PHILADELPHIA — The East Region in the 2022 NCAA Tournament features multiple Final Four teams from last year and some mid-major teams with “Cinderella” potential.
The top four seeds include 2021 National Champion Baylor at the No. 1 seed, Kentucky at the No. 2 seed, Purdue at the No. 3 seed and UCLA at the No. 4 seed. UCLA fell to Gonzaga in the Final Four last year.
Baylor is looking to become the second repeat champion since Florida did it in 2006 and 2007. They won’t have any sort of easy path to get there, however. They’ll have to take on a talented team in the second round whether it’s 8-seed North Carolina or 9-seed Marquette. That could lead to a tough Sweet 16 matchup against UCLA.
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Kentucky has been elite this season, led by National Player of the Year candidate Oscar Tshiebwe and his 17 points and 15 rebounds per game. Nothing will be easy for them either. If they get to the second round, they play the winner of Murray State and San Francisco, two mid-major teams that have a strong capability of upsetting a top seed.
Purdue has one of the nation’s best offenses and fantastic side. But if their offense goes cold, they don’t have a great defense to rely on. Purdue was a 3-seed in 2019 and made the Elite 8 before falling to Virginia. The school has never reached the Final Four.
UCLA is the No. 4 seed and they’ll be looking to make their second-straight Final Four appearances. They lost to Gonzaga in the Final Four on a wild Jalen Suggs buzzer beater. This is a dangerous team that returned everybody from that 2021 team. They have the tournament experience. They had a rough February in the regular season, but they’re looking to come alive here again for the postseason.
West Region First Round Matchups
No. 1 seed Baylor vs. No. 16 seed Norfolk State
No. 8 seed North Carolina vs. No. 9 seed Marquette
No. 5 seed Saint Mary's vs. No. 12 seed Wyoming/Indiana
Pick: The winner of Wyoming/Indiana
No. 4 seed UCLA vs. No. 13 seed Akron
No. 6 seed Texas vs. No. 11 seed Virginia Tech
No. 3 seed Purdue vs. No. 14 seed Yale
No. 7 seed Murray State vs. No. 10 seed San Francisco
No. 2 seed Kentucky vs. No. 15 seed Saint Peter's
Pretty much every NCAA Tournament game there’s a possibility for an upset, but let’s look at a few games where upset will be on the mind of many filling out a bracket.
No. 11 Virginia Tech vs. No. 6 Texas
With the way these two teams finished up, you could make the argument that their seeds could be flipped. Virginia Tech just bowled through the rest of the ACC including a win over Duke to win the ACC Tournament. Texas is going backwards. They fell to TCU in their first Big 12 Tournament game. They just don’t seem all together right now while Virginia Tech is riding a lot of positive momentum. Don’t forget Texas, as a three seed, lost in the first round to Abilene Christian last season.
No. 10 seed San Francisco vs. No. 7 Murray State
This is without a doubt going to be the best First Round game with no schools from a Power 5 conference. Murray State had an incredible 30-2 season and the San Francisco Dons get an at-large big after a 24-9 season. KenPom has the Dons ranked 21st overall and Murray State 27th. The winner of this game could really make some noise in the second round against Kentucky. Both teams have a balanced offense and defense. San Francisco could have an edge just based on strength of schedule and the fact that they’ve played Gonzaga three times this season and competed. But, Murray State hasn’t had any shortage of impressive win. This one will be fun.
Elite Eight predictions
On the Locked On Bracket Breakdown show, our three experts have the following teams advancing to the Elite Eight in this region, the national quarterfinals.