The Elite 8 Favorites To Win the 2022 Men's Basketball Tournament
There’s good news around by leaps and bounds. Pretty soon, February will be in the books and promptly burned and then it’s on to March for better weather and the sounds of birds and, of course, blissfully, the Madness, which will begin March 15. Oh, the ides of March. Look out for upsets. And I’ll be signaling some of those in the coming weeks.
The Zags (24-2) are demolishing their West Coast Conference opponents in historic fashion, have solid wins over top prestigious teams and there’s not even a few people who at this point believe that Mark Few’s talented balanced squad is well on its way to a No. 1 seed (and No. 1 overall) in the West Region. That frequently means a trip to the Final Four.
Never dismiss a John Calipari-coached UK Wildcats team. Kentucky already has an impressive road win at Kansas. No matter where they end up in the bracket, they’ll be a tough out (psst: I think they’re also Final Four-bound) and have this excellent kid with an awesome name (OK, so maybe I’m a bit biased): TyTy Washington.
Here’s the next dangerous Wildcats (25-2) team. They’ve surpassed the supposedly mighty (bollocks) UCLA Bruins as the best team in the Pac-12 and led by the also-wonderfully named and talented Bennedict Mathurin, a native Canadian (Montreal) and a likely top-10 NBA Draft pick. Blame Canada (heh, I kid) if U of A wins it all. He’ll be a factor in this tourney, but how does Arizona fare when it’s sent to the East or Midwest or the South? Because they’re not going to be the No. 1 in the West.
As the great Andy Katz of NCAA.com observes: “The Boilermakers have eight quad one wins and most importantly swept Illinois and have a win over Villanova. If Purdue wins the Big Ten outright then they will have a strong argument to push out either Auburn or Arizona as a No. 1 seed.”
It’s a great point and he might be right – he often is – but I just don’t believe that the Boilermakers, even with Matt Painter as coach, and with Jaden Ivey – who may become the next Ja Morant; the kid is that good – are gonna make it to the Final Four.
Here are the biggest things about this value bet: Tigers head coach Bruce Pearl has been to the Final Four before. And he has the likely No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, according to Yahoo Sports reporter Kristen Peek, Jabari Smith. Freshman sensations have led teams to titles: Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony come to mind.
If this really is the grand finale for Michael William Krzyzewski (Apologies, let’s call him: Coach K), how entertaining would it be for Kentucky and Duke to meet up one more time so we can see what happens … 30 years after Christian Laettner crushed minds and thoughts and dreams and wagers for the Wildcats with his legendary game-beater in an Elite Eight game.
Winning back-to-back national titles is tough enough (bringing home consecutive ones is rare and beyond difficult). Baylor remains troublesome but it’s just not going to happen this year.