Wednesday, May 25, 2022

2022 NCAA Tournament Bracketology: Gonzaga is early top seed ahead of No. 1 seeds UCLA, Kansas and Texas

When August rolls around, all of our sports-loving attention turns to football. So, naturally, it is time for a pre-preseason Bracketology projection for the 2022 NCAA Tournament bracket.

While I personally enjoyed having the entire tournament so close to home in 2021, I am looking forward to a return to normalcy.

One sign of normalcy in recent years is Gonzaga as a No. 1 seed. The Zags have been a top seed in three of the last four tournaments and are projected to be the overall No. 1 this season. Mark Few has a great recruiting pipeline going now and the latest star to come through it is the top-ranked recruit Chet Holmgren. The 7-footer was the MVP of the FIBA U-19 tournament while leading the US team to the championship. He may do the same for Gonzaga.

My No. 2 overall seed is UCLA, which returns most of the team that went from the First Four to the Final Four in the 2021 NCAA tournament. They also added a five-star recruit in Peyton Watson. Mick Cronin has done a great job bringing this program back to power in relatively short order.

The Big 12 will take up the next two spots on the top line of the bracket. Kansas is frequently in this position as well and is the projected No. 3 overall seed. Kansas returns most of its starting lineup from the team that finished behind eventual champion Baylor and added Remy Martin from Arizona State and Joseph Yesufu, who was one of the key pieces to Drake’s great season a year ago.

Texas figures to challenge the Jayhawks for the top spot in the conference and a spot on the top line of the bracket. The projected No. 4 overall seed hit the transfer portal hard and added key pieces to the roster, led by former Minnesota star Marcus Carr. The most notable new face though is coach Chris Beard, who came over from Texas Tech after Shaka Smart left for Marquette.

Bracketology top seeds

Check out Palm’s latest bracket, full field of 68 and all the teams on the bubble on the Bracketology hub.

The Big Ten still figures to be the best conference overall and leads with eight total teams in the bracket, including a pair of No. 2 seeds in Michigan and Purdue, the favorites in the conference championship race.

Reigning champion Baylor figures to be a factor again and is also projected to be a No. 2 seed, along with prohibitive Big East favorite Villanova.

The final season for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will likely end with a good seed in the NCAA Tournament and the potential to make a deep run, just like most every other season — just not the most recent one. The Blue Devils are projected to win the ACC and be a No. 3 seed.

I have Kentucky as a slight favorite in the SEC as well and also projected to be a No. 3 seed, while Alabama and Arkansas show up on the No. 4 line and will likely be strong challengers to the Wildcats.

Houston, which was a Final Four participant a season ago, is the favorite again in the American Athletic Conference and a No. 4-seed in this bracket.

One league that could be interesting to follow this season is the Atlantic 10. St. Bonaventure returns most of the team that won the league a season ago and has a chance to be a top 25 team. Things get pretty bubbly from there as Dayton, Richmond, Saint Louis and VCU all look like potential tournament teams, but there likely will not be room for all of them.

One team from the non-major ranks to keep an eye on this season is Belmont. The Bruins were upset in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament final a year ago, but return the top seven scorers from a team that finished 26-4. I have them as a No. 11 seed in this bracket. That may end up being low.

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