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November 8, 2007

Rivals.com projects the field of 65

Yes, it's a little early to be hammering out the field of 65 for the NCAA Tournament.

We're kind of like the neighbor who puts up the Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving.

Because of injuries and other unexpected issues, there are bound to be a few misses here. However, there should be a great deal of hits, too.

Here is Rivals.com's field for the NCAA Tournament, presented by seed:

No. 1 seeds
North Carolina*
An up-to-standard Tar Heels team in a weak ACC equals a top seed.
A jaw-dropping non-conference slate ensures the Tigers a No. 1.
Kevin Love helps Bruins get a top seed instead of the No. 2s it has had the past two years.
Vols are deep, fast and as entertaining to watch as any team in the country.
No. 2 seeds
The roster is loaded, but a lot still hinges on the healthy return of Brandon Rush.
It's a good thing Terrence Williams is a point forward because Edgar Sosa is going to wind up in the coach's dog house.
D.J. White is a proven commodity, Eric Gordon is the real deal and some of the other pieces are pretty good, too.
Big Roy is ready to dominate, and DaJuan Summers will perform admirably in place of Jeff Green.
No. 3 seeds
Michigan State
There's too much talent for the exhibition loss to Grand Valley State not to be an anomaly.
O.J. Mayo and Davon Jefferson deliver, and Taj Gibson is steady in the post.
Kansas State
So far, so good for Michael Beasley and the Wildcats.
Washington State
The steady hand of Tony Bennett with the talents of Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver is a wonderful combination.
No. 4 seeds
Once Brook Lopez gets his academics in order the Cardinal will strike fear in opponents' hearts.
If Dominic James takes the NBA's advice to heart (lead without trying to make every play yourself), the Golden Eagles will be a major threat.
Mississippi State
Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes are big-time talents, and the guys surrounding them might surprise you.
Without knowing how long Lute Olson will be absent, this is a tentative spot for the talented Wildcats.
No. 5 seeds
N.C. State
Sidney Lowe will find someone who can get the ball to a top-notch frontline led by Brandon Costner.
Big things are on the horizon for the trio of Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Donte Greene.
It's not about reaching the NCAA Tournament, it's about winning a first-round game behind five-star freshman Kyle Singler.
D.J. Augustin makes everyone on the floor better, and he'll propel this team to a solid finish even without Kevin Durant.
No. 6 seeds
Southern Illinois*
Randal Falker plays much bigger than his 6-7 frame; he's a beast at both ends for the Salukis.
The defense has remained outstanding, even last season, and the Huskies will figure out a way to generate more offense and get back into the tournament.
By season's end the Ducks will have figured out how to make it work without Aaron Brooks.
The guard play will be solid, and freshmen DeJuan Blair and Brad Wanamaker will have emerged by March.
No. 7 seeds
Backcourts can make or break teams come tourney time, and there aren't many better than Mike Green and A.J. Graves.
The Hogs were one of the last teams in last year, but they won't have to sweat it too long this year.
Ohio State
Holdovers Jamar Butler and David Lighty will mix with a dynamic freshman class to produce another winner for Thad Matta.
Billy Gillispie will have whipped this team into shape by March with key veterans and talented freshmen.
No. 8 seeds
Top-notch point guard? Check (Jeremy Pargo). Perimeter scoring? Check (Micah Downs and Matt Bouldin). Big man? Check (Josh Heytvelt). It all adds up.
Texas A&M
There's talent everywhere, but the Aggies will take some time to jell under a new coach and whoever emerges at point guard.
The Huskies will build around husky power forward Jon Brockman and an experienced backcourt.
The Coreys, five-star freshmen Stokes and Fisher, will have figured out how to fit with Scottie Reynolds to form a devastating trio.
No. 9 seeds
If the guard play can meet the frontcourt horses (DeVon Hardin, Ryan Anderson) even halfway, the Golden Bears could be a serious threat.
Expect Paul Delaney III and Indiana transfer Robert Vaden to form a dynamic duo in Conference USA.
Notre Dame
The Irish don't seem to be getting much love, but they didn't last year when they went 24-7 and wound up a No. 6 seed.
The baby Gators will have matured by March, led by five-star prospects Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons and sophomore big man Marreese Speights.
No. 10 seeds
This may be too low for the Wildcats, whose seeding will depend largely on how they perform in a murderous non-conference slate (North Carolina, NC State, Duke, UCLA).
Sean Singletary should be enough to carry the Cavaliers into the postseason.
Senior starters Shan Foster, Alex Gordon and Ross Neltner will get a big boost from Aussie freshman center Andrew Ogilvy, who is very skilled offensively.
Southern Miss
Larry Eustachy's team makes Conference USA a three-bid league, much to the delight of C-USA coaches.
No. 11 seeds
The Musketeers will take most of the season to figure out how to compensate for the losses of Justin Doellman and Justin Gage.
The Tide figures to struggle again without Ronald Steele, but Richard Hendrix and Alonzo Gee will push for the postseason.
Bo Ryan will find a way to coax this team into the tournament, but he will have his work cut out for him.
The Terrapins have a proven coach (Gary Williams), a proven inside player (James Gist) and a point guard (Greivis Vasquez) who is ready to lead.
No. 12 seeds
George Mason*
The Patriots have two starters (Folarin Campbell and Will Thomas) from the Cinderella Final Four team of two years ago.
New Mexico State*
First-year coach Marvin Menzies inherits a team with plenty of talent and some recent March experience.
The Illini will struggle to sneak into the field of 65, but Shaun Pruitt will make sure they get it done.
The strength of last season's first-round upset of Duke and the presence of Eric Maynor gets the Rams an at-large bid.
No. 13 seeds
Western Kentucky*
The Hilltoppers have one of the nation's top seniors in Courtney Lee and should negotiate the improving Sun Belt with relative ease.
A backcourt (Kenny Hasbrouck and Ronald Moore) that's well known in the MAAC will shine in the March spotlight.
The Cougars actually won the MWC regular-season title a year ago, and Trent Plaisted and Lee Cummard will ensure a repeat.
The Zips have improved by at least three wins every season since 2004, reaching 25 victories last season.
No. 14 seeds
Holy Cross*
The Crusaders have won four Patriot League titles in the past six seasons, and a deep, sizeable and talented frontcourt should make it five of seven.
Center Chris Daniels, the reigning Southland Conference Player of the Year, returns to lead the Islanders.
The Catamounts lost the America East final by a point last season, but they will rectify that this season and return to the NCAAs.
Cal State Fullerton*
High-scoring guard Bobby Brown is gone, but the Titans still should be the class of the Big West.
No. 15 seeds
East Tennessee State*
Reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Courtney Pigram leads the way.
The Big Red breaks the Penn/Princeton stranglehold on the Ivy League title behind a steady backcourt.
A pair of burly big men just what you'd expect should propel the Grizzlies to their first regular-season Big Sky title since 2000.
Austin Peay*
The Governors return all five starters from a team that won the OVC regular-season title a season ago.
No. 16 seeds
Robert Morris*
New coach Mike Rice inherits a team with three players who averaged more than 14 ppg last season.
Jackson State*
The defending SWAC champion has no intention of relinquishing its crown without a fight.
Oral Roberts*
The league's name has changed, but the Golden Eagles figure to continue nesting atop the Summit.
The Eagles have posted 20-plus wins for the past three seasons, but the personnel losses were heavy, including coach Gregg Marshall (Wichita State).

Play-in game: Robert Morris* vs. Delaware State*

* Denotes automatic bid as league champion.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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