After a brief hiatus, I make my return by giving you the second leg of 50 teams that will make the 2022 NCAA Tournament. It has been a decent amount of time since the last installment, but that does not change anything. The first article gave you a taste of some of the great teams college basketball has to offer. As well as some teams who are not playing their best basketball yet.
A quick note: This list is not based solely on how teams are performing right now. This is a mix of current performance and a prediction of where teams may end up. Also, this is in no specific order. Let’s get right into teams 40-31.
40. LSU Tigers
So far this season, LSU has been one of the most intriguing teams to watch in the SEC. Will Wade has led his team to a 13-1 start, most recently beating Kentucky 65-60. LSU’s leaders are the only two seniors on the roster. Darius Days and Missouri transfer Xavier Pinson are two of the three leading scorers on the team.
The biggest thing about LSU when you look at them is their defense. They have the best defense in the country according to KenPom, which gives LSU the edge in any game they play in.
39. USC Trojans
I wouldn’t be too crazy-minded if someone told me that USC could finish first in the PAC-12. Isaiah Mobley played with his lottery-pick brother last year at USC. Now, he gets to be the star of the show for the Trojans. As a junior, Mobley is averaging over 15 points per game this season. He is also the teams leading rebounder.
Like LSU, defense is what I love about this USC team. They are both lengthy and physical. Additionally, they do not give up many second-chance opportunities. This team is built for the second weekend and beyond.
38. Grand Canyon Antelopes
The Western Athletic Conference will be a tight race come season’s end. Bryce Drew has this GCU team locked in to start the season. Jovan Blacksher is having an outstanding junior season. He is making leaps in points per game, two-point field goal percentage, as well as three-point field goal percentage. He is the team-leading scorer, while Arizona St transfer Holland Woods is right behind him.
When it is all said and done, GCU will be the team to come out of the WAC. The one thing that might stop them from winning the conference tournament is the lack of size down low.
37. Illinois Fighting Illni
Andre Curbello has played in 4 games almost 2 months into the season. A lingering injury has him on the sidelines, but that hasn’t stopped Illinois from winning games. The Illini sit at 4-0 inside the Big Ten, led by National Player of the Year candidate Kofi Cockburn. The junior is averaging a monstrous 22.5 PPG along with 12.5 RPG.
The guard play is also something to look at with the absence of Curbelo. Alfonso Plummer has stepped up big time, giving Brad Underwood instant production. Illinois will easily make the NCAA Tournament. The Illini are a top-4 team in the conference at worst.
36. Xavier Musketeers
This is a bounce-back year in a sense for Travis Steele and Xavier. Looking back at last year, Xavier started their season 11-2 amid Covid-19 cancelations. The Musketeers went through many pauses, which led to a rollercoaster end to their season. This year, Xavier’s roster has top-3 Big East talent, led by senior, Nate Johnson.
I don’t know exactly how deep Xavier can go, but they have first and second-round sleeper vibes.
35. North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina will probably make the tournament because it’s the ACC. With how weird the conference has been, Wake Forest even has a chance over them if it is a three-bid league. That is where I have the ACC at, with only three teams making the tournament. The Tar Heels have not done anything too spectacular so far. Their one “big” win came against Michigan, and that win isn’t looking that great.
I like the guard play and the presence of Armando Bacot down low. Their defense has to improve if they want any chance in March. UNC does just enough to get into the tournament in Herbert Davis’ first season as Head Coach.
34. Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State is the most impressive team of the season so far. T.J Otzzelberger has this Cyclone team at 13-1 and 1-1 in the Big 12. Iowa State opened up the new year with a loss against Baylor, but they played the #1 team in the country super tough. This game proved to me and many others that Iowa State can play with anyone inside their conference.
This team will be a test for anyone going against this defense. The trio of Izaiah Brockington, Gabe Kalscheur, and Tyrese Hunter combine for 5.3 steals per contest.
33. Memphis Tigers
I know this may sound like a reach at the moment. Remember, there are still two months before the selection committee selects the field. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that Memphis has the talent to win a national title. You cannot win on talent alone, so the gelling of the talent is the most important thing. The biggest question mark around Memphis is if Penny Hardaway can coach as well as he can recruit.
The season is still young. This gives Memphis enough time to figure things out and find ways to use Emoni Bates, and Jalen Duren successfully.
32. Kansas Jayhawks
The choice to put Kansas into the NCAA Tournament is no surprise to anyone. By the time we get to March, look for Kansas to fight Baylor for the Big 12 title. Ochai Ogbaji is currently having a sensational season. He is averaging over 20 PPG two months into the season. Christan Braun has made a big leap from a season ago, giving Bill Self another shooter to lean on when needed. According to KenPom, the Jayhawks have one of the best offenses in the country.
Kansas should be a 1-seed when the bracket is revealed on Selection Sunday.
31. Iona Gaels
Rick Pitino shocked America when Iona beat Alabama on a neutral floor in the ESPN Events Invitational on Thanksgiving. The MAAC will be a one-bid league if Iona wins the conference tournament. If another team went on to win the tournament, the Gaels still have an at-large shot. It may be slim, but it’s there.
In this instance, I have Iona winning the MAAC.
These are the first 20 teams that I think will make the NCAA Tournament. Not much surprise in this batch of 10 teams. Is there a team on this list that you would not put inside the field of 68? Let me know! Three more installments are coming your way, wrapping up the 50 total teams for this project.
If you want more college basketball news, follow my Twitter, @worldofcollege1
Main Image Credit: