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November 7, 2011

Huguenin: Projecting the NCAA field of 68

"Selection Sunday" is March 11, which means we're a little more than four months away.

But why wait? Here is our preseason look at how we think the 68-team NCAA tournament field will look when it is unveiled that day.

Teams are listed alphabetically by projected seed except in seeds 12 and 16. At the bottom is a breakdown by league of the number of projected bids.

Remember that there will be play-in games for two No. 16 seeds and for No. 11 and/or No. 12 seeds.

Rivals.com Projected NCAA Field of 68
No. 1s
1. Connecticut
2. Kentucky
3. North Carolina
4. Syracuse
BUZZ: Remember, these teams are listed alphabetically. It wouldn't be a stunner if North Carolina and Kentucky are the No. 1 and 2 seeds when the field is announced. They are the two most-talented teams in the nation.
No. 2s
5. Duke
6. Florida
7. Ohio State
8. Pittsburgh
BUZZ: Ohio State has the nation's best player in sophomore big man Jared Sullinger. Florida looks to have the nation's best backcourt. Duke may have the nation's best freshman in Austin Rivers. Pitt? They need to prove they can make it to the Final Four.
No. 3s
9. Marquette
10. Memphis
11. Vanderbilt
12. Wisconsin
BUZZ: Vanderbilt returns all five starters and the Commodores are primed for big things. First things first, though: They need to get out of the first round in the NCAA tourney. Cross-state foe Memphis is young but extremely talented, especially in the backcourt.
No. 4s
13. Arizona
14. Baylor
15. Louisville
16. Xavier
BUZZ: Baylor went to the Elite Eight in 2010, then didn't make it to the postseason at all last season. The Bears have the frontcourt to do some damage in March, but the backcourt is a giant question. Louisville and Xavier were surprise first-round losers in last season's NCAA tourney.
No. 5s
17. Alabama
18. Cincinnati
19. Gonzaga
20. Kansas
BUZZ: Alabama is looking for its first NCAA tourney berth since 2006. As with their football brethren, the Tide play excellent defense. Kansas has an eight-year streak of Big 12 titles on the line.
No. 6s
21. California
22. Michigan
23. Purdue
24. Texas A&M
BUZZ: Purdue needs a healthy season from F Robbie Hummel; if he misses a big chunk of the season, the Boilermakers will be an NIT team. California has a nice trio in Harper Kamp, Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe.
No. 7s
25. Michigan State
26. Temple
27. UCLA
28. Washington
BUZZ: A lot was expected of Michigan State last season, but the Spartans underachieved as much as anybody. Not as much is expected this season, which makes them dangerous. UCLA has a big-time frontcourt and Washington has a big-time backcourt; too bad you can't combine the rosters.
No. 8s
29. Florida State
30. New Mexico
31. Villanova
32. West Virginia
BUZZ: Villanova has made seven consecutive NCAA tourneys, and Big East foe WVU has made it to four tourneys in a row.
No. 9s
33. Creighton
34. Mississippi State
35. Missouri
36. Texas
BUZZ: New Missouri coach Frank Haith was a surprising hire to some, but he certainly has the backcourt to get to the tourney. Creighton is seeking its first NCAA bid since 2007.
No. 10s
37. Belmont
38. Butler
39. Drexel
40. Notre Dame
BUZZ: Belmont is the low-major program to watch this season; the Bruins play Duke and Memphis in November. Drexel hasn't made it to the NCAA tourney since 1996.
No. 11s
41. George Mason
42. Indiana
43. Miami
44. Saint Louis
BUZZ: Rick Majerus' Saint Louis team should challenge for a top-three finish in the A-10. The Billikens haven't been to the NCAAs since 2000, when they were in Conference USA. There's a lot of pressure on Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose team finished last in the Big Ten last season.
No. 12s
45. Oregon
46. Clemson
47. UNLV
48. BYU
49. Marshall
50. Virginia
BUZZ: Dana Altman has made quick work of the rebuilding process at Oregon. BYU begins the post-Jimmer era in a new league and should challenge Gonzaga for WCC supremacy. Marshall hasn't been in the NCAA tourney since 1988, and Virginia has been just twice since 1997 and hasn't been at all since 2007.
No. 13s
51. Iona
52. Oral Roberts
53. Utah State
54. Wichita State
BUZZ: Oral Roberts has a big-time frontcourt led by senior Dominique Morrison. Wichita State is the defending NIT champions and could have an all-senior starting lineup.
No. 14s
55. Akron
56. Davidson
57. Harvard
58. Long Beach State
BUZZ: Davidson looks to have finished rebuilding and should make its first NCAA appearance since Stephen Curry led a miracle run when he was a sophomore in 2008. Harvard, which is coached by Tommy Amaker, hasn't received an NCAA bid since 1948.
No. 15s
59. Austin Peay
60. Florida Atlantic
61. Long Island
62. Weber State
BUZZ: Weber State has one of the nation's best low-major players in G Damian Lillard. FAU, which is coached by Mike Jarvis, has an excellent backcourt duo of its own.
No. 16s
63. Bucknell
64. Hampton
65. Boston U.
66. UT San Antonio
67. UNC Asheville
68. Mississippi Valley
BUZZ: One of the safest bets in the NCAA tourney in recent seasons is that the SWAC team is going to be a No. 16 seed. That will be the case again this season, and the pick to win the SWAC is Mississippi Valley. UT San Antonio is in its final season in the Southland; the school is moving to the WAC next season.
BREAKDOWN BY LEAGUE
9: Big East
6: ACC, Big Ten
5: Big 12, Pac-12, SEC
3: Atlantic 10
2: Colonial, Conference USA, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, West Coast
1: America East, Atlantic Sun, Big South, Big Sky, Big West, Horizon, Ivy, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Southwestern Athletic, Summit, Sun Belt, Western Athletic

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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