Four months after it began, the college basketball regular season concludes Sunday with the unveiling of the brackets.

The NCAA tournament's 68-team field will be revealed at 3 p.m. (CBS), setting off the usual barrage of questions, criticism and controversy.

Let's take a closer look at what to expect from a local, regional and national perspective.

  • Cal's status.

    The nuances of the selection process and three wins over top-50 teams make it difficult to entirely dismiss the Bears' chances of snagging one of the final at-large spots.

    But they have good reason to be pessimistic. The so-called eye test is an important piece of the evaluation process, and in addition to losing four of their past five, the Bears haven't looked like a tournament team in a month.

    The tournament selection committee assigns monitors for each conference. It's difficult to envision the Pac-12 observers providing a favorable review of the Bears.

    Best guess: NIT.

  • Stanford's seed.

    The Cardinal erased any lingering doubt about its at-large qualifications with a resounding Pac-12 quarterfinals victory over Arizona State. The issue now is Stanford's seed, and in that regard higher is not necessarily better.

    As a No. 10 seed, Stanford would be bracketed with the No. 2 in the round of 32. But if the Cardinal is a No. 8 or 9, it would advance to face the No. 1 seed.

    That could be the difference between heading to Milwaukee to face possible No. 2 seed Michigan, a team Stanford almost beat in December, and traveling to Orlando to face presumptive No. 1 Florida.


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  • Pac-12 participants.

    The league is expected to send six teams to the Madness: Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford and Oregon.

    But what it possesses in quantity, the conference lacks in quality. Only Arizona is worthy of a top-four seed.

    The Bruins should land in the No. 6-7 range, with everyone else on the final at-large tier (No. 9-12).

  • WCC on edge.

    The West Coast Conference will send at least one team to the tournament: league champion Gonzaga.

    Brigham Young is on the at-large bubble, with a strong nonconference schedule that includes a win at Stanford but also a slew of bad losses.

    If the Cougars sneak in, the windfall would be significant: Each bid is worth approximately $250,000 this year.

  • Which way for Wichita?

    One of the most hotly debated topics in the weeks leading up to Selection Sunday was whether Wichita State deserved a No. 1 seed.

    Masterfully coached by Gregg Marshall, the Shockers are 34-0 -- the best start to a season since Nevada-Las Vegas in 1991 -- and they look like a title contender.

    At the same time, they play in a weak conference (Missouri Valley) and don't have nearly as many quality wins as teams from the power leagues.

  • The No. 1 issue.

    Two of the No. 1 seeds are locked up (Florida and Arizona), while Wichita State is a heavy favorite to claim the third.

    Where will the committee turn for the fourth No. 1?

    Villanova, Kansas and Michigan are possibilities, and don't count out hard-charging Louisville.

  • Coping with injuries.

    The committee will have to consider the impact of several significant injuries when assigning seeds.

    The highest-profile case involves Kansas center Joel Embiid, one of the nation's top big men. He is expected to miss the first weekend because of a back injury but could return for the Sweet 16. Will the committee seed the Jayhawks as if they were at full strength?

    Colorado is also a tricky situation. The Buffaloes were 14-3 before star guard Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a season-ending knee injury in mid-January. They are 9-8 without him.

  • And finally ...

    Two important reminders about the process:

    1. No team is evaluated in a vacuum; everything is relative.

    For every available at-large berth, as well as seeds 1 through 68, the committee will examine how Team W compares with Teams X, Y and Z based on a bevy of data points.

    The RPI is an important tool, but there are others, including quality wins and strength of schedule.

    2. Conference affiliation is not part of the discussion. A team's record in league play and position in league standings mean nothing.

    For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports.

    Julie Jacobson/associated press
    Anthony Brown and Stanford are a slam-dunk to receive an at-large bid.