January is quickly ending, and so is my list of 50 teams that will stamp their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Looking back on some of the teams I put on the list, people may say it’s risky. With twenty more teams to release, more surprises could be in store for you. How many bids do I predict the ACC will have? What about the WCC? It all comes down to the final 20 teams.
As you may know from previous articles, this is a prediction of where teams will finish at the end of the conference tournament season. Using the current state of the team does have an impact, but not as much as you may think. Here are the first half of the final 20 teams I predict to make the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
20. Liberty Flames
From the looks of it, the Atlantic Sun is a two-horse race as we head into February. Liberty and Jacksonville State both have perfect conference records right now. Darius McGhee is the star of the show for Ritchie McKay. The senior guard can put up 40 points on any given night. Speaking on that, he has two 40-point games already this season.
The fate of the conference will fall on Saturday’s matchup between Liberty and Jacksonville State. Whoever wins that matchup will have a great shot at winning the conference tournament. As you can tell, Liberty is my guess to do that.
19. Wisconsin Badgers
The biggest surprise of the season has to be out of Madison. The Badgers were chosen 10th in the preseason Big Ten poll. The turnover of their roster from last year to this year made this ranking valid. No one saw the jump that sophomore Johnny Davis has made this season. His confidence has sky-rocketed offensively, now being in the discussion for National Player of the Year. With Brad Davison being the oldest guy on the team, others would have to step into higher roles.
Tyler Wahl has been one of those guys as of late. Wisconsin should finish in the top-4 of the conference, given an unforeseen collapse. The Badgers have one of the best resumes in the country, beating a full-strength Houston team, St Mary’s, Purdue, Ohio State, and Marquette. All of these teams are inside the top-25 except for St Mary’s.
18. Duke Blue Devils
Duke is one of the only teams in the ACC that has proved themselves so far this season. Outside of the Blue Devils, Miami is the only other team that gives this league hope. The conference as a whole is in a down year. Freshman sensation Paolo Banchero is leading the team into February, averaging 17.9 PPG this season.
Wendell Moore is an upperclassman who has made a jump that Coach K needed him to make. The junior is the second-leading scorer on the team, averaging 15.1 PPG. Duke’s offense ranks 10th in the country in points per game. Defensively, the interior is the strongest aspect of the Blue Devils. This team will make the tournament and at least make the Elite 8.
17. San Francisco Dons
The West Coast Conference as a whole is strong this season. The conference has the potential for a three-bid league for the first time since 2012. Gonzaga, BYU, San Francisco, and Saint Mary’s are just four teams that have a shot at making the big dance. San Francisco has had a great season as of now, sitting at 16-4 on the year. Ultimately, the Dons will fight for a potential third bid with Saint Mary’s. It seems like BYU and Gonzaga will make the tournament being the top two teams.
16. Alabama Crimson Tide
With the recent struggles with this team, many people maybe think Alabama is on the edge of making the tournament. Even with the loss to Georgia earlier this week, Nate Oats and his team will make the tournament with ease. The only hesitation I may have is the seeding the team gets. Due to their strong non-conference resume, they are in the 68 team field. The Crimson Tide’s seeding is still up in the air.
Alabama went from a national title contender at the beginning of the year, beating Louisiana Tech, Miami, Gonzaga, and Houston. Now, Alabama has losses against Missouri and Georgia, the two worst teams in the SEC. Defense is an issue with this team, making Alabama a potential first-round exit.
15. Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones were picked last in the Big 12 preseason poll. They are now fighting for an NCAA Tournament birth. Iowa State picked up a huge road win on Wednesday night against Oklahoma State. Izaiah Brockington is the motor of this team. He is the leading scorer of this team, but his role does not stop there. Brockington is also the leading rebounder on the team. Freshman point guard Tyrese Hunter is a perfect fit for this team. He can find his shot, as well as get his teammates great looks.
The defense will determine how far this team goes. TJ Otzelberger has his team all-in on the defensive end of the floor. The offense will come; defense is their culture. The Cyclones have a strong non-conference resume to help them in March.
14. Oklahoma Sooners
If you want to say it, the Sooners are a sleeper team in the Big 12. Eastern Washington transfer Tanner Groves has given this team a different dynamic. Porter Moser has made it clear that Tanner Groves is a big part of the team. As the leading scorer, Groves can stretch the floor and hit perimeter shots. The Sooner big man is shooting 37% from distance this season.
Oklahoma loves their defense while slowing the game down to their liking. It’s something that makes them so dangerous. Any team that likes to play fast will have to control the tempo, or Oklahoma will run what they want when they want.
13. Texas Longhorns
The first season of the Chris Beard era hasn’t gotten to the level many people thought it would. With all of the talent that Beard brought in through the portal, Texas seemed like a consistent top-5 team. The chemistry has been iffy through the year, but the inconsistency is the biggest thing. Texas has a lot of balance when scoring the ball. It just doesn’t happen at a consistent clip.
Texas will show us its true identity as the conference season concludes. A tough schedule down the stretch will show us why Texas is ultimately a tournament team.
12. Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats have jumped into the top-5 in the AP poll at the start of the week. This team has found its groove and will be a menace in March. Oscar Tshibwe is looking like the best transfer in the 2021-22 season. One player that will be important come tournament play is TyTy Washington. The freshman is playing well beyond his years for Coach Cal.
Kentucky is forming into a Final Four team as we get closer and closer to March.
11. Ohio Bobcats
Ohio has quickly formed into the best team in the MAC. Buffalo was my team to beat in this conference at the beginning of the year, while Ohio has quickly shown why they are. Mark Sears has made a great leap as a sophomore, filling the shoes of Jason Preston from a season ago. Sears is averaging 19.9 PPG, 5 RPG, and 3.7 APG.
If the Bobcats get the automatic bid in the MAC, this team is a Round of 64 nightmare for a lot of teams. Ohio can win two games in the tournament, no doubt about it.
That wraps up the second-to-last segment of 50 teams I think will make the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Down to 10 final teams, what high-major teams make the final list? As February hits, high-major teams are trying to fight their way into a position that will get them into the tournament. The upcoming final list of 10 teams will feature
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