Grab your pencils, it's almost time

Two weeks from today, you and I will both be slaving over a hot basketball bracket, trying to get a handle on who will win the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Two weeks!
Yep, Selection Sunday is March 15 – and there’s still a lot of basketball to be played between now and then.
There are a few men’s conference tournaments tipping off this week, including the Big South and the Horizon League on Tuesday.
The big boys – and I’ll be charitable and include the SEC in that equation – will play next week.
Quite a few women’s conference tournaments will get started this week, with the SEC tipping off on Thursday.
The best bet for either tourney bracket right now appears to be the Mississippi State women. The last time I checked, the Lady Bulldogs were projected to be one of six SEC teams to make the tourney field.
A little run in North Little Rock this week couldn’t hurt MSU’s cause.
Improbable dream?
The Mississippi State and Ole Miss men both face an improbable task to made the field of 65. Not impossible, though, as Georgia turned the worst-to-first trick last season, winning the league tournament title in Atlanta after a bad regular season.
Of course, that was a weird week, capped by a downtown tornado that chased the final tournament sessions out of the Georgia Dome.
I was about to say that neither the Bulldogs nor the Rebels are as bad as that Georgia team was a year ago, but those ugly losses on Saturday – by 21 to Alabama in Oxford and by 18 to Auburn in Starkville – don’t give me much ammo to work with.
Barring late developments, it looks like the SEC will get four or five NCAA berths. Regular-season champ LSU is in for sure and the computers all love Tennessee with its mighty strength of schedule.
South Carolina is probably safe, but it would be smart to win at least once in at the SEC tourney in Tampa.
That leaves Florida and Kentucky – which just so happen to have a CBS game on Saturday in Gainesville. That may have the feel of an NCAA play-in game, because the loser’s national profile isn’t going to be that good.
Lose that Saturday game, and then stumble in the SEC opener, and either the Gators or Wildcats might miss the big dance.
Pitts’ bits
n In addition to the NCAAs and the NIT, there are plans for two more college men’s tournaments this season. Our Brad Locke has been working on a story about that which should wind up in the paper this week.
n If you missed it, read Brandon Walker’s story in Friday’s Journal about the reaction of football coaches in our area to the reckless homicide charges against a Kentucky coach. The next court date is set for March 20.
John L. Pitts (john.pitts@djournal.com) is sports editor of the Daily Journal and one of the 72 voters in the AP basketball poll. Track his weekly votes at pollstalker.com

John Pitts