Here are 68 thoughts and predictions to get you excited for the 2018-19 college basketball season

INDIANAPOLIS - It's been 216 days since a real college basketball game that mattered was played -- seven months and two days since Villanova cruised past Michigan to win a second national title in a three-year span while completing one of the most impressive runs through any NCAA Tournament in modern history.

We start again Tuesday.

Can't wait.

Here are 68 thoughts/observations/predictions heading into the 2018-19 season ...

1. The Champions Classic

Yes, as the dateline shows, I'm in Indianapolis for Tuesday's Champions Classic -- which is the perfect way to launch a season. It's No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 10 Michigan State in the early game, then No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 4 Duke in the nightcap. So we'll have four top-10 teams, four Hall of Fame coaches and five likely top-10 picks -- among them the probable No. 1 overall pick -- inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Just a tremendous double-header. So let's get this thing going by focusing on both games and the teams involved.

2. Kansas vs. Michigan State

No program was dragged through last month's college basketball corruption trial quite like Kansas. Under-oath testimony alleged Adidas paid multiple players to attend KU, assistant Kurtis Townsend was caught on a wiretap suggesting he'd be willing to break NCAA rules to get Zion Williamson, and Jim Gatto's attorney insisted Bill Self knew Adidas was doing pay-for-play schemes on the Jayhawks' behalf. Lotta stuff going on. So it'll be interesting to see how, if at all, any of this affects Kansas -- which will play without Silvio De Sousa, whose guardian allegedly compromised the forward's amateur status by accepting impermissible benefits. The guess here is that it won't affect Kansas at all because, in my experiences, the people who care least about alleged rules violations are student-athletes. So I'll take the Jayhawks over Michigan State in a close one. I'm expecting a big performance from Dedric Lawson.

3. Dedric Lawson

Among the first things Tubby Smith did after accepting the Memphis job in April 2016 was demote Keelon Lawson into an administrative role even though Lawson was the father of his two best players -- namely Dedric and KJ Lawson. A year later, Keelon Lawson, who felt wronged, resigned. Then his sons transferred to Kansas in a move that is both a major reason why Smith no longer has the Memphis job and why the Jayhawks are No. 1 in the AP Top 25 preseason poll. Dedric Lawson averaged 24.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in KU's two exhibitions. He is CBS Sports reseason First Team All-American.

4. Michigan State

Just because I'm picking Kansas to beat Michigan State Tuesday night doesn't mean I don't have a super-high opinion of the Spartans. Yes, they lost two lottery picks in Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. But three of the top four scorers are back -- among them Cassius Winston, who averaged 12.6 points and 6.9 assists while shooting 50.7 percent from the field, 49.7 percent from 3-point range and 90.0 percent from the free-throw line last season. He's a smart dark-horse pick for Big Ten Player of the Year.

5. Kentucky vs. Duke

These two schools have enrolled the nation's top two recruiting classes each of the past six seasons -- with Duke finishing first the last three times. So even though the Wildcats are ranked higher in the AP Top 25, Coaches poll and CBS Sports Top 25 And One, it is Duke that has the better NBA talent. Freshmen RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish are all projected top-five picks -- meaning Duke might really soon be the first school in history to have three top-five picks in the same NBA Draft. Regardless, I have Kentucky ranked No. 1 in the Top 25 And One -- not because of the strength of its freshmen but because of the strength of its non-freshmen. And the advantage of experience should never be bigger than it is on opening night. So, for better or worse, I'll take UK over Duke in the second game of this Champions Classic.

6. RJ Barrett

RJ Barrett, the consensus No. 1 player from the Class of 2018, definitely deserves his own paragraph because he really might pull an Anthony Davis and win a National Player of the Year award and a national championship before becoming the top pick in the subsequent NBA Draft. Truth be told, I think the first and third things are more likely than the second -- and I'll explain why momentarily. But all three things are definitely in play for this 6-7 guard who led Canada to a gold medal in the FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup two summers ago.

7. The Blue Devils' national title hopes

The Blue Devils are third in the preseason Coaches poll and fourth in the AP poll. They have the nation's most talented roster and the greatest college coach in history. So, absolutely, they should be on the short list of teams capable of winning the national championship. But Duke doesn't have a single returning player who averaged even 4.0 points per game last season. And no team returning so little of relevance has ever won a national championship regardless of the quality of its freshman class. As I've said and written before, perhaps Duke will be the first. I wouldn't rule it out. But, inarguably, history is not on the Blue Devils' side.

8. Zion

I think Barrett will be Duke's best player. But Zion Williamson enters college as the more famous player thanks to a social media presence featuring 1.8 million followers on Instagram. He's a uniquely-built, high-flying star. His dunks and blocks this season will go viral more regularly than anybody else's. The 6-6 forward is a one-name phenom, already.

9. UK's experience

How rare is it for Kentucky to have at least three players on its roster, like it does this season, who have already averaged more than nine points per game at the high-major level? Answer: So rare that it's only previously happened once under John Calipari -- specifically when Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller all averaged more than nine points in the 2010-2011 season and then returned for the 2011-2012 season. The result was a national championship. And that's precisely why I'm not alone in thinking Calipari might get his second title this season.

10. Kentucky's Reid Travis

Reid Travis has been one of the sport's most productive players each of the past two seasons -- but almost nobody saw him play regularly because he was on so-so teams out West that never sniffed the NCAA Tournament. But that all changed when the 6-8 forward transferred to Kentucky, where he might end up being the Wildcats' best player. Travis averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds last season. He's the type of talented and experienced big Calipari has almost never had at UK.

11. The Zags

Gonzaga is the highest-rated team not in the Champions Classic. So it seems appropriate to start the post-Champions-Classic portion of this column with Mark Few's incredible program that's been to 20 straight NCAA Tournaments. The Zags are ranked third in the AP poll and fourth in the Coaches poll. I can't wait to see them later this month at the Maui Invitational.

12. Maui Invitational

Yes, I'm going to Maui for the first time. Totally looking forward to everything about it. The island. The resort. The weather. The views. And, of course, a field that includes No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Gonzaga and No. 11 Auburn -- plus Arizona, Illinois, Iowa State, San Diego State and Xavier. It just might be the best field in the event's 35-year history. Almost any possible title-game matchup -- Duke vs. Gonzaga, Arizona vs. Auburn, etc., -- will be perfect for the night before Thanksgiving.

13. Duke-Gonzaga would be nice

Again, I don't think there's a realistic "bad" title game for Maui. But Duke-Gonzaga is probably the best possible matchup given that it would be a game between top-three teams that also happen to be among college basketball's biggest brands. If it happens, it'll be the first Duke-Gonzaga game since the Blue Devils and Zags played in the Elite Eight of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

14. Killian Tillie's return

Gonzaga will start the season shorthanded thanks to Killian Tillie having ankle surgery last week. He's expected to miss eight weeks -- which means the 6-10 forward who averaged 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds last season will likely be sidelined through Christmas. That's not ideal for many reasons but especially because Gonzaga will now have to build its at-large resume without its leading returning scorer and endure a schedule in November and December featuring at least five games, and possibly seven, against teams ranked in KenPom's preseason top-50. The Zags open Tuesday against Idaho State.

15. Wisconsin-Lutheran vs. Green Bay

Gonzaga is one of 20 ranked teams opening Tuesday. But the actual first game of the season is between Wisconsin Lutheran and Green Bay. It tips at 12:30 p.m. ET. Wisconsin Lutheran is a Division III team. Green Bay is ranked 257th at KenPom. So this will likely only be watched by diehards and maniacs.

16. Penny's debut

Memphis icon and former First Team All-NBA guard Penny Hardaway will spend his first official game as his alma mater's coach Tuesday night. The opponent is Tennessee Tech. And the crowd inside FedExForum is expected to surpass any game the Tigers played last season under Tubby Smith, which is a testament to the energy and enthusiasm Hardaway has brought to the program. He got hired, immediately assembled a top-30 recruiting class highlighted by local stars Alex Lomax and Tyler Harris, and season-ticket sales soared. I can't imagine there's a fanbase of any team ranked outside of KenPom's preseason top-100 that's more excited about the future than Memphis fans are about Memphis' future.

17. James Wiseman's college decision

A lot of the excitement connected to Memphis' program is tied to the likelihood that Hardaway will land a monster 2019 class. He's already secured commitments from local standouts Malcolm Dandridge and DJ Jeffries -- the latter of whom is a consensus top-50 prospect. And 247Sports currently projects Memphis to also land top-50 prospects James Wiseman and Trendon Watford. Wiseman, of course, is the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2019. He's expected to pick between Memphis and Kentucky by the end of the year. And, if he picks Memphis, Hardaway will, far as I know, become the first first-time coach in history to secure a commitment from the nation's top-ranked recruit in the same calendar year in which he was hired.

18. Decisions from other top-five prospects

No player in the top five of 247Sports' Class of 2019 composite rankings has committed to a school yet, which is a little surprising but not too big of a deal. Wiseman is one of them, obviously. Let's run through the other four ...

19. Vernon Carey

Carey is a 6-10 center from Florida who is ranked No. 2 in the Class of 2019. Duke is considered the leader to get him, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions.

20. Cole Anthony

Anthony is a 6-3 combo guard from New York who is ranked No. 3 in the Class of 2019. North Carolina is considered the leader to get him, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions.

21. Jaden McDaniels

McDaniels is a 6-11 forward from Washington who is ranked No. 4 in the Class of 2019. His recruitment is considered a toss-up, right now, between Texas and San Diego State, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions.

22. Isaiah Stewart's decision

Stewart is a 6-9 center from New York who is ranked No. 5 in the Class of 2019. Michigan State is considered the leader to get him, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions.

23. Other Tuesday night goodies

As previously noted, most of Tuesday's attention will be on the Champions Classic. But there are at least three other sneaky-good games on the schedule. They are ...

24. No. 8 North Carolina at Wofford

You didn't forget about Wofford winning at UNC last season, did you? This is a rematch of that memorable upset -- and it's being played Tuesday night in Spartanburg, S.C. Shouts to Roy Williams for taking the Tar Heels on the road to a mid-major to start the season. No other coach of a blue-blood program would. And shouts to Ernie Johnson for giving it to UNC alum Kenny Smith last December.

25. Florida at No. 17 Florida State

The Seminoles are ranked in the preseason AP poll; the Gators are not. But KenPom has FSU at No. 15 and Florida at No. 19. So there's probably not much difference between these two teams. But, don't forget, the Seminoles will be without last season's leading scorer, Phil Cofer, because of a right foot injury. So don't be surprised if Florida upsets FSU on the road Tuesday night.

26. BYU at No. 7 Nevada

The Wolf Pack, barring injuries, will likely be favored in every game they play this regular-season -- including Tuesday night's against BYU. But BYU is a top-60 team, according to KenPom. So perhaps the Cougars will be able to keep this close and give Nevada a real test. Probably not. But maybe.

27. Nevada will lead the nation in wins

Nevada has a chance to play 34 games before Selection Sunday -- specifically 13 non-league games, 18 league games and three in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Let the record show I have them entering the NCAA Tournament with a 31-3 record. Even better, I think the Wolf Pack will enter the NCAA Tournament with at least two more wins than any other team in the country. (Don't let me down, Muss!)

28. Conference predictions

If I think that highly of Nevada you already know I'm predicting the Wolf Pack to win the Mountain West with no issues. But what about the other leagues? If you're cool with it, I'll take a stab at the top three finishers in the top 10 conferences, according to KenPom's preseason league rankings.

29. The Big 12 race

I'll go with ...

  1. Kansas
  2. Kansas State
  3. West Virginia

KU winning a 15th consecutive Big 12 title seems like a safe bet. And, clearly, I'm high on KSU. But I'm also aware that the Wildcats still only finished 42nd at KenPom despite a run to last season's Elite Eight. So, even though I have them second, I won't be shocked if they're more like middle-of-the-pack.

30. The ACC race

I'll go with ...

  1. Duke
  2. Virginia
  3. North Carolina

It might take Duke a minute to figure things out because the Blue Devils are so inexperienced. But by January, I think, they'll be rocking and rolling. It's hard to not be great with three lottery picks.

31. The Big Ten race

I'll go with ...

  1. Michigan State
  2. Michigan
  3. Maryland

The Spartans are undeniably the class of the league on paper. And I have Michigan and Maryland right behind them. But keep an eye on Indiana, Nebraska and Minnesota. All three are capable of cracking the top three.

32. The SEC race

I'll go with ...

  1. Kentucky
  2. Tennessee
  3. Auburn

The SEC is stacked thanks to these three teams -- plus Mississippi State, LSU and Florida. I'm especially intrigued with LSU. Tremont Waters (more on him later) is a star. And now he has three top-35 freshmen to play with.

33. The Big East race

I'll go with ...

  1. Villanova
  2. Marquette
  3. St. John's

The Big East is one of only two top-10 leagues that has one team in the top 10 of my Top 25 And One but no others in the top 26. So this is (seemingly) one of the easiest leagues for which to project a champion. And look at St. John's! Sign me up for Chris Mullin's team being relevant. It'll remind me of my childhood.

34. The Pac-12 race

I'll go with ...

  1. Oregon
  2. UCLA
  3. Washington

None of these teams are in KenPom's preseason top 25, which is interesting. It's among the reasons why the Pac-12 looks like the weakest of all the Power 5 leagues.

35. The AAC race

I'll go with ...

  1. Cincinnati
  2. UCF
  3. Memphis

UCF was the pick in the official AAC poll. And that makes sense. But I'm still taking Mick Cronin's Bearcats at the top despite the loss of three of their top four scorers. Jarron Cumberland really needs to make a jump, though.

36. The A-10 race

I'll go with ...

  1. Saint Louis
  2. Davidson
  3. Saint Joseph's

Travis Ford has enrolled back-to-back top-two recruiting classes in the A-10; the result is a team that should win the league's regular-season title. Davidson will be the Billikens' toughest challenger, I think. And watch Kellan Grady when you can. He'll be Davidson's next player to join Steph Curry in the NBA.

37. The WCC race

  1. Gonzaga
  2. BYU
  3. Saint Mary's

The distance between the Zags and the second-best team in the WCC is similar to the distance between Nevada and the second-best team in the MWC. Anything other than Gonzaga winning the league by two or three games would be surprising.

38. The MVC race

  1. Loyola-Chicago
  2. Illinois State
  3. Southern Illinois

I'm not as high on the Ramblers as those who are ranking them on AP ballots -- mostly because they lost a lot from that team that made the Final Four. But I still think they'll be back in the NCAA Tournament via the MVC's auto-bid. Long live Sister Jean!

38. Loyola-Chicago

One thing I don't think most realize about the Ramblers is that even though they advanced to the Final Four, they still only finished 31st at KenPom and never, at any point in the season, cracked the top 25. Now three of the top six scorers from that team are gone -- among them also the leading rebounder and the player who made the most 3-pointers. So when I say I'm not as high on the Ramblers as some, that's why. Simply put, in my opinion, that run to the Final Four skewed the perception of them a little too much.

39. Michigan

The Wolverines are the team that ended Loyola-Chicago's run last season. In doing so, they advanced to the national title game for the second time in a six-year span. Michigan, like the Ramblers, also lost a lot. But the return of Charles Matthews, not to mention the return of John Beilein, who interviewed for the Pistons job, should have the Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in a nine-year stretch.

40. Villanova

The team that ended Michigan's season, and by extension won the national title, also lost a lot -- specifically four players who were selected in the top 35 of the 2018 NBA Draft, among them the consensus National Player of the Year (Jalen Brunson) and the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player (Donte DiVincenzo).  But the return of Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, plus a top-10 recruiting class, is going to be enough to keep Villanova operating at the top of the sport. Crazy as it sounds, a third trip to the Final Four in a four-year span isn't an unreasonable goal for future Hall of Famer Jay Wright. Bang.

41. Mike 3000

I detailed Mike Daum's rise from unknown prospect to South Dakota State star a couple of years ago, and now he's on track to become just the ninth or 10th player in Division I history to score 3,000 points. He has 2,232 right now. That's exactly the same as ...

42. Chris 3000

The reason I wrote that Daum is on track to become just the ninth or 10th Division I player to score 3,000 points is because Campbell's Chris Clemons might beat him there. He also has 2,232 points through three years of college. So I can't tell you which player will be ninth and which will be 10th. But, barring injury, both should reach the 3,000-point mark sometime in early March.

43. Who might someday be the 11th player to do it?

It's impossible to say for sure. But any candidate must be somebody who scored a lot as a freshman and might really spend four years in college. So ... maybe Tremont Waters? To be clear, I don't think Waters, who averaged 15.9 points per game last season as a freshman, is planning to spend four seasons at LSU. But, because of his size, he's not an obvious future first-round pick -- which suggests he might. And, if he does, he'll have all kinds of big numbers attached to his name.

44. The National Player of the Year race

We have Duke's RJ Barrett as the CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year. Purdue's Carsen Edwards finished second in the voting. But Waters is a good dark-horse candidate if LSU lives up to expectations because he's a fun player who scores big and makes shots from everywhere -- sometimes even at the buzzer to win games.

45. Tennessee's Grant Williams

As high as I am on Waters, I should point out that he wasn't even the SEC Player of the Year last season. Instead, it was Tennessee's Grant Williams -- who averaged 15.2 points and 6.0 rebounds for a team that shared the SEC regular-season title with Auburn. Williams isn't nearly as flashy as some others in the sport. But he's just as productive and worthy of being a CBS Sports Preseason Second Team All-American.

46. Tennessee

The Vols are a fascinating team because they won an SEC title last season despite having a roster with zero former top-100 high school prospects on it. That cannot have happened many times in the history of what we now know as Power 5 leagues. There isn't a sure-bet future NBA player on the roster, either. So it's fair to wonder if the Vols will really make the jump from very good to great -- or just be a rock-solid top-20 team again. I have them fourth in the CBS Sports Top 25 And One. So you know how I feel. But, I can admit, I do understand why some are skeptical that Tennessee will really elevate to elite status.

47. UNC's Nassir Little

Tennessee might not have a sure-bet future NBA player on its roster. But North Carolina definitely does. His name is Nassir Little. The 6-7 wing was the MVP of both the McDonald's All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic. He hasn't received as much attention as Duke's freshmen. But he's maybe just as good as any of them, and possibly better than all of them.

48. Indiana's Romeo Langford

Long as I'm on the subject of first-year players, I'm compelled to highlight Indiana's five-star freshman -- Romeo Langford. Expectations are super-high for the Indiana high school legend. And, I think, he'll mostly live up to them while helping Indiana make the the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Archie Miller.

49. Virginia

It's still impossible to make sense of how things ended for Virginia last season. The Cavaliers played an entire ACC schedule, only lost once during it, never in regulation, and then they get run off the court by UMBC in the Round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament? Incredible. But, rest assured, Virginia will bounce back just fine. Four of the top six scorers from that 31-win team have returned. So this might really be the season Tony Bennett makes the Final Four for the first time.

50. What about other coaches who might make their first Final Four?

What's interesting is that each coach of each team ranked in the top five of the Top 25 And One has already made a Final Four. So if I'm looking for men who can maybe make it for the first time this season, I have to look outside of my top five. Like I mentioned, Bennett is a good candidate. I'd also go with ...

51. Nevada coach Eric Musselman

Musselman has built Nevada into a true contender in just four years. Caleb and Cody Martin, not to mention Jordan Caroline, are going to tear through the Mountain West. So I'd start any list like this with Musselman. And then I'd turn to ...

52. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl

Pearl has been to four Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight. But a Final Four, to date, has escaped him. Perhaps that'll change this season, though. I have his Tigers ranked 10th in the Top 25 And One. And if you want one more name, I'd go with ...

53. Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams

Williams has been to three Sweet 16s, and one Elite Eight -- but no Final Fours. He has a team capable of breaking through this season. But the Hokies probably need Chris Clarke back to seriously challenge for a trip to Minneapolis. He's the team's leading returning scorer. He's also currently suspended indefinitely.

54. Yes, the Final Four is in Minneapolis

I'm on record that the Final Four should rotate between Indianapolis, New Orleans and San Antonio -- and nowhere else -- because those three cities provide warm weather, a dome, nice hotels, nice restaurants, nice bars and everything else necessary, within a close proximity of each other, to host a Final Four. All three are perfect host cities. So any Final Four not played in one of those three cities is not a Final Four I love. That said, I have no interest in crapping on Minneapolis as a site like so many others have. The temperature will probably be in the 30s, and that stinks. But it's a lovely city. And I'm anxious to spend a week there. Plus, I have a good coat. More than one, actually.

55. Is there an unranked team that could get to Minneapolis?

Sure. You might not realize it, but at least one team that was unranked in the preseason AP poll has made the Final Four in each of the past three seasons. So it's actually, probably, more likely than not to happen. One decent candidate might be ...

56. Maryland

Mark Turgeon has Anthony Cowan, Bruno Fernando and a top-10 recruiting class highlighted by five-star big Jalen Smith. I like this team a lot. The Terrapins are unranked in the AP poll but 23rd in my Top 25 And One. Another decent candidate might be ...

57. Indiana

I've already told you about Romeo Langford. But he's just one of five top-150 prospects Indiana enrolled to go with Juwan Morgan and De'Ron Davis. I like this team a lot too. The Hoosiers are unranked in the AP poll but 25th in my Top 25 And One.

58. KenPom's top 100

Clearly, a team can go from unranked to the Final Four; again, it happens all the time. But what's more difficult is going from outside of KenPom's preseason top 100 to inside KenPom's final top 45. Last season, literally no school did it. And only two schools -- NC State and Western Kentucky -- went from outside of KenPom's preseason top 100 to inside KenPom's final top 50. In other words, if you're a fan of a school ranked outside of KenPom's top 100 right now, history says the odds of your school getting an at-large bid on Selection Sunday are not good. 

59. Western Kentucky

It's pretty incredible that WKU was able to go from 230th in KenPom's preseason ratings to 47th in the final ratings despite its top recruit (Mitchell Robinson) never playing last season. But this season the Hilltoppers do have their top recruit -- Charles Bassey. The five-star big will be the highest-rated prospect to play in Conference USA since Tyreke Evans did so in the 2008-09 season. The Hilltoppers are the favorites to win the league title.

60. Jon Elmore

Bassey might be the best NBA prospect in C-USA. But the star of the league is the legend Jon Elmore -- who averaged 22.7 points last season while leading Marshall to the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. He got 27 in that Round of 64 win over Wichita State. Relive it here, if you want.

61. The new Welsh-Ryan Arena

Northwestern was at a big disadvantage last season because Welsh-Ryan was being renovated in a way that forced the Wildcats to play home games away from campus. But now the arena is open again for business -- and it looks fabulous. I'm going to try to go and see it next month. Hopefully Julia Louis-Dreyfus will be there. Huge VEEP fan here.

62. Julianne Moore's son

Everybody knows that Louis-Dreyfus' son, Charlie Hall, plays for Northwestern. But I'm not sure nearly as many people realize that Julianne Moore's son, Cal Freundlich, plays for Davidson. He does, though. He appeared in 11 games for the Wildcats last season. When Davidson secured an auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Academy Award winner celebrated.

63. Syracuse

I apologize to Syracuse fans for taking this long to get to the Orange. But I really am interested to see how this season unfolds. On one hand, they have the top five scorers from a Sweet 16 team back. On the other hand, it's also a team that only finished 41st at KenPom. (The latter doesn't sound quite as nice, does it?) Either way, if I had to bet on it, I'd bet on Syracuse being a legitimate top-25 team all season. The Orange will not be asked to spend a day in Dayton next March, I'm confident.

64. Clemson

Perhaps I just have something against schools ranked between 16th and 22nd that wear orange? This is the first Clemson reference just like that was my first Syracuse reference. Forgive me, Marcquise Reed. He's the Tigers' 6-3 guard who averaged 15.8 points last season and helped Brad Brownell get a new six-year, $15 million contract. Nice work, young man.

65. And the Final Four will be ...

  • Kentucky
  • Kansas
  • Duke
  • Tennessee

66. And the title game will be ...

Kentucky vs. Kansas

67. And the national champion will be ...

Kentucky, I think. And the reason I'm so high on UK is because almost every time John Calipari has had this kind of roster-balance at Kentucky -- i.e., 2010, 2012 and 2015 -- his teams have been awesome from start to finish. The 2010 team started 19-0 and finished 35-3. The 2012 team finished 38-2. The 2015 team finished 38-1. Bottom line, when Calipari has quality non-freshmen to go with five-star freshmen he usually wins at an incredibly high rate. There's no reason to think that trend won't continue this season.

68. So you're sure UK is winning it all?

Of course not, silly. This is college basketball we're talking about it. The team that should win the title rarely does because this sport uses a single-elimination tournament of 40-minute games to crown a champion.

But that's also the beauty of it.

The NBA is great but mostly predictable. College football is tremendous but exclusionary. But in college basketball literally everybody has a path to the NCAA Tournament. You spend November, December, January, February and early March trying to secure a place in the Field of 68. And then, if you do it, the opportunity to reach dreams, or shatter somebody else's, is right in front of you.

Everybody's quest starts this week.

The games tip Tuesday.

Enjoy the season.

CBS Sports Insider

Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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