On the Bouncing Ballot…

Election Day is Tuesday. Across the country, people will have their chance to help guide the country's political leanings (or misgivings) for the next two years. Tuesday also happens to be the first day of the 2018-2019 college basketball regular season.

While, for the next four-plus months, votes will be cast, it's the play on the court that will decide which group will reign supreme. Each region of the country has candidates that hope to rise above the competition to convene at the most important of conventions. So, as the polls get underway, which teams have a leg up on their opponents?

The Plains

Kansas is one of the many "blueblood" programs at the top of the preseason rankings. According to the pollsters, they're actually at the top of the heap. But, for all of the talent on the roster, there could be a bug-a-boo in any national title plans.

It's not apparent whether the Jayhawks, as a program, may not be in danger of having their recent past "erased" by the recent federal corruption trial. However, that trial's ruling appears to be having an effect on the program's current standing. Silvio De Sousa is a sophomore post player who would potentially team up with center Udoka Azubuike to create horrible paint matchups for the opposition. Unfortunately, he's ineligible due to his (or, more specifically, his guardian's) potential role in this corruption scandal.

Now, missing De Sousa isn't an "end all" for KU. He was academically ineligible through the first half of his freshman campaign, and the Jayhawks made the national semifinals.

Early returns — Bill Self's team should make another deep run. With the graduations of guards Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Malik Newman, though, DeSousa was expected to help make sure that Azubuike had some veteran help.

The Midwest

Over the last few years, a lot of good basketball has been on display from the Ohio River Valley and Great Lakes states. Michigan has played in a couple of national championship games. Louisville won (then vacated) one of those contests. Cincinnati and Xavier were top-two seeds in the 2018 tournament. Tennessee has had some flashes of brilliance. But, in this part of the world, hoops begins and ends with Kentucky.

John Calipari has cornered the market of filling rosters with blue-chip recruits. Some of those first-year players become one-year players. Some decide to extend their stays, if only by a year. This time around is no different. Seven freshman are stacked on this season's team. So, how will these players grow over the Winter? Enter an x-factor in senior Reid Travis. The former Stanford star will provide a glue that Calipari has rarely seen in his time running the Wildcats.

Early returns — With Travis in the fold, some of the early "feeling out" periods we've seen from these freshmen classes may be shaved down a bit. Even though this isn't the most heralded class of recent years, I'd be surprised if they received anything lower than a 2-seed come March.

The Mid-Atlantic

It's a crowded field in this part of the nation. Virginia and North Carolina have key leaders back as upperclassmen (Kyle Guy and Luke Maye, respectively). However, there is some turnover happening with both programs. The biggest turnover ... that's going on down Tobacco Road in Durham. Could I interest you in not one, not two, but three of the top three recruits from the 2018 class? That is, famously, what Mike Krzyzewski pulled over the past few months.

The quartet of R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones, and Zion Williamson will be scrutinized from now until, hopefully for them, early April. There's already hype surrounding this group of talent. And when you talk about a quartet of freshmen that made a huge impact at Cameron Indoor, you might just have to keep it in the family. Jahlil Okafor, Justice Winslow, an up-and-coming Grayson Allen, and Tre's older brother Tyus led the program to its fifth national championship.

Early returns — It's hard to see this Duke class not be on the 1-seed come Selection Sunday. That's all.

The Northeast

Why does this region have any importance? Um, this would be the home of the reigning kings. Villanova turned into a destiny darling back in 1985. It took the program 30 years to return to the peak of success. The second return was no more than a weekend round-trip flight. For the second time in three years, the Wildcats will try and defend their title. There's some residue from the championship team (namely, Phil Booth and Eric Paschall). But new cogs will have to be set in if the program wants to make it three out of four.

One place that may be eyeing better poll results sits in Upstate New York. Syracuse made a run to the Sweet 16 and gave Duke all it could handle. Basically all of the players on last year's squad have returned for another shot of glory. Tyus Battle coming back kept the hopes for another deep run alive. Now, can the Orange take advantage in a loaded ACC?

Early returns — Unlike last season, this squad shouldn't (SHOULDN'T) make an appearance in Dayton the night before the start of the main bracket. They might not be the most talented team. Of most contenders, though, the Orange could be the most "together." I think we should expect a mid-range tournament seed that could do damage. We all know how far that zone defense can take that team.

The West

Where has the Pac-12 gone? Yes, I know that, outside of UCLA, the conference has never had the strongest NCAA tournament footprint. Arizona, Oregon, Stanford, California, and Utah each have one title in their respective histories, but the latter four all won before John Wooden's roll ever got going. No program in the Mountain or Pacific time zones has won an NCAA men's hoops title since 1997 (Arizona's only title). And if the early numbers are any indication, that might not happen again this year.

The best hope for the Western third of the nation comes from Spokane. Gonzaga was so close to breaking the streak in April of 2017. They couldn't duplicate the run this past March, falling in the Sweet 16. But there are enough returning pieces for the Bulldogs to be dangerous ... and they're joined by another Western dog in the fight.

The Nevada Wolfpack have made some tournament noise in past years. The anticipation for this season, however, would be hard to match. Coming off of a Sweet 16 appearance of their own (a heartbreaking, one-point loss to Sister Jean and the Loyola-Chicago machine), Eric Musselman's team is looking to provide a glaring spotlight of their own. The Martin twins and Jordan Caroline anchor the group that would like to get off to a fast start. Oh, yeah. A rematch with the Ramblers from Loyola is set for November 27th in Chicago. Revenge, anyone?

Early returns — Oregon, UCLA, and Washington figure to be in the mix throughout the season. However, it appears that the Primary between the Zags and the Pack will decide the best representative to break that long streak out West.

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