As we have said before, the 2017-18 college basketball season could produce the most wide open NCAA tournament in the past 20 years, with as many as a dozen legitimate contenders for the Final Four.
What hasn’t changed is that it looks like 8 conferences producing multiple bids, taking 44 of the 68 spots.
Here’s our first guess as to how that will break down.
American (3)–Cincinnati, Houston, Wichita.
Adding Wichita has, as expected, helped the overall strength of the conference. But Cincinnati, which is still unbeaten in conference play, is a mildly surprising leader.
ACC (9)–Virginia, Clemson, North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse, FSU. Still the strongest league from top to bottom and NC State is even a possibility for a 10th slot. Virginia has a solid hold on the regular season race, but after a loss to Virginia Tech over the weekend, anything seems possible once March arrives.
Big 12 (7)–Texas Tech, Kansas, West Virginia, Kansas State, Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State–Anything is possible in this conference, other than Iowa State making the field, which WOULD be a surprise.
Big East (7)–Villanova, Xavier, Creighton, Seton Hall, Butler, Providence, Marquette–Conference is having another great season. If Villanova can get healthy enough by March, the Wildcats could make another national championship run. In fact, it might be tougher to get out of the Big East than win the NCAA tournament.
Big 10 (5)–Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska–Down year for the Big 10 with lots of mediocrity. It will take a major run in the Big Ten tournament in NYC for anyone else to break into the NCAA line up.
Pac-12 (4)–Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, USC–Lots of bubble teams with no clear cut favorite besides Arizona, which also looks vulnerable.
SEC (7)–Auburn, Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, –Seven teams from the SEC in hoops? And Kentucky is not one of the Top 4 or even five?
WCC (2)–Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s–Same tune every year in the WCC.
There is some wiggle room for extra teams from the American, Mountain West or even another Pac-12 or Big 10 team, but right now, this looks like a pretty firm group.