Well, the Olympics are over and it’s months until the meaningful NBA and NHL playoffs. Some of you, no doubt, are closely following the initial efforts of new Mariners Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley in Peoria, Arizona. But don’t talk to me about simulated games, Chicago Fan. Talk to me about baseball in the summer.

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March is for college basketball.

You know about March Madness—the sudden-death tournament between 65 college basketball teams—right? You even filled out a bracket-thingie last year by choosing the teams with your favorite color schemes and mascots (and won the office pool). But you can make those basketball-filled days in late March more fun by getting emotionally invested now.

Watching sports is about the unscripted drama, and when it comes to college basketball the drama comes by the bucketful. No big contracts or endorsement deals—these are young, amateur athletes competing for glory on the biggest stage their sport has to offer. This is where we first met Carmello Anthony and Dwayne Wade. Who will we fall in love with this year?

What's happening now: The conference tournaments—those determine who automatically goes into the elite field of 65 and influence who will get an at-large bid (i.e., an invitation) from the selection committee. For a team with a weak or so-so record, the conference tournaments are the only chance to make it to the big dance. The next 11 days are critical.

It was a rough year for the Pac-10: the conference tournament is wide open. The first game tips off next Wednesday and the only team that won’t be nervous on Selection Sunday will be the tourney champion. I’m looking for the University of Washington's Quincy Pondexter to take over the tournament and earn a bid to the big bracket.

But there aren't any big front-runners and no gimmie games in the Pac-10 this year. Every game will be a battle and anything could happen. Get excited, Arizona fans.

In the Mountain West, Spokane’s Gonzaga (a former Cinderella team) have their bid to the tournament all locked up. The Bulldogs are projected to be a four- or five-seed, and this now-perennial powerhouse has to deal with the weight of expectations, instead of the love that the nation bestows on our Cinderellas with every win (and the built-in “little guy” excuse for every loss).

The dapper Dior.
  • The dapper Dior.

The West Coast Conference Championship tournament kicked off Friday in Las Vegas, and the Zags have a bye into the second round. Whoever they play on Sunday at 5:30 will be fighting for their season—the Zags will have to stay focused and use the game as a tune-up while knowing the outcome is of little consequence.

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Personally, I will be watching the tourney for Dior Lowhoirn of the San Francisco Dons. Dior is a classic tweener: dynamic in the college game, but lacking the size to play in the NBA. Unless you’re a fan of the Greek basketball league (A1 Ethniki!), this may be your last chance to see Dior.

Don’t miss it.