It’s time for another round of predicting what teams will stamp their ticket to the big dance in March. In the last preview, there was a great mix of high-major and mid-major teams. Some teams included were Iona, Illinois, LSU, and Grand Canyon. This time around, we arrive closer to the end of the list. There are few surprises so far though 20 teams. Will there be any in the last 30?
Remember that this is a prediction of a list of teams that will be performing at a level to get into the NCAA Tournament. There is some say in the present play, but there is a lot of predicting where teams will be finishing in the standings of their respective conference. Also, this does not go numerical from best to worst. It is simply a list of 50 teams that will make the tournament. Here are teams 30-21.
30. Villanova Wildcats
At the beginning of the season, it seemed like Villanova was the team to beat coming into the Big East. With Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore returning for Jay Wright, this team had more right than wrong. The one thing that still makes this team beatable in the Big East is their lack of an interior. Eric Dixon has done his part of sustaining a presence down low for the Wildcats.
Villanova will fight for the top spot in the conference with Providence, Xavier, and UConn. The Wildcats will make the tournament easily in 2022. They are potentially a second-weekend team.
29. Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas is an intriguing team to talk about as the season progresses. The Razorbacks are coming off of their biggest win of the season. On the road against LSU, sophomore Jaylin Williams played a great game. This will be the turning point for Eric Musselelman and Arkansas. They are not in a lot of brackets at the moment with their disappointing start but trust me, Arkansas will hit their stride.
Arkansas is a guard-heavy team, led by JD Notae. In his fourth year of eligibility, the 6-1, 195 pounder is averaging nearly 19 PPG on the season. Their talent via the transfer portal will be clicking in just about a month and a half’s time. On paper, this team is an Elite 8 or better team. I will stand on that hill until they either do not make the tournament or lose early on.
28. Loyola Chicago Ramblers
It isn’t a surprise that Loyola Chicago is in the mix of another possible tournament run. First-year head coach Drew Valentine has this team on the right track. While typing this, the Ramblers are sitting at 14-2 (5-0). It’s not much of a surprise that the Ramblers can win a game or two in the tournament. What makes them so dangerous in 2022? The efficiency of their offense will make teams work for 40 minutes.
Drew Valentine has his team top-15 in the country in 2pt% and 3pt%. I fully expect Loyola Chicago to win the MVC and make some noise in the tournament, given the right matchup.
27. Gonzaga Bulldogs
If I were to guess, Gonzaga will be the second overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The talent that Mark Few has on this team is second to none. Potential National Player of the Year Drew Timme, a floor general in Andrew Nembhard, and freshman sensation Chet Holmgren. All these names are important, but the one player that is the X-factor is Julian Strawther. The sophomore is playing a major role this year, averaging 12.9 PPG. He is shooting 51% from the floor on the year.
He has given Mark Few a consistent scoring option on the floor at any point in the game. Gonzaga is a Final Four or bust this year. I do not see them losing any earlier depending on the bracket.
26. Purdue Boilermakers
West Lafayette is the home of a two-headed monster in the post. The combination of Zach Edey and Trevion Willams makes it unfair for their competition. In simple terms, both of these guys can start at any Division 1 school of their choice. They are that good at their position. When you mix the talent of Edey and Willaims, the athleticism of sophomore Jaden Ivey, and the shooting of Sasha Stefanovic, you have a national title contender.
Life in the Big Ten is tough, giving this team more than a couple of losses in conference play. That does not diminish the potential of Matt Painter winning the championship. Purdue has as good a chance as any this year to cut down the nets in New Orleans.
25. UCLA Bruins
After a sensational run to the Final Four a year ago, the majority of the Bruins returned for another shot. Led by Johnny Juzang, UCLA has met with a couple of bumps in the road this season. A recent Covid-19 pause and a loss to Oregon has critics asking, are the Bruins overrated? The answer? They are not. It will take some time for the Bruins to get back into shape, given the duration of their break.
Johnny Juzang and the crew will have no problem getting into the NCA Tournament field. UCLA will have no problems winning games in March. Minus the absolute obliteration they took against Gonzaga, UCLA has shown the run last year wasn’t a fluke.
24. Murray State Racers
The Racers have had an outstanding year, showing no sign of fatigue in their game. After the dominant win against Belmont in Nashville, this is Murray State’s conference to lose. Currently sitting at 15-2, I would not want to be a 5-6 seed facing this Racer’s team.
Like Loyola Chicago, Murray State is an efficient offensive team. They rank 11th in FG% and 17th in 3pt%, allowing themselves to get great looks on every possession. They do not like to play very fast either, they like to slow the game down at times. The ability to not settle will give this Racers team a great chance to win the OVC and make some noise in the tournament.
23. Houston Cougars
The big storyline of Houston’s season so far is the loss of their two best players. Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark announced within days of each other that both will be missing the rest of the season. That has not stopped the Cougars from possibly being the only team in the AAC to make the tournament.
Two seniors have answered the bell for Kalvin Sampson’s team. Josh Carlton and Kyler Edwards will lead Houston into the tournament with their inside-out threat.
22. Iowa Hawkeyes
With the weirdness of the middle of the Big Ten, Iowa will have an opportunity to make the tournament. As it stands right now, the Hawkeyes are 3-3 inside the Big Ten. If Iowa can float in the middle of the pack in the conference, they will make the tournament.
Keegan Murray is the talk of the town when it comes to Iowa basketball. The sophomore averages 23.9 PPG, good for first in Division 1 college basketball.
21. St John’s Red Storm
There is no doubt that St John’s has not performed to expectations so far this season. It also does not mean they still can’t get back to tournament talk. A big stretch of games upcoming gives them a good chance to return to the conversation. They play Seton Hall twice, Villanova, Providence, and Creighton. A huge opportunity to see where this team stands, as well as where they can go.
Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander both have the talent to make a run with this team.
A couple of teams on this list are potential reaches when it comes to them making the tournament or not. Right now, St John’s is not in, but there is still a lot of games to be played. Another team is the Iowa Hawkeyes. If they drop anywhere below the middle of the conference, they are in jeopardy of not making it in March.
This batch of teams gave me a couple of teams that I still am not sold on but I gave them the benefit of the doubt to turn it around.
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