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COLUMN: These teams are on fraud watch in NCAA Tournament

The March Madness tournament kicks off this week, and there are some teams to not choose for your brackets. – Photo by @wagner_mbb , @cbssportscbb , @wagnerathletics / Instagram

It is that time of year for all basketball fans when the best college teams across the country compete for a chance to win the 2024 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament title.

A long-awaited March Madness tournament bracket is released by the selection committee on Selection Sunday, followed by four weeks of high-paced competition and thrilling last-second buzzer-beaters.

Although most teams in the field have performed well in their conference tournaments and their overall season, some teams have picked up more quality wins than others.

Certain teams maintain a good record over the regular season, but it's not as impressive with context.

Vermont won the America East Conference championships, is currently riding a 10-game win streak and qualified as a No. 13 seed in the national tournament. The main reason the Catamounts (28-6, 15-1) were able to build such a winning streak is that they have faced the same competition over and over again for the past month and a half in their conference.

Vermont now faces a step up in competition, taking on Duke. Although the Blue Devils (24-8, 15-5) do not hold a better record than the Catamounts, they came in second out of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The ACC has eleven teams with a positive overall record, with nine of these squads earning at least 10 wins in the conference.

You can't blame Vermont for playing a cupcake schedule, but now it has been given a true test. Analysts give the Catamounts just more than a 10 percent chance of winning.

This theme reigns true for many of the lower-seeded teams in the tournament, who may be considered trendy upset picks in round one, but expectations should be tailored considering these teams' conference competition. Grand Canyon University, Mcneese State and James Madison are some other teams that fall into this category.

But sometimes, qualifying for March Madness out of a better conference doesn't mean the team is safe from being exposed as fraudulent.

Washington State qualified out of the Pac-12 shark tank as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Despite falling to Colorado in the third round of the Pac-12 Tournament, the Cougars (24-9, 14-6) qualified for a higher national seed than the No. 10-seeded Buffaloes (24-10, 13-7) and No. 11-seeded Oregon, which won the conference championship.

Washington State had the second-best regular season record, but only by a slight margin compared to Colorado and the Ducks (23-11, 12-8).

Drake, the Cougars' opponent this week, won the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championships and was selected as the No. 10 seed in the national tournament. While the MVC is seen as another mid-level conference, it produced some solid competition.

Four teams in the MVC have at least 20 wins on their record, with six teams maintaining both a positive conference and overall record. Additionally, the Bulldogs (28-6, 16-4) had to beat Indiana State in the MVC championship to qualify for March Madness. Not to say Drake is a sure lock, but Washington State has no reason to be seeded so highly. The Cougars are 3-3 in their last six games, with all three losses coming against teams with lower records within their conference.

Unlike the Catamounts, the Bulldogs have momentum and can beat pretty good teams to carry that winning streak.

But the charm of March Madness is that every team I criticized above can prove me wrong and make a deep run. Last year, FDU came in as a 16th seed and stunned No. 1-seeded Purdue. Princeton came in as a 15th seed and sent No. 2 seed Arizona and No. 7 seed Missouri early invitations to Cancun. Every year, a lower-seed team progresses far into the tournament due to a fairytale run.

A lot of these teams have questions to answer going forward, but the lackluster regular season record, lack of elite competition and lack of momentum might not even matter in March Madness, making the tournament one of the most exciting spectacles of the year.

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