The NCAA Tournament began on Tuesday and continues today with the First Four matchups. Heading into the dance, Gonzaga and Arizona are heavy favorites to meet in the National Championship game. The First Round will begin Thursday with 16 games on the slate, starting with 11 seed Michigan facing 6 seed Colorado State. Like every year, there are expected to be a few upset alerts to kick off the NCAA Tournament. March Madness is the best time of the year and now it’s time for the big dance to take over the sports world.
NCAA Tournament: Preview of the Number 1 Seeds
The Bulldogs were the preseason favorites to win it all and now they stand as the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. They do this after making the National Championship game in 2021, ultimately losing to Baylor. Gonzaga comes into the Tournament with a record of 26-3 (13-1 conf.) having won the West Coast Conference regular-season title and conference tournament. The Bulldogs rank tops in the nation in a lot of categories, including being first in points scored and field goal percentage. They also rank 4th in total rebounds, 4th in blocks, and 3rd in assists.
Gonzaga has five players averaging double-digit points with one of them being Drew Timme, who is their leading scorer with 17.5 points per game. They also have an outstanding freshman in Chet Holmgren, who’s nearly averaging a double-double with 14.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He’s also averaging 3.6 blocks per game and all of this will make him a huge deciding factor in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga’s journey to try and finally get over the hump will begin with a game against Georgia State.
Like Gonzaga, Arizona captured their regular-season title and conference tournament championship. The Wildcats got to where they are because of guys like Bennedict Mathurin, who’s averaging 17.4 points with 5.6 rebounds, and Azuolas Tubelis, who’s averaging 14.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. This, along with two others averaging double-digit points, is why Arizona is third in the nation in points per game. The Wildcats weren’t even top ten in odds to win it all at the beginning of the year but heading into the NCAA Tournament, they are right behind Gonzaga. This team has a great chance to shock everyone from the start of the season and win the championship.
The Kansas Jayhawks come into the NCAA Tournament on a five-game winning streak, including running the gauntlet to win the Big 12 tournament. Some people think Kansas might be the team on upset alert as (if) they move along in the bracket but they also have the easiest path to the final four of all the number one seeds.
The Jayhawks’ offense has been their strong point all season, ranking in the top 25 in points scored. They have the unanimous Big 12 Player of the Year with Ochai Ajbaji scoring an impressive 19.7 points per game. If he can play his game and Kansas stick to their game plan, they very well can make a deep run in this tournament.
For the second consecutive year, Baylor has secured the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. They took advantage by winning the National Championship in 2021 and will try to do the same in 2022. The Bears might be the most vulnerable number one seed in this tournament. Despite winning down the stretch, Baylor was in a lot of close games and lost to Oklahoma in their first game of the conference tournament. They have four players averaging double-digit points for the season. Despite their leading scorer only scoring 13.4 points per game, this team has chemistry and knows how to work as a unit. Baylor’s offensive rating is 26th in the nation.
Like the offense, the Bears have a defensive rating that ranks 26th in the country and rank 34th in points against. They also rank 13th in steals, which makes them even more dangerous. If Baylor wants to successfully defend their championship, the offense might need to step it up just a little and the defense to stay consistent. Their title defense starts Thursday as they face Norfolk State.