2022 March Madness Preview

Kansas Keeps Winning, Trojans ‘Dangerous, Can LA Teams Survive?

This past Sunday was a big day for college basketball fans, as 68 teams around the country were selected to compete in the NCAA’s annual March Madness tournament. The first round of the tournament begins on Thursday, March 17, and regardless of what team you support, there’s bound to be lots of exciting basketball games. Here’s a brief look at some of the top teams looking to bring home a national championship.

 First up is the Gonzaga Bulldogs, the overall number one seed in the tournament, who are predicted by most to win it all. Led by star players Chet Holmgren (18 points per game) and Drew Timme (14 points, 10 rebounds per game), the Bulldogs have only lost three times the entire season. Additionally, they are coached by one of the sport’s esteemed coaches, Mark Few, who has helped his team reach the national title game in two of the past four NCAA tournaments.

 Going into the 2021-22 college basketball season, the Arizona Wildcats were hardly ranked inside the top 25. Now they’re ranked second in the country (only behind Gonzaga), and are on a roll to make a deep March run. Coming off of a convincing Pac-12 Tournament championship, coach Tommy Lloyd and sophomore sensation Bennedict Mathurin are looking to build off recent momentum and show that they belong as a top seed. Part of the reason why the Wildcats are so tough to beat is their size; they have nearly four players over seven feet tall, most notably Azuolas Tubelis and Christian Koloko.

 Last year, the Baylor Bears won the national championship. This year, they are ranked high once again, looking to defend their title. Despite losing a few of last season’s top players and recent injuries, the Bears have battled adversity well and shown just how deep they are. Baylor’s defensive prowess and ability to force turnovers is impressive. Even if their offensive game is off – currently led by junior Adam Flagler (almost 14 points per game) – their defense will surely make up for it.

 The last team rounding out the top four is the Kansas Jayhawks. With multiple NBA prospects, such as Ochai Agbaji (20 points per game) and Christian Braun (15 points per game), the Jayhawks certainly have the talent to make a solid tournament run. Kansas’ Bill Self is one of the most experienced coaches in college basketball, and his experience of winning a national championship and going far in the tournament have helped this team build a winning identity over the years. Don’t be surprised if Kansas keeps winning over the next few weeks.

 In addition to the top seeds, two local teams from Los Angeles are looking to have tournament success; however, they both face very challenging roads to a championship. The USC Trojans are an incredibly skilled team, built around junior Isaiah Mobley (14 points, 9 rebounds per game). Convincing wins over UCLA (ranked top 15 in the nation), San Diego State, Oregon, and Colorado have solidified the Trojans as a scary team to face in the postseason. If they can beat Miami on Friday, they’ll advance to likely play Auburn for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. If the Trojans can continue to dominate inside the paint and create open threes around the perimeter for senior Drew Peterson, they’ll be dangerous in the tournament.

 The second local team is the UCLA Bruins. Coming off an improbable and unexpected Final Four run last season, the Bruins are in prime position to shock the world once again. Every player from their 2021 team has returned, most notably juniors Johnny Juzang, Jamie Jaquez Jr, and Tyger Campbell, who average 16, 14, and 12 points per game respectively. Coach Mick Cronin has instilled a defensive-minded culture at UCLA, which has clearly been effective so far. If the Bruins can keep creating stops defensively and make outside shots consistently, they’ll be poised for another March run. However, the Bruins were placed in what’s considered to be the hardest region of the tournament, grouped with high ranking teams including Baylor, Purdue, and Kentucky. Let’s hope our two Los Angeles teams can survive the initial rounds of this year’s challenging NCAA tournament.

 Finally, here’s a breakdown of some of the sleeper teams in the field, and matchups that are primed for an upset:

 8 seed Boise State vs 9 seed Memphis – The Memphis Tigers have had all the momentum as of late, beating Houston twice (ranked top 10 in the country at the time). Though turnovers are a problem for this Memphis team, look for them to beat Boise State off of their deep rotation and elite scoring.

 7 seed Michigan State vs 10 seed Davidson – This matchup features two very skilled teams. As far as pure athleticism and talent goes, Michigan State easily dominates; however, this Davidson team is resilient–they play as a team and are calm under pressure. Their style of play may help to control and stop MSU’s fast pace, and help the Davidson Wildcats pull off an upset.

 6 seed Texas vs 11 seed Virginia Tech – Coming off an incredible ACC Tournament championship (knocking off top ranked Duke in the final), the Virginia State Hokies are at the top of their game, and gaining chemistry and confidence rapidly. After beating solid teams such as Duke, North Carolina, and Miami, the Hokies are more than prepared to face Texas as an underdog.

 7 seed Murray State vs 10 seed San Francisco – This is a 50/50 game, as either team could win this matchup. Murray State is on a 20 game win streak, and has been impressive facing lower competition throughout the season, but San Francisco has the talent to knock them off early in the tournament. SF’s perimeter defense is elite, and as long as they build a sizable lead early and aren’t forced into a late-game free throw situation, they can definitely win.

 4 seed Illinois vs 13 seed Chattanooga – While this is probably the most unlikely underdog win, the Southern Conference champs are looking to pull off an upset against the high-ranked Illinois. As long as leading scorer Malachi Smith (20 points per game) has a solid game, Chattanooga has the potential to keep the game close, and possibly steal it towards the end.

 6 seed Colorado State vs 11 seed Michigan – The Michigan Wolverines didn’t have a great resume heading into the tournament, but fortunately for them, they managed to get in and secure the perfect matchup. The Colorado State Rams are one of the more over ranked teams in the tournament, as their early season hype secured them a top six seed. Even with an off year, and playing as bad as they have as of late, the Wolverines have a chance to win (as long as they limit their turnovers and fouls against the solid defense and free throw shooting of the Rams).

 7 seed Ohio State vs 10 seed Loyola Chicago – Many people remember the Loyola Chicago Ramblers’ incredible Final Four run in 2018, as well as their Sweet Sixteen birth last year. With high level defense and averaging nearly 75 points per game as a team, they definitely have the right squad to do it again. The Ramblers’ plan for an upset is possible if they limit Ohio State star EJ Liddell, and if they don’t let the Buckeyes build momentum early.

 This rounds out the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament preview! This year’s tournament will definitely have many exciting and shocking moments. Make sure to stay tuned for a recap of the games!