For fans who are a bit disenchanted with college basketball and its load of one-and-done stars, this is the time of year they can pay attention again. Conference tournaments are under way.
The NCAA Tournament's selection is March 11. The First Four games begin March 13.
Put down your homework, quit playing with your kids and blow off work. If you want any shot at winning your office bracket, start brushing up on the 2012 NCAA basketball tournament. Now.
Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Kansas are contenders for a top seed. But if Butler has taught us anything, it's that a major upset is coming.
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Iowa State: Coach Fred Hoiberg has done a commendable job turning around his alma mater, but the Cyclones need a few more wins to feel secure. They got really fat on a weak nonconference schedule.
N.C. State: Would be a lock had it not blown that big lead and the game at Duke on Feb. 16. Should get in, but a first-round loss in the ACC tournament would leave the Pack sweating. It's the Pack or Miami that will battle for another berth out of the ACC.
Arizona: It is hard to envision four teams from a mediocre Pac-12 getting in and, if the Cats somehow make it, it's likely because they will be the last at-large selection.
Texas: Right on the edge and desperately in need of a mini-run and a quality showing in the Big 12 tournament.
Northwestern: Better than its 6-9 league record, but the Wildcats are going to require a run in the conference tournament to get in.
Miami: A last four in, or NIT.
Baylor is the best team in the state, but the Bears no longer look as imposing by going 0-4 against Kansas and Missouri. Any team with muscle and a good coach could pop the Bears early.
Texas At risk of snapping its run of 14 consecutive appearances. Really needed to help itself beginning Saturday but lost at Kansas.
UT Arlington is the best team in the Southland Conference, but since that is a one-bid league, the Mavericks can't afford a slip in the conference tournament.
TCU has wins against Virginia, UNLV and New Mexico, but the Frogs must win the Mountain West Conference tournament to have any shot. They have a decent shot at the NIT.