During the first week of college basketball’s regular season, there were a number of newsworthy outcomes to consider come March.
BY MATT DE SARLE
Conventional wisdom would tell you that a resume can be refined over time so that a candidate can mature into the opportunity when the time is right. Well, conventional wisdom doesn’t exist in college basketball.
A resume can gain that decisive bullet point three or fourth months before the opportunity becomes available. Conversely, teams that want to enter March Madness can have a deal-breaking loss in November. (In the job recruitment analogy, this would be the drunken Facebook post from years ago that will keep you from your dream job).
November 2022 is having an impact on the March Madness 2023 selection committee.
Close Upsets in the first week of College Basketball’s Regular Season
The number 14 ranked TCU Horned Frogs were trailing throughout its first game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Golden Lions were ranked to finish 11th best in its own conference, according to preseason SWAC rankings (voted on by coaches and sports information directors). TCU followed that flat performance by only beating Lamar by 12 points (only outscoring them by 2 points in the second half).
Graduate student guard Shaun Doss Jr. is someone no high major team wants to see in a 1 vs. 16 matchup. He is averaging 20 points per game in this early season.
Upset Losses in November that could cost College Basketball Teams Tournament
Oregon was ranked 21st overall headed into the season, before the Ducks were stunned in its second game against UC Irvine. The Anteaters were projected to finish fourth overall in its Big West Conference.
Things could get rocky in the Mountain West come selection Sunday for at-large hopefuls, thanks to this early season loss submitted by the Summit League. The Jackrabbits sprung an upset win on the Boise State Broncos. Both programs have been relevant with success in recent years. However, this season could have been predicted to be a regression for the Jackrabbits. They lost the number fourth overall transfer in the offseason, when Baylor Scheierman took his talents to Omaha to join the Creighton Bluejays. South Dakota should it still has postseason aspirations by beating the defending Mountain West club.
College Basketball Thoroughbreds Galloping Out to a Lead
The Number 3 ranked Houston Cougars have rewarded AP voters for the vote of confidence by crushing the competition in the early going. They beat Northern Colorado and Saint Joseph’s by 47 and 36 points, respectively. Although these teams are borderline Kenpomery top 200 teams, there are plenty of power 5 schools taking on worse competition.
Jamal Mashburn’s son is following in his footsteps, in more ways than one. Jamal Mashburn Jr. has also followed a Pitino coach.
In fact, Mashburn Jr. played for Rick Pitino’s son Richard at both Minnesota and now with New Mexico.
New Mexico basketball has two sons of NBA players in the rotation. Eddie House’s son Jaelen House is another scoring guard on the team.
Here’s another random, 1990s sir name, nostalgic, NBA nugget: Marčiulionis.
Do you remember that name?
The second generation NBA talent discussion has an international flair as the son of Sarunas Marciulionis has been imported from Lithuania to St. Mary’s basketball. Augustus Marciulionis is a 6-4 freshman with the Gaels.
Pete Nance has transferred to UNC to join head coach, and former NBA player, Hubert Davis.
According to IUHoosiers.com, Trayce Jackson-Davis is the “son of for Indiana Pacers standout Dale Davis and Ray and Karla Jackson.”
The Razorbacks deserve to be here if you take into consideration especially its tournament success over the last two years. However, they have lost a lot of talent to graduation and the NBA draft in those two years. Head coach Eric Musselman is becoming the Pete Carrol of college basketball. The years go by but his energy appears ageless and he brings back a secondary of wings who can defend the full playing surface. The Razorbacks lose their first, second and fourth overall scorer from last season including JT Notae’s average of 18.3 points.
This may sound like a surprise but the Creighton Bluejays might actually be underrated at this spot. This is a good looking team with a coach’s dream for a starting five. Point guard Ryan Nembhard is the straw that stirs the drink. You haven’t heard much buzz about the Bluejays because Nembhard missed a majority of last season with injury. However, he plays with the steady confidence and control of his older brother (Andrew Nembhard) who now cracks the rotation as a point guard for the Indiana Pacers.
Creighton touts a 7’1″ center in Ryan Kalkbrenner who has great hands and score in multiple levels. Kalkbrenner can run the floor, shoot the three, and post you up. Sophomores Trey Alexander and Arthur Kaluma contributed to a solid season for Creighton last season and return as dual threats. Head coach Greg McDermott has an opportunity to win the Big East this season with an eye to a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a preseason ranking that actually makes sense.
If you believe Tyger Campbell is one of the nation’s best point guards, you have reason to believe in this team. However, the Bruins lose a collective 32 points per game in scoring from guards Johnny Juzang and Jules Bernard alone This will be a great opportunity for the next swingman waiting in the wings, Jaylen Clark. Clark was a regular rotation player last season and shined with a 25 point year high. Head coach Mike Cronin enters his fourth season as the Bruins head man, so the hard-nosed wrinkle to the UCLA tradition should be firmly in place. One of the newcomers for UCLA this season has matured overseas. Italian Abramo Canka has international experience playing in several leagues. Of course, it wouldn’t be UCLA without a little Hollywood factor to the script. McDonald’s All-American Amari Bailey brings a resume of being a top 5 recruit according to ESPN, but also some TMZ articles about he and his mother’s popularity.
7. Duke Blue Devil’s College Basketball Preview 2022-2023
Duke didn’t just commit to the youth movement in college basketball with one-and-dones, but it doubled down. This went from a program that rarely acquired freshman phenoms for one season to now leading the nation in that category. Duke has 3 of the top 10 ESPN top 100 recruits. That includes number one overall ranked Derek Lively and number two overall recruit Dariq Whitehead. Couple that youthful energy with the dawn of Jon Scheyer’s first year as Duke head coach replacing the legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Duke couples to the two highest ranked freshmen for the 2022-2023 season.
Baylor and Kansas dead-heat for fifth best team in preseason rankings
AP voters totally took the easy way out here and punted on who is better, Baylor or Kansas. Of course, these programs enter the season as the last two national champions. They have battled for the Big 12 crown in heated competition more recently (after KU’s long-standing dominance of the conference). Kansas coach Bill Self will miss the first four games because of a self-imposed suspension by the school, because of NCAA infractions. After this total sharade, the poor guy will have to make his return to the sidelines to coach the Jayhawks in the Bahamas. Both the Jayhawks and the Bears have each lost a professional lineup of stars from their national championship seasons. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, Flo Thamba, LJ Cryer, and Adam Flagler remain from the 2021 Bears national championship team. Ironically, that will probably be more incumbent playing minutes for this 2023 postseason than the 2022 championship Jayhawks will return. The 2022-2023 Kansas Jayhawks most important returning players are likely Dajuan Harris Jr. and Jalen Wilson. Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu is also probably likely to see more minutes in his second season with the Jayhawks. The Baylor Bears win the recruiting race based on rankings. Shooting guard Keyonte George ranks sixth overall in the nation while the Jayhawks highest recruit is fourteenth overall in forward Gradey Dick. Baylor loses Matthew Mayer to the transfer portal but probably gets a more physical replacement at forward in BYU’s Caleb Lohner. KU’s transfer news is headlined by the addition of Kevin McCullar Jr. from within the conference. He averaged 10 points and 4.6 rebounds last season for Texas Tech.
4. Kentucky Wildcats enter season ranked top 5 despite 2022 upset
Saint Peter’s magical run as a 15 seed started with a defeat at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats. Yet, Rick Pitino and the Kentucky Wildcats still enter the 2022-2023 season as a top 5 ranked team. West Virginia transfer Oscar Tschiebwe headlines a talented roster. Tschiebwe was a runner up last year for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award (to Keegan Murray). However, he probably should have won it based on his gaudy numbers and striking similarities to Malone’s game. Pitino is known to moan on Selection Sunday after the SEC hosts its championship game late in the day and his team is punished for a 5 or below seeding in the field. This time, his program is given the benefit of the doubt entering the season with a top 5 ranking. It’s hard to imagine that Pitino would have to prove himself, but this season feels like a “show me” year with it being nine years since Kentucky has made a Final Four.
3. Houston Cougars 2022-2023 College Basketball Preview
True college basketball fans everyone should celebrate the Cougars top 5 ranking. It was earned through hustle, defense, and overcoming adversity. Houston was the walking wounded last year but still managed to put a scare in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Guards Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark were two of the Cougars who missed most of last season. However, their return brings a scoring punch to a program that’s already proven it knows how to defend and earn hustle baskets. Speaking of which, Reggie Chaney returns for a fifth year as a graduate student. The Houston Cougars should have one last swan song in capturing the American Conference crown before leaving for the Big 12 next season. Sasser and Jamal Shead headline the conference’s preseason all-conference first team.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs Reload in Transfer Portal to Prepare for 2022-2023 Season
Drew Timme is back. That continues a legacy of long-tenured Gonzaga stars who commit to Spokane and make a run at a Final Four. And when you think of the Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball history, you don’t often think of transfers coming in and having a major impact. But that tide has changed. Gonzaga is now not only a desirable location for star freshmen like the former Bulldog Jalen Suggs. The university is also now a coveted program to pull into major conferences (as re-alignment goes wild). It’s also a destination for transfers. Chattanooga transfer point guard Malachi Smith will fill the void left by Andrew Nembhard leaving. And LSU big man Efton Reid is going to bring some size at 7 feet to help bolster an otherwise lacking interior. There are nine sophomores on this current Gonzaga Bulldog roster, so it’s hard to predict whether Mark Few’s club can be expected to mature into a #1 seed in this year’s tourney (as has been the standard).
1. UNC Tar Heels enter season ranked #1 overall
The band is back together. North Carolina and coach Hubert Davis made a surprising run in last year’s NCAA Tournament, finishing as the runner-up. Starting guards RJ Davis and Caleb Love return to run-it-back. Even Leaky Black sneaks back into a group that includes Puff Johnson, Armando Bacot, and a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the returning talent. They also add forward Pete Nance, whose game has blossomed at Northwestern despite getting crushed by Big 10 competition in recent years. However, North Carolina’s 2022 regular season featured some head-scratching moments with an absolute lack of defense. Hopefully, this team doesn’t have a hiccup with the momentum they’ve gathered and regress to their mean where they had nine (some very bad) losses in the regular season. UNC barely has a top 50 recruit with 6-1 guard Seth Trimble scratching the list at #46.
If you watch college basketball religiously, you saw a lot of sleeper picks in the 2022 NBA Draft. Here are 5 players to keep an eye on during their NBA career.
5. Blake Wesley, #25 Overall Pick for the San Antonio Spurs
If you’re an NBA fan, you might be curious why San Antonio is shedding so much young talent. They traded Derrick White mid-season. He proved to be a pivotal piece for the Eastern Conference Champion Celtics. Then, the Spurs traded Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks. Murray had become a prime example of how the San Antonio organization continues to draft and develop young talent to reach their potential. They were patient with the thin, raw Murray early in his career and it paid off. Now, the national consensus might be how the Spurs are throwing in the towel. One SB Nation article says the Spurs are setting their “relevancy back years.”
However, if you look at the three first round picks in 2022, you’ll realize that the silver spurs are just re-loading their firearms down in the Alamo.
Blake Wesley is a supremely athletic wing who can contribute minutes immediately to an NBA club. He led Notre Dame to an NCAA Tournament berth last season, taking possessions coast to coast and leading the Fighting Irish to a first round victory over Rutgers. He is listed at 6-4, but easily slices down to lane getting to where he wants. He should develop his three-point-jumper, as every NBA ball player needs to. However, he is a great value as the #25 overall pick.
In fact, the Spurs can benefit from some in-house competition at the swingman position right away. At the 20th pick, the Spurs picked up 6-5 shooting guard Malaki Branham from Ohio State. He showed great flashes of scoring ability late in his short tenure with the Buckeyes. In the top 10, San Antonio also looked to re-kindle the spirit of their former funky Spur, Dennis Rodman, by picking Baylor’s slippery defender/rebounder Jeremy Sochan. NCAA obversers have to give the Spurs draft an A+.
4. Kennedy Chandler, #38 Overall Pick for the Memphis Grizzlies
Ironically, this pick was made by the San Antonio Spurs as well…
Kennedy Chandler was regarded as one of the best incoming freshman for last year’s college basketball season, but he got off to a slow start in SEC conference play. The SEC is tough. And he had a few 5 and 6 turnover games. His backcourt mate Zakai Zeigler out-shined him at teams in the rotation. Still, the point guard progressed to finish by averaging nearly 14 points and 4.7 assists per game in his freshman campaign. Now the Grizzlies get a potential perfect counterpart to Ja Morant in the backcourt. Mike Conley spent years swirling around defenses with his dizzying speed in Memphis. Chandler’s low-to-the ground, solid handle can have the same type of impact. He is not a high-flyer like Morant is (nobody is), but his speed and handles could balance out the offense.
The Memphis Grizzlies also nabbed another high quality value pick late in the second half of the draft. They added VCU’s Vince Williams Jr. Injuries nagged his last season as a Ram, but Williams Jr. is an all-around mature player. He is a 6-7 forward who can handle, assist, and defend.
3. EJ Liddell, #41 Overall Pick for the New Orleans Pelicans
This could actually be the steal of the draft. If the Pelicans actually see Zion Williamson play in the 2022-2023 campaign, New Orleans could have the all-linebacker squad for the NBA. There’d be some serious muscle inside. Liddell is built similarly to Williamson, listed at 6-7 and 243 lbs. However Liddell is probably actually a more skilled basketball player at this juncture. He can operate in the post and around the perimeter. His strong base gives him great positioning around taller players in the post. He has been an impact player for Ohio State since he stepped on campus. The Pelicans keep piecing together a winning roster with winning players. Liddell fits the mold of someone who could thrive in the Bayou.
2. Isaiah Mobley, #49 Overall Pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers
This was a no-brainer for the Cavs, re-uniting Isaiah with his younger brother Evan Mobley in Cleveland. The two played together for a year at USC when they lead the Trojans to the Elite 8. There could be a Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol type of tandem here. Isaiah Mobley would be the more burley of the two. Evan Mobley nearly won the NBA Rookie of the Year with his great touch around the rim and quick spring to the glass. Isaiah Mobley is a super skilled big man. Both brothers have exceptional hands. At 6-10, Isaiah Mobley is one of the best perimeter shooters for his size in the draft. After Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith Jr.’s three point efficiency of 39 and 42 percent respectively, Mobley registered a 36% 3PT percentage in his USC days. Oddly enough, he shot 44% from 3PT during his second year at USC.
The Mobley brothers could be a handful as a high-low option with the Cavs. I am surprised every other NBA franchise let this happen. It’s like when your buddy has a second tier running back that you know he loves in fantasy football. He’s firmly on the record loving that RB. But you let him pick that dude up in your snake draft on his quick second turnaround pick in the 7th round. This could be both marketing and basketball gold for the Cavaliers.
1. Ben Mathurin, #6 Overall Pick for the Indiana Pacers
This honor comes straight out of the college basketball eye test playbook. Bennedict Mathurin was a man amongst boys in so many of the clutch games that Arizona played last year. He chewed up the talented Illinois backcourt for 30 points in a high profile, early season non-conference showdown. In March Madness, he served up a serious facial against TCU to rescue his Wildcats from a hard-fought upset loss. He dropped 30 again in this thrilling overtime win. Mathurin has a little Russell Westbrook in his game. He is simply relentless. However, he has a smooth stroke around the perimeter. Watch the dunk below and pay close attention to the killer instinct demeanor. Mathurin is of Haitian decent and grew up in Montreal. He attended the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City, Mexico. His diverse skills and killer instinct will win him international appeal.
Honorable Mention: Trevor Keels, #42 Overall Pick for the New York Knicks
Keels seeks out contact as he rushes to the rim. He doesn’t have the same ups that Derrick Rose had at his age, but it could be interesting to watch these guys play together. They both have the running back mentality. They share the mentality launching over the goal-line in order to score. Keels got lost at times at Duke with what his role is, whether a facilitator, off-ball shooter, or Alpha male scorer. The Knicks would be wise to assign Keels a role and see it blossom.
Kerr Kriisa was in street clothes to watch Arizona beat UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship after suffering an ankle injury late this season. Ankle injuries are among the most common injuries in basketball, but have varying grades of severity.
By the looks of it, Kerr Kriisa’s severity of a sprain is high and he won’t play this week…
Baylor Guards LJ Cryer and Kendall Brown listed with leg injuries
Kendall Brown played in Baylor’s last game, a loss to TCU, while LJ Cryer did not.
LJ Cryer has been listed as day-to-day for nearly two months, but has only played one game in the past several weeks. Cryer was Baylors leading scorer.
Connecticut Guard Jordan Hawkins Suffers a Concussion mid-March
Freshman guard Jordan Hawkins has provided quality scoring punch and range off the bench for the Huskies, but he was unavailable for their last game in a loss against Villanova.
Houston Veteran Fabian White Jr. Was Questionable with a Back Injury
In a season where the Cougars have seen crippling injuries, its mainstay veteran forward Fabrian White Jr. is battling a new one. However, White Jr. played the most minutes for his Cougars team in an AAC Championship game. Because it’s a back injury, it should be monitored, but for now it looks all good.
Illinois Guard Jacob Grandison Nursing a Shoulder Injury
The graduate transfer can get hot from deep, so this is a secret weapon that the Illini might have to get accustomed to playing without.
A beat reporter covering the Illini tweeted this on Monday:
Memphis Forward Jalen Duran Injures Hand in AAC Semifinal
Jalen Duran looked fine in the AAC Championship game after injuring his hand in the semifinal game. There was one fast break in particular where he sprinted and finished with a forceful dunk, showing no outward signs of pain. Head coach Penny Hardaway updated reporters about Duran’s injury after the semis, saying that it was an unknown diagnosis.
Michigan State Point Guard Tyson Walker Dealing with Ankle Injury
Counter to tradition, Michigan State has actually struggled to find consistent play at point guard since Cassius Winston’s graduation. If the Spartans don’t have Walker in the lineup, that is a serious consideration. He is not only a stable orchestrator of the offense, but he showed his ability to score in bunches this season as well.
Detroit Free Press beat writer Chris Solari reported on Monday that head coach Tom Izzo is making contingency plans to play without Walker in the lineup. Here’s what he said about backup (and sometimes starting) point guard, A.J. Hoggard.
Ohio State Buckeyes Monitoring Zed Key’s Ankle Injury
EJ Liddell is one of the nation’s best post players, but he needs help. Key is a key to the Buckeye’s having enough beef down low.
San Franscisco Forward Yauhen Massalski Sidelined with Knee Injury
Yauhen Massalski was unavailable for the Dons semifinal matchup against Gonzaga in the WCC tournament, and it showed how San Francisco was minus some size against the talented Gonzaga front-line.
Bonus #12: Seton Hall Guard Bryce Aiken Largely Unavailable Late This Season
Point guard Bryce Aiken has been out for weeks, so this would be a huge bonus if he re-emerges.
Honorable Mention: Some teams are still recovering from the sting felt after losing a key player late in the season. Baylor and Creighton would certainly qualify as they’ve lost Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Ryan Nembhard respectively.
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From the long-shots like Longwood to the blue chips like Baylor and Duke, here is your user-friendly guide to get caught up on every NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament team for 2022.
BY MATTY D.
This guide is a work-in-progress on Selection Sunday and the following Monday….
Arizona Wildcats 2022 College Basketball Summary
This is very surprising to say, but Arizona might have the best combo guard in the entire nation. If you are reading before the tournament tips off, the nation is about to meet Benedict Mathurin. He is like watching a Russell Westbrook who is more willing to pass and also capable of hitting an open three pointer. Mathurin plays with great pace as does this entire Wildcats squad. They ran USC out of the gym in a late February matchup on national TV. The irony there was that they looked like “Dunk City” against the former Florida Gulf Coast Coach. At 6-11, Azoulas Tubelis is a nightmare matchup for defenses as he also runs the floor with ease on the fast break. A team that can keep its foot on the gas pedal is very dangerous in March. Tommy Lloyd is a first time coach, but he has spent decades as an assistant at Gonzaga. And so it shouldn’t be shocking to see his team play with this sort of offensive firepower. And, it’s possible this team makes a magical run with a “first time coach” in name only.
Baylor Bears 2022 College Basketball Summary
Baylor has fortified its position as a blue blood this season. No one expected this team to be competing for a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They lost three rotation guards from its national championship team, plus lost powerful power forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua late this year to a season-ending injury. You’d be stupid to write off the Baylor Bears at this point. However, they’ve out-paced expectations about three times over already. After transferring to two different locations, point guard James Akinjo has finally found a comfortable home in Waco. His play this season has sustained their championship potential. I think Baylor’s prospects to make its way back to the Final Four rest on the abilities of Kendall Brown and Matthew Mayer to score the ball. Akinjo has played injured down the stretch. Flo Thamba and Jeremy Sochan have provided stellar backcourt play in aggravating offenses and attacking the defensive glass. Junior Adam Flagler returned for a junior season and provided a stable scoring threat at shooting guard. The X factor for this team might come down to the scoring abilities of Brown and Mayer late in games and late in the tournament.
Bryant Bulldogs 2022 College Basketball Summary
The headline from Bryant’s dominate NEC Championship win against Wagner was all about the brawl that happened among fans in the crowd. It was an embarrassing live TV moment on national TV as it took administrators literally over a half hour to sort out before resuming a blowout with just over 4 minutes left. Still, don’t overlook the fact that Bryant has the nation’s leading scorer. There is a well established tradition in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament where leading scorers find a way to serve the upset (Read 5 more trends that stuck as annual traditions by clicking here). It happened with CJ McCollum and more recently, Max Abmas. Peter Kiss looks like Jimmer Fredette out on the court the way he hops around and scores from all three levels. He doesn’t have the 3-point range that Fredette did, but he can dunk with authority unlike Fredette did. Kiss talks a lot of trash and might just excite a neutral site crowd to cheer for his team. Peter Kiss led the nation in scoring, but still didn’t get voted as his own conference’s player of the year. That’s likely because of his bad sportsmanship when showing up opponents (this was showcased in the ESPN broadcast of the championship game). Bryant has some size and confuses offenses by alternating between man and zone defense. This should be a fun game to watch between Bryant and Wright State because both teams have some exciting elements to their play.
The Titans lost a pair of games to Mountain West Conference teams late in the fall, which is worth looking at as a measuring stick now. They played a clean game against Wyoming, only giving up 8 turnovers. But they jacked up 16 three pointers, only hitting 12 of them. E.J. Anosike is their best player at power forward. He operates well from the mid-range area. The question is who can step up as the number two scorer? In the game against San Diego State, 6-6 senior guard Tray Maddox Jr. led the way with 15 points. However, again Cal State jacked up 22 three pointers, only making 7 of them. Cal State is middle-of-the-pack in offensive and defensive metrics. They bottled up Big West Player of the Year (point guard) Colin Slater, forcing him to turn the ball over 5 times in a loss. The Titans have the athletes to compete, but they are not among the most feared mid-major teams entering the tournament. I think it’s fair to say that a ten point loss to a power conference team is a likely expectation for this team’s ceiling.
Colgate Raiders 2022 College Basketball Summary
Colgate won the Patriot League championship in convincing fashion. They handed Navy a 16 point defeat. Colgate is headlined by a pair of senior guards, Tucker Richardson and Nelly Cummings. They score a combined 27 points per game. 6-10 forward Keegan Records adds 10 points and 6 rebounds per game. The Raiders are a top 100 offense, according to Kenpom.com. But when I watched them, I wasn’t wowed. So I dove into the numbers to help discover why. Kenpom also has them listed as the 203rd ranked adjusted defensive efficiency, which will rank among the worst with tournament teams (Delaware, South Dakota State and Bryant being in the same vicinity). Colgate was dominant in the Patriot League, but that shouldn’t be expected in a top-heavy NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2022.
Gonzaga Bulldogs 2022 College Basketball Summary
Whether fair or unfair, I look through Gonzaga’s team through the lens of “will this be the year that they finally win a championship?”
And sadly, my answer is no for one simple reason. Last year’s Gonzaga team was actually more talented than this 2022 campaign. And that’s why, with even more national champion threats out there, I can’t imagine Gonzaga winning it all. Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert were first round picks in the NBA Draft. Suggs looked like Jason Kidd in a Gonzaga uniform, only he blocked shots too. Losing those players cannot be overlooked. Yes, Chet Homgren is a great prospect and having an outstanding freshman season for the Bulldogs. But he got punked by Paolo Banchero in their early season matchup when the Duke bigs went after Gonzaga in the post (and won the game). That November 26, 2021 game looked and sounded like a National Championship game. Gonzaga point guard Andrew Nembhard was the best point guard on the floor. However, Drew Timme and Chet Homgren were outplayed by Mark Williams, Banchero, and others in the post. Timme had 17 points, but he also struggled with 5 turnovers. Watch highlights of this game and try to make an argument that Gonzaga should be the odds-on favorite right now (which it is) to win a national title. You can’t.
As it was aptly put by Jim Nantz and the CBS Broadcasting crew at Iowa won its surprising Big Ten Championship, this team has a family theme. Coach Fran McCaffery is coaching his two sons. And the Murray brothers are mainstays in the rotation. Keegan Murray is a stretch forward who can play inside out. He is among the nation’s best players. Iowa can be streaky from the three point line, but if they’re hitting, watch out! And while the family theme is the popular narrative of the Big Ten season finale, it’s a point guard who is emerging that’s become the show in my opinion. Tony Perkins started the season logging minutes in the teens or single digits. He’d produce 1, 2, or 3 assists per game. Now, he is averaging 25+ minutes and has dished out 19 assists in the last four games. He is averaging nearly 12 points in those clutch games (wins against Indiana and Purdue in the Big Ten tournament, to name a few). This team lost Luka Garza to graduation and the NBA. And while they didn’t replace him with a core post scorer, they have plenty of quality college basketball players around the paint to pick up the slack. This team earned its way to a 4 or 5 seed, which should result in regional preference. However, it’s worth noting that they’ve played sub top 25 basketball earlier this season. This would quality as a very high ceiling and a low floor type of team. For now, they are Big Ten Champions!
If you are looking for a low seed to get blown out, this might be the bet for you. That’s a fair statement, only because of the historic nature for which Jacksonville made this tournament. Bellarmine won the ASUN tournament, but can’t compete in the NCAA Tournament because of its recent transition from Division II. That leaves Jacksonville State, which didn’t even make the championship game in the ASUN. It is the regular season champion. You hate to see a team make the tournament in this way. You could say the Gamecocks are playing with house money. Or, you could recognize that it enters the NCAA tournament with a NET ranking of 140. That would rank near the very bottom 5 of the tournament qualifiers.
Kansas Jayhawks 2022 College Basketball Summary
The Kansas Jayhawks continue to dominate the Big 12 in historic fashion. Head Coach Bill Self has led the team to the conference regular season title (or at least a share) in the last 16 of 18 seasons. This is incredible. As for the makeup of this team, Arizona State point guard transfer Remi Martin probably didn’t have as successful a season as Allen Fieldhouse fans had hoped to see. With the Sun Devils he flashed some spectacular and exciting play. He’s been a bit muted in his crimson and blue. Conversely, shooting guard Ochai Agbaji has carefully improved his game over the years and is a likely NBA first round talent. Agbaji can and has carried KU to victories by himself. He has “get on my shoulders, teammates” type talent. The Jayhawks have a front line that can certainly compete, but there are no similar premium stars down low. By most accounts, power forward David McCormick has not been consistent enough during his KU career. He can score a double-double, or become a non-factor. His game log is riddled with double-doubles, but when it comes to the high profile games like against Dayton and Texas Tech, he registered 4 points 6 rebounds or 5-and-5 respectively. You wonder if an elite team can focus on shutting down Agbaji in its defensive strategy and find its path to victory.
Kentucky Wildcats 2022 College Basketball Summary
Things were looking great for Kentucky mid-season, but they started getting a little shaky late. The Wildcats messed around with Texas A&M and Vanderbilt late in the season. Then finally, they were exposed in the post by Tennessee. As great as Oscar Tshiebwe has been at power forward this year, and he has been amazing, he cannot do it alone in the post. If you’re new to college basketball, Tshiebwe is a finalist for the Karl Malone power forward award and he looks the part. However, on defense Tennessee and other teams were able to penetrate and get some easy hoops down low against Kentucky. And so UK needs to find more support in the post. TyTy Washington is one of the highly touted NBA prospects on this team, but between injury and a lack of aggression, he has not looked dominant down the strength. Davidson transfer Kellan Grady epitomizes the nice touch of senior leadership that this team has. He races around the wing without the ball looking for an open shot akin to how Reggie Miller and (his fellow Davidson Wildcat Steph Curry) does. The veteran experience is a welcomed change of pace for the historically youthful Coach John Calipari-led teams. However, you shouldn’t expect this team to get embarrassed by a 14 or 15 seed, but you should also not book their plane ticket to the Final Four just yet.
Longwood Lancers 2022 College Basketball Summary
Any observation about the Longwood Lancers has to start with its fantastic point guard, Justin Hill. The sophomore from Houston navigated the Lancers way through the Big South Tournament to a championship. He is strong, smart, can score and probes with the right tempo for the moment. He was really impressive to watch down the stretch and leading to its tournament berth. Defenses can’t let him penetrate to around the free throw line, because Hill will make the right decision in that top of the paint. Like many mid-major teams, Longwood is missing length at the rim. However, 6-4 Virginia Tech transfer Isaiah Wilkins brings the beef. He is a handful at 220 lbs. (on paper), but can stretch the defense to have to guard him behind the line. Longwood ranks within the top 100 teams in the nation with 3 pointers made this season, at 252. A lot of people have never heard of Longwood basketball. Based on what we are watching from this team in early March, that is likely to change soon.
Loyola Chicago Ramblers 2022 College Basketball Summary
This team has one holdover from the Final 4 team and a lot of the same winning qualities. For one, they don’t quit. They were losing by double digits early in their championship game against Drake when they went on a serious run. The run was fueled by tempting the Bulldogs to take bad threes (which they did) and turning those long rebounds into a transition offense. They only commit 12 turnovers a game as a team, which is right outside of the top 100 among the NCAA. However, they show a steady hand and methodical approach under pressure. Forward Aher Uguak has taken his game to a new level. He can score in the traditional post, but also run the floor with the rest of his offense. Loyola should be feared just as the were when former coach (now Oklahoma’s head man) Porter Moser was there.
LSU head coach Will Wade just got fired by the university as a result of NCAA violations discovered as part of an FBI probe. And while federal investigators had the phone lines tapped, LSU Tiger players continue stripping opposing offenses of the ball. In an odd twist, LSU sticks as one of my 5 best long-shot values to make a Final Four in 2022. Click here to read more about how the LSU Tigers stock should be bought at a discount.
Montana State Bobcats 2022 College Basketball Summary
Like many high seeds, Montana State will enter the tournament at an understandable 250-1 to make a Final Four. They got multiple contributions in an impressive Big Sky championship win, but that league hasn’t been as competitive nationally in the last 5 years as compared to the previous 5. The Bobcats’ signature non-conference game this season was a four point loss to Colorado. They also got smoked by the sexy offense of South Dakota State.
Murray State Racers 2022 College Basketball Summary
This team is as scary a mid-major team as they come. Holdovers from the Ja Morant (Sweet 16) team, KJ Williams and Tevin Brown, are just a pair of their very athletic group. Brown set a record for the most threes made in his OVC career. KJ Williams is the OVC’s most valuable player. Williams is listed at 6-10 and 245 pounds. He looks like a Demarcus Cousins with his huge frame, but he was showing off his three point touch in the OVC Tournament. This roster is a great collection of experienced upper class-men and up-and-coming stars. Sophomores Justice Hill, Trae Hannibal, and DJ Burns add a combined 28 points per game. Murray State can play up-tempo, but defend against a grind-them-out type of team. To be true to their brand name, the Racers can run any team out of the gym.
New Mexico Aggies 2022 College Basketball Summary
Watch out for this team! The Aggies have the one ingredient that so many mid-majors starve for, but cannot secure. They have a dynamic scorer who can take over a game. Teddy Allen has had a turbulent NCAA career. It seems like ages ago where he was instant offense as a freshman coming off the West Virginia bench. But now he’s the star of the show in Las Cruces, New Mexico. New Mexico has the other ingredient that so often keeps mid-major teams from advancing: size. The roster is constructed of three players at 6-10 and taller. Redshirt senior Johnny McCants (at 6-7) also brings some toughness down low. Entering the tournament, the Aggies had out-rebounded its opponents this season 1,228 to 999.
Richmond Spiders 2022 College Basketball Summary
You are going to hear countless times about how the Richmond Spiders “stole a bid” from someone. Use your eyes. They actually secured a bid for the Atlantic 10 Conference, which legitimately had six teams deserving of a bid. There was Davidson, St. Bonaventure, St. Louis, Dayton, VCU and then Richmond. All of those teams rank somewhere in the top 30 to top 70 throughout the season in the NET Rankings. And so this story about how Richmond “stole a bid” by winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament should be turned on its head. Luckily, the conference will not be punished for its first through sixth best teams beating up on each other. As for the Spiders themselves, there is a “Big 3” here. Jacob Gilyard has a very accomplished NCAA career. He is taking advantage of the COVID-19 extra year and taking the NCAA’s record for most career steals. As shown in that A10 title game, he can also run and offense and score when necessary. Tyler Burton is a budding pro as a 6-7 small forward. And Grant Golden is a 6-10 center (listed at power forward but he plays the 5 most times) who the offense runs through. This team spaces the floor terrifically, trusts each other, and is battle tested. There are no shortage of role players such as Nathan Cayo and Matt Grace. And Sullivan Kulju might make the NCAA Best Hair list if he keeps this up from the sidelines.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits 2022 College Basketball Summary
The Jackrabbits are a problem. For anyone watching championship week in full, you already know how dangerous this team is. They have one of the nation’s best offenses, which is crazy to think about stemming from the Summit League. Yet, they scored at a 69% field goal percentage in a semifinal game during the championship (watch below). The Jackrabbits knock down threes at an NCAA record pace. They’ve won the most games (28) in program history. This team is under seeded if they are not a 12 or lower.
The Peacocks were a championship result from the MAC after the convincing favorite from that conference, Rick Pitino’s Iona team, got shocked by a 9 seed in the opening round. The Peacocks performed valiantly in their championship game against Monmouth. They got key players into foul trouble, contained a 7-footer in the post, and kept Seton Hall transfer Shaver Reynolds from getting into the zone offensively. Like many high seeds, they will enter the tournament at an understandable 250-1 to make a Final Four.
UAB was on life support multiple times this season. They were all but declared dead in a Conference USA Championship semifinal game. Yet, UAB is here! The Blazers are one of my favorite long-shot odds to make a Final Four. Click here to read why the UAB Blazers are so dangerous and to see the rest of my top 5 future values.
Vermont Catamounts 2022 College Basketball Summary
Watching the American East Championship game on a Saturday morning is a tradition of March Madness. Yet, in 2022 it was fairly non-competitive for the first time in recent memory. Vermont knows what it’s doing on offense. The Catamounts blew out UMBC. They’ve won 17 games in conference, which is an impressive accomplishment;ishment by itself. Senior Ryan Davis might look like an agile version of a left tackle at 250. Yet, he is the American East player of the year. Vermont is top 10 nationwide in assist-to-turnover ratio. They also rank in the top 10 nationwide in limiting their turnovers. Vermont might not win outright in their first round matchup, but they should test the defensive scheme of some major power conference team somewhere.
Villanova Wildcats 2022 College Basketball Summary
Jay Wright’s team has perhaps the best point guard in the tournament. Collin Gillespie does it all on the basketball floor. In this, his final season, Gillespie has had a knack for hitting the dramatic game winner. This Villanova team looks familiar. Its features a 4-guard lineup on the floor for large chunks of the game. They are not deep and they are not especially tall, but you wouldn’t dare say they can’t make a deep run. The players have a lot of tournament experience. Jermaine Samuels, Justin Moore, Caleb Daniels, and Brandon Slater all starred in a Sweet 16 berth last year and a competitive game against eventual champion, Baylor. They do not have a center at 6-10 or above, but center Eric Dixon‘s role has greatly improved over the years. In a February 5th game against a taller frontline in UCONN, Dixon showed out with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Villanova has been the Big East’s best chance at a Final Four team in the last decade or so. Although UCONN and Creighton are playing well down the stretch, Villanova should still be considered the Big East’s highest ceiling team.
The Raiders win the award for most resilient team, up until this point. They stormed back against Oakland and also in the Horizon Championship game, both on national TV. Big man Grant Basile is a problem down low, measuring at 6-9 and 225 lbs. His traditional post play allows some wings to fly around and hit mid-range jumpers. This is the stereotypical team that can agitate a super power. For you bettors out there, don’t ignore a huge spread if the Raiders come out flat in the first half. They have the comeback “bug” right now. However, this isn’t a team I would expect to make a magical Sweet 16 run.
Yale Bulldogs 2022 College Basketball Summary
Yale made it look easy at times against a tired Princeton team in the Ivy League Championship game. Tertiary players like Matthew Cotton are blossoming at the right time for this team. They are getting contributions from almost a full roster. If you remember, Yale was one of the earliest advocates of halting play amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. There are multiple interesting storylines developing from that, including this note according to the Yale Daily News:
“Yale guard Azar Swain ’22 scored a game-high 23 points as the Bulldog defense held Princeton’s strong three-point shooters in check for most of the game. Swain, who took a leave of absence last year to preserve his final season of Ivy League eligibility, was named the Most Outstanding Player of Ivy Madness.”
Cinderella can reside in the Power 5. In 2021, Georgetown surged in unlikely fashion after a horrible regular season. The Hoyas went dancing in March Madness as the Big East Tournament winner. The team had only gone 7-9 in the conference regular season and had an overall record of .500 (13-13).
Similarly, Oregon State went from an expected pre-season bottom feeder in the Pac-12, to The Elite 8.
Here are seven teams that could burst a bubble team’s dreams. It shouldn’t shock anyone who is watching college basketball to see these teams in a conference tournament championship game.
Maryland Terps 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Big Ten Conference
In an era of global turmoil, it’s safe to say that Maryland still had a rocky season. They brought in two highly touted transfers in Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab. However, the Terps season got off to a slow turtle crawl. They lost to in-state non-rival George Mason. And Head Coach Mark Turgeon and the administration, reportedly, agreed to part ways mid-season.
Danny Manning took over as head coach. As you watch the team play, they are slowly rounding into form. A game against Nebraska in mid-February showed off their ceiling. Yes, it’s a lousy Nebraska team, but you saw freshman forward Julian Reese show off his stuff.
The roster is still beefed up with veteran players who have been in plenty of March Madness battles. Eric Ayala and Donta Scott come to mind. It was Danny Manning and the Miracles which made one of college basketball’s most magical runs ever. If some Big Ten teams get complacent during their conference tournament, it could be the Terps that go on a miraculous run.
Florida Atlantic Owls 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Conference USA
By NCAA Tournament standards, Conference USA is a major conference. Just in the last decade, look at what Middle Tennessee and North Texas have done to wreak havoc on the bracket. UAB, North Texas and even Louisiana Tech have been on the radar for modest at-large chances this season. However, the Florida Atlantic Owls are staying up late into February with relevant play in its league. In a seven game stretch over January to February, they won 6 of 7 games in conference. That includes the Owls’ dominating win against Louisiana Tech where the Owls shot 52% from the field, 45% from 3 point territory, and led by as many as 20 points.
Like many deep sleepers, this team features some sizable international talent. Its front-court features size and versatility with players from Kosovo, Russia, Senegal and Kongo all contributing.
Arizona State Sun Devils 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Pac 12 Conference
This one is simple. You cannot watch the Arizona State Sun Devils inspired play against Final 4 favorite UCLA and not be inspired to think they can go on a magical run. After an era of Arizona State pumping guards into the NBA, its powerful forwards forced the action against UCLA late. They beat the Bruins and the Oregon Ducks in February. They also scored a win against Colorado and were very competitive against an AP Top 5 team in Arizona.
Forwards like Jalen Graham are dropping double digits with regularity late in the season.
Bobby Hurley is one of the sports all-time great point guards. Perhaps he can be the floor general as head coach of the Sun Devils and lead them to a conference crown.
Utah State 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Mountain West Conference
Google the phrase college basketball elder statesman, and Brock Miller’s mug shot might pop up. This team is as aged as the sandy ledge of a mountain boarding the small town of Sandy, Utah. And they can shoot. Sure, big man Neemias Queta moved on to bigger and better things. But there’s still plenty of residue remaining to roll up a run. You could look at their record and say they’re toast. Or, you could look at their record and give props to just how good the Mountain West has been this year. Wyoming, Colorado State, and San Diego State are likely tournament teams regardless of what happens in the Mountain West Tournament. The Aggies are only middle of the pack in terms of college basketball’s best three point shooting team. On February 24th they ranked 159th in the nation with a pedestrian 34% from 3PT. However, that’s not indicative of the shooting stroke you could see from senior leaders Miller and Justin Bean. So why not let loose in Vegas and roll the dice with a bunch of bombs from downtown during Champ Week?
George Mason 2021-2022 Basketball Profile – Atlantic 10
The Atlantic 10 is filled with teams that are capable of “stealing a bid.” In fact, it will likely happen. Davidson has enjoyed a lead atop the league for most of the season. However, they face stiff competition with St. Louis, VCU, Dayton, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, and George Mason, to name a few. George Mason is coached by former Mizzou baller Kim English Jr. They are a bit of a mystery, with a lots of bad losses on their record. However, they have one of the conference’s purest shooters in Colorado transfer D’Shawn Schwartz. 6-9 forward Josh Oduro is having a solid season. He averages 18 points and 7 rebounds on the season. Their wins over St. Bonaventure, Dayton and Richmond should be noted as proof this team could compete for the conference championship.
A white head coach called a timeout in the final seconds to prolong a lop-sided victory, then grabbed an African American head coach by the arm to assert his opinion in the handshake line, but many people in the college basketball universe are calling for Juwan Howard to be suspended.
Why promote Black Lives Matter campaigns during in-game commercials and with warm up apparel on the sidelines, when we can’t seriously take a look at these aggressions (and micro-aggressions) as a society?
Juwan Howard took a swing at a Wisconsin coach after this ugly scene played out. No one would argue that’s a justified act. However, in what universe is it okay for Wisconsin coach Greg Gard to put his hands on Juwan Howard in the first place? Any thoughts about why that’s acceptable can only be explained by white privilege.
Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot. What if Juwan Howard called a timeout in the closing moments to avoid his backup players from temporary embarrassment. As Greg Gard explained in the post-game interview, that’s exactly why he called this unnecessary timeout. He didn’t want his offense committing a 10 second violation while being covered full court by a Michigan man defense. Taking that violation wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the game. It would have instead saved college basketball from this ugly scrum.
What if Howard had done this? Do you think Greg Gard would have stood by like a little school boy, having his arm held for a quick lecture in the handshake line? The timeout needed no explanation. Only someone who feels privileged would be compelled to compound the insult with a lecturing justification.
Even the press release by the Big Ten Conference doesn’t reference the physical contact initiated by Greg Gard. Instead, it says “The Big Ten Conference is aware of a physical altercation involving Michigan Head Coach Juwan Howard…”
Some people are calling for a season-long suspension for Juwan Howard. He did not apologize in his post-game press conference. Few are calling for the aggressor, Greg Gard, to lose his job of even face a multiple game suspension. I think an equal penalty for both coaches would reflect a society that values equality.
The parody of the college basketball landscape in 2022 offers no shortage of long-shots with intriguing values. Many people (including myself) consider 7 or 8 teams that could easily win it all this year. However, none of those teams look like Baylor and Gonzaga did last year. It appeared inevitable those teams would face each other in a 2021 Championship game. Instead, those favorites right now are priced in the 4-1 to 6-1 territory. That’s teams like Gonzaga and Arizona. It would be hard to swallow paying a price in the 7-1 to 18-1 territory for any of these teams without the conviction of seeing them surge the way Gonzaga and Baylor had last season.
And so when the Madness of March begins, those 7 or 8 championship contenders could get upset and the list of possible champions would grow. Below are some of my favorite long-shot value picks to find themselves in the mix. If you’re considering any of these bets, please look at both the Final Four odds in addition to a National Championship ticket. The last thing you want is to have two of the four teams make the Final Four, neither win a national championship, and for you to not cash a ticket.
Read also my favorite 14 picks ATS on Thursday and Friday by clicking here. If you are struggling to moderate your gambling, help is available. Please visit https://www.ncpgambling.org or call 1-800-522-4700 to get help anonymously.
Editor’s Notes: This article has remained intact as-is for over a month. I will stick with my gut here and roll with the teams that I had hand-picked in mid-February. Subtle edits have been made to the start of the summary for each team below.
Updated: Best Longshot Odds to win March Madness 2022
Here are 5 teams that are the best value bets right now for college basketball futures. You could call them sleeper teams, although their likelihood to make the NCAA Tournament at this point is better than them not.
Best Long-shots to win March Madness 2022 by future values
According to FanDuel Sports App, UAB will enter March Madness as a 400-1 underdog to win a national title. The Blazers earned a 12 seed and will play against Houston in the first round.
Here’s what I had written earlier in the season…
These Blazers were trailblazing their way to a regular season conference championship, until they stubbed their toes at Old Dominion on Super Bowl weekend. Its stock sunk some 50-1 points. Still, they make my top 5.
Coached by former Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, the Blazers are as dangerous as they come. Conference USA has continued to play the disruptor role in the NCAA Tournament. And with no shortage of size on this UAB roster, the sky could quite literally be the limit.
On January 22nd the Blazers beat current conference rival LA Tech in their house, securing (for now) an inside track to its conference championship. Jordan “Jelly” Walker scored 37 points in that game. As you know, a sub 6’1″ scorer is a hallmark sign of a dangerous Cinderella program.
UAB’s stock did slip in the following days after being upset by Marshall. This puts the Blazers in jeopardy of not winning its conference regular season. Regardless, Conference USA will likely be a one bid league. Therefore, if you invest in UAB you’ll need them to win their conference tournament.
Assuming it wins its conference tournament, UAB would likely get a 12, 13 or 14 seed. That means they could play an LSU, Texas Tech, or other middle-of-the-pack team from a Power 5 school. UAB has a 7 footer at center in Clemson transfer Trey Jemison, so size won’t intimate them. The Blazers can score the ball, ranking just within the top 50 on Kenpom’s score for efficiency. If you like UAB at 250-1 to win a national title, you’re going to love them at 65-1 to make the Final 4.
After its dramatic game-winning buzzer beater win by Jelly Walker at Western Kentucky, UAB stood as the 41st ranked KenPom team on January 28th. Meantime, they were 37th in the NET rankings. Therefore, a legitimate case can be made for UAB as an at-large bid, even if they don’t win their conference tournament.
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Just click on your pick below…
4. SAN FRANCISCO DONS BASKETBALL FUTURES 250-1
San Francisco drew a 10 seed and will play against a dangerous 7 seed in Murray State. Both of these programs are actually very dangerous in this position. Murray State is an even better value from a high-ceiling perspective. They enter the tournament at 500-1 to win a title according to FanDuel.
Here’s what I had written earlier this season…
There is a clear turning point in San Francisco’s season that has it skipping the line and getting into the middle of the mix as a great long-shot. After taking a large lead in pivotal games in January against Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, San Fran squandered those opportunities to punch their tickets. However, when February came, they blitzed BYU at their house. The Dons came out of halftime and continued pressuring the (weakened) post of BYU. They got out in transition and guarded well in transition. They took the life out of the crowd. It was the opposite of what those games in January looked like, and it could be a turning point for San Francisco to be considered one of America’s most dangerous underdogs.
San Francisco is lead by super senior point guard Jamaree Bouyee. He is one of the top 6-1 and under guards poised to upset some people in March Madness. They also have size down low, which is always a challenge for mid-major teams. San Francisco was available on the DraftKings app at 60-1 to make March Madness on February 3 and it’s unlikely that value will remain for long.
San Francisco stood at 200-1 to win a National Championship (and 80-1 to make the Final Four) on DraftKings on Valentine’s Day. Betters will love them even more if they can win a late February home game against Gonzaga before the tournament begins. They missed an opportunity to beat Gonzaga late in February, but the St. Mary’s Gaels did it on that same California road trip for the Bulldogs. The WCC has the pedigree to pull some upsets in this tournament.
Davidson draws a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament and plays against Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team. That’s bad news for Wildcats fans. However, Michigan State is beatable and so is Duke in the (possible) following round. I am rolling with Davidson at 400-1 here.
Here’s what I had written earlier in the season…
At the end of January, Davidson finally cracked into the AP Top 25 and officially became the most dangerous underdog in America. After the Wildcats went undefeated in its first six conference games with wins at St. Bonaventure and at VCU, they were honestly long overdue for this position. Throw in the fact that they beat Alabama and its Elite 8 pedigree.
The problem with Davidson going into the conference tournament “Champ Week” is that it faces about 5 other teams from the Atlantic 10 that could easily steal a bid. Richmond, VCU, Dayton, St. Louis and St. Bonaventure are all worthy opponents. Most of those teams are borderline tournament teams. Davidson finished February as a projected 11 seed in the tournament. That doesn’t leave much margin for error for Davidson to lose its conference tournament. If that happens, we could be looking at two A10 tournament teams, or a damn good Davidson team in the NIT.
A tempting bet in this direction is to take the Atlantic 10 at around 65-1 to have its team with the NCAA Basketball Tournament. That’s a great value if two teams make the tournament. It’s a lousy bet if only one does.
Michigan State transfer Foster Loyer gets the headlines as people talk about this team, but it’s really an extremely balanced squad. Loyer leads the team in assists. Four players average 12 or more points. Power forward Luka Brajkovic offers great hands and skill down low. The senior from Austria averages 7 rebounds per game. Junior guard Michael Jones showed everyone during a nationally televised game against Richmond that he can light it up. Jones was un-guardable that night as he scored 29 on 8 of 9 from the 3 point line. The Wildcats leading scorer is actually South Korean guard Hyunjung Lee. Lee averages 16 points per game with 6.7 rebounds with it. The stability of this upperclassman roster is anchored by a longtime winner, head coach Bob McKillop.
In his last bracket projection of January, Joe Lunardi had Davidson has a 9 seed. This is the type of mis-seeding that often happens to a mid-major team. This Davidson program probably had no business being a 10 seed with Stephen Curry before it made its magical Elite 8 run.
And while you can debate what Davidson’s seed would be, it’s not debatable anymore that it’s a tournament team. Therefore, even if you snag Davidson at 150-1 you could hedge it by taking the eventual round one matchup (today projected as BYU as a 125-1 underdog) and have some high ceiling options headed into the field of 32.
USC’s value doubled as the bracket got announced, which means the payout is twice as great. I am doubling down on this team as they play a smaller Miami Hurricanes squad to start their March Madness journey.
Here’s what I wrote earlier this year about the Trojans…
USC defeated Oregon in their place on February 26th to bounce the Ducks from this list and insert themselves onto it.
I will admit to overlooking USC after one of its Mobley brothers (Evan) went to the NBA this season. While Evan Mobley is the likely NBA Rookie of the Year with the Cavaliers, big brother is one of the nation’s best veteran players. The 6-10 big man features great hands, range, rebounding, and the ability to orchestrate the offense from the post. Boogie Ellis is the actual orchestrator at point guard. He transferred from Memphis. Ellis is a streaky shooter who can definitely get hot. Shooting guard Drew Peterson is playing some really confident ball right now. He hit a dagger three to win that Oregon game and also went buck-wild against UCLA in a game that Mobley missed in early February.
USC has a front line of muscular forwards who can outwork people on the offensive glass if defenses aren’t aware. Head coach Andy Enfield has already taken the college basketball world by surprise in his career (see Dunk City). This USC team was in the Elite 8 last year. Many players on the current roster played key roles in a Sweet 16 win against Oregon.
A bet worth looking at is the Pac-12 around 5-1 to have a national champion. Obviously, you’d get a favorite in Arizona, a preseason favorite in UCLA, and throw in a high-upside USC team at that rate. If a surprise team like Arizona State (see our list of possible Cinderellas for Champ Week), Colorado or Stanford win the Pac-12 tournament, you could have 4 or 5 teams for that one cost. Oregon is the unknown as a bubble team.
March Madness is all about unlikely outcomes. What is more unlikely than your coach getting fired for multiple violations stemming from an FBI investigation… and you still advance to the Final Four.
I actually love LSU as they draw Iowa State to start their March Madness journey. They would have to become the first 6 seed in 30 years to make a Final Four, however, if they have a magical run on their mind. Below is what I had written about the Tigers earlier this season…
On February 15, LSU stood at 16th overall in the NCAA Net Rankings, but still had a long-shot odd to win a national title. The Tigers were then 15-1 to reach the Final Four and 80-1 to win a national title. Those numbers don’t reflect how this team is getting healthy at the right time. Coming out of the SEC, which has two legitimate title favorites (unlike any other conference), the Tigers will be eager to devour any other competition aside from their in-conference opponents. Point guard Xavier Pinson has brought a lightning quick dimension to the offense. And this team gets after it on the defensive end unlike most teams. They are consistently top 5 in forced turnovers, defensive efficiency, and outright steals. LSU won’t come back from large deficits with three point prayers, but they might outwork their opponent on the offensive glass to get back into a game. They are mostly young and hungry, with a few key veterans like senior Darius Days. LSU has been flirting with the Elite 8 and Sweet 16 for the past few years, and shouldn’t be overlooked as players like Days and Pinson have returned from injury and are finding a rhythm. LSU plays a marquee matchup against Kentucky in late February. This can serve as a stress test to measure how legit they are. For now, the eye test says they are much better than 80-1 to win it all.
HOST CITIES FOR THE FIRST ROUND OF MARCH MADNESS 2021-2022