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.
NCAA bids by conference
ACC (9): Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisville, Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami, NC State
American (2): UConn, Cincinnati
Atlantic 10 (2): Dayton, Rhode Island
Big 12 (6): Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, West Virginia
Big East (5): Villanova, Butler, Xavier, Georgetown, Providence
Big Ten (7): Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa
Mountain West (2): San Diego State, Boise State
Pac-12 (6): Arizona, Cal, Oregon, UCLA, Utah, Oregon State
SEC (6): Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, LSU, Florida, Georgia
America East (Stony Brook), Atlantic Sun (North Florida), Big Sky (Eastern Washington), Big Sky (Coastal Carolina), Big West (UC Irvine), Colonial (Hofstra), Conference USA (UAB), Horizon (Valparaiso), Ivy (Yale), MAAC (Iona), MAC (Central Michigan), MEAC (Hampton), Missouri Valley (Wichita State), Northeast (Mount St. Mary's), Ohio Valley (Belmont), Patriot (Lehigh), Southern (Chattanooga), Southland (Stephen F. Austin), Summit (South Dakota State), Sun Belt (UL Lafayette), SWAC (Texas Southern), WAC (New Mexico State), West Coast (Gonzaga)