The most glorious time of the year is upon us in college basketball as March ramps up with this week with a full slate of power conference tournaments leading into Selection Sunday for the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Several mid-major teams have already secured their spots in the Big Dance, but now the sport's biggest brands are getting in on the action, too, as the bubble picture gets sorted out and the last-minute jockeying for NCAA Tournament seeding takes place.

There are sure to be upsets, dramatic finishes and maybe even a bid thief or two over the next few days. Last season certainly produced its share of surprises as No. 5 seed Iowa won the Big Ten Tournament and No. 7 seed Virginia Tech won the ACC Tournament. No. 8 seed Texas A&M made it all the way to the SEC final before the Aggies lost and missed out on an NCAA Tournament.

Our team of experts already made their championship and "sleeper" picks for each major conference tournament. But for this week's dribble handoff, we're going to dive a little deeper on the underdogs

Here are our picks for favorite sleepers of conference tournament week and the rationale for why they could be positioned to make a run.

Washington State

I think UCLA is winning the Pac-12 Tournament. If not UCLA, then Arizona. But if you're looking for a quality sleeper team playing its best basketball right now, you could do worse than Washington State.

The Cougars enter the Pac-12 Tournament on a six-game winning streak that allowed them to secure the No. 5 seed in the four-day event. Over the past month, Washington State has performed like the third-best team in the Pac-12, and one of the 40 best teams in the country, according to Problem is, the Cougars were only the sixth-best team in the Pac-12 during the first three months of the season, which is why they're not part of the bubble conversation for the NCAA Tournament. Regardless, the recent record, plus all of the data, illustrates how well Washington State closed the regular season. So I'd give Kyle Smith's program at least a puncher's chance to surprise folks this week out in Las Vegas. -- Gary Parrish


Yeah, here's a zag. Arkansas is the 10-seed in the SEC Tournament. That sleeper enough for you? The Hogs have lost three straight, and five of seven, the only wins in that stretch coming against non-NCAA tourney teams in Georgia and Florida. But! Eric Musselman's brought this program to back-to-back Elite Eights. He has a top-10 pick in Nick Smith Jr., who's averaging 21.8 points in his past four games. Ricky Council IV is also good for 20-plus on a given night. Oh, and Anthony Black is a top-five mismatch at point guard and will also be taken in the 2023 NBA Draft lottery. 

The defense is good enough. The SEC Tournament has serious chaotic energy attached to it going into Thursday. Check the SEC bracket. Auburn, then Texas A&M, then maybe Kentucky. Would be tough, but not unthinkable. I rank the Razorbacks among the five biggest wild cards heading into the NCAAs. -- Matt Norlander

Iowa State 

Closing out the regular-season with four losses in five games will throw folks off the scent of this Iowa State team -- and maybe with good reason -- but the Cyclones remain a clear tourney team with weapons across the board equipped to make noise in the Big 12 tournament. They're coming off a stunning road win in comfortable fashion at Baylor and charging up into postseason action with, who else, Baylor on deck first. If they can get past the Bears, they'd likely draw a Kansas team that on paper is a brutal matchup -- KU has a resume worthy of a No. 1 seed -- but ISU nearly beat KU on the road and then blasted them by 15 at home. So the path to a big run isn't impossible at all. As the No. 5 seed in the toughest conference in college basketball I may be bending the term a bit for "sleeper," but almost no one will be picking anyone to win the Big 12 outside of Kansas, Kansas State or maybe Texas or Baylor. That's a mistake, though. This Iowa State team is the real deal with the coaching and talent to advance to the title game even out of a brutal draw. -- Kyle Boone

Mississippi State

Mississippi State is one of the "Last Four In" the projected NCAA Tournament field, according to CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm, which means it has plenty to play for this week. The Bulldogs are 8-3 over their last 11 games, and their only losses in that span are by a combined 10 points against Kentucky and on the road against Missouri and Vanderbilt. Over those 11 games, center Tolu Smith is averaging 18.3 points on 62.2% shooting as he's become arguably the league's top big man. Smith earned first-team All-SEC honors and is playing the best basketball of his career at the right time as the Bulldogs have rounded into form under first-year coach Chris Jans.

The Bulldogs are the No. 9 seed for the SEC Tournament and would face a tough quarterfinal matchup with No. 1 seed Alabama if they can get past Florida on Thursday. But they nearly beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 25 when the Crimson Tide had been playing their best basketball of the season. Mississippi State is already 3-0 at neutral sites this season with a solid trio of victories against Akron, Utah and Marquette.

This squad is fierce defensively and has a star in Smith. If the Bulldogs can make some timely perimeter shots, they have the goods required to make a run in Nashville and solidify their place on the right side of the bubble. -- David Cobb