A handful of conference tournament finals were played over the weekend.
But they'll be going full blast in most conferences by Wednesday.
Here's a look at some of them, and some of what is at stake for some of their teams, along with an early-week projection of the Top 16 NCAA Tournament seeds:
Final: Monday at Portland, Gonzaga vs. Santa Clara
The stakes: Santa Clara beat the Bulldogs handily when they last met in Spokane. This one is a toss-up. What happens to Gonzaga if it loses? Well, the Bulldogs will be in the NIT, for sure (as the regular-season WCC winner). And either their inclusion or exclusion via an at-large bid would be one of the more discussed subjects, both among the selection committee and by the media Sunday evening.
Where/when: Tampa, Thursday-Sunday
The stakes: For North Carolina, it's a possible No. 1 seed. For Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech, it's all about enhancing their NCAA seeds (especially after the Yellow Jackets closed the regular season with wins over UNC and Boston College). Can Clemson or Florida State get an at-large bid? The loser of their Thursday game, in all likelihood, will be among the longest of shots come Sunday. If the winner then stuns the Tar Heels on Friday, it could be in business.
Where/when: Atlantic City, Wednesday-Saturday
The stakes: A multitude of teams (especially top four seeds Xavier, Massachusetts, George Washington and Rhode Island) could win it. Xavier seems in decent shape, at-large bid, if it gets to the semifinals. Massachusetts probably needs to get to the final but would be doing some serious sweating on Sunday.
Where/when: New York City, Wednesday-Saturday
The stakes: For Georgetown, Pittsburgh and Louisville, potential seeds in the 2-4 range. For Notre Dame, Marquette and Villanova, improved seedings. Syracuse should be OK, barring a bunch of non-at large teams winning tournaments, with a win over Connecticut Wednesday. West Virginia needs a win Providence on Wednesday and maybe even an upset of Louisville on Thursday to get over the at-large hump.
Where/when: Chicago, Thursday-Sunday
The stakes: For Ohio State and Wisconsin, potential No. 1 seeds. Michigan State seems fine, although a loss to Northwestern Thursday would have them waiting on Sunday with three consecutive losses. Indiana should be OK, even with a loss in its first game (a quarterfinal Friday vs. Illinois or Penn State). Illinois better not lose to the Nittany Lions and would feel better about things on Sunday with a win over the Hoosiers, too. Purdue can eliminate Iowa on Friday and help its cause considerably at the same time.
Where/when: Oklahoma City, Thursday-Sunday
The stakes: For Kansas, a potential No. 1 seed and, possibly, no worse than a No. 2. A&M could be a solid 2 with a tournament championship, with Texas seemingly in good shape for a 3 if it gets to the tourney final. Texas Tech will be fine by beating 12 seed Colorado on Thursday. But Kansas State could sure use a win over the Red Raiders (assuming they win Thursday) on Friday to enhance its resume. Oklahoma State and Missouri need deep runs – and we're talking probably to Sunday – to be in the at-large hunt.
Where/when: Memphis, Wednesday-Sunday.
The stakes: The Tigers' NCAA tournament seed. A No. 3 seems a very reasonable aspiration with three tourney victories. No one else has a remote shot at an at-large bid.
Final: Tuesday at Dayton
The stakes: No. 2 seed Butler, with a non-conference resume with wins over Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and a full-strength Gonzaga in November, will be in the tournament regardless of what happens in the final vs. Wright State. The Raiders, who beat the Bulldogs by 12 points in Dayton on Feb. 10, are 22-9 but won't be in the NCAA Tournament without a Tuesday night win.
Where/when: Las Vegas, Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday
The stakes: BYU and UNLV will be among the 34 at-large teams if they don't win the tournament. Saying the same thing about Air Force isn't as easy as it would have been even a week ago. But a victory over Wyoming Thursday will make for a much more breezy Sunday afternoon for the Falcons. Getting to the conference final puts San Diego State firmly in the at-large mix on Sunday. But that would probably entail beating host UNLV in the semifinal.
Where/when: Los Angeles, Wednesday-Saturday
The stakes: Conference Player of the Year and Frankhoops.com first-team All-American Arron Afflalo and UCLA are playing for a No. 1 overall seed, which would be the Bruins', for sure, with three wins in the Staple Center. Washington State, Arizona and Oregon are playing to improve their NCAA tourney seeds. Stanford and USC meet Thursday. The winner is firmly one of the 34 at-large teams (if it doesn't win the tourney). The loser is probably still in the tournament but it will be a nerve-wracking three days of waiting to find out for sure. With only one win away from Seattle, the Washington Huskies – despite a sweep of USC and UCLA last weekend – need to get to the conference final to have any kind of at-large hopes. Even then, they'd still be on the slim side.
Where/when: Atlanta, Thursday-Sunday
The stakes: Florida is trying to grab a No. 1 seed. Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Kentucky are trying to improve their Sunday seedings. Mississippi, Mississippi State and Alabama may need at least a couple of wins apiece to boost at-large aspirations.
Where/when: Las Cruces, Thursday-Friday
The stakes: Nevada is playing for a better tournament seed, and a No. 4 could be the prize via a victory Saturday night in Las Cruces. No one else gets into the NCAA Tournament without cutting down nets at NMSU Saturday night.
Frankhoops.com Project Top 16 NCAA Tournament seeds
(pre-Monday night action)
No. 1: UCLA, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio State
Frank Says: Based on Florida, UNC and Ohio State each winning conference tournaments and the Bruins getting to at least the semifinals of the Pac-10 tourney. If UCLA wins out, it will be the No. 1 overall seed.
No. 2: Kansas, Wisconsin, Texas A&M and Georgetown
Frank Says: The Jayhawks seem to have the best opportunity to sneak into the Top Four, assuming they win the Big 12 tourney, even if the aforementioned first four teams take care of business. The Badgers would probably get a nod over Ohio State if they beat the Buckeyes for a second time in the Big Ten tourney final. A&M (Big 12) and Georgetown (Big East) conference tournament titles probably wouldn't be enough for No. 1 slots unless disaster strikes a handful of teams currently in front of them.
No. 3: Maryland, Washington State, Memphis and Texas
Frank Says: The team with the best opportunity to climb into the second line of seeds is Texas, courtesy a Big 12 Conference title. Cruising through Conference USA competition once again might not be enough to elevate the Tigers.
No. 4: Pittsburgh, Louisville, Tennessee and Southern Illinois
Frank Says: The Panthers appeared a solid No. 2 seed not so very long ago – three losses over the past six games, to be exact. Louisville (six in a row and 10 of 12) is sizzling. Could get the Cardinals get a 3 if they win three games in Madison Square Garden? Absolutely. The Volunteers could get a 4 if they at least get to the SEC semifinals (where Florida likely awaits, in a not very pleasant mood after losing to Tennessee in Knoxville last week). A 3 seemed a possibility for the Salukis. At least it did prior to their fairly convincing loss to Creighton in the MVC final Sunday in St. Louis.
Inducted into the USBWA Hall of
Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is
also a columnist for the