Athlon Sports would be the first to tell you to sit back and enjoy the college basketball regular season from start to finish.
But let’s face it: The big prize — the only prize, it seems — is the NCAA Tournament. And that’s part of the excitement of the season. Essentially every team has a chance to play in the championship event. Finish in last place in your conference? You’ve got the conference tournament to remedy a lost season.
For us, bracketology starts early. Here’s our first projection of the field of 68.
Notre Dame/Northern Iowa
New Mexico State
Stephen F. Austin
St. Francis (NY)/Weber State
Florida Gulf Coast
NCAA bids by conference
ACC (9): Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia, Syracuse, Florida State, NC State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh
American (4): SMU, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Memphis
Atlantic 10 (4): VCU, Dayton, Rhode Island, George Washington
Big 12 (5): Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma
Big East (3): Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier
Big Ten (7): Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa
Missouri Valley (2): Wichita State, Northern Iowa
Mountain West (2): San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Colorado, Stanford, UCLA, Utah
SEC (4): Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, LSU
West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU
America East (Stony Brook), Atlantic Sun (Florida Gulf Coast), Big Sky (Weber State), Big Sky (Coastal Carolina), Big West (UC Irvine), Colonial (Northeastern), Conference USA (Louisiana Tech), Horizon (Green Bay), Ivy (Harvard), MAAC (Iona), MAC (Akron), MEAC (NC Central), Northeast (St. Francis Brooklyn), Ohio Valley (Belmont), Patriot (American), Southern (Wofford), Southland (Stephen F. Austin), Summit (IPFW), Sun Belt (Georgia State), SWAC (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), WAC (New Mexico State)