Belt)
Omaha (Fri/Sun) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
7 Nebraska 7 Cincinnati
10 UMass 10 Baylor
2 Kansas (Big 12) 2 North Carolina
15 N.C. Central (MEAC) 15 Wofford (SoCon)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Louisville Tuesday: To Pittsburgh
16 Robert Morris (NEC) 11 Arkansas
16 Texas Southern (SWAC) 11 Richmond
Wednesday: To Charlotte Wednesday: To Columbus
16 Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun) 12 Maryland
16 Stony Brook (AE) 12 Notre Dame

BIDS BY CONFERENCE AVOIDING DAYTON ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
ACC: 7 Baylor Denver Arizona State
Big Ten: 7 Xavier Florida Gulf Coast Cal Poly
Big 12: 6 Iowa Georgetown Creighton
A 10: 5 Boise State Georgia State Delaware
Pac-12: 5 LAST FOUR IN Green Bay Eastern Kentucky
AAC: 4
Notre Dame Holy Cross Louisiana-Lafayette
Big East: 4 Richmond Iona Manhattan
SEC: 4 Arkansas LSU Mercer
MW: 2 Maryland Louisiana Tech Milwaukee
WCC: 2 FIRST FOUR OUT Maryland Mount St. Mary's
1-Bid Conferences: 22 Minnesota Murray State New Mexico

St. John's Notre Dame N.C. State

Northern Iowa Richmond North Dakota State

California Robert Morris Oklahoma State

NEXT FOUR OUT SMU Oregon

Georgia Stony Brook Saint Joseph's

New Mexico Toledo Saint Louis

Florida State UC Irvine Tennessee

Illinois Utah Tulsa


William & Mary Western Michigan

Also considered (in alphabetical order): Arizona State, Colorado State, Houston, Indiana, La Salle, Miami, N.C. State, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph's, St. Mary's, Texas A&M, Tulsa, UC Santa Barbara, UNLV, UTEP, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming

The 15-team ACC and 14-member Big Ten each contribute seven teams to the field, while the 10-squad Big 12 delivers a whopping 60 percent of its membership. The Pac-12 provides five squads, a total equal to the Atlantic 10's, while the SEC still lags behind its power conference counterparts, with four teams, a slight improvement on last season's March total of three (baby steps!). The Big East and American Athletic also provide a quartet each, which feels oddly right, while the Mountain West and West Coast are two-bid leagues before the season tips off.

As I seemingly type in a similar place every November, you can automatically assume that at least a third of the teams listed in this projection will not be here on Selection Sunday. Naturally, the fun is in learning those unfortunate teams identities! Last season, 28 teams present in my preseason projection were missing in March, though 17 of these teams filled automatic bids, which are always dicey picks at best, given the unpredictability of Championship Week. For example, 2014 preseason conference picks Florida Gulf Coast, Iona, Louisiana Tech, Stony Brook, and Toledo all came tantalizingly close to booking bids via their respective league championship games. All five of these teams are back in this projection, which only illustrates that I'm terrible at learning lessons.

Since 17 of my 28 misses were auto bids, I completely missed 11 of the 36 at-large teams before the season tipped off. As you would expect most of these (I'm looking at you Georgetown, Marquette, Missouri, and St. John's) were the result of disappointing seasons, not sheer incompetence on my part, as has been the case in previous years--remember when I put Northwestern and Oregon State in my 2010 preseason bracket? Good times!

Note that three of my first eight out from last season--Arizona State, BYU, and Providence--eventually found their way in. That counts for something, right?

My preseason seeding, on the other hand, was generally as off the mark as you would expect, considering the absence of games played. Even though I failed to pick any of the top seeds correctly in November--and really, who knew Wichita State would be that good? -- I did manage to perfectly slot Kansas (a two seed) Syracuse (a three) into their Top 16 positions. Indeed, I managed to project eight of the 16 teams on the top four lines in November, with my order just being a little off in most cases. Overall, I placed 22 teams within two lines of their correct seed before a game had even been played, which isn't all that awful when you really think about it.

Now, it's your turn. Where do you think I'll be wrong come March 15, 2015?