The Washington Times - December 26, 2008, 02:20PM

It is exactly 79 days until Selection Sunday, which means faux brackets like this one will be all the rage soon enough.

In all candor, I meant to avoid doing one of these until conference play started in most of the power conferences. Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet.

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But there was a little time to kill today and some more immediate work to avoid, which is no doubt a feeling many folks can sympathize with. Anyway, it was tougher than expected to come up with this, simply because “expectations” and “perception” still sort of matter at this stage.

Some really good teams (or suspected really good teams) have yet to play many reputable opponents. As a result, it’s hard to peg them at this point.

So the RPI was used as a very basic, imprecise tool. Results count, but so does an assumed talent level on a team. That’s why Louisville and Memphis linger at the bottom of the at-large pool even now – it’s just hard to believe those teams won’t get their acts together eventually.

Once mid-January arrives, those assumptions will be close to meaningless. There will be two or three league games to evaluate everyone, and the guesswork will be heavily reduced. But until then, here’s a far-from-perfect 65-team field to consider heading into the weekend:

EAST REGION

Greensboro, N.C.

(1) North Carolina vs. (16) NEC/Central Connecticut State
(8) PAC-10/California vs. (8) MWC/Brigham Young

Portland, Ore.

(4) A-10/Xavier vs. (13) CAA/Virginia Commonwealth
(5) Notre Dame vs. (12) Missouri

Boise, Idaho

(3) Gonzaga vs. (14) ATLANTIC SUN/East Tennessee State
(6) BIG TEN/Illinois vs. (11) Kentucky

Philadelphia

(2) Syracuse vs. (15) OHIO VALLEY/Jacksonville State
(7) SOUTHERN/Davidson vs. (10) Boston College

SOUTH REGION

Philadelphia

(1) Connecticut vs. (16) IVY/Cornell
(8) Miami vs. (9) Dayton

Boise, Idaho

(4) HORIZON/Butler vs. (13) MAC/Miami (Ohio)
(5) Purdue vs. (12) Arizona

Kansas City, Mo.

(3) Texas vs. (14) AMERICA EAST/Vermont
(6) Stanford vs. (11) West Virginia

Miami

(2) Wake Forest vs. (15) BIG SOUTH/VMI
(7) Michigan vs. (10) Creighton

MIDWEST REGION

Kansas City, Mo.

(1) BIG 12/Oklahoma vs. (16) MEAC/Hampton
(8) WCC/Saint Mary’s vs. (9) Marquette

Minneapolis

(4) ACC/Clemson vs. (13) BIG SKY/Portland State
(5) SEC/Tennessee vs. (12) Louisville

Miami

(3) Georgetown vs. (14) SOUTHLAND/Stephen F. Austin
(6) Arizona State vs. (11) MVC/Evansville

Dayton, Ohio

(2) Ohio State vs. (15) BIG WEST/Cal State Fullerton
(7) Maryland vs. (10) CONFERENCE USA/UAB

WEST REGION

Dayton, Ohio

(1) BIG EAST/Pittsburgh vs. (16) SWAC/Alabama A&M-SUMMIT/North Dakota State
(8) Minnesota vs. (9) Florida

Portland, Ore.

(4) UCLA vs. (13) WAC/Utah State
(5) Baylor vs. (12) Memphis

Minneapolis

(3) Michigan State vs. (14) MAAC/Siena
(6) Villanova vs. (11) UNLV

Greensboro, N.C.

(2) Duke vs. (15) PATRIOT/Lehigh
(7) Texas A&M vs. (10) SUN BELT/Western Kentucky

Last four in: Louisville, Missouri, West Virginia, Arizona

Last four out: Wisconsin, Northwestern, Florida State, Oklahoma State

Bids by league: Big East 9, ACC 7, Big Ten 6, Big 12 5, Pac-10 5, SEC 3, Atlantic 10 2, Conference USA 2, Mountain West 2, Missouri Valley 2, West Coast 2

Patrick Stevens