Over the course of the week, I’ve released the 68 teams in my preseason field, but it’s always fun to look at the actual matchups as well. In addition, it’s useful for me to get a little practice in following the bracketing principles as well, so let’s consider this the bracketology equivalent of an exhibition game.
Following the bracket, I wrote up some quick thoughts about seven teams who I also considered for the field and gave a breakdown by conference.
|MIDWEST (KANSAS CITY)||WEST (ANAHEIM)|
|Tulsa – March 22/24||Salt Lake City – March 21/23|
|1) Kansas||1) Gonzaga|
|16) Bethune-Cookman / Grambling||16) Lehigh / St. Francis (PA)|
|9) Miami (FL)||9) Wisconsin|
|Des Moines – March 21/23||Des Moines – March 21/23|
|12) Buffalo||12) Northeastern
|4) Virginia Tech||4) West Virginia|
|13) Harvard||13) UNC Greensboro|
|Columbus – March 22/24||Jacksonville – March 21/23|
|6) Clemson||6) Washington|
|11) Alabama / Butler||11) Texas|
|3) Michigan St.||3) Auburn|
|14) Grand Canyon||14) Georgia St.|
|Jacksonville – March 21/23||Columbia – March 22/24|
|7) Marquette||7) Purdue|
|10) Texas Tech||10) St. John’s|
|2) Tennessee||2) North Carolina|
||15) Wright St.|
|SOUTH (LOUISVILLE)||EAST (WASHINGTON, DC)|
|Columbus – March 22/24||Columbia – March 22/24|
|1) Kentucky||1) Duke|
|16) Hartford||16) Radford|
|8) NC State||8) Nebraska|
|9) Iowa St.||9) USC|
|San Jose – March 22/24||Salt Lake City – March 21/23|
|5) Michigan||5) Florida St.|
|12) Saint Louis||12) Loyola Chicago|
|4) Oregon||4) Mississippi St.|
|13) Montana||13) South Dakota St.|
|Tulsa – March 22/24||Hartford – March 21/23|
|6) Indiana||6) Florida|
|11) Western Kentucky
||11) Arizona / Central Florida|
|3) Kansas St.||3) Villanova|
|14) UC Irvine||14) Belmont|
|Hartford – March 21/23||San Jose – March 22/24|
|7) UCLA||7) TCU|
|10) Providence||10) Maryland|
|2) Virginia||2) Nevada|
|15) Rider||15) Stephen F. Austin|
Other Teams Considered:
Houston – Even without Rob Gray and Devin Davis, the Cougars have the makings of a top three team in the AAC, but I couldn’t talk myself into the league landing three teams in the field. Corey Davis, Jr. and Armoni Brooks are the top returning scorers, and UMass transfer DeJon Jarreau should contribute as well. A strong performance in home non-conference home games against Oregon, LSU, and Saint Louis as well as road trips to BYU and Oklahoma State would certainly help the cause.
San Diego State – The Aztecs look like the clear-cut second place team in the Mountain West behind Nevada, but similar to my comments on Houston, I’m sure not sure the MWC lands multiple teams in the field. Three double-digit scorers return from a team that played well to close out last season, with forward Jalen McDaniels (10.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) the most intriguing. SDSU gets a crack at Duke in the opening round of the Maui Invitational, and they need to perform well in that event overall with few other impactful games on the non-conference slate.
Notre Dame – Anyone who projects the Irish in their preseason field is putting a lot of faith in Mike Brey, which ultimately is a reasonable thing to do. Still, Brey loses three double-digit scorers, including Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell. T.J. Gibbs (15.3 ppg) is the key returnee, and D.J. Harvey seems poised to ramp up his production as a sophomore. Notre Dame adds four recruits ranked between 50th and 100th as well as UConn transfer Juwan Durham, but I’m not convinced they can win enough in a loaded ACC to go dancing.
Ohio State – Chris Holtmann engineered quite a turnaround in his first year at Ohio State, riding the duo of Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate to 25 wins and a 15-3 Big Ten record. Outside of C.J. Jackson (12.6 ppg, 3.9 apg) and Kaleb Wesson (10.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg), no returnees scored more than 4.1 points per game. Wake Forest transfer Keyshawn Woods should slide into the starting backcourt alongside Jackson after scoring 11.9 points per game for the Demon Deacons last year. Holtmann added a pair of top 100 recruits in guard Luther Muhammad and forward Jaedon LeDee with Muhammad prime candidate to carve out a starting role for himself. The Buckeyes do get some benefit from the Big Ten’s unbalanced schedule, but there are too many question marks for me to project them in the field at this point.
Vanderbilt – Bryce Drew lost some key pieces but a pair of top 20 recruits should allow Vandy to reload quickly. Forward Simi Shittu is returning from a knee injury suffered in his final year of high school but should be a matchup problem for SEC opponents, and Darius Garland was ranked by some as the top point guard in the class. Just two returning players scored over four points per game, with sophomore Saben Lee (10.6 ppg, 3.1 apg) the most impactful of the pair. Transfers Matt Ryan and Yanni Wetzell will both provide size and outside shooting for the Commodores, but the Commodores desperately need to improve on a defense that ranked outside the top 200 in adjusted efficiency. The infusion of talent is certainly exciting, but an NCAA tournament bid feels like a big jump for a team that finished 12-20 and 13th in the SEC last year.
Louisville – New coach Chris Mack is already experiencing success on the recruiting trail, and his track record suggests he’ll have the Cardinals performing at a high level soon enough. I’m ultimately not convinced the pieces are there to do it this season though. V.J. King is top the returning scorer at 8.6 points per game, and you could certainly see players like Jordan Nwora (5.7 ppg) and Dwayne Sutton (4.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg) take a step forward. A trio of grad transfers will look to provide immediate help, as Christen Cunningham and Khwan Fore both averaged at least 11 points at Samford and Richmond, respectively. In the end, I think Louisville might actually be better than many predict, but I’m not sure they can leapfrog enough teams in the ACC to earn an at-large.
Arizona State – The Sun Devils got off to a red hot start last season and reeled off 12 straight victories to start the year. They proceeded to finish under .500 in the Pac-12 and limped into the NCAA tournament where they lost to Syracuse in the First Four in Dayton. The top three scorers are gone, although transfers Rob Edwards and Zylan Cheatham should help pick up the slack. Romello White (10.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and Remy Martin (9.6) are the key returnees, while Bobby Hurley also brings in a pair of top 50 recruits in Luguentz Dort and Taeshon Cherry. The talent is there in a league that isn’t overwhelming, but they are likely to take a step back offensively, which isn’t a great sign for a team that struggled to get stops last year and finished outside the top 100 in adjust defensive efficiency.
ACC (9): Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Big Ten (7): Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin
Big 12 (7): Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia
SEC (7): Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Tennessee
Big East (6): Butler, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Villanova, Xavier
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, USC, Washington
American (2): Central Florida, Cincinnati
America East: Hartford
Atlantic Sun: Lipscomb
Atlantic 10: Saint Louis
Big Sky: Montana
Big South: Radford
Big West: UC Irvine
Conference USA: Western Kentucky
Horizon: Wright State
Missouri Valley: Loyola Chicago
Mountain West: Nevada
Northeast: St. Francis (PA)
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southern: UNC Greensboro
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: South Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
WAC: Grand Canyon
West Coast: Gonzaga
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Filed to: 2018-2019 bracketology