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Developing Seed List: Lots of Bubbles

Dave2015As a college hoops fan, I get it.  We’re always looking toward March.  While conference races are fun, the never-ending question remains the same: Will my team hear its name called on Selection Sunday?

If you’re a fan of an elite heavyweight – say Duke or Kansas  – this really isn’t a concern.  For you, the next few months are all about seeding and location.  But for countless teams – and their fans – nervousness awaits, even as optimism reigns supreme.

Which brings us to the developing preseason Seed List.  It will be released soon, along with the preseason bracket.  Admittedly, it’s an exercise wrought with uncertainty, educated guesses, and gut feelings.  Working through the process, there are currently some 40 teams on the bubble for what amounts to about 15 bracket positions.  And that’s being generous, with another 8-to-10 spots that  – depending on your viewpoint – are far from certain.  In other words, we have a lot of questions about a lot of teams as the calendar turns to November.

Pick up a magazine, scour the internet, purchase the Blue Ribbon yearbook. Predictions vary greatly.  Deciphering three or four bubble spots in March is tough enough.  Doing so in November, is well … you get the idea.

In advance of the list and bracket, here are a few quick thoughts about the process:

  • Oregon would be the West Region’s No. 1 seed in our preseason bracket if Dillon Brooks were fully healthy.  The Ducks will be strong regardless, but how quickly and effectively he returns may determine whether Oregon reaches the top line in March.
  • The Big Ten appears top heavy.  It should be quite a race between Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State and Purdue.  After that?  Spots 5-to-9 sure look up for grabs.  Maryland is a tough one – who steps up to help Mellow Trimble?  And what about Illinois?  Will a healthy roster finally be enough?  Can Northwestern make a push for its first bid – ever?  What about Michigan and Ohio State – or even Iowa?
  • The SEC looks like it might still be a year away from expanding its presence in March.  The league will definitely be better, but will more than three teams make it?  That’s a tougher question to answer.
  • While Oregon and Arizona are the class of the Pac-12,  UCLA should be improved, and Cal appears to be an NCAA team, too.  Then it gets interesting.  Expect several teams to be in play for another couple of slots.  Within that group, keep a close eye on Washington and freshman standout Markelle Fultz.
  • Two bids look almost certain for the West Coast Conference.  It’s hard to imagine Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s missing this year’s field.  Can a young BYU team join the mix?  Perhaps an improved Pepperdine crew?
  • Illinois State and Northern Iowa should push Wichita State in the Missouri Valley. The Redbirds, in particular, figure to be in the at-large conversation.
  • Princeton and Harvard are both solid.  Not sure there will be room for two Ivy League teams, but it’s not out of the question.
  • Kansas is the heavy favorite to win another Big 12 title. Elsewhere, there’s uncertainty.  Oklahoma is retooling.  Texas is talented, but who handles the point?  Iowa State returns Monte Morris, but other household names depart.  Can Oklahoma State make a push behind its duo of talented guards?
  • Top to bottom, the ACC is the strongest conference.  Nine bids are not only possible, but likely.  That said, I’m not sold on 10 or 11, at least not yet.
  • We could see multiple bids from the American, with SMU and Houston in pursuit of Connecticut and Cincinnati.
  • An intriguing race should also develop in Conference USA – especially between UAB and Middle Tennessee State – remember them? I also wouldn’t count out Old Dominion or an improved Marshall team.
  • Finally, keep an eye on Nevada.  The Wolfpack could be sneaky-good and challenge favorite San Diego State in the Mountain West.

All of this adds up to an exciting season.  And while conference play consumes us once January arrives, games in November and December might go a long way toward determining which teams are in play for those final spots come March.

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