March Madness Predictions
March Madness Bracket Predictions
The 2022 March Madness tournament is right around the corner. Who doesn’t love a good set of bracket predictions? Of course, not everyone can be a “Joey Brackets” (Joe Lunardi) of the tournament. An estimated 40 million Americans fill out a bracket of their own each year for March Madness. If you feel like you slept through the long college basketball regular season, it is your time to wake up and smell the March Madness Roses.
After taking 2020 off due to COVID-19 and having a somewhat subdued 2021 version of the tournament in the Indianapolis bubble, March Madness is back, madder than ever. Teams are back to traveling across this great country, playing mid-major foes, and hitting a few buzzer-beaters along the way. The 2021 tournament seemed to favor the higher seeds with the lack of travel and more “normal” game circumstances. By that, I mean that the tournament favored the well-prepared, talented teams. The overall winner in Baylor had some of the best talent we have seen in college basketball in a long time. This year, this may not be the case. All seeds are forced to travel to unfamiliar atmospheres, with varying levels of expectations. All that needs to be said is that this year will be unlike any other March, let the Madness begin.
Even as the shift seems to be evident to the naked eye, the Big Ten remains the big winner in terms of teams in the tourney. It is clear to almost any analyst that the SEC has the most talent, at least NBA talent. None-the-less, the Big Ten boasts 9 teams, that is 3 more than any other conference. The Big 12, along with the Big East and the SEC each have 6 teams in the tournament. The Big 12 offers lasts years champ, the Baylor Bears, another opportunity to make a deep run as the 1 seed in the East. At the end of the day, seeds are just a number and the men out there playing basketball are there to win, regardless of the number behind their name.
With the buzz of the tournament among us, here is a preview of the 1-3 seeds from each region
Texas Tech Red Raiders (West): It is easy in the tournament to look ahead in the bracket and forget to look at your first opponent. Not that this is going to be a sure upset, but it screams suspicious. If, and that is a pretty big if, the red raiders are able to survive the round of 64, they will likely have to play an underrated Alabama Team, a NBA caliber Duke team, then the number 1 overall seed in Gonzaga. Kudos if they make it out of the first round but don’t expect a deep run and blame it on the seeding.
Purdue Boilermakers (East): The Boilermakers are poised to make a big run, representing the Big Ten as runner’s up in the tournament. Coach Matt Painter is one of the most underrated coaches in all of college basketball. He takes a complex style of basketball and shapes it perfectly to his players specialties. They dropped 2 of their last three regular season games, just to reach the finals of the Big 10 tournament. It is clear that this team is ready for the big stage and there is nothing more I would trust in March than a great coached team with talent.
Tennessee Volunteers (South): Unfortunately for the Volunteers, the big story seems to be the snub of the 2 seed in the tournament. They finished the year with as the 5 seed overall, yet somehow the committee felt they deserved much lower, even thought they upset the SEC with a tournament win. Regardless, Tennessee still has one of the easier routes to the Final Four. If you believe that Loyola Chicago can pull another couple miracle games, these two teams may be on a sweet sixteen crash course. Look for a high talent, good coached SEC team to make a solid run.
Wisconsin Badgers (Midwest): Johnny Davis…End of story. If for some reason you do not yet know the name, get familiar because when healthy, he is an absolute nightmare for the other team. He is a true scoring guard, something that can carry a team deep into a tournament. As usual, the Badgers have a mix of returning guys who get a lot of minutes and up and coming starts like Davis. This fact, along with a great coach in Greg Gard is a recipe for success. Look for a deep, deep, DEEP run. Bucky smells of final four, at least.
Duke Blue Devils (West): Coach K has one last chance to make in mark in March, something he has done 5 times in his coaching career and last in 2015. That is, unless he pulls a Tom Brady and keeps coming back for more. Too much, in my opinion, talk is about Coach K and not the player. This team is assembled with pure talent across the roster. Yes, Coach K will have to meet Gonzaga in the Elite Eight, if they make it that far, and to be frank, no one want to play Gonzaga, not even the great Coach K.
Kentucky Wildcats (East): For most teams, the time leading up to their respective conference tournaments and eventually March Madness is spent tweaking things. Apparently, Coach Calipari has been, “tweaking some things” for their upcoming matchup against Saint Peter’s. Kentucky won 4 of their last 5 regular season games but lost to Tennessee in the second round of the SEC tournament. The Wildcats may not be the noisy, scary team as they have been in the past, but don’t sleep on the Wildcats in the somewhat easy East.
Villanova Wildcats (South): The Big East is a fantastic conference that has somewhat taken the backseat for many casual college basketball fans. The conference boasts 6 teams in the tourney, and none should be overlooked less than Villanova. The Wildcats are red hot, winning 10 of their last 11 games, including the Big East Tournament. Jay Wright has his team playing exceptional defense. Sometimes, they go ice cold shooting, but can always rely on their defense and 5th year grad student, Collin Gillespie.
Auburn Tigers (Midwest): Bruce Pearl should be coach of the year, no doubt. Jabari Smith Jr.is just 18 years old and is clearly the best college basketball player in the field. He has Kevin Durant written all over him. Not that he will say he is focused on the NBA quite yet, but he must know scouts will be watching closely to see if he can perform on the biggest stage in college basketball. There are concerns over his age and other teams ability to draw up a pretty simple defensive plan and completely stifle the Auburn offense. Even with there inability to score at times, Auburn has still found a way to win close games. This experience will translate well to the tournament. My bracket included, many have Auburn to win the entire tournament.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (West): As the number 1 overall seed, the Bulldogs need little introduction. This year, they haven’t just been winning games, they have been blowing teams completely off this planet. Yes, Gonzaga’s strength of schedule is 18th overall which is low for the number 1 overall seed. Last year, the only team that could stop them was the Baylor Bears in the Championship. The Bulldogs did lose a questionable game against St. Mary’s late in the season where they managed to score just 21 points in the first half. They did bounce back and beat St. Mary’s in the WCC Tournament. Look for the number one overall seed to make another long run this year.
Baylor Bears (East): The Champs of last year are back and seemed poised for another deep run. This season has not been as clean as they would have hoped but have a great coach in Scott Drew and NBA talent. They have won some big games this year but have also been bounced in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament by an NIT team and got stomped by Kansas in early February. If there was a number one seed you should be weary of, it is likely the bears. They have a hug upside but if they play poorly, they can lose to just about any of the 68 teams.
Arizona Wildcats (South): In the preseason, this team was expected to finish fourth in the Pac-12 and barely make the tournament. Now, they have the second-best odds to win the whole tournament. Coach Tommy Lloyd is a first-year coach with an inexperienced roster. Regardless, he led his team to a 31-3 schedule with an impressive resume. It can be said that the Wildcats have already surpassed expectations this year but they sure don’t look to be taking this tournament lightly, especially their first round matchup against either Bryant or Wright State, two teams that can straight out ball.
Kansas Jayhawks (Midwest): Kansas is just a fantastic basketball program. It seems that every year we are talking about how good this team is. After making somewhat easy work of the Big 12 Tournament, the Jayhawks jumped up to the number 3 overall seed and earned a 1 seed. This team is battled tested, and battle won. They have 12 quad wins, 2 more than any other team. All that means is that this teams beats really good teams. Guess what, this tournament is filled with the best teams in the NCAA. A deep Kansas run is about as sure as it gets in 2022.
2021 March Madness Bracket found at: https://www.ncaa.com/brackets/print/basketball-men/d1/2022?ko_click_id=ko_gpnrk8gt1r5or9fsd
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