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Athlon Sports' 2015-16 NCAA Tournament Predictions

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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 

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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

One-bid conferences

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)