Bracketology: Kansas and Duke are at the top of the way-too-early preseason bracket
Who's in and who's out of the bracket with a little over nine months until Selection Sunday
It is too early to start talking about a bracket for the 2019 NCAA Tournament? Yes, it is, but we don't let little things like a calendar stop us. At least we now know who has decided to stay in the NBA Draft and who is returning to school.
We are certainly used to seeing the Jayhawks and Blue Devils on the top line of a bracket. Kansas has been a No. 1 seed 14 times in the 64+ team tournament era, including in each of the last three tournaments. Duke has started from the top of the bracket 13 times, including a stretch of five consecutive years from 1998-2002.
|Kansas will be trying to claim a 15th straight Big 12 title, but will have the talent and experience to go for loftier goals. The Jayhawks lost All-American Devonte Graham, but got a boost when center Udoka Azubuike decided to stay for another season. The arrival of the Lawson brothers, transfers from Memphis, also helps tremendously|
|Lately, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has been beating Kentucky mentor John Calipari at his own game. That game is embracing the one-and-done players and recruiting several top-rated players every year to replace the previous year's crop. Coach K has put together a ridiculously talented group this season, including the top three players in the incoming freshman class.|
|Tennessee would be a newbie to the top line if this comes through for the Volunteers. They return every significant contributor from last season's surprising run to the SEC title and a No. 3 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The Vols figure to be favored to repeat that championship, although there will be strong challengers.|
|Gonzaga has been a No. 1 seed twice before and ran to the national championship game from the top spot in 2017. The Bulldogs lost a couple of top players, including leading scorer Johnathan Williams, but plenty of talent remains. Killian Tillie, Zach Norvell and Rui Hachimura are a good core to reload around.|
Another team we are not used to seeing near the top of the bracket is Nevada, which projects as a No. 2 seed. The Wolf Pack return almost everybody from last year's Elite Eight team. Kendall Stephens is the only one of their top six scorers that will not be back after Caleb and Cody Martin decided not to stay in the NBA Draft.
There are also a couple of familiar names on the outside looking in. Arizona is projected among the first four out after losing so much production. It is a rebuilding year for the Wildcats, but the Pac-12 is weak enough that they could still sneak into the bracket.
Wichita State is also missing from the bracket for the same reason. Guard Landry Shamet opting for the NBA, along with the loss of several seniors, has pushed the Shockers into rebuilding mode this season. Gregg Marshall has been in seven straight NCAA tournaments, so do not be surprised if WSU finds a way into at least the bubble conversation, if not the field, but it is hard to be optimistic.
If you do not like this bracket, it's OK. It is a little over nine months until Selection Sunday. It'll probably change once or twice between now and then.
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