Just about nine days from now, college basketball fans will be filling out their brackets, hopeful of winning their office pool or maybe picking a correct Final Four.
Then, just a matter of days after that, those same fans will get out their red markers and start crossing off all those wrong picks.
That is because the 2010 NCAA Tournament is basically up in the air. Unlike many years, there is no truly dominant team. Syracuse makes a bid for it, but we have seen they are capable of losing.
In fact, a lot of the better teams on the college basketball landscape are mid-major schools: New Mexico, Butler, Northern Iowa, and Cornell, just to name a few.
Low conferences like the NEC, WAC, and Big South are primed to bring in high-quality teams. The CAA has so much depth that any one of the top five teams in that conference has a shot at winning a first round game. Butler, Gonzaga, UNLV, BYU, UTEP, and Temple are all some of the best teams in the country.
The WCC could see up to three schools in the dance if anyone besides St. Mary's or Gonzaga wins. The A-10 has six schools still in the bubble mix and will most likely get four or five bids, while both the MAAC and the MAC both have quality teams clustered at the top of their conferences. Heck, even the Ohio Valley sports a 28-game winner.
So why is it that the mid-major conference schools are looking so good? Well, a whole chunk of teams from the Pac-10 aren't going to be a factor, and other conferences like the ACC might not send more than four programs dancing.
The Big East is looking good, but shocking upsets during in-conference play definitely water down teams that otherwise might have had higher seeds. Georgetown is a perfect example.
The SEC has Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee, but the rest of the teams are barely on the bubble. The Big Ten isn't looking so big with the loss of Robbie Hummel by Purdue, and the loss of consistency by all of Michigan State. Of course, Ohio State and Wisconsin are looking sharp.
So why does all this mayhem make the NCAA tournament so great? It may seem early, but when March gets into full swing, there is nothing more fun than upsets. With all of these outstanding mid-major schools, upsets and shockers will be quite frequent.
This might be the first time since George Mason that a mid-major is going to the Final Four. In fact, we might even see two, three, or four mid-majors. As we saw in the Cornell vs. Kansas game, on any given night, a team might just get hot enough to win. That wasn't the case for Cornell, but you get the picture.
So before you fill out your bracket next Sunday, think for a second. Make sure you do your research and know about all the teams. The people that do that might have a shot at picking a decent tournament.