It took an extra day to get here this year, but March has finally arrived.

Now all we have to do is make it through 1 more week of the regular season before tournament time is upon us and we can start filling out brackets.

It’s customary at this time of year to go out on a limb and make bold predictions about what will happen once the madness begins.

Never mind that the “Dominant mascot theory” is usually about as accurate in picking winners as actual knowledge of matchups, statistics, trends and history. Or that it’s become an even more challenging pursuit than ever this year because of the parity that exists throughout college basketball.

It’s March and anything is possible.

So here goes:

10. Michigan State will be seeded much higher than it should be

Think Alabama and the football committee. Tom Izzo and the Spartans move the needle. They have history and a name. But they’re hovering around .500 in the Big Ten this year and have lost 3 straight, 2 of which were at home. Put them in the ACC at 17-11 and Lunardi has them as one of the first 4 teams out. Fans can track all the odds and trends for tournament season via Tradition’s Ohio online sportsbooks.

9. The committee will put North Carolina and Arizona in the same region

Yes, I know they say that they seed and place teams based on a bell curve and the metrics. But history tells us that the committee can’t resist setting up interesting matchups. And a potential Sweet 16 or Elite 8 showdown between the Tar Heels and Wildcats would definitely draw some attention. Not necessarily because of the teams themselves. But because their star players – RJ Davis for UNC and Caleb Love for Arizona – used to be teammates whose fractured relationship was blamed for the Tar Heels’ chemistry problems a year ago.

8. Grand Canyon will be the mid-major team to watch this year

The Lopes might not get all the way to the Final Four the way Florida Atlantic did last year. But they have all the elements to make a deep run. Especially if they’re a 12 seed. Bryce Drew has built a solid program that has Tournament experience, having been to 2 of the past 3. And with 25 victories already, including a win against San Diego State, this year’s team is well on its way toward surpassing the school record of 27 wins. GCU is deep, experienced and defensive-minded. Three elements that usually lead to success in March.

7. Don’t sleep on Gonzaga

No, this isn’t Mark Few’s best team. It’s not going to win the West Coast Conference (at least the regular season). And it stands a better chance of playing in the First Four than the Final Four. But don’t be so fast to write them off. They’re still Gonzaga and they won 7 straight going into the regular-season finale at St. Mary’s. They’re going to be a tough out no matter where they’re seeded.

6. This is the year Kentucky finally gets out of the 1st weekend

The Wildcats are one of several teams in this year’s bracket with the potential to either get to the Final Four or get sent packing in the 1st round depending on which team shows up. They showed how good they can be by hanging 117 points on Alabama last week and by winning at Auburn prior to that. They hung 111 on Arkansas on Saturday. But they’ve also shown how vulnerable they can be by coughing up a 15-point 2nd half lead against LSU. It’s been 4 years since John Calipari has gotten his team past the Round of 32 and nearly a decade since Kentucky’s most recent Final Four. The law of averages says the Wildcats are due.

5. At least 1 team seeded 8th or lower will get to the Final Four

Hardly going out on a limb here since the past 3 Final Fours have included an 11 seed (UCLA in 2021), a 9 seed (FAU last year) and an 8 (UNC in 2022). But there’s just too much parity around the country for all 4 regions to go chalk. Consider that in the 2 weeks since the committee announced its early top 16 seeds, 13 have suffered at least 1 loss – including 2 of the top 3 (Purdue and UConn). With no dominant teams in the bracket, this is shaping up to be the most wide-open tournament in recent memory.

4. The ACC will have more Sweet 16 teams than the Big Ten and Mountain West combined

Time for another history lesson. Despite getting fewer bids than any of the other power conferences, the ACC has had a higher percentage of teams advancing to the Sweet 16 and beyond over the past few years. And that trend will continue, with UNC, Duke and Clemson getting to the 2nd weekend. You can hype a conference all you like. And believe me, folks like Joe Lunardi, Gary Parrish, Jon Rothstein and others in the national media have been doing more than their share of that this season. While at the same time severely undervaluing the ACC. But talk – and metrics – don’t help once the teams get out on the court and start playing.

3. Purdue won’t be a 1st-round casualty this year. But the Boilermakers still won’t get past the Sweet 16

No team, with the possible exception of Virginia, will be under more pressure in its opening-round game than Purdue. Despite having the best player in the country in Zach Edey and being a top-3 seed, the Boilermakers have flamed out spectacularly in each of the past 3 tournaments. Twice they lost in the 1st round and the 1 time they didn’t, they were beaten by 15th-seeded St. Peter’s in the Sweet 16. This year’s team is constructed similarly to the past 3. That means its talented enough to win the national championship. But do the Boilermakers have what it takes between the ears?

2. UConn won’t repeat as national champions

This isn’t a knock against Dan Hurley and his defending national champion Huskies. They’re among the nation’s elite and could potentially enter the Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. But winning 6 straight games in the NCAA Tournament is hard enough to do once. Especially given the previously mentioned parity around the country. But it’s an even more difficult task to do it twice in a row. There hasn’t been a repeat champion since Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators went back-to-back in 2006-07.

1. Houston will cut down the nets in Glendale

A popular narrative after the top-seeded Cougars were upset by Miami in the Sweet 16 last year was that they weren’t “power conference tested.” Never mind that 2 of their best players, Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead were slowed by injuries. But now, neither excuse holds water. Houston has moved from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12, where they’ve been just as successful. They’re No. 1 nationally in defensive efficiency in the best conference in college basketball, at least according to the metrics. They’re also in the top 20 in offensive efficiency. More important, Shead is healthy and Baylor transfer LJ Cryer has more than adequately replaced Sasser. Kelvin Sampson has waited a long time to win a national title. This is the year it finally happens.