It's one of the main tenets of Bracketology: Conferences don't earn NCAA tournament bids, only individual teams do. And while this has become truer than ever on Selection Sunday, the reality is that total bids -- plus tournament wins -- are the way all leagues keep score. This isn't just a reputational issue, but a financial one in determining the distribution of those all-important NCAA revenue units.
So as a public service to multi-bid conferences everywhere, we're going league by league to forecast the shape of this year's tournament (two full months in advance, no less!). With the vast majority of nonconference games already in the books, it's a fairly straightforward exercise.
• Current bracket: 7 bids
• Preseason forecast: 6 bids
• Average bids (last five years): 6.4
• Average wins (last five years): 10.0
• Record versus other multi-bid leagues: 32-27 (.542)
With three teams in the top six of the current S-Curve -- Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State -- the Big Ten is positioned better than any other conference to send multiple teams to the Final Four. It is also well-positioned to exceed its five-year average of 6.4 tournament teams. The X factor is Indiana, which will need to step up in conference play should a current bubble team (for example, Minnesota) falter.
Dark horse: Iowa
A season away: Penn State
2014 forecast: 7