Well, here it is. This is my first attempt at putting out a bracket based on pure conjecture, so go easy on me. At the very least, we'll all have something funny to laugh at when the real thing comes out in March.
Some of you probably wanted me to put something out as soon as UNC cut down the nets in Detroit, but I wanted to wait until the draft and recruiting seasons played out. The result is a bracket that will undoubtedly be something to ridicule in March, but is better than anything I could've put out in April.
More specifics after the jump.
The power conferences dominate this field, thanks to the confinued dominance of the Big East and a resurgent SEC--and despite a down Pac-10. The Big East may not have the monster year it had in 2009, but it still has nine teams in this early projection. Cincinnati was a late addition thanks to the signing of Lance Stephenson earlier in the week. Marquette and Seton Hall are knocking on the door, as they are in the First Four Out and Next Four Out groups, respectively.
The Pac-10, meanwhile, is lucky to have four teams in. California, Washington, and UCLA are in good position. Arizona's place in the field will depend on how well their highly-regarded recruiting class adjusts to the college game. Arizona State finds themselves just outside the field thanks to the loss of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph to the NBA, but a good showing in the NIT Season Tip-Off could catapult their season.
The Big Ten returns the same seven teams who made the field in 2009. Michigan State is on my early top line, but Purdue could easily join or surpass them. The ACC has the same number of teams, six, but Derrick Favors-led Georgia Tech replaces Florida State. UNC and Duke both find themselves on the two line right now.
The SEC should recover from a year which saw them earn an 8 seed, a 9 seed, and a 13 seed. Kentucky would have been on my top line had Jodie Meeks not stayed in the NBA draft. Tennessee should be much improved, while Mississippi State shouldn't need to win the SEC Tournament to get in thanks to the return of Jarvis Varnado. Devan Downey and Dominique Archie's return to South Carolina means the Gamecocks will again be a contender. Florida is back in the field for now, but the Gators' place will depend on how well the recruits adapt to Billy Donovan's system. Vanderbilt joins UF among the Last Four In, while LSU finds themselves just outside after the graduation of Marcus Thornton.
The Big 12, however, looks to be very strong. Kansas and Texas should be excellent and if the new recruits can adequately fill in for the Griffin brothers, Oklahoma as a 5 seed may look very silly. I have them with six entrants, much like 2009. but Kansas State replaces Oklahoma State in this bracket.
Outside of the major conferences, it's not looking so rosy at the moment. The only two at-larges come from the A-10 (Xavier) and C-USA (Memphis, as Tulsa has a chance to break the Tigers stranglehold on the league crown this year). This will undoubtedly change as games are played, however.
I'll talk more about teams and their chances at improving their resumes as I dive into early-season event talk over the next few weeks. In the meantime, have a Happy and safe 4th of July weekend!