LAS VEGAS — Sin City becomes the western epicenter of March Madness this week with four conference tournaments at various arenas around The Strip.
There will be four automatic bids for the NCAA Tournament on the line and an awful lot of hand wringing for some of the teams that don't win tournament championships.
The Vegas hoops fest started this weekend with the West Coast Conference tournament, where No. 7 Gonzaga is a lock to get into the bracket and Brigham Young is hoping to make a case by knocking off the Zags in the title game.
BYU is in OK NCAA Tournament shape, helped by reaching Tuesday night's WCC final at Orleans Arena, but would love take the guesswork out of it by beating Gonzaga for the second time in two weeks.
The Pac-12, which starts Wednesday at MGM Grand Arena, has several teams hoping to make a case with a few wins in the conference tournament.
No. 5 Arizona is a lock and No. 17 Utah is in good shape.
Oregon (23-8) made a strong case late in the season and is probably a tournament win away from sewing up a bracket spot. UCLA (19-12) and probably will need a couple of wins or even get to the title game. Just getting to the championship game may not be enough for Stanford; the Cardinal (18-12) will likely have to win the tournament to get in.
The Mountain West, which starts Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center, should have four teams in the mix for NCAA Tournament spots.
San Diego State (24-7) has a strong case despite finishing third in conference and No. 25 Boise State (24-7) was the regular-season champion, so should be in decent shape barring an early tournament exit.
Colorado State (26-5) has a weak strength of schedule (119), but a solid RPI of 26 — one ahead of San Diego State — and will likely be in the bracket if it doesn't lose its opening game in the MWC.
And watch out for Wyoming. The Cowboys (22-9) stumbled when leading scorer Larry Nance Jr. missed four games with mononucleosis, but have the type of team that could make a run through to the tournament
The Western Athletic Conference is most likely looking at one bid coming out of Orleans Arena.
New Mexico State (21-10) dominated the conference, winning the title by five games, and is expected to win the tournament. If another team does manage to pull off the upset, the Aggies might be sweating a little on Selection Sunday.
Several teams start important stretches that will determine their NCAA fates on Wednesday.
In the ACC, Miami, Pittsburgh and North Carolina State kick off their bids to get off the bubble in the second round of the conference tournament. The Wolfpack are in good shape with some big-ticket wins on their resume, but the Panthers pretty much need to win the tournament title to get in. The Hurricanes have the most gain without actually winning the tournament; a strong showing could punch their ticket.
The Big 12 has three teams needing strong tournament runs to enhance their chances: Texas, Kansas State and TCU.
The Longhorns boosted their chances and hurt Kansas State's by beating the Wildcats, but could still use a boost into the bracket.
The Horned Frogs need a strong run to have a shot, which would be helped by playing in arguable the nation's toughest conference.
Baylor, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, all hovering near the NCAA bubble, kick off the tournament on Thursday.