Selection Sunday might not be upon us just yet, but the drama and anticipation about what's to come this March in college basketball most certainly is.
The various conference tournaments have provided plenty of talking points and highlights, but all eyes will be now firmly fixed on what is to come in the NCAA Tournament, with the opening round itself bound to provide plenty more highlights and talking points.
Every contender will be hoping for a relatively easy matchup in the opening round, with several sleeper teams making for real dark horses in the competition this year. No team wants to face a tough matchup in the opening round—making these teams very big threats to the top teams in 2013.
Read on to see some dark-horse teams to avoid early this year.
After finishing the regular season 10-6 in its conference, UNLV quickly went about proving itself as a legitimate postseason contender.
With a strong run that saw it go all the way to the Mountain West Conference title game—going down to No. 15 seed New Mexico—it did just that, and showed it's more than just another also-ran in the Mountain West this year.
The Runnin' Rebels have a great defense that could be a very tough matchup for top teams looking to cruise through the opening rounds.
If UNLV can get consistent production out of their big guys on the offensive end as well, expect it to be a real danger to any opponent in 2013.
Going down to Virgina Commonwealth in the Atlantic 10 semifinals, Massachusetts showed it has the talent to be a serious competitor in the postseason this year.
It emerged from a tough conference with some big wins under its belt, and with confidence and self-belief, it could well challenge any top team later this month.
Its transition down the court can be one of the best in the country and could be a very dangerous weapon for opponents to watch out for in the NCAA Tournament. If the Minutemen can keep their offense rolling like they've done so well this year and force their opponents to make their shots, they could well cause an upset or two this year.
It might seem hard to count a team that finished its conference at 12-4 as a dark horse, but the Golden Eagles still continue to be under-appreciated and therefore qualify for lists like these.
They showed in the Conference USA title game against the No. 20 seed Memphis that they have an explosive offense (both inside and from deep) and can play like a top team when required. They're also very strong on defense and continue to force their opponents into making mistakes going forward.
This, for a top team in the postseason, could be a real problem.
Providing they make it to the tournament, look for the Golden Eagles to be a real challenger to the top teams in the country—especially if they can continue to make their shots from seemingly anywhere on the court and keep the pressure high on defense as well.
They could be a real danger team in 2013.
Which dark-horse teams need avoiding in the first round this year?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre