With March Madness now a little over two weeks away, the first conference tournaments are beginning to tip-off around the country.
While tournaments for schools like Baylor and Texas in high-major conferences don't start until late next week, somewhere in the US the next VCU or Butler has begun their journey to the national spotlight.
Not only does "Cinderella" exist in the mid-major and low-major tournaments, but as the weekend begins, she is fighting for her life.
Most of the 31 Division I conferences are "one-bid" leagues; if a team, even if it dominates the entire regular season, doesn't come out on top in a one-game elimination winner-takes-all conference tournament, they aren't going dancing. They'll be luck to receive an NIT bid or one from the even less prestigious post-season events, like the CBI, that have sprung up in the last few years.
That's the situation for the three area schools -- UNT (Sun Belt), TCU (Mountain West) and SMU (Conference USA) -- who begin their conference tournaments in the next week. Their basketball programs, without much of a national reputation, are fighting for their chance in the spotlight.
None are favorites to come out of the next week with their ticket punched, but they'll get their chance. That is, after all, why they play (and we follow) the game.