Joe Lunardi, Senior Writer, 397d

Explaining now how the NCAA tournament bracket will look in March

Men's College Basketball

The intricacies of bracket-building do not always reveal themselves in November. Every season is different, with a new set of tournament sites and host schools or conference conflicts dictating a fair amount of the "who-goes-where" drama on Selection Sunday.

In the meantime, the combination of presumptive top teams and available cities makes certain outcomes more obvious than others. With that, here are the annual preseason predictions:

  • Duke, Arizona, Michigan State and Kansas may not all be No. 1 seeds in March, but it's safe to say we know their mid-March destinations. Barring a major stumble down the seed list, the Blue Devils (Charlotte), Wildcats (San Diego), Spartans (Detroit) and Jayhawks (Wichita) can make their travel plans for the NCAA opening weekend.

  • The second high seed in Wichita will not be the hometown Shockers, as they are the host institution and cannot play at Intrust Bank Arena. The next-closest spot for Wichita is America Airlines Center in Dallas, a pretty good bet at this point.

  • Creighton, as host of the Midwest Regional in Omaha, must go East, South or West for the opening weekend. The Bluejays can go to Wichita or Dallas, though, if neither site is a Midwest pod. More likely is that Creighton falls in the middle of the bracket and takes whatever slot is available (Charlotte in the case of our latest projection).

  • Other schools with a decent shot of knowing their first-weekend destinations include Gonzaga (Boise), Kentucky (Nashville), USC (San Diego), Villanova and West Virginia (both Pittsburgh). It says here that North Carolina will not land high enough on the seed list to guarantee an easy trip to Charlotte.

  • For the regionals, keep in mind that Duke is considerably closer to Atlanta (South Region) than Boston (East Region). With the Midwest Regional in Omaha, that puts a likely No. 1 seed such as Michigan State in play for the East. Unless, of course, Villanova moves up to capture its third No. 1 seed in four years.

  • Projected conference winners you can take to the bank: Oakland (Horizon League), Charleston (CAA), Bucknell (Patriot League), Vermont (America East) and UT Arlington (Sun Belt).

  • Conferences that figure to give us the best regular-season races: American (Wichita State and Cincinnati), Ivy League (Harvard, Princeton and Yale), Mid-American (Ball State and Western Michigan), Missouri Valley (Loyola Chicago and Missouri State), Summit League (South Dakota and South Dakota State) and, of course, the West Coast Conference (Gonzaga and Saint Mary's).

  • In case you were wondering, Southeast Missouri State (OVC), Savannah State (MEAC), Grambling (SWAC) and Alabama A&M (SWAC) are ineligible for the 2018 tournament because of APR sanctions.

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