Here's a look at the conference tournaments that begin Thursday.
WHEN: March 10-13
WHERE: Greensboro, N.C.
TV FOR FINAL: 1 p.m., ACC syndication/ESPN
REGULAR-SEASON CHAMP: North Carolina
FORMAT: All 12 teams qualify. The top four seeds get first-round byes.
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: 4-6
THE BUZZ: North Carolina won the regular-season title by a game over Duke, but the league is such this season that they are the only league schools that -- as of now -- aren't worried at all about an NCAA bid. Those teams are playing for NCAA seeding. Florida State finished third, but the Seminoles have just two top-50 wins and a quarterfinal loss in this tourney would mean the selection committee would look much closer at the Seminoles. Still, they likely are going to get in, though not necessarily with the seeding usually associated with the third-place finisher from the ACC. Then things get interesting. Fourth-seeded Clemson, fifth-seeded Boston College and sixth-seeded Virginia Tech are in the at-large hunt. BC has the best RPI of the trio by a good margin (44th, to Clemson's 59th and Virginia Tech's 64th). Plus, BC owns a neutral-court win over Texas A&M and swept Virginia Tech. Clemson beat BC in their only head-to-head matchup and beat Tech in their only head-to-head matchup. But the Tigers also have three bad losses and don't have a marquee win. As for Virginia Tech, it was swept by BC, lost to Clemson, was swept by Virginia and also split with 11th-seeded Georgia Tech. But the Hokies have the best win among this ACC at-large trio, with a home-court upset of Duke. BC looks to be in OK shape as long as it avoids a first-round loss to 12th-seeded Wake Forest. BC would get Clemson in the second round and would wrap up a bid with a victory over the Tigers. On the other hand, Clemson needs a win over BC to feel good about its chances, and in that scenario, BC would be sweating Sunday if it was swept this season by Clemson. Virginia Tech seemingly needs to beat Georgia Tech in the first round, then upset FSU in a quarterfinal to have a realistic shot at a bid.
THE PICK: Duke
WHEN: March 10-13
TV FOR FINAL: 3:30 p.m., CBS
REGULAR-SEASON CHAMP: Ohio State
FORMAT: All 11 teams qualify. The top five seeds get byes into the second round.
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: 5-6
THE BUZZ: Ohio State won the regular-season title by two games over Purdue, with Wisconsin another game back in third. Those three are NCAA locks, with Ohio State in line for the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney and Purdue and Wisconsin playing for No. 2 or 3 seeds. Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State were part of a four-way tie for fourth with Penn State. Illinois looks OK for a bid, while Michigan, Michigan State and especially Penn State have some work to do. Penn State has to get to the tourney final to have a realistic shot at an at-large bid; that seems unlikely. Michigan State must avoid a first-round loss to Iowa to keep its hopes alive. But the Spartans' second-round game would be against Purdue. Yikes. Michigan swept Michigan State during the regular season and thus would seem to be above the Spartans in the at-large pecking order. But the Wolverines have Illinois in their first game, and while the Illini look OK for a bid, a win over the Wolverines would remove any doubt. A win for Michigan likely would remove any doubt, too. Ohio State almost certainly awaits the Illinois-Michigan winner.
THE PICK: Ohio State
WHEN: March 10-12
WHERE: Anaheim, Calif.
TV FOR FINAL: 8 p.m., ESPN2
REGULAR-SEASON CHAMP: Long Beach State
FORMAT: The top eight teams qualify.
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: 1
THE BUZZ: Long Beach State won the regular-season title by four games over Cal Poly, and the 49ers (an RPI of 90th) are the only league team whose RPI is better than 181st. Interestingly, one of the 49ers' two league losses was to eighth-seeded UC Irvine which is their opponent in the tourney's first round. Long Beach's other league loss came to sixth-seeded Cal State Fullerton. Still, the team the 49ers probably fear most is fourth-seeded Pacific, which lost two one-point games to Long Beach during the regular season and could play them in a semifinal. But Pacific enters this tourney having lost four of its past five.
THE PICK: Long Beach State.
WHEN: March 10-13
TV FOR FINAL: 1 p.m., ABC
REGULAR-SEASON CHAMP: Florida
FORMAT: All 12 teams qualify. The Nos. 1 and 2 seeds from each division get byes into the second round.
PROJECTED NCAA BIDS: 3-5
THE BUZZ: Florida won the SEC East by three games over Kentucky and won the overall title by a game over Alabama, which won the West by three games over Mississippi State. Florida, Kentucky and Vanderbilt are NCAA locks and playing for seeding; Florida almost certainly would get a No. 3 should it double-up and win the SEC tourney title. Tennessee has played a monster schedule and has eight top-50 wins, including a neutral-court win over Pitt; that should get the Vols in, though they have lost 13 times overall and have lost six of their past nine. As long as they don't lose to Arkansas in the first round, they should be OK; they would play Florida in the second round, and though they lost twice to the Gators, the losses came by a combined seven points, including a one-pointer in Gainesville. Georgia, which tied Vandy at 9-7 in the SEC East, has a good RPI (39th), has played a tough schedule and doesn't have any "bad" losses. But the Bulldogs also are shy on marquee wins and have just five top-100 victories. They have to beat Auburn in the first round to keep their at-large hopes alive. Then would come a meeting with Alabama in the second round and this is where things get interesting. The Tide beat the Bulldogs on Saturday in the regular-season finale. A second win over Georgia in a span of six days seemingly would put them ahead of Georgia in the pecking order. But while the Bulldogs don't have any bad wins, the Tide do three of them. Plus, they lost to Seton Hall and Saint Peter's, teams whose RPI is in the 90s. In addition, Alabama played a weak non-conference schedule and is 9-10 against teams in the RPI top-200 which usually is a death knell to at-large hopes. If Georgia beats Alabama, there is no mystery: The Bulldogs get a bid. But if the Tide wins, things get intriguing. And if the Tide win twice to get to the tourney final, they definitely are going to get a bid.
THE PICK: Kentucky