Marathon Journey to Selection Sunday Is Upon Us

ROAD TO SELECTION SUNDAY, MN– Welcome to the 2023-24 college basketball season. Opening Night (Monday) begins our 133-day journey to Selection Sunday (March 17), which unofficially will kick off a nearly three-week sprint to our next national champion.

My plan along the road is to pen periodic college hoops musings with a national lens, but with a focus on the Big Ten/Gophers and Summit League/Saint Thomas. The one constant throughout the season will be my weekly “Field of 68” projection, starting with my final preseason stab at the 68 teams we could see in March.

Enjoy the journey!


America East: Will Maine finally win its first America East Tournament game since 2005? It’s time, and I think this is the year it happens.

American: What does FAU do for an encore, this time as a member of the AAC? After last year’s run to the Final 4 as a #9 seed, expectations for the Owls are sky high in Boca Raton.

ACC: Look out for Clemson. The Tigers were one of the “first 4 out” last year largely because of a horrific non-conference schedule. That won’t be the case this season. Coach Brad Brownell has a talented team, this time with a non-conference slate that includes Alabama, Boise State, Memphis, TCU, and perhaps Maryland.

ASUN: Transitional D1 programs Bellarmine and Queens are ineligible for the NCAA and NIT, but both will be eligible for the ASUN Tournament. In addition, West Georgia will join the conference for the 2024-25 season.

Atlantic 10: Last season the A-10 uncharacteristically was a 1-bid league, and that doesn’t appear out of the realm of possibility again in 2023-24. Dayton, Duquesne, and Saint Bonaventure look like the best of a muddled bunch.

Big East: What to do with Xaiver. … The Musketeers easily would be in my preseason Field of 68, but injuries to frontcourt starters Zach Freemantle and Jerome Hunter give me major pause, hence, for now I have X on the outside looking in.

Big Sky: Montana State, minus former head coach & alum Danny Sprinkle (off to Utah State), seeks it third consecutive Big Sky Tournament title, but Eastern Washington and Weber State look like the teams to beat.

Big South: Conference kingpin Winthrop has won 11 conference tournament titles since 2000, but defending champ UNC-Asheville is the clear favorite.

Big Ten: The storyline has been the same for quite some time. The Big Ten hasn’t won a national title since 2000 (Michigan State). That’s a king-sized monkey. Purdue and MSU have the goods and potentially a favorable path (via Indianapolis & Detroit) to Glendale to get it done, but will they capitalize?

Big XII: With the addition of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF it’s a 16-team conference (for now). Houston will make the NCAA this season, but can any others break through in their maiden voyage through the best conference in America?

Big West: UC-San Diego is in its fourth and final transitional year to Division 1 and will be ineligible for the NCAA, NIT, and Big West tournaments.

Coastal: Does that conference name look different? It should. The Colonial Athletic Association is now the Coastal Athletic Association. OK, whatever, the acronym is still CAA.

Conference USA: Last season C-USA produced a Final Four participant (FAU), the NIT champion (North Texas) and runner-up (UAB), and the CBI champion (Charlotte). One problem. … all 4 have moved on to the American.

Horizon: Saint Thomas will play both Wisconsin Horizon League schools as part of its non-conference slate. The Tommies play @ Green Bay (picked 9th by Blue Ribbon Yearbook) on Nov. 25 before hosting Milwaukee (picked 2nd) on Dec. 6.

Ivy: Princeton advanced to the Sweet 16 last season as a #15 seed, and don’t be surprised if Yale turns the same trick, albeit from a better seed position.

MAAC: Can Tobin Anderson bring his NCAA Tournament magic from FDU to Iona? Iona has been the MAAC’s bell cow to the tune of 11 NCAA appearances since 2000, but the Gaels haven’t won a tournament game since 1980.

MAC: Akron is my pick to win MACtion but keep an eye on long dormant Northern Illinois. The Huskies have presided mostly in or near the conference basement but appear capable of competing for their first NCAA appearance since 1996.

MEAC: Did you know the MEAC is one of only two conferences with 8 schools? The other is the Ivy League. If there’s one conference other than the Pac 12 that is in the most peril with all the realignment shuffling, it’s the MEAC.

Missouri Valley: What happened to Valparaiso? The Crusaders (or whatever they call themselves now) were a good program under Homer and Bryce Drew, but they’ve been mostly hot garbage since Bryce left for Vanderbilt in 2016.

Mountain West: The MWC earned 4 NCAA tourney bids last season that resulted in a San Diego State march to Championship Monday and appears poised to equal that number in 203-24. The Aztecs, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, and Nevada all boast talented returnees, but the question this year is, can someone else other than Brian Dutcher’s squad win a NCAA Tournament game?

Northeast: Go figure. Last season the NEC ranked dead last among the 32 conferences, but its NCAA representative (FDU) not only won a game in the First Four, it also stunned Purdue to become only the second #16 seed to knock off a #1 seed. Not to mention, the Knights didn’t even win the NEC Tournament. They were the runner-up to Merrimack, who was ineligible for the conference’s automatic bid, but is eligible starting this season.

Ohio Valley: Lindenwood and Southern Indiana are in their second year in Division 1 and will be eligible for the OVC Tournament despite being ineligible for the NCAA and NIT. If either wins the conference tournament, the OVC will award its automatic bid to the tourney runner-up.

Pac 12: You know that monkey the Big Ten has on its back for not producing a national champion since 2000? Well, Bill Walton’s (soon to be no longer?) “conference of champions” hasn’t cut down the nets since 1997 (Arizona).

Patriot: If anyone other than Colgate earns the Patriot League’s automatic bid, it will be a major upset. The next step for the Raiders – winners of four straight PL tournaments — is to finally win a NCAA Tournament game.

SEC: The “It Just Means More” conference will be right there with the Big XII in the battle for 2023-24’s best conference. A lot of depth. Only South Carolina appears to be a sure-fire bottom-feeder. And look out for Chris Beard in his first season at Ole Miss. A Rebel uprising is on the way.

SoCon: The Citadel is one of only three programs (Army and William & Mary the others) that’s been Division 1 since the first NCAA Tournament in 1939 but has yet to earn a NCAA bid.

Southland: Will “Strong A*s Offer” Wade makes his coaching debut at McNeese after cheating his way through his tenure in Baton Rouge. The former LSU and VCU head man already has the Cowboys positioned as one of the favorites in the SLC.

SWAC: Alcorn State’s non-conference schedule includes @ Arkansas, @ UAB, @ Michigan State, @ TCU, @ Clemson, @ VCU, @ Maryland, @ Drake. Good luck with that!

Summit: I’m all in on North Dakota as the Summit sleeper. B.J. Omot, Treysen Eaglestaff, Tsotne Tsartsidze, and Iowa State transfer Eli King give the Fighting Sioux a very competitive core.

Sun Belt: Did you know Eric Musselman’s father Bill (former Gophers head coach) once coached South Alabama to the NCAA Tournament? Sixth-year head coach Richie Riley figures to have the Jaguars in the SBC mix this season.

WCC: The West’s third best conference has a fighting chance to be a 3-bid league despite BYU’s defection to the Big XII. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s as usual appear to be tourney locks, and Santa Clara, San Francisco, and perhaps even LMU and its funky forward Keli Leaupepe (Gopher fans, do you remember him from the 2020-21 Covid season?) could become part of the at-large conversation.

WAC: Last season the WAC quietly finished as the #11 conference in the country, highlighted by Utah Valley’s march to the NIT Final Four. Bryce Drew’s defending tournament champion Grand Canyon squad will be the favorite, but Stephen F. Austin and Seattle are up-and-coming programs.


Week 1, 25 Games to Watch: (Nov. 6) Akron @ South Dakota State, Bradley @ UAB, Georgia vs. Oregon, Kansas State vs. USC, Princeton vs. Rutgers, Saint Thomas @ Cal; (Nov. 7) Auburn vs. Baylor; (Nov. 8) Arizona State vs. Mississippi State; (Nov. 9) New Mexico @ Saint Mary’s; (Nov. 10) Arizona @ Duke, Clemson vs. UAB, College of Charleston vs. Duquesne, Dayton @ Northwestern, Florida vs. Virginia, Memphis @ Missouri, San Diego State @ BYU, South Carolina vs. Virginia Tech, Tennessee @ Wisconsin, Texas A&M @ Ohio State, UCF @ Miami-Florida, Wake Forest @ Georgia, Wright State @ Colorado State, Yale @ Gonzaga; (Nov. 12) Weber State @ Saint Mary’s

Non-Power 6 Teams (excluding Gonzaga) Whose Non-Conference Schedules Give Them a Chance to Earn At-Large Bid: Boise State, Colgate, College of Charleston, FAU, Furman, Kent State, Liberty, Memphis, North Texas, Saint Mary’s, San Diego State, San Francisco, Santa Clara, UC-Irvine

Glass Slipper Darlings? Don’t be surprised if some combination of Colgate, College of Charleston, Drake, Furman, South Dakota State, and/or Yale win a game or two in March Madness.

Liking These FanDuel Futures: Michigan State (15-1), Creighton (20-1), Tennessee (20-1), Memphis (40-1), Saint Mary’s (45-1), Wisconsin (60-1), Clemson (100-1), Providence (100-1)

Transitional Schools Ineligible for NCAA & NIT (11): Bellarmine (ASUN), Le Moyne (NEC), Lindenwood (OVC), Queens (ASUN), Saint Thomas (Summit), Southern Indiana (OVC), Stonehill (NEC), Tarleton (WAC), Texas A&M-Commerce (Southland), UC-San Diego (Big West), Utah Tech (WAC)

Top 10 Conferences: 1 Big XII, 2 SEC, 3 Big East, 4 Big Ten, 5 ACC, 6 Mountain West, 7 Pac 12, 8 American, 9 WCC, 10 Atlantic 10

Big Life, Big Stage, Big Ten Picks: 1 Purdue, 2 Michigan State, 3 Wisconsin, 4 Maryland, 5 Illinois, 6 Ohio State, 7 Rutgers, 8 Indiana, 9 Northwestern, 10 Iowa, 11 Michigan, 12 Nebraska, 13 Penn State, 14 Minnesota

Reaching for the Summit League Picks: 1 South Dakota State, 2 North Dakota State, 3 Saint Thomas, 4 North Dakota, 5 ORU, 6 South Dakota, 7 Denver, 8 Kansas City, 9 Omaha


FINAL PRESEASON FIELD OF 68 PROJECTION — Teams in ALL CAPS BOLD denote the projected automatic qualifier in a multiple-bid conference.

America East (1): Vermont

American (2): FAU, MEMPHIS

ACC (6): Clemson, DUKE, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest

ASUN (1): Eastern Kentucky

Atlantic 10 (1): Duquesne

Big East (6): CREIGHTON, Marquette, Providence, Saint John’s, UConn, Villanova

Big Sky (1): Eastern Washington

Big South (1): Radford

Big Ten (7): Illinois, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, PURDUE, Rutgers, Wisconsin

Big XII (7): Baylor, Houston, KANSAS, Kansas State, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech

Big West (1): UCSB

Colonial (1): College of Charleston

Conference USA (1): Liberty

Horizon (1): Wright State

Ivy (1): Yale

MAAC (1): Rider

MAC (1): Akron

MEAC (1): Howard

 Missouri Valley (1): Drake

 Mountain West (3): BOISE STATE, New Mexico, San Diego State

NEC (1): Merrimack

OVC (1): Morehead State

Pac 12 (4): ARIZONA, Colorado, UCLA, USC

Patriot (1): Colgate

SEC (8): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Ole Miss, TENNESSEE, Texas A&M

SoCon (1): Furman

Southland (1): McNeese

SWAC (1): Texas Southern

Summit (1): South Dakota State

Sun Belt (1): Appalachian State

WCC (2): Gonzaga, SAINT MARY’S

WAC (1): Grand Canyon


Last 4 In:  New Mexico, Wake Forest, Rutgers, Ole Miss (last team in)

First 4 Out: Mississippi State (first team out), Indiana, Iowa State, Dayton

12 to Watch: Arizona State, Bradley, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Nevada, Northwestern, Saint Bonaventure, San Francisco, Syracuse, UAB, Utah, West Virginia

Non-Power 6 At-Large Bids (4): FAU, Gonzaga, New Mexico, San Diego State

Final 4: Creighton, Duke, Michigan State, Tennessee

NCAA Champion: Michigan State

NIT Champion: Arizona State

CBI Champion: Saint Thomas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *