Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, June 5, 2017

Yes, June has just begun. And air hasn?t even been pumped into footballs yet for the start of the season, which is still over two months away. But why not take a peek at an early-and I mean EARLY-projected 2018 NCAA tourney bracket now that we know which players are staying and which ones are going pro?


Sure! Baseball, apple pie and the Big Dance all go together ? I guess. Joe Lunardi of has a mock bracket out.

Enjoy it ? poolside, if you like. Seven Big Ten teams make the cut. And, here they are.

No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 15 Loyola (Chicago) in the West
No. 4 Minnesota vs. No. 13 Bucknell in the East
No. 7 Michigan vs. No. 10 Texas in the East
No. 7 Purdue vs. No. 10 Oklahoma in the South
No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 10 Iowa State in the Midwest
No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Vanderbilt in the Midwest
No. 11 Maryland vs. No. 11 Texas Tech in a play-in game in the Midwest

Lundari?s No. 1 seeds are Arizona, Kansas, Duke and Kentucky. I am a little surprised Michigan State is not a No. 1, as Tom Izzo looks to have one of his more talented squads in recent years. The return of super soph Miles Bridges makes the Spartans formidable, along with Nick Ward, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and some talented freshmen.

Minnesota looks best suited to challenge MSU with studs like Jordan Murphy, Nate Mason, Amir Coffey and Reggie Lynch back. The Gophers may be seeded a tad too low.

It?s difficult to argue much with where the other Big Ten teams are seeded, but Maryland may be too low. Yes, Melo Trimble is gone, but the Terps will have lots of talent back in Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson.

Northwestern broke through last year–finally–to the Big Dance and looks like a lock for a return engagement with Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh back. Expectations have changed in Evanston.

Michigan got a lift from the return of Moe Wagner, but D.J. Wilson and Derrick Walton are gone. Are the Wolverines too highly seeded? Purdue also lost a stud in Caleb Swanigan but has a nice corps of four seniors back. Don't underestimate the Boilermakers.

The notable schools absent are Indiana and Iowa. The Hoosiers have a new coach in Archie Miller and also suffered lots of attrition early, with players like OG Anunoby, James Blackmon and Thomas Bryant all leaving. IU is a bit of a mystery. The Hawkeyes have a lot of talent back from what was a young roster that included the likes of Jordan Bohannon, Tyler Cook and Nicholas Baer. And keep an eye on Penn State, which has rising talents in Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins.