In college basketball's most powerful leagues, conference tourneys are not nearly as important as in leagues where only one team is invited to the NCAA Tournament. But they do help determine the fate of teams on the bubble of earning invitations to the Big Dance, and they give other teams time to refocus and get motivated for what is essentially the brand new season.
With the best teams not really needing to win, it adds to the unpredictability of conference tournaments.
Big Ten - Already locked into the NCAA Tournament: Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State. Bubble team: Michigan.
According to the RPI Index, the Big Ten is the strongest league in the nation. When you factor in that two teams from the Big Ten reached the Final Four last year, and another got to the Elite 8, maybe that's possible.
Prediction: Ohio State has clearly been the best team in the conference, but underachieving Michigan State at 9 to 1 odds is worth the pick here.
Atlantic Coast - Locked in: Duke, North Carolina, Boston College, North Carolina State, Florida State. Bubble: Maryland.
Duke finishing 14-2 in conference is no surprise. But the Blue Devils losing at Florida State and at home to North Carolina in their final two games is a real eye-opener. Now Duke is out to prove something in the ACC tournament, which it always wins anyway. Prediction: Duke.
Big 12 - Locked in: Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M. Bubble: Colorado.
From 2002-04, the Big 12 had five teams go all the way to the Final Four. But last year none went beyond the Sweet 16.
Prediction: Texas appears to be the best team in the conference, but at below even money odds of 5 to 7, they're not worth it.
Southeastern - Locked in: Louisiana State, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas. Bubble: None. All of the others must win the conference tournament.
Regular season champ LSU has a starter out due to injury. Kentucky always goes far here, but has one of its weaker teams in recent years.
Prediction: Any of the other four mentioned above are good picks, but we'll take a guess with Tennessee.
Western Athletic - Locked in: Nevada. Bubble: Utah State.
Just like in 2003, the WAC is in danger of receiving only one bid to the NCAA Tournament. It will most likely take a loss by heavily favored Nevada to prevent that.
Prediction: With Fresno State's probation and ineligibility narrowing the tourney down to eight teams, the tournament is set to begin today and is bettable. Nevada is on a mission and should win it, but its 5 to 8 price against the rest of the field is too steep to pay.
NCAA Tournament - Selection Sunday is just three days away. March Madness is ready to take over.
Play-in game - This Tuesday is the play-in game, which involves the teams that are supposedly the 64th and 65th ranked of those invited. But to make things equal, shouldn't each bracket have a play-in game? The more the merrier in the NCAA Tournament, so 68 teams could happen some time in the future.
Prediction: Four years in a row, a team with a losing record has won the play-in game. If one wins its conference tournament, then that is the pick.