OK, it’s a little early for Selection Sunday. Like, four months early. But we can still fill in the NCAA Tournament bracket, only do it in pencil. Just in case one or two – or 1,002 – things change once the season starts Friday.
So here goes:
The four No. 1 seeds
Lots of new freshman talent in Lexington. And the sun this morning came up in the East.
Time flies. The Jayhawks have made 12 appearences in the Big 12 title game and lost only two of those matches.
With two national titles to the program's name, the Wildcats are asked if they can cut down the nets again. But, has life changed for the coach as a national champion?
“I hope not,” Jay Wright said. “I’m trying for it to not.”
The four No. 2 seeds
Perhaps any Tar Heel late for practice has to run 10 laps and watch the replay of Kris Jenkins’ national championship shot 20 times.
The Ducks have much more than a strong uniform color selection.
Sooner or later, Sean Miller has to get to the Final Four. Which, by the way, is just up the road in Phoenix next April.
See Arizona. Just change the coach to Chris Mack.
The four No. 3. seeds
See Xavier. Just change the coach to Tony Bennett.
Yep, the Cardinals are back in the March business.
Nigel Hayes and last year's March buzzer-beating hero Bronson Koenig return to an experienced squad.
Paging Keith Smart. This season is the 30th anniversary of the Hoosiers’ last national title, and his shot that won it.
The four No. 4 seeds
The Zags are still wondering how they let Syracuse get away in the Sweet 16.
Come March, the Spartans will hear two words a lot: Middle Tennessee.
Guess which school is tied with Duke’s three for the most national titles since 2000? You guessed it. UConn took home the title in 2004, 2011 and 2014.
And the rest
The Zips produce MAC championship game appearances – eight in the past 10 years -- like Goodyear produces tires just down the road.
The Bears are the terror of the Lone Star State, with a record of 42-8 the past five seasons against opponents from Texas.
Do the Bruins even bother to block out to rebound when Evan Bradds shoots? His 68.8 and 71.4 field goal percentages have led the nation two consecutive seasons.
All prospects flow through Ivan Rabb, a possible lottery draft pick who decided the NBA could wait.
Georgia, Illinois, Dayton. They all lost to the Mocs last season, and four starters return.
Fate owes the bad-luck team of last March a break or two. A halfcourt buzzer banker helped beat the Bearcats in the league tournament, and a game-saving basket was ruled one-tenth second too late in the NCAA Tournament.
The Buffaloes have been in four NCAA tournaments in five years. Who knew?
The Bluejays are the trendy choice to make noise in the Big East.
Four returning senior starters. How refreshing.
Now in the lineup is Charleston transfer Canyon Barry, a 20-point scorer last season.
Florida Gulf Coast
Trivia question: Who is the only coach ever to be career leader in victories at two different ACC schools? Leonard Hamilton, not only for the Seminoles but also Miami, at least until Jim Larranaga passes him.
The Mastodons would challenge for best NCAA tournament nickname of all time.
Now that the Big East has a national champion, next on the wish list is the revival of the Hoyas.
What the world wants to know is not how 5-10 J.J. Frazier averaged 17 points a game last season but how he averaged nearly five rebounds per game.
Remember when Guy Lewis went to five Final Fours and was often still criticized for his coaching? Since the Age of Guy, Houston has not won an NCAA Tournament game in 32 years and only played in one since 1992.
Eight seniors are on the roster. One of them is James Daniel III, who led the nation (27.1) in scoring last year. But first, he has to return from an ankle injury.
Fred who? It’s fully Steve Prohm’s program now. Sweet 16 trips do that.
The Tigers were tied for 309th in the nation in shooting last season. Good thing they play sound defense.
Tim Kempton – whose father was a Notre Dame star – is after an unprecedented third consecutive Player of the Year award in the Patriot League.
Long Beach State
The 49ers hail from the Democratic Republic of the Big West, where six different schools have won the conference tournament the past six years.
It’s Melo Trimble’s team to take as far as he can.
They can make it if the Hurricanes aren’t swallowed whole by ACC play.
All is well in Ann Arbor. Five starters return, and the football team is doing great.
Is the bench floor show ready for a new season?
New Mexico State
Freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. turned down North Carolina, Duke and Kentucky to join the Wolfpack. Just a guess, but that must mean he’s pretty good.
Only one team in America has been to the Elite Eight the past two years. This one.
With top six scorers returning from a 21-win team, Buckeyes should not get shunned on Selection Sunday this year.
Buddy Hield has left the building. But lots of other Final Four Sooners haven’t.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the famous upset of UCLA.
Preseason all-league pick E.C. Matthews played 10 minutes last season before wrecking his ACL. He’s back and so are four starters.
There are buses in Melbourne with fewer Australians than the Gaels’ roster.
Sam Houston State
With every starter back, the Bearkats are planning a coup of the Stephen F. Austin empire in the Southland.
San Diego State
If you don’t get the Aztecs in 40 minutes, you probably don’t get them at all. They’re 20-2 in their last 22 overtime games.
The Pirates cut down the nets at the Big East tournament for the first time in 23 years, and four starters return.
Top three scorers are gone, but anyone eager to pick against the Orange might consult last spring’s NCAA tournament bracket.
After undergoing Navy Seal training, the Longhorns are ready to either contend in the Big 12 or rescue a hostage.
Billy Kennedy has this program rolling.
The Mavericks are serious about their second NCAA tournament bid in history with the top six scorers back from a 24-win team.
Four starters are back to atone for last spring, when a team that won the Conference USA regular season title by three games was one and done in the league tournament.
The talented Bruins come off a 15-17 season. That won’t do in Westwood.
Consider guard Chris Flemmings. One minute a walk-on, the next the Colonial tournament’s most outstanding player. The minute after that, he’s scoring 18 points against Duke in the NCAA Tournament as the Seahawks played the Blue Devils to eight points.
Bryce Drew left to coach Vanderbilt, but the Horizon League’s top player, Alec Peters, stayed from the NIT runner-up team. With Bryce having followed his brother and father in this coaching position, it will be the first time in 29 years the Crusaders play a game with a coach not named Drew.
In case you’ve missed it, the Rams have gone to the NCAA tournament every year since that 2011 magical Final Four.
The Catamounts are 49-15 in the America East the past four years, but 0-for-4 in winning the conference tournament.
NCAA tournament bids are only slightly seen more often in Blacksburg than Halley’s Comet – two in 30 years. But seven of top eight players are back from an NIT team.
It’s not just that Bashir Mason is the head coach at the tender age of 32. It’s that this is his fifth season already.
The Mountaineers got an average of 33.3 points a game off the bench last season. Nobody else in the nation had more.
Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet are finally gone after, what, seven years? But the Shockers aren’t disappearing.
The Eagles have lost three consecutive Big South title games within sight of the NCAA tournament. That’s called paying your dues.
Could be talked into
Butler, BYU, Marquette, Nevada, SMU, Utah or Washington.
And leave a blank space for a team nobody sees coming. There always is one.