The NCAA Tournament selection committee is meeting in Indianapolis this week to determine the top 16 seeds that will be announced on Saturday.
They will have their work cut out for them, trying to sort through a season of parity that's seen 16 losses by top-10 teams in the past two weeks alone.
And this is the smaller step in the process. A month from now, the committee must determine the 36 at-large bids and seeding for all 68 teams in the bracket.
There are about 1,350 games still to be played before then, so a lot can and probably will change before Selection Sunday on March 12.
''We're looking at a tremendous number of teams and the difference between the top teams and bubble teams is really thin,'' Bruce Rasmussen, the committee's vice chair, said Wednesday. ''So we have to slice each of those resumes very thinly and take a look at a number of things. It is going to be an extremely difficult process for the committee this year because of the parity.''
College basketball has become a sport of parity, the seasons rarely winding down with a clear-cut favorite to win it all.
This season has been even more unpredictable, with top teams dominating one night, taking inexplicable losses the next.
Last week was a prime example.
Six top-10 teams lost in one day, with all three from the Big 12 losing at home to unranked opponents. Kansas, No. 3 at the time, had its 51-game home winning streak - then the nation's longest - end with a loss to unranked Iowa State.
No. 5 Arizona rode into Oregon on a 15-game winning streak, only to be sent back to the desert humbled by a 27-point loss to the then-10th-ranked Ducks.
Kentucky lost three of four, an almost-unprecedented run under coach John Calipari that sent the Wildcats tumbling down the AP Top 25 to No. 15.
In the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State pummeled Illinois State by 41 after losing to the Redbirds by 14 earlier this season.
''As usual, it's been a fun season with a lot of story lines and it's setting up for another great tournament,'' said Rasmussen, Creighton's athletic director. ''The positive statistical trends we saw last year have held up this season. There is a great mix of teams from all over the country that have a shot to get to Phoenix for the Final Four, and as Saturday proved with a record-tying six top teams losing, you never know what you're going to get with college basketball. That's what makes it so much fun.''
But with that parity come difficult decisions about which teams to include in the NCAA Tournament and where to seed them.
The selection committee has to weigh a vast number of factors in the process, including injuries, absences and additions to teams.
Several teams have lost key players to injuries, including Xavier and Creighton, which both had their point guards go down with knee injuries.
Duke played a month without coach Mike Krzyzewski and struggled at times before his return.
No. 4 Louisville lost to No. 12 Virginia this week, but was without its second- and third-leading scorers due to suspensions for missing curfew.
''Certainly injuries, suspensions, absences of coaches, transfers, new eligibility, all those items are discussed, but we can't predict whether a team would have won or lost with a full complement of players,'' Rasmussen said. ''''It's a discussion point that we have and it's looked at on a case by case basis.''
It's a lot of work and the first tangible evidence of it comes with Saturday's seedings show.
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