Well, it's about that time, I suppose. Every NCAA Tournament field is unique. We've never had the same group of 64, 65 or 68 teams -- ever -- and it will be decades before that ever happens. Year over year, there's always significant change. Earlier this offseason, we scanned the sport and determined these five teams would very likely crack back into the Big Dance in 2020 after missing the party in 2019.

So now comes the balance. It would be the coward's way out to only supply teams heading back and not acknowledge those who are likely to miss out. I've gotta Thanos-snap some teams out of existence for the 2020 tourney. Fortunately, I make no assurances; I could well be wrong on a couple of these squads. But with the season now just a week and a half away, here's a dozen teams from Major Seven conferences (ACC, the American, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC) I think will have an NIT-at-best ceiling for 2019-20. 

You'll notice I reference my 1-353 rankings in each team capsule. You're going to want to read through that, I promise. 

Virginia Tech 

Mike Young's a hell of a coach, but taking the Hokies to get back after turning over so much of their roster, and losing Kerry Blackshear Jr. to Florida, is way too much to ask. Plus, Virginia Tech's nonconference schedule is horrendous, so even if it wins all but one or two games in the noncon, they'll mostly be Quad 4 and VT would need to finish top-eight in the ACC to have a case to make the NCAAs. No one outside campus limits at VT thinks this team is capable of finishing better than 10th in the ACC. Give Young a couple of years and he should have Virginia Tech near or at the peak it hit under Buzz Williams. 

Kansas State

Another No. 4 seed that I think is set up for a big fall. But if I'm going to be wrong on any team on this list, it's going to be K-State. It's the highest ranked team in my 1-353 on this list, plus it returns two terrific players in Xavier Sneed and Cartier Diarra. It's been 12 years since Bruce Weber went to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, which is what he'd pull off if the Wildcats danced again in five months. In the Big 12, which will be the second-best conference at worst this season, Kansas State is vulnerable to slipping back because Oklahoma State returns all five starters, Oklahoma's ceiling is fifth in the league, West Virginia is going to be a lot better and Iowa State could have the best point guard in the conference. I think KSU finishes seventh in the league -- and barely misses the Big Dance.  

Mississippi State

  • Last season's seed: No. 5
  • 1-353 rank: 75
  • Key nonconference opponents: vs. Kansas State (Dec. 14), New Mexico State (Dec. 22), at Oklahoma (Jan. 25)

An underwhelming out-of-conference schedule combined with more than 45% of the roster having moved on makes me suspicious of Mississippi State's tournament chances. It was one of the more inconspicuous No. 5 seeds you could ever imagine last season, when it fell to -- wait, how about this -- can you correctly guess on the first try what team beat the Bulldogs in the tournament? Unless you're a fan of either team or had a lot personally invested in that game with your bracket or otherwise, the answer is almost certainly no. (It was Liberty.) Now the Bulldogs boast a rim-eating talent in Reggie Perry, but I suspect this won't be a top-five team in the SEC on offense or defense. 


  • Last season's seed: No. 5
  • 1-353 rank: 52
  • Key nonconference opponents: Purdue (Nov. 13), vs. Davidson (Nov. 28), at Kansas State (Dec. 7)

The highest-ranked KenPom team on my list. For reasons I can't interpret without the aid of mind-altering substances, Marquette is 17th in Pomeroy's preseason rankings. The Golden Eagles lost two of their three best 3-point shooters (Sam and Joey Hauser), lost six of their final seven last season and landed at No. 33 in KenPom. They were waxed by Ja Morant and Murray State. Shooting aurora Markus Howard is back, there is some size around him in the starting lineup, but the Big East is going to be a lot better this season, so much so that I don't see Marquette finishing in the top half of the league. 

Syracuse's Buddy Boeheim won't be enough to get the Orange into the NCAA Tournament. USATSI


  • Last season's seed: No. 8
  • 1-353 rank: 58
  • Key nonconference opponents: Colgate (Nov. 13), vs. Oklahoma State (Nov. 27), at Georgetown (Dec. 14)

There's a lot of concern about Syracuse creating enough offense to be viable for 30-plus games. Senior wing Elijah Hughes steps in as the team's best player, but who else will become a factor to keep the Orange on the better side of the bubble? No Oshae Brissett, no Frank Howard, no Tyus Battle. No NCAA Tournament. Buddy Boeheim is going to need to make a big jump as a sophomore to force opponents to give SU more respect on the scouting report.

Ole Miss

Kermit Davis has built a 30-plus-year resume that's totaled more than 420 wins off the cynics and skeptics of his past teams. I might set up to be another victim of dismissal. The Rebels were one of the major-conference surprises last season, winning 20 games in Davis' first season. Breein Tyree returns, which is a major help, but Ole Miss did go 10-8 in the SEC last season. The league will be a bit better overall in 2019-20, and there are some tricky noncon games. I think the Rebels wind up being in the first four out and get an NIT No. 1 seed. I don't see the defense being as good as Davis will demand it to be. 


  • Last season's seed: No. 9
  • 1-353 rank: 71
  • Key nonconference opponents: at Wichita State (Dec. 14), at Creighton (Dec. 17), vs. Mississippi State (Jan. 25)

I won't run from admitting that picking against Big 12 teams makes me slightly queasy. The conference has rated as No. 1 in the sport at KenPom six years running. It's put seven teams into the Big Dance four of the past six seasons. So claiming that two Big 12 teams (K-State, Oklahoma) won't be dancing, in addition to reasonable assumptions like Oklahoma State and TCU, is going against the odds. I think Oklahoma's going to have the schedule to merit strong consideration but will come up just short in wins. 


  • Last season's seed: No. 9
  • 1-353 rank: 100
  • Key nonconference opponents: at Illinois State (Nov. 17), at Oklahoma (Dec. 21)

Unfortunately an easy call. Only 22% of the roster returns, according to barttorvik.com, and the losses are critical: Tacko Fall, Aubrey Dawkins and B.J. Taylor. There's not much to add here. UCF is now the sixth-best team at best in the AAC, which is probably a four-bid league in 2019-20, and the nonconference schedule is destined to rank in the bottom 25% among Major Seven programs. 


  • Last season's seed: No. 10
  • 1-353 rank: 59
  • Key nonconference opponents: vs. Texas Tech (Nov. 28), at Syracuse (Dec. 3), at Iowa State (Dec. 12)

Didn't even include the game vs. Cincinnati in Chicago four days before Christmas as a key one outside Big Ten competition. Iowa's got a shot if Jordan Bohannon can indeed return this season after hip surgery, but there's a lot of beef in the noncon. I don't think Iowa will be good enough to win more Quad 1 and 2 games than it loses, and the Big Ten's top five teams have separated themselves this season from Iowa, which won 23 games last season but lost obviously important players, Tyler Cook and Isaiah Moss


  • Last season's seed: No. 10
  • 1-353 rank: 79
  • Key nonconference opponents: vs. Oklahoma (Nov. 9), at Butler (Nov. 12), at Utah (Nov. 15)

No team has more key noncon foes front-loaded/highlighted here like Minnesota, which could easily turn its March fortune more than a week before Thanksgiving ... if it can manage to win two of the three games listed above. I doubt that happens. The Golden Gophers recently lost Eric Curry to a season-ending knee injury, the latest knee issue to plague the promising forward's career. Amir Coffey is gone. Daniel Oturu should be a destructive force but there's not enough diesel to make it to Selection Sunday. 


A few teams on this list are obvious selections due to a combo of roster and coaching turnover. Temple was one of the final teams into the field last season. Now it starts anew with Aaron McKie replacing Philly coaching legend Fran Dunphy. The Owls will try to keep it above .500, and if so, will log a good first campaign under McKie.  

St. John's

Probably one of the five biggest mystery teams in college basketball this season. The Red Storm still have fun talent (Mustapha Heron, L.J. Figueroa), but what will it look like in Mike Anderson's system? This St. John's team is not going operate in similar ways as it did on Chris Mullins' watch. The Johnnies might be able to steal a couple games this season due to style of play and star power, but from November through March I can't see this group having near the balance or consistency to be near the at-large discussion come Selection Sunday.