By Matt Norlander

It's high time we started doing some mocking here at Sports on Earth. The big bracket, specifically. How does the prototypical field of 68 set up right now? Pretty nicely, though there's a serious clog in the 4-6 seed range and the 7-10. That normally happens, but this year more so than in recent seasons it seems the amalgam of at-large candidates are as interchangeable as you could imagine.

You realize a month from this very day we'll have already started the NCAA tournament? That's damn exciting. Really, isn't March just the best? But February's fun too, for reasons like this. So let's look at a rational projection of how things could fall into place were the NCAA selection committee to freeze time and opt to seed the field this afternoon.

Before I get to the full bracket, a couple of teasers. Here's the top foursome form each quadrant. Which do you think is strongest?

EAST: Syracuse, Villanova, Duke, Cincinnati. Composite record: 92-11.
SOUTH: Florida, Michigan State, Iowa State, Virginia. Composite record: 86-17.
MIDWEST: Wichita State, Kansas, Creighton, Saint Louis. Composite record: 91-12.
WEST: Arizona, San Diego State, Wisconsin, Louisville. Composite record: 89-13.

Leagues with multiple bids:

  • Big 12 (7)
  • Big Ten (6)
  • Pac-12 (6)
  • AAC (5)
  • ACC (5)
  • Atlantic-10 (5)
  • Big East (5)
  • SEC (4)
  • Mountain West (2)

Now, let's get to the bracket. Below the bracket, the usual suspects that barely got in and those that barely got out. I've also listed the biggest impact games for the bubble or seeding through the weekend.

*Denotes auto bid, and the current leader in each conference is designated as such

FIRST FOUR

16 Southern* (SWAC, 15-11)
16 Davidson* (SoCon, 16-11)

16 VMI* (Big South, 15-10)
16 Vermont* (America East, 17-9)

11 Xavier (17-8)
11 Tennessee (16-10)

12 Oklahoma State (16-10)
12 Georgetown (15-10)

EAST

1 Syracuse* (ACC, 25-0)
16 WINNER OF PLAY-IN GAME (the NCAA hates when people call it that; this is my way of rebelling)

8 George Washington (20-6)
9 California (17-8)

5 Kentucky (20-6)
12 Green Bay* (Horizon League, 21-5)

4 Cincinnati* (AAC, 23-3)
13 Toledo* (MAC, 21-4)

6 Ohio State (20-6)
11 Baylor (17-9)

3 Duke (21-5)
14 Georgia State* (Sun Belt, 18-7)

7 Kansas State (17-8)
10 Stanford (16-8)

2 Villanova (23-3)
15 Boston University* (Patriot League, 19-8)

SOUTH

1 Florida* (SEC, 23-2)
16 Weber State* (Big Sky, 14-8)

8 Pittsburgh (20-6)
9 Minnesota (17-9)

5 Texas (20-6)
12 Harvard* (Ivy League, 20-4)

4 Virginia (22-5)
13 Mercer* (A-Sun, 21-6)

6 UCLA (20-5)
11 WINNER OF PLAY-IN GAME

3 Iowa State (20-5)
14 Iona* (MAAC, 17-8)

7 Arizona State (19-6)
10 SMU (20-6)

2 Michigan State* (Big Ten, 21-5)
15 Robert Morris* (NEC, 16-11)

MIDWEST

1 Wichita State* (Missouri Valley, 27-0)
16 WINNER OF PLAY-IN GAME

8 Oklahoma (19-7)
9 New Mexico (19-5)

5 Michigan (18-7)
12 WINNER OF PLAY-IN GAME

4 Saint Louis* (A-10, 23-2)
13 Stephen F. Austin* (Southland, 24-2)

6 Connecticut (20-5)
11 Saint Joseph's (17-7)

3 Creighton* (Big East, 21-4)
14 Delaware* (Colonial, 19-8)

7 Massachusetts (20-5)
10 Missouri (18-7)

2 Kansas* (Big 12, 20-6)
15 North Carolina Central* (MEAC, 20-5)

WEST

1 Arizona* (Pac-12, 23-2)
16 Utah Valley* (WAC, 15-9)

8 Gonzaga* (WCC, 23-4)
9 VCU (20-6)

5 Iowa (19-6)
12 North Dakota State* (Summit League, 20-6)

4 Louisville (22-4)
13 Louisiana Tech* (C-USA, 21-5)

6 North Carolina (18-7)
11 St. John's (18-9)

3 Wisconsin (21-5)
14 Belmont* (Ohio Valley, 20-8)

7 Memphis (19-6)
10 Colorado (19-7)

2 San Diego State* (Mountain West, 23-2)
15 UC Irvine* (Big West, 17-9)

Last four in: Oklahoma State, Georgetown, Tennessee, St. John's

First four out: Providence, Oregon, BYU, Dayton

Next four out: Clemson, LSU, Richmond, Southern Miss

* * *

A smattering of the meaningful upcoming games (Saturday is far and away the biggest day of the season so far):

Wednesday: Saint Joe's at Rhode Island; UCLA at Cal; Arizona State at Colorado

Thursday: Georgetown at Seton Hall; Duke at North Carolina; Gonzaga at BYU

Friday: VCU at UMass

Saturday: Xavier at Georgetown; Louisville at Cincinnati; Wisconsin at Iowa; St. John's at Villanova; Texas Tech at Oklahoma State; Baylor at West Virginia; LSU at Kentucky; UCLA at Stanford; Minnesota at Ohio State; Syracuse at Duke; George Washington at Saint Louis; Texas at Kansas; Arizona at Colorado; San Diego State at New Mexico

Sunday: Michigan State at Michigan; SMU at Connecticut; Providence at Butler; Arizona State at Utah

* * *

Matt Norlander is a contributor to Sports on Earth and a writer at CBSSports.com. He lives in Connecticut and is equal parts obsessed with sports and music. Follow him on Twitter: @MattNorlander