Every year around this time, college basketball's elite teams prepare to make their march on history.
There will be your favorites — Indiana, Duke, Michigan — and some of the usual suspects — Michigan State, Louisville, Florida. There will also be a few whose roles are defined not by who they are, but what they do over the next several weeks.
They're your Bracket Busters.
The one team that can make or break your office pool.
A fairy tale for some, a nightmare for others.
Teams such as Gonzaga and Butler are all too familiar with that storyline. Both teams are notorious for pulling off an amazing upset or two that would put the fear of God into marquee teams such as Duke or Kansas before the clock eventually winds down on their amazing run.
Yet, the glass slipper doesn't quite fit these two programs as of late.
Gonzaga went from underdog to top dog this season, with the program reaching new heights including a No. 1 ranking — a program first. What in the world happened to our favorite Cinderella? Where's that spunky team from Spokane that was college basketball's version of the Bad News Bears? Rocking the long hair and poorly-grown mustaches that would make Adam Morrison proud.
The Zags went from fighting the power to being the power. Instead of being the hunter, the Bulldogs have quickly become the hunted.
"I would be very surprised if Gonzaga did anything else than make a big run in this tournament," said Dan Bonner, CBS Sports college basketball analyst. " . . . I would not be surprised if they won the national championship because one thing they are not is Cinderella."
National champions? The Zags?
The same can be said for Butler, which went from "there's another team in Indiana?" to a two-time national title contender. In fact, the Bulldogs were a half-court heave away from upsetting Duke in the 2010 title game. Even this season with wins over North Carolina, Indiana and even Gonzaga, Butler is far from being an unknown.
"I still think they are a Cinderella," said Doug Gottlieb when asked about the Bulldogs' chances. Gottlieb is a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports and co-host of Lead Off on CBS Sports Network.
With their recent run of success in the tournament, it's hard to really consider Butler much of an underdog.
Then there's VCU.
The Rams may be late to the party, but that hasn't stopped Shaka Smart's club from joining all of the fun. VCU is one year removed from losing in the Elite Eight to who else . . . Butler.
While Gottlieb likes VCU, he points out it will be tough for the team to win four games in a row. However, he had to add: "I guess they proved everyone wrong when they won four games a couple of years ago."
Bonner said VCU's smothering defense and rapid-fire offense could be the secret to its success.
"VCU, with the way they play, they could cause people a lot of problems," he said. "Most of them will be determined by matchups and style of play."
Either way, it shouldn't shock anybody if any one of these teams make some noise in the tournament, especially when you consider the lack of a true dominant team in college basketball. If there is one theme for this basketball season, it's parity.
Maybe then it's a perfect time for an unknown to make its own storybook ending.
I guess if the glass slipper fits . . .
Report: Big East adding three members
The sun may have set on the final Big East tournament as we've known it, but the future of the league continues to be a hot topic of discussion. According to a report in the Indianapolis Star this weekend, Butler will withdraw from the Atlantic 10 and join the members of the Catholic 7 — St. John's, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Marquette, DePaul, Providence and Villanova — in the new Big East Conference. Butler may not be the only defection from the A10 as several media reports have Xavier joining the Bulldogs as well. Creighton is also expected to join the league according to the Omaha World-Herald, bumping up membership to 10 starting in 2013-14.
Injury bug hits USC hard
There's no denying that this is going to be a make or break season for Lane Kiffin at USC. Coming off a disappointing 2012-13, all eyes will be on Kiffin to see how his program can respond. That being said, it's been a difficult spring for the fourth year coach whose team has been bitten by the injury bug. Quarterback Max Wittek and wide receiver Marquise Lee have missed time with injuries and now running back Silas Redd will miss the entire spring after tearing the meniscus in his left knee. Wittek and Lee could be back to practice next week, but it's not the start that Kiffin was hoping for going into 2013.
Mum's the word for Heisman votes
Members of the Heisman Trust reportedly want voters to keep their mouths shut when it comes to who they pick for the Heisman Trophy. In a letter sent from Heisman president William Dockery to voters of college football's coveted award, Dockery voiced his distress that several members violated their "nondisclosure requirement" by revealing their votes prior to the announcement of the winner Dec. 8. According to CBSSports.com, the trust is giving some of those voters until April 4 to commit to hiding their votes or risk losing their voting privileges altogether. According to the report, the letter was sent to approximately 50 of the 928 voters who the trust believes violated the agreement.
Enter our Bracket Buster challenge
Just because its March Madness doesn't mean that we here at the Orlando Sentinel have forgotten about college football. Our selection committee has picked 64 of the best college football players in the history of the state of Florida and have seeded them in our own tournament. Is Deion Sanders the greatest player in Florida? How about Tim Tebow? Starting Monday, go to OrlandoSentinel.com/bracket and enter our Bracket Buster challenge where you can pick your first-round winners. The player with the highest number of votes, moves on to the next round.
On the Web
For more college football news, head over to our blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/collegegridiron or you can like us at Facebook.com/collegegridiron 365 and add me on Google +. Follow us on Twitter at @osmattmurschel and @gridiron365.