Seventeen ESPN experts agreed to make their predictions concerning the 2012-13 season. They kindly ask that you do not reference this page in March (unless they're right, of course).
Stephen Bardo: UNLV has the talent, depth and experience to make the Final Four. They ran out of gas down the stretch in the ever-competitive Mountain West last season, but that won't be the case this year. Mike Moser is one of the nation's best, junkyard dogs Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall are back, Bryce Dejean-Jones (USC), Khem Birch (Pitt) and Anthony Bennett have arrived, making this one of the deepest teams in America.
Eamonn Brennan: Kansas State will contend for the Big 12 championship. If that seems like a stretch -- given the Wildcats' former coach just left at the end of a pretty-good-but-not-great season -- then consider the defensive talent the Wildcats retain from last season, when it was one of the toughest and most hard-nosed squads in the country. These are exactly the type of players Bruce Weber had been missing at Illinois (through no small fault of his own). With guys this committed on defense and the glass, the combination of coach and personnel should prove to be one of the toughest outs in the country.
Chad Ford: College basketball fans will have a blast, but NBA scouts will be depressed all season. This is one of the least impressive groups of college talent to come along in awhile. After Cody Zeller, Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel, the elite talent pool is very, very shallow.
Fran Fraschilla: Four major players will score over 40 points in a game this season: Doug McDermott, Isaiah Canaan, C.J. McCollum and Deshaun Thomas. While all have proved to be very effective college scorers, there will be games this season that will require each of these guys to go crazy offensively in order for their teams to win a particular game. In fact, it would not surprise me if one of these guys goes for 50 in a game and, if I had to bet, it would be McDermott because of his ability to score in the paint, behind the arc and at the foul line.
John Gasaway: Jeff Withey remains the most dominant defensive player in the nation but finally draws recognition as such, while also taking on a much larger load on offense. This sassy, new-look, "more aggressive" Withey leads the Jayhawks to the Final Four in Atlanta, where on Monday night Bill Self's team avenges the 2012 national title game with a win over Kentucky in the 2013 rematch. In the title game Withey records nine blocks, and the ubiquitous pun in headlines, on T-shirts, and possibly even from the PBP guy in the closing seconds will be "ROCK, CHALK, JAY-BLOCK!"
Seth Greenberg: Texas will compete with Kansas for the Big 12 title and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. A renewed commitment on the defensive end along with an infusion of talented frontcourt players get Rick Barnes' team back to the aggressive, unselfish basketball that once earned him a trip to the Final Four. Myck Kabongo buys into being a leader and facilitator and tough on-ball defender, which brings consistency to one of last season's most erratic teams. I expect offensive execution and shot selection to improve dramatically as well.
Andy Katz: The Big 12, Big Ten and Big East will all have more bids than the ACC -- and the MWC, A-10 and SEC might as well. The problem with the ACC is it is incredibly top-heavy. NC State, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State should all be locks. But after that there are a slew of question marks at Maryland, Miami and Virginia, so much that it's hard to project this conference with more than four bids. The MWC is as deep as it has been since its inception. I feel fairly comfortable saying that it will get four bids -- San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico and Colorado State -- with Nevada pushing to get a fifth. The A-10 could easily get as many with Temple, Saint Joseph's, Saint Louis and VCU in line to get bids. Butler and UMass should be in line to nab one or two more, too. This will prove even more how much the ACC desperately needs Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame sooner than later.
Jason King: Louisville has yet to beat rival Kentucky since John Calipari took over in Lexington, but I think the Cardinals will beat the Cats on Dec. 28. I like UK's roster, but it's going to take the Wildcats longer to hit their stride this season. Louisville will be the better team in December. But who knows come March.
Joe Lunardi: Two predictions wrapped in one: None of the preseason No. 1 seeds end up on the top line of the NCAA bracket come March, which would be a first for me, and none of the actual No. 1 seeds make it to Atlanta in April. We're embarking on a truly wide-open season, with no superpower teams in sight, and we're going to see the most unpredictable national-title chase ever.
Myron Medcalf: Last year in the Big Ten, it was Indiana. This year, it's Iowa. Fran McCaffery's program will win 10 Big Ten games, advance to the title game in the league tourney and secure a slot in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. McCaffery has serious weapons in Iowa City. Freshman Adam Woodbury, Aaron White and Melsahn Basabe comprise one of the most underrated frontcourts in the country. The Hawkeyes are coming, folks.
Dana O'Neil: At Big 12 media day, Bob Huggins spied the preseason rankings, saw his West Virginia team picked sixth and smirked, "It must be one helluva league if we're picked to finish sixth.'' I've always said that until someone unseats Kansas, the Jayhawks get the nod for conference winners. But if Bob Huggins likes his team, I like his team -- and I like them enough to say the Mountaineers, the new kids on the conference block, will be the ones that end KU's stranglehold atop the standings.
Bruce Pearl: As talented as the roster is, young Kentucky will lose at home this year to either Florida, Tennessee or Missouri -- thus ending the nation's longest home win streak (52 games) and handing John Calipari his first-ever loss at Rupp. The Cats may even lose there twice.
Robbi Pickeral: Despite all the fretting and hand-wringing about over-hype in Raleigh, NC State will build off last season's run to the Sweet 16 and will win its first ACC regular-season title since 1989. But it will be Florida State -- led by clutch shot-maker Michael Snaer -- that advances the farthest of any ACC team in the NCAA tournament.
Miles Simon: The best conference player of the year race is going to be in the Mountain West. Jamaal Franklin, Mike Moser and Deonte Burton are all going to have spectacular years. Burton is new to the MWC as Nevada enters the league, but he was player of the year in the WAC last season and can put up huge numbers. Franklin is the reigning MWC player of the year from SDSU and he's looking to elevate that into an All-American type of year. And Moser moves back to his natural position of small forward after averaging a double-double last year. Expect some great individual play and huge stat lines from these three players.