The mayhem leading up to March Madness

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EL CENTRO  —  As this year’s men’s NCAA college basketball regular season comes to an end, 35 of the 68 Division 1 National Tournament automatic bids remain reserved for the Championship Week Conference tournament winners.  

Many dispute the complicated vetting process involved in determining the criteria for which Division I College Basketball squads advance to the Big Dance.

 According to the committee, the general résumé for a post season National Tournament invitation consists of a competitive conference performance during the regular season, wins or close losses over strong out of league opponents, and an over-all impressive body of work.  The only way to control your own destiny is by getting hot and winning your respected conference tournament.   

Each Division I conference conducts a tournament at the end of the season for an automatic bid slot that is so passionately desired due to the previous snubbing of regular season conference champs of the past by lat- blooming potential Cinderellas.

At the conclusion of the last conference tournament championship game, the selection committee penciled in the 35 league playoff champions and began arranging the brackets for the nation’s most prestigious college basketball post-season contest.

During the Selection Sunday broadcast, the 68-team list, seedings, and region sites were unveiled. This year’s tournament East Region #1 slot was awarded to the defending champion Villanova Wildcats while In the West, on the same side of the bracket, the 32-1 Gonzaga Bulldogs took the top seed.

Across the board in the Midwest Region, the Kansas Jayhawks were slated #1 and the North Carolina Tarheels were the last team to earn a #1 positioning.

Aside from the usual powerhouse performers, scrappy mid-major conference representatives are notorious for making deep runs into the Sweet 16.

In 2011, the tournament committee expanded the field by eight teams when they introduced a pre-round that featured two sets of games after Selection Sunday and before the first round with the last four slots of the bracket reserved for the win-in teams.

The extra round trial run in 2011 was a success as the mid-major Virginia Commonwealth University Rams from the Atlantic 10 conference ended up winning the Southwest region and did not stop until they were eventually bounced out in the Final Four.    

Some of this year’s mid-major sleepers include the North Carolina Central Eagles out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, the Big Sky Conference’s University of California Davis Mustangs, and the Southwest Athletic Conference representative, the Texas Southern University Tigers.

The First Four round will last two days beginning on Wednesday. The second round begins March 16 and ends on the March 17 with the next wave of match-ups getting started March 18 and 19.

The Sweet 16 will face off March 23 and 24 to determine the Elite Eight that will go heads-up March 25 and 26.       

The Final Four showdown will take place  April 1, and the Championship game will close out the season April 3.

Sixty-eight teams punched their tickets to potentially dance their way to a National Title. Will it be a top- ranked hotshot or will David take down Goliath? There is still time to fill out your bracket if you haven’t done so.  Players, coaches, alumni, and just flat-out basketball fanatics alike all get to take part in the Madness and watch as the College Basketball drama unfolds.