College basketball gets underway tonight, including big matchups between Kansas and Michigan State, and Duke versus Kentucky. It culminates for most of us in March when we arrive at Selection Sunday and embark upon Madness. We’ll take on the foolhardy task of trying to predict what that will look like.
Last year’s version of predicting the field got 40 of the 68 participants right in the pre-season. That broke down as 13 of the top 16 teams projected (USC, Notre Dame, and Louisville were the earliest predictions that flopped) making the field, with all 13 that made it being seeded in the top 6 seed lines. 18 of the 30 remaining at-large quality picks made it (60%), while 9 of the 22 one-bid selections for seeds 12 to 16 made it (41%). That may not sound great, but with the randomness of Conference Tourney madness, it’s way better than just pulling names out of a hat.
Here’s who we are going with for March of 2019:
#1 Seeds: Kansas, Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky
Kansas is the preseason No. 1 team, and has been a No. 1 seed more often than not in recent years. With Bill Self’s deepest and most talented team in years, there is every reason to expect Kansas to be on the No. 1 line again this year. The roster has undergone a major overhaul, and the Jayhawks are going to be led by a freshman point guard. But that point guard, Quentin Grimes, is a projected lottery pick, and he’ll have a lot of help from a frontcourt of Udoka Azubuike and Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson, a preseason All-Big 12 pick.
Duke brings an already legendary recruiting class into this season, headlined by Zion Williamson, who might not even be the best guy in Duke’s freshman class. Duke has a ton of talent, but coincidentally enough, 3-point shooting is a weak spot for most of those players. Against all but the best of the best, though, that weakness isn’t going to matter much.
Gonzaga is here because rising junior forwards Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie opted to return to school, and then — in July — coveted North Dakota grad transfer Geno Crandall signed with the Zags. They have one of country’s best frontcourts, plus PG Josh Perkins, who has started 108 games. They also have the non-conference schedule to make noise, playing in Maui where they could meet Duke, and also facing Washington, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Creighton.
As for Kentucky, there are seven five-star recruits and three four-star recruits on this Wildcats roster, which yet again seems to be setting a new standard for depth at UK. Getting P.J. Washington back after an NBA flirtation was a huge bonus, and helps round out a roster with a robust mix of freshman talent and veteran leadership.