The NCAA Men’s Tournament field has officially been set. Now it’s bracket time.
Gonzaga, Kansas, Arizona, and Baylor are the No. 1 seeds. Theoretically, they’re the safest bets to at least make it past the first weekend. But higher seeds have been dropping left and right in recent seasons.
Based on how the selection committee put together this year’s tournament, which regional is poised to see the highest number of those top teams go home early?
The answer is the West regional. And that’s bad news for the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.
The tournament field and regionals are officially set
Regardless of which schools were snubbed, which teams got higher or lower seeds than they deserve, whatever complaints there are (and will be), the field is set.
The top three seeds in the East regional are Baylor, Kentucky, and Purdue. In the midwest, that trio is Kansas, Auburn, and Wisconsin.
In the South regional lies No. 1 Arizona, No. 2 Villanova, and No. 3 Texas Tech.
The last handful of seasons have seen the term “upset” take on new meaning — the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) became the first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed in the tournament’s history when the Retrievers downed Virginia in 2018.
The gap between the best teams in the field and the “worst” teams in the field has been steadily closing.
Despite being the tournament’s top overall seed, Gonzaga will have to earn its way to the Final Four and avoid becoming the shocking upset of 2022.
Because the Bulldogs are going to have to fight their way out of the most difficult regional — the West.
The West is going to be wild
The lucky Zags.
The top four seeds in the West are the Bulldogs, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Texas Tech, and No. 4 Arkansas.
The Blue Devils boast one of the most talented rosters of all 68 teams. The Red Raiders are No. 1 in the country in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency — points allowed per 100 possessions adjusted for opponents.
The Razorbacks have won 15 of their last 18 games heading into the tournament.
But there’s a handful of potential cinderellas in the West to contend with as well.
Boise State and Memphis are that regional’s 8-9 matchup. Penny Hardaway’s Tigers are 12-2 since Jan. 20.
The Broncos just won the Mountain West Tournament Championship. Boise State is No. 17 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and does it with height and length — the Broncos have 10 players 6-foot-6 or taller on their roster.
And that’s not accounting for No. 10 Davidson, who’s 11th in the NCAA in adjusted offensive efficiency.
The Wildcats just happen to face a talented Michigan State team under Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo in the first round. So there are the Spartans to deal with too.
Gonzaga is the favorite to win the national championship. But the selection committee didn’t do the Bulldogs any favors by sticking them in the West.
Let the bracket-busting begin
Fifteenth-seeded Oral Roberts beat No. 2 Ohio State. No. 14 Abilene Christian downed No. 3 Texas. Two 13 seeds — Ohio and North Texas — won their opening-round games.
All those upsets came in last year’s tournament alone.
Cinderellas are dancing more often than they ever have. Chances are there won’t be just a few teams wearing glass slippers to the 2022 second weekend’s ball. And a handful of them might be coming out of the West regional.
Bye-bye, perfect brackets (and sorry Gonzaga).
All statistics courtesy of kenpom.com.