Duke, Michigan State, Kansas State and Pitt begin as No. 1 seeds
|2011 NCAA Tournament Projection|
|In this bracket, the East matches up with the West, the Southeast with the Southwest in the national semifinals.|
With the addition of three at-large spots (increasing the field to 68 teams), there are now four play-in games, dubbed the "First Four." Two games will match the tournaments lowest seeds, Nos. 65 through 68, with the winners claiming a No. 16 seed. The other two games will feature the last four teams of the 37 at-large qualifiers, with the winners likely receiving No. 11 or 12 seeds.
The top-four seeds in each region, starting with the No. 1 seeds, receive geographic preference when possible. An imbalance in high seeds between regions (e.g. if more than two top-four seeds are closest to the same subregional location) may force a protected seed into a secondary location.
League winners are listed with their conference for clarity. Teams can be moved a seed line up or down to conform to bracketing rules.
* -- automatic qualifier
|Also considered (in alphabetical order): Arizona State, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisville, Northwestern, St. John's, St. Mary's, Southern Miss, Texas A&M, UCLA, UTEP, Washington State.|
At-large first-round games (Tuesday, March 15): Notre Dame-George Mason, Creighton-Oklahoma State.
Automatic bid first-round games (Wednesday, March 16): Holy Cross-Quinnipiac, UNC Asheville-Jackson State.
-- All four projected No. 1 seeds are slotted in Friday subregionals, so both automatic bid first-round games had to be on Wednesday, with the two at-large first-round games both being held on Tuesday. The NCAA will wait until it releases the full bracket to schedule these four first-round matchups, so any combination of games is possible depending on subregional allocation and seeding.
-- I had UNLV a spot ahead of Memphis in my rankings of the "other" 25 conferences on presumed team quality, but Memphis' position in C-USA makes the Tigers more likely to get a high seed than UNLV in the deeper Mountain West.
-- There were a number of teams in the 8-10 seed lines that got shuffled a line due to conference conflicts in the bracket.
-- Purdue feels like more of a 4/5 seed than a 5/6, but I think the Mountain West and A-10 champs (and the Pac-10, if Washington lives up to billing) would end up with a better seed than the fourth-place Big Ten team, if that's how it shakes out. This might be low for the Boilermakers, though.
Big East (8)
Big Ten (6)
Big 12 (6)
Mountain West (4)
San Diego State*
Atlantic 10 (4)
Missouri Valley (2)
Colonial Athletic (2)
Boston University: John Holland and a bunch of impact transfers are enough to hold off Stony Brook.
Lipscomb: Adnan Hodzic/Josh Slater is the best scoring duo in the league and two other starters return.
Weber State: The taste of two straight bitter postseason defeats fuel Damian Lillard and Co. past Northern Colorado, Northern Arizona and Montana.
UNC Asheville: Guards J.P. Primm and Matt Dickey are all-league types fronting an experienced cast.
UC Santa Barbara: Orlando Johnson and the Gauchos won the league last year starting four sophs and a junior, but it won't be easy to hold off Pacific and Long Beach State.
Memphis: We'll see how the freshmen develop as far as competing on the elite national level, but the Tigers are clearly the best team in C-USA.
Butler: The Bulldogs seem to make it look easy in a league that's actually pretty deep and fairly talented.
Princeton: Upperclass teams typically win the Ivy and the Tigers return a lot, but don't discount Harvard's talent or Penn's bounceback.
Fairfield: Came within a bucket of KO'ing Siena and dancing last season and returns a lot of talent, starting with point guard Derek Needham.
Ohio: Diminutive point guard D.J. Cooper is the main man, but he has terrific partners in DeVaughn Washington and Tommy Freeman. You never know in the MAC, though.
Morgan State: The best team in the league should return to the NCAAs again despite losing Reggie Holmes.
Quinnipiac: Justin Rutty and the Bobcats tied for the regular-season crown last season. Robert Morris and CCSU should have a say, though.
Murray State: The most balanced team in the nation last year has plenty of talent back to hold off Kenneth Faried and Morehead State again.
Holy Cross: In a jumbled league, take the Crusaders, who have a lot of talent back, were the unluckiest team in D-I last season and made a terrific hire in former Mount St. Mary's coach Milan Brown.
Wofford: Noah Dahlman and most of the others return from last year's team that almost shocked Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAAs. Appalachian State, C of C and others could challenge.
Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks return a lot of talent and will ride their stingy defensive ways past Sam Houston State.
Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies were the anti-Holy Cross, ending last season as D-I's luckiest team, per kenpom.com. That said, go with star big man Keith Benson and Co. to hold off IUPUI.
Western Kentucky: In Steffphon Pettigrew and Sergio Kerusch, the Hilltoppers have two of the top players in the league, which will be enough to hold off Arkansas State, Denver and others.
Jackson State: The defending champs return most of last year's squad and will soon get back star Grant Maxey, who missed most of last season with injuries.
Utah State: Tai Wesley and Co. are the best team in the league and should hold off New Mexico State and (maybe) Nevada.
Gonzaga: Reloaded and ready to take the league again, with Saint Mary's and rejuvenated Loyola Marymount the two most likely challengers.
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