Conference tournaments are in the books, and the selection show is over — it’s officially time to fill out your NCAA Men’s Tournament brackets for 2022.
Gonzaga, Kansas, Arizona, and Baylor each earned No. 1 seeds, but rarely do all four of the top-seeded teams reach the Final Four. It’s only happened once in the college basketball tournament’s history. So it’s likely at least one of those teams will go home early.
But which No. 1 seed should immediately be on upset alert?
Gonzaga, Kansas, Arizona, and Baylor earned the No. 1 seeds in the 2022 NCAA Tournament
The Gonzaga Bulldogs, Kansas Jayhawks, Arizona Wildcats, and defending champion Baylor Bears are this year’s No. 1 seeds, with the Zags being named the top overall seed.
Gonzaga finished the regular season 26-3 overall and 13-1 in the West Coast Conference. The Bulldogs enter the big dance after winning the West Coast Conference regular-season and conference tournament titles.
Arizona was the top of the class all year in the Pac-12. The Wildcats won the regular-season title by three games after finishing 18-2 and 31-3 overall. Zona beat second-seeded UCLA 84-76 to win their conference tournament.
The Jayhawks earned a share of the Big 12 regular-season championship with Baylor, then won the conference tournament and finished the year 28-6 overall.
The Bears finished 26-6 but made an early exit in the Big 12 tourney, losing in the quarterfinals to seventh-seeded Oklahoma.
But which of those four teams needs to keep both eyes open if it wants to still be playing come April?
The defending champion Baylor Bears need to be on immediate upset alert
Baylor won the 2021 NCAA Tournament Championship behind Sacramento Kings‘ rookie Davion Mitchell.
But the Bears could be in trouble early in 2022.
Baylor earned the final No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament and drew Norfolk State in the opening round. Head coach Scott Drew’s squad should cruise by the Spartans, but a problematic matchup awaits the Bears in the round of 32.
Should they advance, Baylor would meet the winner of North Carolina and Marquette in the second round.
The Tar Heels are 18th in the NCAA in rebounding and are led by All-American center Armando Bacot, who finished first in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 12.5 boards per game.
The Bears, meanwhile, are 78th in the nation in rebounding. Junior Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua leads Baylor on the glass — but he’s out for the season with a knee injury.
Six-foot-10 senior Flo Thamba or 6-9 freshman Jeremy Sochan are the best bets to defend and box out the 240-pound Bacot. UNC would have a dramatic advantage inside should they beat Marquette and move on.
Baylor matches up better with the Golden Eagles but would still need to face 6-foot-7, 245-pound freshman Justin Lewis, who averages 17.1 points and 7.9 rebounds. No member of the Bears’ rotation averages more than Sochan’s 6.2 boards.
Baylor’s lack of size inside could be exposed by either of the teams it would face in the tournament’s second round. The defending champs may have gotten a bad draw in their quest for back-to-back titles.
The Bears won’t be the only team to have an unexpectedly brief March Madness run
If Baylor does go down early, they should take solace in the fact that they won’t be the only team to head home quickly.
No. 2-seeded Auburn has a difficult 2-15 matchup with Jacksonville St. in its first game and another possible bracket-buster awaiting in Miami in the second round should the Hurricanes get past USC.
No. 4-seeded Illinois lost early in last year’s tournament and could have problems with Chattanooga in its opening game. If they can hang on to win that one, the Illini would face the winner of a defensive juggernaut in Houston or an overwhelming offense in Alabama-Birmingham.
Let the madness begin.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com.