The dawning of Selection Sunday means one of college basketball's most mysterious NCAA tournaments is around the corner.
This close to the finish line, bracketologists can finally take a breather and wait for the real thing to be introduced. Once the 68-team pool is unleashed, the chaos will hit its zenith as diehard fans and basketball newbies alike look to surmise the most accurate outcomes.
March Madness viewers will be glued to the TV screen once the games tip off Tuesday, but they've probably spent the entire week watching conference tournament play anyway.
So what's another hour to witness the official bracket unfold?
When: Sunday, March 16 at 6 p.m. EST
Don't worry, there are more conference final matchups on the docket to kill the afternoon before diving into the bracket. If that's enough to excite college basketball junkies, let's look at what intrigue lies ahead on the NCAA's judgment day.
What to Watch
Who Earns Final No. 1 Seed?
All but one of the No. 1 seeds are virtual locks heading into the big TV show organizing the Big Dance.
Entering Sunday's SEC final with a 25-game winning streak, the Florida Gators are an easy pick for a top slot and should be considered favorites to win the whole shebang.
Emerging from the feeble Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State will draw its doubters, but how does an undefeated squad not receive VIP treatment?
Despite floundering in a game against UCLA, Arizona accomplished enough during the season to overcome the four-point defeat that knocked the Wildcats out of the Pac-12 tournament.
That leaves one more No. 1, which Villanova likely squandered after falling to Seton Hall in its only Big East tournament game. ESPN's Joe Lunardi projects Michigan as a No. 1 seed as of Sunday morning. Sports Illustrated's Michael Beller and B/R's Kerry Miller agree.
Pardon the lame basketball pun, but the Spartans are still no slam dunk to hammer down a top spot.
Two Top 10 teams in Virginia and Duke will duel for the ACC crown om Sunday afternoon. A boisterous showing from one side could make a statement the selection committee can't ignore.
Kansas would receive more consideration if not for Joel Embiid's untimely back injury. According to The Kansas City Star's Rustin Dodd, head coach Bill Self is not counting on his freshman center to suit up during the tournament's opening rounds.
"Based on that, this weekend is out," Self said in a statement released Monday night. "Next weekend, we feel like is a long shot, but the doctors are hopeful that if Joel works hard in rehab and progresses that it is possible that he could play in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament if our team is fortunate enough to advance."
Whose Bubble Bursts?
There are unfortunately a finite number of invitations, so everyone can't join the party.
There are always a few talented teams that never get the chance and this year's deep crop is sure to exclude some deserving candidates.
Brigham Young is teetering right on the edge, with Lunardi currently forecasting the Cougars to battle Xavier in one of four play-in games. KenPom.com ranks Xavier as No. 42 among college basketball's best squads while BYU ranks 49th.
Kyle Collinsworth's ACL tear will make BYU much more nervous on Selection Sunday. The guard averaged 14.0 points, 8.1 boards and 4.6 assists per game during his sophomore campaign, so ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan believes his absence could deflate the Cougars' stock enough to leave them on the outskirts:
There are plenty of examples of the selection committee considering key injuries and seeding accordingly. But what about selection? Does Collinsworth's injury invalidate the things the committee would have favored about its resume (wins at Stanford and versus Texas on a neutral court, mainly). Does it downgrade BYU from one side of the bubble to the other? We weren't totally sure the Cougars were going to get in in the first place, which makes isolating any given selection variable even trickier. There's no good template here. Anything could happen.
While Minnesota is only 20-13 and 8-10 in conference play, the Golden Gophers have endured a brutal schedule consisting of 10 ranked opponents. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Phoenix have become a bubble darling, but their 24-6 record is a result of weak Horizon League competition.
Tennessee, Missouri, Florida State, Dayton, Saint Joseph's, California and Nebraska will all watch Sunday night's proceedings with eager eyes.
Some will receive the chance to ingrain their collegiate legacies on the national stage. Others will wonder what could have been.
I don't envy the people who have to make these tough calls.